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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Busk   5 April [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 5th

Dear Busk

In last nor of Journal of Linn. Soc. there is a marvellous account of Ants;2 enclosed is its match, which if you think fit, might be read, with some such title as “Extracts from two Letters from G. Lincecum Esqre of Long Point Texas to Ch. Darwin Esqe, on the Habits of Ants”.—3 Please observe, I know nothing of writer.— But if you will take trouble to read the whole of these extraordinary epistles, I think you will be impressed with belief that the man does not intentionally tell lies. He paid the heavy postage on both.— I have struck out with pencil what ought not to be read.— If the facts are true, it is perhaps most marvellous instinct ever recorded.— Really I can almost believe the statements, after Kirby’s account of the Ants bringing up the eggs of their imprisoned Aphides to the sun to be warmed & to be hatched early that they might be milked soon.—4

The only use of publishing such a paper in my estimation is that it might call some other observer’s attention to the points.—

The whole letters are so odd that they are almost worth your reading,—such spelling,—such grammar! He evidently speaks the truth that he was never educated.—

You must use your own judgment whether to read,—I hardly know what to think.5

Pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

P.S. In reading the 1st letter, attend to his paging; for the order goes very oddly.


Dated by the reference to the letters from Gideon Lincecum (see n. 3, below).
The March issue of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 5 (1861): 217–18 carried an extract from a letter by Mrs Lewis Hutton giving an account of the habits of a species of Australian ant. Hutton described what she took to be an elaborate ‘burial ritual’ for soldier ants conducted by about 200 ants from the same nest.
Letters from Gideon Lincecum, 29 December 1860 (Correspondence vol. 8), and 4 March 1861. Busk was secretary of the Linnean Society of London.
Kirby and Spence 1815–26, 2: 89–90.
An abstract of Lincecum’s letter of 29 December 1860 was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 18 April 1861 and published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 6 (1862): 29–31. Busk omitted Lincecum’s description of the ‘horticultural ant’ given in the letter of 4 March 1861, stating that the account ‘appears to be identical with the “Cutting Ant,” œcidina nexucaba, Sm., described by Mr. S. B. Buckley’ (ibid., p. 31). The reference is to Buckley 1860.


Buckley, Samuel Botsford. 1860. The cutting ant of Texas. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (1860): 233–6.

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


Sends two letters from G. Lincecum about ants ("perhaps the most marvellous instinct ever recorded") for possible publication. [See Gideon Lincecum, "The habits of the ""agricultural ants"" of Texas", J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Zool.) 6 (1862): 29–31.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Busk;
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (SP.704A)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3112,” accessed on 29 November 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9