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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Hardy   27 July [1860]1

(Down Bromley Kent) | (now staying at Miss Wedgwoods |

Hartfield | Tonbridge Wells.)

July 27th

Dear Sir

Absence from home has prevented my answering your note & thanking you very sincerely for it.2 The correction of a blunder is a greater kindness than a new fact.—   I did not speak rashly, for I watched a large clover-field for many days, & never saw any Hive Bees at work.—   An experienced Apiarian also assured me of the truth of the statement; & the statement is made in Maunder’s(?) American Bee Keeper.—3 It has been a great evil to me publishing in abstract: for it was not possible for me to guard my statements sufficiently.—

I have twice seen Hive-Bee sucking single stunted plant of T. pratense. In the large clover field above alluded to which I had watched, was joined by a field of Sanfoin, & which was visited by thousands of Bees, when this was cut one morning, the Bees came to the Clover & tried to suck it & succeeded with some of the withered flowers & those at the bottom of the heads. So that if the flowers are smaller of the second-growth I can well believe that they could be sucked. This would be a very interesting little fact for me, & I will take the liberty of quoting your note4 & shd be extremely much obliged if you would make & communicate any further observations on subject to me—

Pray accept my sincere thanks for your kindness. & believe me | Dear Sir | Yours truly obliged | Charles Darwin

If Mrs. Hardy has not forgotten me, pray give her my best compliments.5


Dated by the relationship to the preceding letter.
See preceding letter.
CD probably refers to T. B. Miner’s American bee keeper’s manual, in which it is stated that red clover is useless to hive-bees (Miner 1849, p. 243).
Hardy’s point was incorporated into the third edition of Origin, p. 100: ‘I have been informed, that when the red clover has been mown, the flowers of the second crop are somewhat smaller, and that these are abundantly visited by hive-bees.’ See also Peckham ed. 1959, p. 184.
It is not known when CD made the acquaintance of Charlotte Hardy. Charles Hardy had been a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, between 1822 and 1826 (Alum. Cantab.).


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Miner, T. B. 1849. The American bee keeper’s manual; being a practical treatise on the history and domestic economy of the honey bee. London. [Vols. 7,8]

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 CH for correction of blunder in Origin about hive-bees sucking clover: "a greater kindness than a new fact".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Hardy
Sent from
Wedgwood, S. E. (b) Hartfield
Source of text
Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology MSS 405 A. Gift of the Burndy Library)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2879,” accessed on 1 December 2021,

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