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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Obadiah Westwood   15 August [1861]1

2. Hesketh Crescent | Torquay

Aug. 15th

My dear Sir

Your note of the 12th has been received here today.2 Although as a general rule it seems to me best to deposit specimens in the Brit. Museum & I bitterly regret I did not send there all my specimens,3 yet from what you say it gives me real pleasure to concur with Prof. Bell in sending my Crustaceans to the Oxford museum,4 which under your guardianship I do not doubt will become a grand repository.5

You may remember sending me two Bees with pollen-masses attached.6 I am now drawing up a long paper on the fertilisation of Orchids. As the Bees had to be returned I could not ascertain to what species the pollinia belonged. You said in your note you thought you had moths with pollen-masses attached: if you have any specimen with such attached to the head or base of the proboscis (especially if only a single pollen-mass) & would allow me to steam the moth & so remove the pollen-mass, (which I could gum again on head), you would confer a great service on me & which should be acknowledged in my paper.— Of certain Orchids I have examined plenty of attached pollen-masses, but it is of much consequence to me to see some other kinds.— If in your power perhaps you will kindly assist me.7

I shall be here 10 days more & then return to Down.—

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

Can you give me reference to Morren’s paper, to which you alluded?8


The year is given by the Darwins’ stay in Torquay (see ‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Westwood’s letter has not been found.
Following CD’s return to England in 1836 from the Beagle voyage, he arranged for various parts of his natural history collection to be given to specialists for scientific description. As a result, the Beagle specimens were dispersed and eventually housed in a number of different institutions. See Porter 1985. At the time of his return, CD did not have a good opinion of the state of the zoological collections of the British Museum under the direction of the keeper John Edward Gray (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [30–1 October 1836]; vol. 2, letter to Leonard Jenyns, 3 December [1837]; and vol. 5, letter to J. D. Dana, 8 May [1852]).
CD had entrusted the Crustacea and Reptilia collected on the Beagle voyage to Thomas Bell, professor of zoology at King’s College, London. Bell, however, was only able to describe the reptiles (Reptiles).
Westwood had been appointed Hope professor of zoology at the University of Oxford in December 1860 (A. Z. Smith 1986). Before then he had been curator of the extensive entomological collection of Frederick William Hope, donated to the university in 1849. Westwood was arranging to purchase Bell’s zoological collections to enrich the Hope Entomological collection housed in the newly constructed Oxford Museum (see Chancellor et al. 1988).
Westwood sent CD some wasps with pollen-masses attached, but the pollen-masses were not those of orchid species (see letter to J. O. Westwood, 4 September [1861]).


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

Morren, Charles François Antoine. 1836. On the agency of insects in causing sterility in flowers by the removal of the masculine organs, observed amongst the Asclepiadeæ. Transactions of the Entomological Society 1: Proceedings, pp. xliv–xlv. [Vols. 8,9]

Porter, Duncan M. 1985. The Beagle collector and his collections. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Reptiles: Reptiles. Pt 5 of The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle. By Thomas Bell. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1843.

Smith, Audrey Z. 1986. A history of the Hope entomological collections in the University Museum Oxford; with lists of archives and collections. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [Vols. 8,9]


As a general rule CD thinks it best to deposit specimens in the British Museum, and "bitterly regrets" he did not send all his specimens there. Nevertheless he agrees to sending his crustaceans to the Oxford Museum.

CD is at work on Orchids. He would be greatly obliged if JOW could send him specimens of pollen-masses attached to head or base of proboscis of moths.

Asks for reference to Morren’s paper that JOW mentioned before [see 2862].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Obadiah Westwood
Sent from
Source of text
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Hope Entomological collections)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3234,” accessed on 18 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9