Letter icon
Letter 2879

Darwin, C. R. to Hardy, Charles

27 July [1860]

    Summary Add

  • +

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


(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. 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.— 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 note & 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.

    Footnotes Add

  • +
    f1 2879.f1
    Dated by the relationship to the preceding letter.
  • +
    f2 2879.f2
    See preceding letter.
  • +
    f3 2879.f3
    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).
  • +
    f4 2879.f4
    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.
  • +
    f5 2879.f5
    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.).
Maximized view Print letter