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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Robert Swinhoe   28 March 1866

Amoy. 28 March, 1866. Charles Darwin, Esqr. My dear Sir,

On returning to my post at Takow after a 10 day’s revel in the heart of the Formosan Mountains, I found orders awaiting me to repair to Amoy to relieve my brother-in-law Mr. Pedder who goes home by this mail.1 My sister, Mrs. Pedder, has kindly offered to take home a small parcel for me.2 It occurred to me on her making this offer that I was under promise to procure for you some Chinese Honey-comb, or rather comb of the Chinese Honey-Bee.3 Enclosed in this box are several pieces of the article you desire, which my man procured after a long hunt through the town, this not being the season for gathering the honey— I hope you will be pleased with the present, and that you may find it to answer your purpose—4

If you have anything further that I can assist you in, do not fail to let me know of it. Now that I am in China proper again & once more within the line of regular communication I can the more easily procure any article you desire and find opportunities for forwarding such to you—

Your’s sincerely, | Robert Swinhoe.


Swinhoe was in the British diplomatic service in Takow, Formosa (now Taiwan), and Amoy, China (P. B. Hall 1987). William Henry Pedder was British consul in Amoy (Foreign Office list).
Mrs Pedder has not been further identified.
The earlier correspondence between Swinhoe and CD about the comb of the Chinese honey-bee (Apis indica) has not been found. Swinhoe may have previously sent CD a specimen of the honey-bee from Amoy (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to Frederick Smith, [c. 17 February 1864?] and n. 8).
In 1863, Thomas White Woodbury had suggested to CD that it would be interesting to compare the size of the cells of Apis indica with those in the combs of European species of honey-bee (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from T. W. Woodbury, 17 March 1863).


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

Foreign Office list: The Foreign Office list. London: Harrison & Sons. 1852–1965.

Hall, Philip B. 1987. Robert Swinhoe (1836–1877), FRS, FZS, FRGS: a Victorian naturalist in Treaty Port China. Geographical Journal 153: 37–47.


Sends CD comb of the Chinese honey-bee, as requested.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Swinhoe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 329
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5041,” accessed on 10 August 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14