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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   29 September 1863

22 Harmood St. Haverstock Hill. N.W.

29 Sept 1863

My dear Mr Darwin

I am very much concerned to hear of your increased illness; but I expected it having been told by various persons throughout the summer that you were not so well this year.1 Let us hope that Malvern wells will give you a little relief so as to enable you to work cheerfully & correspond with your friends again. If it would not be annoying I should like to send you a letter with Natural History chit chat now & then, regardless of your answering me punctually.

Many thanks for the loan of Asa Gray’s reviews.2 Really my little paper in the Linnean has been greatly honoured to be reviewed by Darwin & Asa Gray.3 How capitally Gray has done it. I did not think it possible that the complex details of variation &c which I gave could be so briefly & luminously brought to a focus. I think I must write to him to thank him.

The review in the Times of my book has caused quite a commotion.4 I consider it the best that has yet been written. It is also of great general importance because it is a public concession on the part of the highest literary tribunal, of the claims of philosophical natural history to the attention of the public. My old Father happens to be on a visit to me & the review came very apropos, causing great elation in our little family circle.5 My Father is an old man of business who thinks everything right that is said by the Times; & who begins now to see that his son really has written a goodish book.

The longest review that has yet appeared is in the Revue des deux mondes by Forgues.6 It is also most excellently done & I think shows a closer examination & higher appreciation of the book than any that has yet appeared in England except that of the Times.

You ask me what I am doing. I have been commissioned by Mr W. Wilson Saunders to write a monograph of the Mantidæ (a remarkable family of Insects).7 The work is to appear in the Ray Society series, in 4to illustrated by 20 plates by Westwood.8 This has occupied me the last 4 months & will continue to occupy me for 18 months longer. Mr Saunders pays me (moderately) for the work & leaves me all the credit. This work leaves me time for other things, such as short articles & I had commenced one on the whole subject of local variation, intending to incorporate details of facts of new varieties interbreeding with counterparts, which you require.9 But the monograph is so much pleasanter work just now that I have laid this paper aside for the present.

I will not write more just now | Yours sincerely | H W Bates


CD’s letter to Bates has not been found; however, see n. 2, below. CD and his family had gone to Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, at the start of September, so that CD could undergo hydropathic treatment (see letter to W. D. Fox, 4 [September 1863]).
In his letter to CD of 1 September 1863, Asa Gray had promised to send sheets from the September 1863 number of the American Journal of Science and Arts containing his review abstracts of Bates 1861 and ‘Two forms in species of Linum’ (A. Gray 1863a and 1863c) the following week. CD had evidently forwarded the sheets to Bates.
CD reviewed Bates 1861 in the April 1863 number of the Natural History Review (‘Review of Bates on mimetic butterflies’).
Bates 1863 was favourably reviewed in The Times, 24 September 1863, p. 8.
Bates’s father, Henry, was a hosiery manufacturer in Leicester (DSB); Bates had moved to London in April 1863 (see letter from H. W. Bates, 8 April 1863).
Bates 1863 was reviewed by the French man of letters, Paul-Emile Daurand Forgues, in the 1 August 1863 issue of the Revue des Deux Mondes (Forgues 1863).
The reference is to William Wilson Saunders, a wealthy insurance broker with an interest in entomology (DNB). Bates continued to work on the monograph until at least 1864, when he was appointed assistant secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (Bates 1892, pp. lxxiii–lxxv); however, the work was never published (Curle 1954, p. 26).
The references are to John Obadiah Westwood, a skilled entomological artist who supplemented his small private income by his drawings (DNB), and to the Ray Society. The Ray Society was established in 1844 to publish important works of natural history that were unlikely to prove commercially profitable (Curle 1954, p. 2).
Bates had intended to include a long discussion of the ‘origin of species by segregation of races’ in Bates 1863, but there had been insufficient space (see letter from H. W. Bates, 8 April 1863). He consequently engaged to write an article entitled ‘Geographical relations of species, and their varieties’ for the Natural History Review (see letter from H. W. Bates, 2 May [1863] and n. 7, and Bates 1892, pp. lxvii–lxx); however, the paper was never completed (Royal Society catalogue of scientific papers). In his letter to Bates of 25 November [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD had asked Bates to include in Bates 1863, or elsewhere, all his facts ‘about similar varieties pairing’, including how many he had caught, and how many he now had in his collection. CD considered this point ‘very important’ because of its bearing on the process of speciation (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI). See also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to H. W. Bates, 15 December [1862].


HWB’s concern over CD’s poor health.

Gives accounts of reviews of his book in the Times and in the Revue des Deux-Mondes by E.-D. Forgues ["Un naturaliste sous l’équateur", Rev. Deux-Mondes 46 (1863): 703–37].

Thanks CD for the A. Gray review of his paper [see 4022].

Reports his current work is a monograph on Mantidae.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Haverstock Hill
Source of text
DAR 160: 77
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4313,” accessed on 18 September 2019,

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