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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   10 January [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jany. 10th

My dear Henslow

I am exceedingly obliged for the specimens, which with your good packing came quite safe. As I shd have had to pay more for Box per Railway, you must let me enclose the 20 stamps.2 The comb of Hornet is beautiful & interests me much, for I see each is made curved on sides in lower part, until a cell is made beyond & then is built upwards hexagonally; & this just agrees with my notion.— If next year you could get me some Hornet combs fresh with extreme growing margin not in the least injured, they would be very valuable to me. What a pretty nest of the Vespa rufa! & how very curious the cast of chalk bases. I shd like sometime to hear, whether the excavated bases were covered with paper or quite bare? I shd really be glad to know this, & whether the little cups are only apparent & marked merely by being separated from each other by hexagonal reticulation, or whether each is really concave. Will you be so kind when at Ipswich to observe this for me.

I am greatly interested in these wondrous architectural Instincts.

With many thanks | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


The date as written by CD is not clear: the word ‘Jany.’ has been superimposed on ‘Dec’. The year is given by CD’s interest in bees’ and wasps’ nests and by a mourning border on the stationery. Charles Waring Darwin had died on 28 June 1858.
There is no record of any payment to Henslow in CD’s Account books (Down House MS), although there are several entries for stamps.


Thanks JSH for specimens. Comments on the structure of a hornet comb and asks JSH to obtain some fresh combs for him and to make observations for him. He is greatly interested in "these wondrous architectural instincts".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A120–A121
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2648,” accessed on 20 June 2019,

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