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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Richard Hill   26 November 1859

Spanish Town Jamaica

26 November 1859.

My dear Sir,

I received your letter when our latter rains were setting in,—a lingering but not a heavy season.1 I was in consequence precluded from getting out to Mr Wilkie’s Apiary for the specimens of Bees you desired to have.2 Could I have seen Mr Wilkie, I should have obtained what you wanted readily, but he has been and still continues absent in a distant parish. I now send you what may be acceptable until I am able completely to meet your wishes. There are in the box four workers and one drone. Mr March, a naturalist very well known to Sir William Hooker3 ,—from whom I procured these specimens, promises me a complete suite from the Queen downwards. He has been searching over his Farm in the Salt pond plain for our Meliponas, but without success.4 He intends to supply me with a joint of a tree containing the Sacklets,—when he finds a hive.

I am promised several things from Cuba.5 Dr Grundlach and Monsr Felipe Poey are my correspondents.6 Mr. Poey is at this time bringing out a highly embellished work on Cuba.— Ballière of Soho Square, the English publisher.—7 I think the three Islands, Jamaica, Cuba and Haïti would furnish you with excellent illustrations for your Book, for to my Eyes, though things differ much in variety, I question much their difference in species.— Some things exceedingly common with us are absolutely rare in Cuba.— This morning brought me a letter from Dr Grundlach announcing that he had obtained in the district of Bayamo a specimen of the Turtur leucopterus, one of the commonest of our Doves both on the North and South sides of Jamaica. I observed in Cuba that its place was occupied by the Columba Carolinensis of Wilson, and I am hardly mistaken in saying the same prevalence of the one dove for the other occurs in Haïti.8 Our ground Lizard Ameiva dorsalis, so brilliant and beautiful with its blue tail grad-uating into green, and sides golden-streaked (v: Gosse’s Nat. Soj: Jamaica p 74)9 is certainly one and the same with the dull smoke coloured representation of it in Saint Domingo, and the Snakes though just occupying parallel places, are different in Colour;—the common hedge row snake of Haïti being as remarkably green as the similar reptile in place and habits is as jet black in Jamaica.

I thank Judge Wilkinson exceedingly for his kind opinion of me—10 I could wish I half merited the good things he has been pleased to say respecting me—

Mr Barrett of Trinity College Cambridge, who is occupied with the Government Geological Survey of the Island is doubtless known to you.11 I expect when he has finished his survey, he will throw much light on our Earth-history.— He finds your Sections of the Andes supplying every peculiarity of our rocks and mountains, their dates and circumstances.12

With best regards believe me my dear Sir, | Your very obedient Servant | Richard Hill Charles Darwin Esqre

CD annotations

crossed pencil
2.6 Some things] square bracket added before, pencil
crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘On Difference of Species [interl] Islands of W. Indies’ pencil; ‘19—’13 brown crayon


CD had requested specimens of Robert Wilkie’s bees after receiving portions of their honeycombs (see letter to Richard Hill, 8 August [1859]).
William Thomas March was a lawyer and clerk to the supreme court of Jamaica (Jamaica Almanack 1843). He sent consignments of Jamaican plants to Kew during the years 1854–62 (R. Desmond 1977). William Jackson Hooker was the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
CD had questioned Hill about the native bees of Jamaica. Hill believed that the Melipona of the island was a different species from that of Mexico. See letter from Richard Hill, 10 January 1859, and Origin, pp. 225–7.
Hill had visited Cuba, the United States of America, and Canada in 1826.
Juan Cristóbal Grundlach (also known as Gundlach) published a paper on the bats of Cuba in 1841 in Annals and Magazine of Natural History. He was a well-known naturalist in Cuba (Carbonell y Rivero 1928). Felipe Poey y Aloy published a two-volume work in Spanish on the natural history of Cuba, the last volume of which was finished in 1858 but did not appear until 1861 (Poey y Aloy 1851–[61]). There is no record of an English translation or of any English publication of the work.
Hippolyte Baillière was a publisher and dealer in foreign books in Regent Street, London (Post Office London directory 1858).
Hill had visited San Domingo and Haiti from 1830 to 1832 (Cundall 1920, p. 39).
See letter to Richard Hill, 8 August [1859]. Judge Wilkinson has not been identified.
Lucas Barrett was curator of the Woodwardian Museum, Cambridge, 1855–8, during which time he delivered many lectures for Adam Sedgwick. In 1859, he was appointed director of the Geological Survey of Jamaica.
CD’s descriptions and plates of the geology of the Portillo and the Uspallata passes are in South America, pp. 237–43.
The number of CD’s portfolio containing notes on the geographical distribution of animals.


Carbonell y Rivero, José Manuel, ed. 1928. Evolución de la cultura Cubana, 1608–1927. 18 vols. Havanna.

Cundall, Frank. 1920. Richard Hill. Journal of Negro History 5: 37–44.

Desmond, Ray. 1977. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists, including plant collectors and botanical artists. 3d ed. London: Taylor and Francis.

Gosse, Philip Henry. 1851. A naturalist’s sojourn in Jamaica. Assisted by Richard Hill. London. [Vols. 5,6,7,9]

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.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Sends some bees CD requested

and discusses the differences among several animal species on islands of the West Indies.

Letter details

Letter no.
Richard Hill
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Spanish Town, Jamaica
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 275
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2557,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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