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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Murray   28 January [1862]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Jan. 28th

My dear Sir

Mr. W. H. Bates of King St, Leicester has travelled in wild parts of region of Amazon &c during eleven years, as a collecting Naturalist.2 He has great knowledge of Nat. History, & what is far rarer is a capital reasoner & generalizer. He has seen much of the natives; & has attended to the habits of Monkeys & higher animals; but Entomology & Botany are his forte.— I am sure that he is no common man.— He wrote me several long letters, so well expressed & showing such powers of mind, that I urged several months ago to write a Book of Natural History Travels, such as would suit the general reader;3 but not to fear to go occasionally into pretty deep questions. He has sent me his two first chapters.4 His style & his powers of description seem to me first rate. I do not pretend to be a Critic; but my deliberate opinion is that of the class of the Books, such as my Journal, his will be the best ever published.— That is of course judging from the two Chapters which I have read.—

He has five or six Chapters well copied out & ready for inspection.— He applied to me to whom he had better ask to publish.— I, of course, named you.5 He wishes to publish soon.— He is a poor man & tells me he must look to money for his work. Now, if what I have said with entire truth, according to my judgment, should make you willing to enter into negotiation with him; will you write me a note, which I can forward to him.—6 I should have said that I have taken the liberty to write all this, as he asked me to give him a common note of introduction to you.7 And I thought it better to give you my opinion of the man.— Dr. Hooker knows him, & if you see Dr. H. you can ask his opinion of Mr. Bates’ talents.8

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from H. W. Bates, 25 January 1862.
Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace travelled to South America in 1848. Wallace returned to England in 1852; Bates continued to explore the Amazon area until 1859 (Bates 1863, 1: iii).
Bates sent CD the manuscript of the first chapter of The naturalist on the River Amazons (Bates 1863) in December 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1861]). The second chapter followed at the beginning of January 1862 (see letter from H. W. Bates, 6 January 1862, and letter to H. W. Bates, 13 January [1862]).
Joseph Dalton Hooker had spent a day with Bates in November 1861 and had formed a favourable opinion of him (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1861] and [9 December 1861], and letter to H. W. Bates, 3 December [1861]).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


H. W. Bates is, at CD’s urging, writing a book of travel and natural history. CD suggests JM might be interested in publishing it. Recommends HWB and his MS highly.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Murray
Sent from
Source of text
National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive) (Ms.42153 ff. 28–29)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3415,” accessed on 21 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10