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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   2 May [1863]1

22 Harmood St. Haverstock Hill N.W.

May 2

My dear Mr Darwin

I have received both your letters containing remarks on my book & need not say how well satisfied I feel with them.2 From all quarters, strangers & friends, the opinions are favourable. It is most curious; all find pleasure in the book, Darwinians, Calvanistic church ministers, Dissenting parsons, hard-headed men of business; women, old men & boys; philosophic naturalists & species grubbers. It makes one feel contented to be the author on the score of literary fame alone but more substantial rewards are not wanting for Mr Murray has given me a handsome sum (£250) although the edition (1250) is far from sold out.3 He has behaved in the most friendly manner to me the friendliness visibly increasing every day.

I cannot forget that all this is due primarily to yourself who gave me so favourable an introduction to a publisher.4 Not only that, if it had not been for your spurring me on I am quite sure the book would never have been written. As long as I live I shall remember these things & wish it were within the limits of etiquette to make them public. Murray said to me on Wednesday “I am very glad I am the publisher of the book”.

Your former letter in which was a quotation from a letter of Asa Gray’s gave me much pleasure5   I find there is no end to the instruction that may be drawn from these cases of mocking butterflies; every time I reflect on them some new deduction flows forth, so that I think I have matter enough for another paper which might be illustrated by the same plates. Mr Wallace came last Sunday to spend the evening with me & after examining all my specimens of these mockers, came to the conclusion that all Nature does not furnish so plain & striking a case of the origin of species & of new & complex adaptations to new conditions, by the simple process of variation & Natural Selection.6 But my first task will be to write a paper on the general subject of origin by segregation of local races.7

Believe me | Yours sincerely | H W Bates


The year is established by the reference to Bates 1863 (see n. 2, below).
The references are to Bates’s The naturalist on the river Amazons (Bates 1863) and to CD’s letters to H. W. Bates, 18 April [1863] and 30 April [1863].
Bates 1863 was published by CD’s publisher, John Murray (see also n. 4, below).
CD had encouraged Bates to write a book based on his experiences while collecting natural history specimens in South America from 1848 to 1859. CD also wrote to Murray on Bates’s behalf, urging him to publish the book (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Murray, 28 January [1862]).
In his letter to Bates of 4 March [1863], CD wrote that Asa Gray had found Bates’s paper on mimicry in butterflies (Bates 1861) ‘fascinating’. Gray’s letter has not been found.
Alfred Russel Wallace and Bates had collected together in South America from 1848 to 1850 (Woodcock 1969, pp. 32–3 and 67). Wallace’s interest in Bates’s study of mimicry is evident in the paper he read before the Zoological Society of London on 13 January 1863 (Wallace 1863a); in this paper, Wallace drew attention to examples of mimicry in birds (see letter from H. W. Bates, 24 January 1863 and n. 3). For the relationship between studies of mimicry and the theory of natural selection, see Correspondence vols. 9 and 10.
Bates refers to an article entitled ‘Geographical relations of species, and their varieties’, which he had planned to write for the Natural History Review. However, he suspended work on this paper to undertake another commission, a monograph on the Mantidae, and does not appear to have returned to it (see letter from H. W. Bates, 29 September 1863 and nn. 7 and 9, and Bates 1892, pp. lxvii–lxx). See also Curle 1954, p. 26.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1861. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ. [Read 21 November 1861.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1860–2): 495–566.

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–.

Curle, Richard. 1954. The Ray Society: a bibliographical history. London: Ray Society.

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


His satisfaction at CD’s acceptance of book as well as total public acceptance. Murray has given him a £250 advance. His pleasure at Asa Gray’s words.

Next task will be to write on origin [of species] by segregation of local races.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Haverstock Hill
Source of text
DAR 160: 76
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4138,” accessed on 28 January 2021,

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