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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   20 April 1863

22 Harmood Street | Haverstock hill N.W

April 20 1863

My Dear Mr Darwin

I have at length returned from Leicester & the above will be now my address for a long time.1 Your last note to me at Leicester stated you had just received my book & were commencing to read.2 I hope now you have finished & are ready to pronounce sentence.3 With regard to the other matter you mention, namely my prospects;4 I must be open with you as I have been heretofore. My total income is £123 £100 of which is allowed to me by my brothers on account of my withdrawing from their small business (which was not large enough to support 3 of us) & leaving £1000 of my capital on loan, the other £23 is interest on shares.5

Now I hope to add by scientific or literary work sufficient to enable me to live modestly. I should consider myself well off if I could gain an additional £150.

There is perhaps some slight chance of my getting in at British Museum which of course would fix me for life.6 I can get plenty of Entomological work from private persons but it is of a tedious, mechanical nature & would prevent me from undertaking original researches.7

The house I have taken is a very small one, but retired & semi-rural   Mrs B. is a plain domesticated woman so there you have it all.8

One of my reviewers “hopes that I have made my expedition answer in a pecuniary point of view”9   It certainly did not answer for the total savings of my 11 years work did not exceed £800

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

I go to Murray today to ascertain the trade result of my book10


See letter to H. W. Bates, 9 April [1863]; the reference is to Bates’s account of his eleven years in South America, The naturalist on the river Amazons (Bates 1863). Bates had evidently not yet received CD’s letter of 18 April [1863], which had been sent to Bates’s Leicester address.
In his letter to Bates of 18 April [1863], CD said that he had read the first volume of Bates 1863, and his criticisms could be ‘condensed into a single sentence, namely that it is the best book of Natural History Travels ever published in England’.
Bates had been involved with his brothers, Frederick, John, and Samuel, in the family hosiery business in Leicester since returning from South America in 1859 (Woodcock 1969, pp. 16, 240).
In 1862, Bates had hoped to be considered for a zoological assistantship in the natural history department of the British Museum (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from H. W. Bates, 30 April 1862 and n. 10, letter to H. W. Bates, 4 May [1862], and Woodcock 1969, p. 250).
Bates had difficulty finding acceptance within the London scientific establishment during the 1860s; for Bates’s career after 1863, see Woodcock 1969, pp. 256–60.
Bates married Sarah Ann Mason of Leicester on 19 January 1863 (see letter from H. W. Bates, 24 January 1863, and Woodcock 1969, pp. 253–5).
The reviewer of Bates 1863 in the Reader, 18 April 1863, p. 378, expressed a hope that Bates had been able to pay the expenses of his expedition, as ‘Mr. Wallace [Alfred Russel Wallace] was satisfied with the pecuniary result of his labours’.
Bates 1863 had been published by John Murray. For information on the sales of Bates 1863, see the letter from H. W. Bates, 2 May [1863], and Bates 1892, p. lxx.


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.

Bates, Henry Walter. 1892. 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. With a memoir of the author by Edward Clodd. Reprint of the first edition. London: John Murray.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Woodcock, George. 1969. Henry Walter Bates, naturalist of the Amazons. London: Faber & Faber.


Expresses hope that CD is ready to pronounce sentence on his book;

he relates his financial position and mentions that he hopes to get a position at the British Museum.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Haverstock Hill
Source of text
DAR 160: 75
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4116,” accessed on 1 June 2020,

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