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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. W. Bates   25 November [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 25

Dear Bates

I shd. think it was not necessary to get a written agreement.— I have never had one from Murray.2 I suppose you have a letter with terms; if not, I shd. think you had better ask for one to prevent misunderstandings.— I think Sir C. Lyell told me he had not any formal agreements.—3 I am heartily glad to hear that your Book is progressing.— Could you find some place, even foot-note (though these are in nine cases out of ten objectionable) where you could state, as fully as your materials permit, all the facts about similar varieties pairing,—at a guess how many you caught, & how many now in your collection.—4 I look at this fact as very important: if not in your book, put it somewhere else, or let me have cases.—

I entirely agree with you on enormous advantage of thoroughily studying one group.—5 I shd. doubt Sir J. Herschel reading or reviewing nat. History; his address is “Collingwood Hawkhurst, Kent”.—6

I have already drawn Asa Gray’s attention to your paper; but I fear it is out of his line, as he contributes only Bot. Reviews to N. American Journal.—7 I will see whether a suggestion to one of Editors of Nat. Hist. R. will do any good;8 but as you are aware it is very unusual to review papers.—

I wish I had spare strength or time to review your paper; but in truth I have lost such months of time this whole summer that I must work on my own work when well enough.—9

I really have no criticism to make; style seems to me very good & clear; but I much regret, that in title or opening passage that you did not blow loud trumpet about what you were going to show.—10 Perhaps paper would have been better more divided into sections with Headings— Perhaps you might have given somewhere rather more of a summary on the process of segregation of varieties & not referred your readers to the descriptive part, excepting such readers as wanted minute detail.—11

But these are trifles; I consider your paper as a most admirable production in every way. Whenever I come to variation under natural conditions (my head for months has been exclusively occupied with domestic varieties) I shall have to study & restudy your paper & no doubt shall then have to plague you with questions.—12

I am heartily glad to hear that you are well.—

I have been compelled to write in a hurry, so excuse me, & believe me, Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from H. W. Bates, 24 November 1862.
Bates apparently asked CD for advice on this point in the missing portion of his letter of 24 November 1862. Having encouraged Bates to write an account of his travels as a naturalist in South America (Bates 1863; see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to H. W. Bates, 4 April [1861]), CD had acted as an intermediary between Bates and his own publisher, John Murray (see letter to John Murray, 28 January [1862]).
John Murray had been Charles Lyell’s publisher for many years, and it was as a result of Lyell’s advice and intervention that Origin was published by John Murray (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Charles Lyell, 28 March [1859], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 March [1859]). CD may refer to Lyell’s response, now missing, to CD’s letter of 28 March [1859] (Correspondence vol. 7) asking for advice about agreeing terms with Murray.
None of this information is provided in Bates 1863, but see the letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1862] and nn. 2 and 3.
In his letter of 24 November 1862, Bates had expressed a hope that someone might review his paper on South American mimetic butterflies (Bates 1862a) in order to stimulate advance interest in Bates 1863. CD refers to Asa Gray, who regularly wrote botanical reviews and notices for the American Journal of Science and Arts (see letters to Asa Gray, 23 November [1862] and 26[–7] November [1862]).
The Natural History Review was edited by a committee of eleven co-editors, under the effectual control of Thomas Henry Huxley. CD suggested to John Lubbock, who was one of the editors, that he might review Bates 1862a; however, Lubbock declined, suggesting CD should write the review himself (see letter from John Lubbock, 15 December 1862).
At Lubbock’s suggestion, CD reviewed Bates 1862a for the Natural History Review (‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’; see letter to John Lubbock, 16 [December 1862]). CD recorded in his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II) that much time was ‘wasted’ in the summer of 1862 due to Leonard Darwin’s illness with scarlet fever.
Bates’s paper was entitled, ‘Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon Valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ.’ In the paper, Bates invoked 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 1862a, p. 513).
CD was working on the manuscript of Variation, which dealt with variation under domestication (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). Variation was originally intended to comprise the first volume of a three-volume work on natural selection, each volume having a separate title (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859]); however, the remaining two parts were never published.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1862. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Coleoptera: Longicornes. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3d ser. 9: 117–24, 396–405, 446–58.

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–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’: [Review of "Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley", by Henry Walter Bates.] [By Charles Darwin.] Natural History Review n.s. 3 (1863): 219–24. [Collected papers 2: 87–92.]

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


[Apparently in reply to question in missing portion of 3825.] A written agreement is unnecessary, but a letter stating terms would prevent misundertanding. He will attempt to have a review of HWB’s paper published.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Walter Bates
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3827,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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