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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. W. Bates   18 April [1863]1

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

April 18th

Dear Bates

I have finished vol. I.2 My criticisms may be condensed into a single sentence, namely that it is the best book of Natural History Travels ever published in England. Your style seems to me admirable. Nothing can be better than the discussion on the struggle for existence & nothing better than the descriptions on the Forest scenery.3 It is a grand book, & whether or not it sells quickly it will last. You have spoken out boldly on Species; & boldness on this subject seems to get rarer & rarer.—4 How beautifully illustrated it is.5 The cut on the back is most tasteful.6 I heartily congratulate you on its publication.—

The Athenæum was rather cold, as it always is, & insolent in highest degree about your bending facts.—7 Have you seen the “Reader”:8 I can send it you, if you have not seen it.

I have got spare copies of my article in N. Hist Review,9 which I will send you on Monday & you can use or burn them as you like.

I look forward with real pleasure to vol. 2.—

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I will keep copies of Review till I know your London address.


The year is established by the reference to Bates 1863.
Bates 1863. Bates’s account of his eleven years in South America was published in two volumes; CD received a presentation copy (see letter to H. W. Bates, 9 April [1863]).
CD’s annotated copy of Bates 1863 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 35–7). CD wrote notes on a sheet pasted into the back of the first volume of Bates 1863; these include a note relating to p. 55, ‘competition in the Tropics’, where Bates described (Bates 1863, 1: 54–5): the struggle which necessarily exists amongst vegetable forms in these crowded forests, where individual is competing with individual and species with species, all striving to reach light and air in order to unfold their leaves and perfect their organs of fructification. The forest scenery of Pará is described on pages 44–9; see also pp. 290–3.
See, for example, Bates 1863, 1: 255–65, in which he discusses the origin of species and natural selection.
In the preface to The naturalist on the river Amazons, Bates acknowledged his indebtedness to Edward W. Robinson for the illustrations of smaller animals, and to Josef Wolf and Johann Baptist Zwecker for depicting most of the larger subjects and scenes (Bates 1863 1: vi). The first volume included eighteen illustrations.
There is no woodcut on the back of CD’s existing copy. However, each of the two volumes of Bates 1863 bears on its front cover a gold-embossed illustration of a forest house surrounded by palms; standing in the foreground is a person holding a container on his or her head.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 April 1863] and n. 15. The reference is to the Athenæum, 25 April 1863, p. 489.
A favourable review of Bates 1863 appeared in the Reader, 18 April 1863, p. 378.
CD’s anonymous ‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’ appeared in the April 1863 number of the Natural History Review.


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.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

‘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.]


Has finished vol. 1 [of Naturalist on the river Amazons]. CD praises book as "best ever published in England".

The review in the Athenæum was cold, as always, and insolent.

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. 4107,” accessed on 26 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11