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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. W. Bates   18 March [1868]1

4 Chester Place | R. Park. N.W

March 18th

My dear Bates

It has occurred to me that you must occasionally come across Missionaries or Dealers who have long lived intimately with Savages;2 in this case, if you can, oblige me by leading conversation to the notion of savages about the beauty of women, & secondly & more especially how far the women have any indirect influence in getting men, whom they prefer or admire, to court them or purchase them from their parents.

You will at once see my object.—3 I have many facts, but am greedy for more.—

I most thoroughily enjoyed my morning’s talk with you.—4

This obviously requires no answer

Most sincerely yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from H. W. Bates, 12 March 1868.
Bates was assistant secretary of the Royal Geographical Society of London and had explored the Amazon between 1848 and 1859 (ODNB).
CD evidently refers to sexual selection by women. Bates discussed the subject with William Winwood Reade (see letter from W. W. Reade, 19 May 1868), who later suppplied CD with information on female choice of husbands among people of West Africa (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from W. W. Reade, 17 January 1869, and Descent 2: 374).
Bates had probably visited CD on 15 March 1868 (see letter from H. W. Bates, 12 March 1868).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Requests information on the standard of beauty of savages and on whether the female has any influence in selecting a male.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Walter Bates
Sent from
London, Chester Place, 4
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6022,” accessed on 25 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16