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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. W. Bates   20 May 1870

Royal Geographic Society | 15, Whitehall Place, S.W.

May 20 1870

My dear Mr Darwin

I have been having some conversation with the Editor of the “Academy” about Mr Wallace’s last book & the appearance of backsliding from the Darwinian theory which it contains.1 Other sincere friends of the pure truth have expressed a little surprise & bewilderment at the same phenomenon. The views of friend Wallace are so plausible & suit so well wide-spread prejudices that you no doubt think with me they ought to be controverted. But who is to criticise them? No one but yourself. I do not think anyone else would have the present insight into the fallacy but yourself: to others it would require much study & labour to marshal the arguments. I said so to Mr Appleton & he begged of me to write to you in support of a request he is going to make to you to write him a short article as review of the book.2

When you were last in town I spoke to you about some sentences I had written on Man, interwoven in last chapter of Mrs Somerville’s book.3 It weighs on my conscience to think that you took too much notice of what I said: for I do not really think there is much in the matter worthy of your attention

Yours sincerely | H W Bates


Bates refers to Charles Edward Cutts Birchall Appleton, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Wallace 1870a. See letter from C. E. C. B. Appleton, 18 May [1870] and nn. 2 and 3.
CD was in London from 5 to 12 March 1870 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Bates had revised the sixth edition of Mary Somerville’s book Physical geography (Somerville 1870).


Somerville, Mary. 1870. Physical geography 6th edition. Revised by Henry Walter Bates. London: John Murray.


Concern over Wallace’s book [Contributions to the theory of natural selection (1870)] and its apparent backsliding from Darwinian theory. HWB suggests that only CD is capable of criticising the book.

HWB hopes not too much was made over his few comments on man in M. F. Somerville’s book [Physical geography, revised ed. (1870)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Walter Bates
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
R. Geogr. Soc.
Source of text
DAR 160: 88
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7197,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18