skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   17 October 1862

King St Leicester

17 Oct 1862

My Dear Mr Darwin

I was as pleased as a child this morning to have a letter from you again.1 Mr Wallace two months ago told me of the illness in your house & knowing the distress you would be in I did not like to trouble you with letters. You do not say whether Mrs Darwin & Leonard are quite recovered.2

Regarding my book. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself after so much bragging at the beginning not to have finished the work after 12 months employed on it.3 I think I told you that it would be only external stimulus that would impel me on with it I felt so disinclined to write. I hoped, however, having once commenced, a liking for the task would set in but it has not been so. I have been working & bodging against inclination ever since April last. You will be glad to hear that now, 620 pages are finished out of the 700 of which the work is to consist. Two thirds of the M.S. have been delivered to Murray:4 after the last receipt M. writes “it keeps up to the mark”. With the autumnal weather a better activity has arisen & I am writing rapidly.

I must plead as a little excuse for slowness, an interruption caused by re-writing & passing through the press of my memoir in Linnæan Transactions.5 This took me 3 hours a day for six weeks in June to August. It fills 72 pages quarto. I took great pleasure in this. I shall get sharply scolded, I expect, for expense caused to the society in altering proofs; but I wanted to make the treatise worthy of the high honour of its place in the Transactions.6 It was written only as a review of species with ordinary introductory remarks for the “Proceedings”. I feel now that the memoir does not express my thoughts with the force & clearness that I think I could impart were I allowed to rewrite again the whole. I shall be most anxious to have your deliberate criticism on it   I should think it is now about ready for distribution. I have matter for another better treatise on the origin of species out of local varieties.

Mr Edwin Brown is manager in a large bank at Burton.7 I have known him 21 years: he was my earliest Naturalist friend. I have always looked on him as a man of extraordinary intellectual ability. I have given him my notions on Carabi. He is amassing material (specimens) at a very great expense.8 He has never travelled: this is a great deficiency for the relations of species to closely allied species & varieties cannot, I think, be thoroughly understood without personal observation in different countries. He has very little leisure & perhaps will not be able to devote the enormous time & anxious thought to the subject which are required to work it out.9

It was a damper not to see my book advertised in Murray’s lists for November, December.10 Should you advise me to recommend him to begin printing? The correction of proof would sooner help me to finish than hinder me. There are 3 or 4 more engravings required, which he will put in hand doubtless when he has the additional M.S. which I shall send him in 5 or 6 days.

Please give my kind regards to Mrs Darwin & family

Yours sincerely | H W Bates


Leonard and Emma Darwin were both ill with scarlet fever during the summer of 1862 (see letter to A. R. Wallace, 20 August [1862]).
Bates 1863. In his letter of 4 April [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), CD had encouraged Bates to write an account of his travels as a naturalist and collector in the Amazon basin. Bates’s letter announcing his intention to do so has not been found, but see the letter from H. W. Bates, [before 25 September 1861], and the letter to H. W. Bates, 25 September [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
John Murray.
Bates 1862a.
The part of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London in which Bates 1862a appeared was published on 13 November 1862 (Raphael 1970, p. 70)
See letter to H. W. Bates, 15 October [1862]. Edwin Brown was manager of the Burton, Uttoxeter, and Ashbourne Union Bank in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire (Banking almanac 1865).
The contents of Brown’s extensive natural history collections at the time of his death are described in the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 13 (1876–7): 116–7, 257–8.
Although Brown amassed ‘a large and valuable collection’ of Carabidae, he only published one short paper on the subject (Brown 1869; see Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 13 (1876–7): 116–7).
See, for example, Athenæum, 4 October 1862, p. 421.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Banking almanac: The banking almanac, directory, yearbook and diary. London: Richard Groombridge; Waterlow & Sons. 1845–1919.

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. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Raphael, Sandra. 1970. The publication dates of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, series 1, 1791–1875. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 2: 61–76. [Vols. 10,11]


Still working on book and has completed 620 out of 700 pages.

Rewrote memoir [on mimicry in Amazon Lepidoptera] for Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. [23 (1862): 495–566].

Edwin Brown, HWB’s earliest naturalist friend, will have a hard time classifying Carabi as he is unable to travel.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160.1: 71
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3771,” accessed on 28 February 2021,

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