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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. H. Miller   31 December [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 31.

My dear Miller—

How infinitely kind you have been to do the work so completely.2 But I am in truth almost ashamed to think how much of your valuable time you have given to this work.—

At some future time when I give all my experiments on the combs, I shall give your results in rather fuller detail. Now, I will give on your authority only the general result.—3

From several circumstances (which I did not previously think of) the measurements at the upper thick end of the comb are, I think, most trustworthy; for the Bees might have failed in building from want of wax, & their combs were taken from Hives which naturally perished; or they might have subsequently gnawed away wax from the border-cells which they did not mean to fill with honey & I know they often economise every particle of wax.

I am extremely much pleased that I turn out not so grossly wrong, as I feared, for it has annoyed me more than you would suppose. My having been not grossly wrong has, however, evidently been mere chance.

My original rough measurements were made, I remember, in middle of a great piece of comb;4 & the two or three measurements made the other day & when I wrote to you, giving up the ghost, were made on border.

Again let me thank you most sincerely for your very great kindness, & believe | My dear Miller | Yours very truly | C. Darwin


The year is given by the inclusion of Miller’s information in the third edition of Origin, published in April 1861.
Miller’s letter has not been found. See letters to W. H. Miller, 1 December [1860] and 27 December [1860].
CD’s notes on bees’ cells, primarily dating from 1858, are in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 5–75.


Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Thanks WHM for information about honeycombs. Discusses his own measurements of combs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Hallowes Miller
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.189)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2617,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8