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Letter 1489

Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D.

24 [Oct 1852]

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    News of his health; has been well of late, but cannot stand excitement. Hereditary weakness is another of his bugbears.

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    At work on cirripedes – "I hate a Barnacle as no man ever did before."


Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Fox

I received your long & most welcome letter this morning, & will answer it this evening as I shall be very busy with an Artist drawing Cirripedia & much overworked for the next fortnight. But first you deserve to be well abused, & pray consider yourself well abused, for thinking or writing that I could for one minute be bored by any amount of detail about yourself & belongings. It is just what I like hearing: believe me that I often think of old days spent with you, & sometimes can hardly believe what a jolly careless individual one was in those old days. A bright autumn Evening often brings to mind some shooting excursions from Osmaston. I do indeed regret that we live so far off each other, & that I am so little locomotive: I have been unusually well of late, (no Water Cure) but I do not find that I can stand any change hardly better than formerly. All excitement & fatigue brings on such dreadful flatulence; that in fact I can go nowhere. The other day I went to London & back, & the fatigue, though so trifling brough on my bad form of vomiting. I grieve to hear that your chest has been ailing; & most sincerely do I hope that it is only the muscles: how frequently the voice fails with the Clergy. I can well understand your reluctance to break up your large & happy party & go a broad; but your life is very valuable, so you ought to be very cautious in good time.

You ask about all of us, now 5 Boys (oh the professions, oh the gold, & oh the French,—these three oh's all rank as dreadful bugbears) & two girls: Emma has been very neglectful of late & we have not had a child for more than one whole year. She is, thank God, right well, & so are all the chicks; but another & the worst of my bugbears, is heredetary weakness. All my sisters are well, except Mrs Parker, who is much out of health; & so is Erasmus at his poor average: he has lately moved into Q. Anne St. I had heard of the intended marriage of your sister Frances: I believe I have seen her since, but my memory takes me back some 25 years, when she was lying down; I remember well the delightful expression of her countenance: I most sincerely wish her all happiness. Tenby by all accounts is a delightful place.—

I see I have not answered half your Queries: we like very well all that we have seen & heard of Rugby, & have never repented of sending him there: I feel sure schools have greatly improved since our days; but I hate schools & the whole system of breaking through the affections of the family by separating the boys so early in life, but I see no help & dare not run the risk of a youth being exposed to the temptations of the world, without having undergone the milder ordeal of a great school.—

I see you even ask after our Pears: we have had lots of Beurre d'Alenbery, Winter Nelis, Marie Louise, Passe Colmar & Ne Plus Meuris but all off the wall: the standard dwarfs have borne a few, but I have no room for more trees, so their names wd be useless to me. You really must make a holiday & pay us a visit sometime: nowhere could you be more heartily welcome.—

I am at work on the second vol. of the Cirripedia, of which creatures I am wonderfully tired: I hate a Barnacle as no man ever did before, not even a Sailor in a slow-sailing ship. My first vol. is out: the only part worth looking at is on the sexes of Ibla & Scalpellum; I hope by next summer to have done with my tedious work.

Farewell,—do come whenever you can possibly manage it. I cannot but hope that the Carbuncle may possibly do you good: I have heard of all sorts of weaknesses disappearing after a carbuncle: I suppose the pain is dreadful. I agree most entirely, what a blessed discovery is Chloroform: when one thinks of one's children, it makes quite a little difference in ones happiness. The other day I had 5 grinders (two by the Elevator) out at a sitting under this wonderful substance, & felt hardly anything.

My dear old Friend | Yours very affectionately | Charles Darwin

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 1489.f1
    On 25 October 1852, Emma Darwin noted in her diary: ‘Mr Sowerby came’. On 4 November CD recorded in his Account book (Down House MS) that George Brettingham Sowerby Jr was paid £10: ‘for drawing & journey [to Down] £7. 14 giving 2 guineas extra, & on Engraving account 2. 6. 0’. These drawings were presumably for Living Cirripedia (1854).
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    f2 1489.f2
    Osmaston Hall, the Fox family home near Derby.
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    f3 1489.f3
    CD's Health diary (Down House MS) indicates that he suspended his douche treatment on 22 August, noting: ‘Six weeks treatment; not much good effect, extremely tired in Evening. I do not think last Treatment did me much good.—’ The Health diary shows that CD was unusually well during October 1852: this good health continued to the end of the year.
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    f4 1489.f4
    See CD's letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852].
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    f5 1489.f5
    Horace Darwin was born on 13 May 1851 and was Emma's last child until the birth of Charles Waring Darwin on 6 December 1856.
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    f6 1489.f6
    Marianne Parker was CD's oldest sister.
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    f7 1489.f7
    Frances Jane Fox was married on 28 October to John Hughes, vicar of Penelly, near Tenby, South Wales (Darwin pedigree). See Correspondence vol. 1 for CD's visit to Osmaston before the Beagle voyage, and the letter from Susan Darwin, 22–31 July 1833, for a description of Frances Jane Fox.
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    f8 1489.f8
    Several of Emma's aunts lived in Tenby (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Emma Darwin, [24 June 1846], n. 2).
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    f9 1489.f9
    William Erasmus Darwin, CD's oldest son.
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    f10 1489.f10
    CD's estimate was optimistic. He did not see the proofs of the later Cirripedia volumes until 1854 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I).
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    f11 1489.f11
    On 25 June 1852, CD recorded in his Account book (Down House MS): ‘Teeth extracted & Journey to London [£]4 17[s.]’ CD's entry in his Health diary (Down House MS) indicates that the extraction took place on 24 June. His Account book records that on 5 September ‘Mr Waite. Dentist’ was paid £1 1s. (Down House MS). The ‘Elevator’ is ‘an instrument used in Dentistry for the removal of stumps of teeth’ (OED).
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