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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hague   26 February 1873

609 Bush Street. | San Francisco,

Feb 26th 1873

My dear sir,

I can hardly expect to add anything to your knowledge of ants; but as I lately observed some behaviour on their part which not only seems to me somewhat peculiar and noteworthy but different in some respects from anything I find in books that treat of their nature and habits, I venture to send you an account of it at the risk of asking you to read what may prove to be neither new nor very interesting.1

The exhibition of emotion in the conduct of ants, their affections, sympathy for each other in distress etc., I find described by several writers; and among other instances is one, generally quoted, wherein after a disaster that had caused the death of many ants, the survivors came and bore off the dead; but I have found no case like this where the presence of dead or dying ants caused the others to flee in terror from the spot, or where the killing of a single ant on their accustomed path (no visible trace being left) caused all approaching ants to stop, turn about, run home and stay there, abandoning their errand altogether.

Thinking that this instance may differ a little from any yet recorded I have written it out at some length in the accompanying paper in the hope that it may be worth your reading

Your last work2 finds many readers here. A bookseller told me lately that there was not a copy to be had in town although the dealers had received large supplies. I beg leave to offer you my congratulations on your continued good health—judging it, at least, by your ability to labour.

Let me ask you also to present my regards to your sons. I hope they retain pleasant recollections of their visit here.3 | With sincere respect and regard | I am Very Truly Yours | James D. Hague

Charles Darwin Esqre. F.R.S. | &c &c &c


CD enclosed Hague’s account in his second letter to Nature, [before 3 April 1873], published in the 10 April 1873 issue.
Hague refers to George Howard Darwin and Francis Darwin, who had visited the United States in 1871 (see Correspondence vol. 19). Hague had met CD in London in February 1871 (Hague 1884, p. 759).


Sends a paper on behaviour he has observed in ants.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Duncan Hague
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
San Francisco
Source of text
DAR 166: 81
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8788,” accessed on 23 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21