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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   24 January 1863

10 Hollis place | Prince of Wales road | N.W.

Jan 24 1863

My Dear Mr Darwin

Although I cannot supply you with any information on the subject you mention I think it well to write saying that the day before receiving your last on repeating your enquiry to Mr Wallace he said he had certainly noticed Melastomæ in the Malay Archipelago to be frequented by small Hymenoptera.1 Neither he nor I could think of watching where & how bees found the fluid.

I cannot think of any one on the Amazons likely to know what is a Melastoma: there is however a Pará gentleman (now in England) who lives in the forest when at home & could pursue the enquiry if he knew the plants; him I have written to so probably you will hear from him.2 He knows the reward is purely honorary.

We had a pretty little Darwinian discussion at last meeting of Zoological: an impartial auditor must have thought the Darwinians had the best of it3

Yours sincerely | H W Bates

P.S. I have committed the folly of getting married & as lady & self have both a strong desire to live in or near London,4 I am going to try hard to get employment to add to my small independent income sufficient to live here & devote all time to science

First vol. of book nearly finished printing.5 All illustrations done but 3 or 4 & the map which require 4 or 5 days more. M.S. finished except a few lines to the last & toughest discussion & preface.6 I am told 1250 copies to be struck off but do not know if this be correct. The illustrations are extremely beautiful   I have watched over nearly all & some of them are quite in an original style for books of travel7

CD annotations

2.1 Amazons … Bates 4.1] crossed ink


In his letter to Bates of 12 January [1863], CD asked which insects he had observed visiting flowers of species of Melastomataceae during his years on the Amazon. For Bates’s response, see the letter from H. W. Bates, 17 January [1863]. Evidently, CD wrote to Bates again, but the letter has not been found. Bates refers to his friend Alfred Russel Wallace, who returned to Britain in 1862 after seven years of collecting in the Malay Archipelago. See letter from A. R. Wallace, [23 January 1863?]. For CD’s interest in Melastomataceae, see the letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863] and n. 22.
Bates wrote about the city and province of Pará (an 800,000 square mile region of northern Brazil) in the first three chapters of Bates 1863 (pp. 1–111). The ‘Pará gentleman’ has not been identified.
At a meeting of the Zoological Society of London on 13 January 1863, Wallace read a paper on the birds of Bouru (Wallace 1863a; present day Buru, one of the Moluccan islands, is in the Indian Ocean). A report of the meeting appeared in the Intellectual Observer 3: 62: In a paper descriptive of some new species of birds collected in Bourou, Mr. Wallace called attention to several new cases of mimetic analogy, or the imitation of one species of the plumage of another. In describing these specimens Mr. Wallace maintained, that the numerous cases of imitation that exist were incapable of being accounted for on any supposition except by that which accounts for the variation of species by natural selection; also that this imitation was a protection against the natural enemies of the imitating animal; that those animals most closely resembling the aggressive species were the most certain to escape destruction and perpetuate their variety; and that this method of natural selection acting through long periods produced the close imitation between species in totally distinct genera or orders, which appears capable of explanation on no other hypothesis.
Bates married Sarah Ann Mason on 19 January 1863 (Woodcock 1969, p. 254).
The naturalist on the river Amazons (Bates 1863) was published between 1 and 14 April 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26: 193).
The preface to Bates 1863, 1: iii–vi, dated January 1863, mentions Wallace’s proposal of the expedition and their choice of divergent routes after two years in South America. Bates also describes the nature of his collections and CD’s encouragement to write the volume. The last discussion in Bates 1863 (2: 415–17) is an account of his ambivalence about returning to Britain.
Bates’s two volumes include forty-two illustrations; he acknowledged the artists in Bates 1863, 1: vi. See also letter from H. W. Bates, 17 January [1863], and letter to H. W. Bates, 9 April [1863].


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.

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


Wallace noticed that melastomads in Malay archipelago were visited by small Hymenoptera.

Darwinism discussed at the last meeting of the Zoological Society. The Darwinians had the best of it.

HWB has committed the "folly" of marriage [to Sarah Ann Mason, 15 Jan 1863].

Printing of vol. 1 [of Naturalist on the river Amazons] is nearly finished.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Hollis Place, 10
Source of text
DAR 160: 73
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3941,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

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