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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. W. Bates   22 February [1868]1

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

Feb 22nd.

My dear Bates

I thank you very sincerely for your two letters which are of the utmost value to me.2 You have done me a real good service in bringing the question of sexes before the Entomolog. Soc.3 and I have already received capital letters from Messrs. Stainton & Trimen.4 The whole subject is extremely complicated but I have faith that I shall come to some sort of result by comparing numerous observations.

I shall be in London early in March when I will call on you so you will not be pestered for a time by more letters.5 When I see you I shall want to hear whether the males of the horned coprophagous or Lamellicorn Beetles are larger than the females;6 Kirby says that this is the case with the Dynastidæ.7

With cordial thanks | believe me, yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

I cannot find any well-marked cases of different colouration in the sexes of Orthoptera.—8 When we meet I shall be glad to hear, if you know of any.—

It seems that the poor infant Pangenesis will expire, unblessed & uncussed by the world, but I have faith in a future & better world for the poor dear child!9 One man alone has ventured a word on subject, viz Sir H. Holland & he says he has read it twice & thinks that some doctrine “closely akin to it” will have to be admitted.10 How all our minds differ. The great God Pan. has been an immense relief to my mind.

Ever yours | C.D


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from H. W. Bates, 18 February 1868.
See letters from H. W. Bates, 18 February 1868 and 21 February 1868.
CD was in London from 3 March to 1 April (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)).
Coprophagous beetles: i.e. dung-beetles (families Geotrupidae and Scarabaeidae). In Descent 1: 347, CD noted that male stag beetles (Lucanus) were larger than females .
CD refers to the description of Dynastidae (rhinoceros beetles) in Kirby and Spence 1815–26, 3: 299–300. CD’s copy of this book is extensively annotated (see Marginalia 1: 447–57). The passage describing male and female Dynastidae is double-scored.
CD discussed coloration in the Orthoptera (crickets, grasshoppers, etc.) in Descent 1: 360–1.
The reference is to CD’s provisional hypothesis of heredity, presented in Variation 2: 357–404.


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.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thanks HWB for bringing "the question of sexes" before the Entomological Society. Feels he will come to some conclusion by comparison of numerous observations.

It appears Pangenesis "will expire unblessed and uncursed by the world".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Walter Bates
Sent from
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (Autograph file, D)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5914,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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