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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. W. Bates   4 March [1863]1

Down Bromley Kent

Mar 4—

Dear Bates

I heard from Asa Gray a week ago,2 & must have the pleasure of sending you a copy of part of his letter. “The copy of Bates’s paper addressed to me by the author has come.3 I am by no means clear that I shall pass it on to Haldimann,4 certainly not just yet. I have run thro’ it. It is fascinating   he at least is a full believer in Nat. Selection & the illustrations he brings to your aid are the prettiest possible.5 I keep it in pickle along with Decandolle on oaks6 & some other matters to make the subject of the evening for our Scientific Society which meets with me a fortnight hence,7 when I hope to torment Agassiz delightfully,8 and then I will myself draw up an abstract of the interesting matter for Silliman, but it is too late for the March number.”9

I have been rather extra unwell for the last ten days so write this by dictation.10 Don’t trouble yourself to acknowledge this. I hope Book goes on well.—11

Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

About Agassiz is of course private.


The year is established by the reference to A. Gray 1863a and 1863d (see n. 9, below).
Asa Gray’s letter of 9 February 1863 has not been found; however, for an indication of its contents, see the letter to Asa Gray, 20 March [1863], and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 March 1863].
Bates had sent a copy of Bates 1861 to Gray in January, after CD had persuaded Gray to attempt to have it reviewed in the American Journal of Science and Arts, of which Gray was one of the contributing editors (see letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863], and letter from H. W. Bates, 17 January [1863]).
Gray had initially intended to have Bates’s paper reviewed by the American zoologist Samuel Steman Haldeman (see letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863]); in the event, he reviewed the paper himself (A. Gray 1863a).
In his paper, Bates used the theory of natural selection to account for the phenomenon of mimicry in Amazonian butterflies, arguing that the case offered ‘a most beautiful proof of the truth of the theory’ (Bates 1861, p. 513).
In his paper proposing a revision of the oak family, Cupuliferae (A. de Candolle 1862a), Alphonse de Candolle discussed the question of the origin of species, arguing that evolution from a common ancestor was ‘l’hypoth‘ese la plus naturelle [the most natural hypothesis]’ (p. 363), while withholding complete endorsement of the theory. Candolle also suggested that the theory of evolution was easier to reconcile with a belief in divine creation than was the theory of special creation, drawing particular attention to Gray’s theistic interpretation of evolution (p. 61). See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 13 June 1862 and n. 6.
The reference is to the Cambridge Scientific Club, a society formed chiefly of members of the science faculty at Harvard University. The club met twice monthly, with each member hosting the meeting in turn and presenting a paper to begin the discussion (see Dupree 1959, pp. 121–2).
Louis Agassiz was one of the leading opponents of CD’s theory in the United States; he and Gray frequently sparred at the Cambridge Scientific Club, the Boston Society of Natural History, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (see Dupree 1959, pp. 284–6).
Gray’s reviews of A. de Candolle 1862a and Bates 1861 appeared in the May and September 1863 issues of the American Journal of Science and Arts, respectively (A. Gray 1863d and 1863a); the journal was commonly known as ‘Silliman’s journal’ after its founder, Benjamin Silliman.
The letter is written to this point in Emma Darwin’s hand; the remainder is in CD’s hand. Emma recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that after a fortnight of good health, CD became ill in the last week of February. She noted that he was ‘faint in night’, ‘languid & heavy’ every morning, and ‘sick several times in course of week’. On 4 March she recorded: ‘Ch. better but occasional sickness’.
Bates’s account of his eleven years as a naturalist in the Amazonian region of South America (Bates 1863) was published between 1 and 14 April 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26 (1863): 193).


CD relates Asa Gray’s pleasure over HWB’s paper and Gray’s plans to write abstract [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 36 (1863): 285–90].

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Bates, H. W.
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4022,” accessed on 17 January 2017,