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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. W. Woodbury   7 December [1862]1


Dec. 7th.

Dear Sir

I cannot think of any means of aiding you with respect to Bees from the E. Indies.2 You must be sanguine to hope to keep a Tropical insect through our winters; but I fully admit that no one can foresee what will happen in such cases. Mr Wallace was only touring in Devonshire,3 his address is

A. R. Wallace, Esqre.

5, Westbourne Grove Terrace

London W

The only man, whom I can suggest to communicate with is

E. Blyth, Esqre 4

Asiatic Soc


He is the Curator and an excellent Naturalist, but sadly overworked; yet very obliging. He is not an Entomologist; but attends much to domesticated animals.

I shall be truly grateful for the piece of comb: be so kind as to address it as follows to my Brother’s House5

Ch. Darwin, Esqre

6 Queen Anne Street

Cavendish Square


To be left till called for

I am also truly obliged to your great kindness in getting my query on the variation of the Bee circulated in Germany; I have been very glad to see the answers.6

My dear Sir | yours sincerely obliged | Ch. Darwin.


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from T. W. Woodbury, 17 March 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11; see nn. 2 and 5, below).
Woodbury’s letter has not been found; however, he was interested in the possibility of naturalising non-native species of hive bee, and in August had sought CD’s assistance in procuring bees from West Africa (see letter from T. W. Woodbury, 9 August 1862, letter to A. R. Wallace, 20 August [1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 [August 1862]). Woodbury believed that the large Indian bee species, Apis dorsata, would be ‘very valuable’ if it could be naturalised (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from T. W. Woodbury, 17 March 1863).
Alfred Russel Wallace returned to Britain from the Malay archipelago at the end of March 1862; in August, following a period of illness, he left London for a holiday in Devon (see letter from A. R. Wallace, 8 August 1862, and Brackman 1980, pp. 236–42). Woodbury resided in Exeter, Devon (Post Office directory of Devonshire 1856).
Edward Blyth was the curator of the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal from 1841 to 1862, and in the 1850s had provided CD with much information on the plants and animals of India (Correspondence vols. 5–7, DNB). CD had evidently not yet received Blyth’s letter of 23 November 1862, reporting his imminent return to Britain.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin. See also letter from E. A. Darwin, 14 December [1862?]. CD refers to a piece of ‘partially completed artificial comb’ (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from T. W. Woodbury, 17 March 1863).
See letter to the Journal of Horticulture, [before 10 June 1862], and letter to Bienen Zeitung, 18 June 1862.


Brackman, Arnold C. 1980. A delicate arrangement. The strange case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. New York: Times Books.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Post Office directory of Devonshire: Post Office directory of Devonshire and Cornwall. London. 1856–1926.


Cannot aid TWW with respect to bees from East Indies. Suggests he write to Edward Blyth.

Thanks him for getting query on variation in bees circulated in Germany.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas White Woodbury
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 148: 374
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3849,” accessed on 27 May 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10