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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   2 October [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Oct 2d

My dear Sir

The Box is 35 inches high; 1334. wide, the outside doors over the fixed side glass-windows being included;— & 1914 deep from front to back; all outside measures.—2

I thank you very sincerely for your kind answers to my queries, which are of real value to me.3 But will you ask one other for me: viz whether the Silver (by which I understand very pale blue) Barb, bred by Mr H. Weir from two yellows, had black wing-bars, & (if he can remember) whether black bar at end of tail, & whether a white or silver-blue rump above tail.—4

Mr Lubbock was at Leeds;5 I have not yet seen him, but have had a letter from him, in which he mentions that your paper was read6 & one by a Mr Ellis on Bee’s cell,7 & that Dr. Whewell spoke on subject.8 Hence, I suppose, in Times it appeared by mistake as if it had been Whewell’s paper; but no doubt there will be abstract in Athenæum, & your paper in full somewhere, which I shall be very curious to see.9 I fancy I have got the true theory, whether the same as your view I know not.— But I see some difficulties yet, on my views.—

With respect to putting my name down as patron you are very welcome; but my health is such that it will be merely nominal.—10 With hearty thanks for your very kind remembrance of my queries

Believe me, Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S Is Huber correct, when he asserts that Bees adding to old comb, always first gnaw down edge to sharpen ridge??11


Dated by the relationship to the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 8 September [1858], and by a dated slip in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 37 (see n. 11, below).
This may be a reference to the measurements of an observation hive designed by Tegetmeier that CD had adapted for his purposes by adding a fourth glass side. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 22 June [1858].
Tegetmeier had visited CD in September. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 8 September [1858].
CD believed that the occasional appearance of blue domestic pigeons with characteristic black markings on the wings and tail ‘affords an argument of the greatest weight in favour of the view that all are descended from Columba livia,’ the wild rock-pigeon (Variation 1: 202). In Variation 1: 196n. 24, Harrison William Weir is mentioned, on the authority of Tegetmeier, as having bred ‘a silver (which means very pale blue) barb from two yellow birds.’
The meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held in Leeds from 22 to 29 September 1858. John Lubbock had not delivered a paper at the meeting but spoke in the discussion that followed Tegetmeier’s paper on the construction of bees’ cells (see n. 6, below). Lubbock described some of CD’s experiments (Athenæum, 16 October 1858, p. 492).
In his paper, Tegetmeier referred to CD’s work on bees’ cells and stated that they both held the same theory about the shape being at first cylindrical (Tegetmeier 1858b, p. 132).
William Whewell had read Robert Leslie Ellis’s paper (Ellis 1858) at the meeting. Ellis held that the positioning of bees’ eyes allowed bees to build cell walls that were inclined at 120o angles (see Athenæum, 16 October 1858, p. 492).
The meeting was reported in The Times, 28 September 1858, p. 10. In the notice, Tegetmeier’s paper was erroneously ascribed to Henry Tibbats Stainton, not to Whewell. The Athenæum, 16 October 1858, p. 492, also carried an account (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 17 [October 1858]). The full paper was published in the British Association report (Tegetmeier 1858b).
Tegetmeier had previously asked CD to act as a patron to one of his endeavours (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 11 May [1856]). The request in this letter may have related to the Apiarian Society of London, of which Tegetmeier was secretary. See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier,21 [February 1859].
F. Huber 1814. CD recorded his doubts about François Huber’s observations on this point in a note dated 26 September 1858 (DAR 48 (ser. 2): 38v.), which includes the remark: I have some doubts about Hubers gnawing down, in section of leaf-hive I can only make out that old wax used & that tints blend together.— John Innes had lent CD the leaf-hive.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Ellis, Robert Leslie. 1858. On the cause of the instinctive tendency of bees to form hexagonal cells. Report of the 28th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Leeds, Transactions of the sections, p. 122.

Huber, François. 1814. Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles. 2d edition. 2 vols. Paris and Geneva: J. J. Paschoud.

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


Ask some questions on pigeons.

Remarks on the discussion of bees’ cells at the Leeds BAAS meeting. CD fancies he has the true theory with regard to their construction.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2332,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7