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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Walter Bates   28 January 1865

Royal Geographical Society | 15, Whitehall Place, S.W.

Jan 28 1865

My dear Mr Darwin

The receipt of a letter from you was an unlooked-for pleasure.1 I have had news of your health from time to time, having seized all opportunities of asking from persons likely to know, & had heard lately of your slight improvement. Let us hope it may continue.

You are very kind to enquire after my personal affairs. I have no doubt Dr Hooker2 has kept you well acquainted with what is done & said in Natural History circles & the perusal of the Journals &c keeps you well-informed about the rest. Perhaps there may be a few Entomological items bearing upon Darwinian views, which have not yet fallen in your way.

I was much gratified on receiving the Berlin “Bericht for Entomology 1862” (you know the Natural History reports appear in Wiegmann’s Archives) to find at the very commencement a flattering notice of our paper on the mimetic Butterflies.3 These reports originally were written by Erichson & are now written by Gerstaecker.4 They are usually very skilfully & not very mercifully done. Gerstaecker has seized all the essential points of my paper & repeats them with an evident bias in their favour.5 Being the highest Entomological tribunal I think you will like to have the testimony of this “Bericht” to the absence of, at any rate, any important errors in my facts & arguments.

You will be glad to hear that I like my present position very much.6 I should have preferred a Natural History appointment but I had no chance of one & the birth of one sweet little child with expectation if another forced upon me cogent arguments for accepting the first thing that offered.7 I hope besides to do a little in improving this great Society & assisting Naturalists in travelling.8 The Mantidæ monograph progresses, but about this I will speak in a future letter.9

My dear Mr Darwin | Yours sincerely | H W Bates


CD’s letter has not been found.
Joseph Dalton Hooker.
A favourable report of Bates 1861 appeared in the article by Carl Eduard Adolph Gerstaecker, ‘Bericht über die wissenschaftlichen Leistungen im Gebiete der Entomologie während des Jahres 1862’, Archiv für Naturgeschichte 29 (1863): 315–18 (Gerstaecker 1863a). The journal was founded by Arend Friedrich August Wiegmann in 1835. CD had encouraged Bates to publish his researches on butterflies (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to H. W. Bates, 4 April [1861] and 25 September [1861]), and gave a favourable review of Bates 1861 (‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’; see Collected papers 2: 87–92).
The Archiv für Naturgeschichte contained essay reviews of works published in various fields of natural history during the previous year. Gerstaecker had been reviewing entomological literature for the journal since 1853. The entomological reviews had been written by Wilhelm Ferdinand Erichson from 1837 to 1848, and by Hermann Rudolph Schaum from 1849 to 1852.
Gerstaecker praised Bates’s essay on the entomology of the Amazon as a careful, sound, and skilled attempt to answer the question of the constancy of species in favour of the Darwinian theory (Gerstaecker 1863a, p. 316). In his article, Bates had argued that the similarity in outward appearance of certain rare forms of butterfly to other more numerous forms assisted the former in avoiding predators, and that such cases of mimicry in Amazonian butterflies offered proof of the theory of descent by natural selection (Bates 1861, pp. 511–12). CD cited Bates’s work in Origin 4th ed., pp. 502–6, as illustrative of the principle of natural selection.
Bates had accepted an appointment as assistant secretary of the Royal Geographical Society in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, [after 28 April 1864]). He had applied unsuccessfully for a position at the British Museum in 1862 (Woodcock 1969, pp. 250, 256–7).
Bates had married Sarah Ann Mason on 19 January 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from H. W. Bates, 24 January 1863, letter to H. W. Bates, 26 January [1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1863]). She had given birth to a daughter during the previous year. Although no father was listed on the birth certificate, Bates accepted the child as his own when the couple married. They eventually had three sons and a second daughter (see Woodcock 1969, pp. 253–4, and Bates 1892, p. xxxvii).
On Bates’s work at the Royal Geographical Society, see Mill 1930.
Bates had been privately commissioned to write a monograph on the Mantidae (praying mantids) in 1863; however, the work was never published (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from H. W. Bates, 29 September 1863, and Curle 1954, p. 26).


Pleased at receiving CD’s letter.

HWB informs him of favourable notice of the mimetic paper [in Wiegmann’s Arch. Naturgesch. 29 (1863) pt 2: 315–19].

He is pleased with his post [Asst. Sec. of Royal Geographical Society].

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
R. Geogr. Soc.
Source of text
DAR 160: 79
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4756,” accessed on 19 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13