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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   8 September [1858]1

Down Bromley Kent

Sept 8th

My dear Sir

At last, thank God, I have done with my Pigeons, & have just killed all the scores of cross-breds—2 I have about 22 pure-birds left; several of these are old & I know not what the merit of the others are.— I have lost a great number lately all my Laugher & Trumpeters except one, which seems sick:— Whether these are worth your acceptance & coming for, I do not at all know.— I want to clear away my pigeon-houses, so shd. be glad, if you think it worth coming here, if you could come on Tuesday 14th or Wednesday 15th—& bring baskets.3 My horses are light & I cannot send carriage for you both ways, but I have comfortable tax-cart,4 in which I always send my sons & I would send it to meet you on either day, which you could appoint, to meet the Train which Leaves London Bridge (N. Kent Division) at 10o. 30’: you must get out at Mason’s Hill Bromley: we dine at 112 & then with another horse I could send you back.

If you are inclined to come, I shall much enjoy seeing you, but my health has lately been bad that I am physically incapable of talking for long.—

If you have Hive with incipient cells, will you bring it for me to see. Have you taken comb with cylindrical cell: I shd. excessively like to see that.—5

I have some Burmese Fowl-skins for you to take back, if you think fit—6

Will you let me have the skeleton head of the wild Indian Fowl?7

Will you kindly let me have early answer; & excuse this hurried note, for I am very far from well.—

Pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

If you cannot come on Tuesday or Wednesday will you fix early day af-terwards, & I will let you know whether that will suit me— Next Monday & Monday week, I am engaged.— Your train had better always be 10o. 30’.—

P.S. | I have just received your note, for which many thanks. We will talk about Bees cells when we meet.—8 Assuredly I shd state, whenever I publish, which will not be for long, that you suggested to me the crude wax.—9

CD note:10

Sept. 16th/58/ | Mr Tegetmeier thinks from experiments which he has made that 15lb of sugar is consumed in the secretion of a pound of wax, & in the support *this, in large swarm of [above del ‘th’] Bees during [above del ‘during’] a fortnight.— But that very much is not consumed as support of the Bees, is shown [above del ‘showing’] by the [‘large’ del] weight [above del illeg] of honey deposited, if empty [interl] combs are given to them.— *Shows use of saving wax [added in margin]

Some American [interl] Apiarians says that 10lb of Honey *go to [interl] make one lb [interl] of Wax11

Mr Tegetmeier [‘about walls’ del] has never seen, any more than I have a parallel wall, such as Huber describes, of wax.—12

Mr T. showed me some irregular comb, & where cells were too small or too shallow for Bees to work adjoining perfect cell had a curved wall part of cylinder.—


Dated by CD’s reference to having completed his work on pigeons. CD recorded in his journal that his pigeon manuscript, which had been interrupted in June, was recommenced in August 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
It seems that CD wrote up his pigeon work in full, although he was also at the time composing the ‘abstract’ of his species book. The pigeon manuscript comprised folios 50–96 of Natural selection; it was compressed for CD’s ‘abstract’ (Origin, pp. 20–9) and then later expanded for Variation. The original has not been located in the Darwin Archive.
CD had offered his pure-bred pigeons to Tegetmeier (see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 14 April [1858] and [21 April 1858]). The phrase ‘or Wednesday 15th—’ has been deleted, presumably by Tegetmeier in selecting the date of his visit.
‘A two-wheeled open cart drawn by one horse, and used mainly for agricultural or trade purposes, on which was charged only a reduced duty (afterwards taken off entirely).’ (OED).
See CD note. For his earlier questions to Tegetmeier on this topic, see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, [21 April 1858], 9 May [1858], and 8 [June 1858].
CD had lent Tegetmeier the skull of a wild jungle fowl from India sent to him by Edward Blyth in 1855 (Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 December [1855]).
See CD note transcribed following the letter.
CD’s note pertains to his subsequent conversation with Tegetmeier. It is in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 32. Tegetmeier’s statement about the quantity of sugar needed to secrete a pound of bees’ wax is given in Origin, p. 233. Further notes with various dates in September 1858 (DAR 48 (ser. 2): 33–41) reflect CD’s interest in bees’ cells at this time.
Perhaps Miner 1849. There is a short abstract of this work in CD’s notes on bees’ cells (DAR 48(ser. 2): 20).
CD refers to the work of François Huber (F. Huber 1814). For CD’s disagreement with previous descriptions of the initial stages in the formation of bees’ cells, see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier,9 May [1858] and 8 [June 1858], and to W. D. Fox, 27 [June 1858].


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Huber, François. 1814. Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles. 2d edition. 2 vols. Paris and Geneva: J. J. Paschoud.

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]

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Has finished with and is disposing of his pigeons.

Invites WBT to Down; would like to see his bees’ cells.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2325,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

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