Letter icon
Letter 2296

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

27 [June 1858]

    Summary Add

  • +

    Profoundly sorry for Lane.

  • +

    Thanks WDF for facts about call ducks, pigs, and Leicester sheep.

  • +

    Has been observing and experimenting on the construction of bees' cells. Thinks he has a theory which simplifies the problem.

  • +

    Scarlet fever in family; nurse ill.


Down Bromley Kent


My dear Fox

I am extremely glad to hear the view you take of Dr Lane's case. What extraordinary facts you tell me. The soul of some great physician has transmi-grated into you. I am profoundly sorry for Dr L. & all his family, to whom I am much attached.—

We shall, indeed, be delighted to see you here if you can anyhow come.—

Your fact about Call-Ducks is first-rate for me, & I will quote it; as I particularly wanted such cases of influence of parent, independently of instinct.

The Sow-case would have been valuable, had it been more recent, so that I cd have ascertained, that the same cheek was affected in young, & had known how many young pigs had same deficiency. I have generally been inclined to account for the several similar reported cases by coincidence & inaccuracy, or from disease of bone having been set up. As the sow was actually pregnant such case does utterly stagger me.—

I had heard something of the Leicester sheep & am very glad to have more details: my doubt is, whether in all kinds of sheep black are not sometimes dropped.

I thank you much for all the very kind trouble, which you have taken to get me information on all the above points; and about Horses. I have lately seen some splendid cases of barred legs; but I never can find out about colour of parents.— I hardly know what roan is.— I shall be very glad to hear about young Turkeys, if you succeed; but in 3 out of 4 of my experiments, something, which one had not calculated on, interferes with the result.—

I have lately been observing & experimentising with much care on the construction of Bees' cells & have been testing the accuracy of Huber's observation & on some points I do not think the blind man's observations stand the test very well.— I think I have got theory, which greatly simplifies the marvellous power of construction of all the wondrous angles & perfect cell.—

You will be sorry to hear that we have had Etty most seriously ill with a modified form of that horrid new complaint, Diptheria; but all danger is over & she is slowly recovering. We have the Baby, also, very ill with fever, but the Doctor declares not dangerously; We have been much terrified as Scarlet Fever has been very bad. Our nurse, too, has sickened, so we have had much trouble, but I hope things are now clearing.—

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

Since this written our Baby has become suddenly most ill.— it is Scarlet Fever, & the Doctor can only say there is yet some hope.

    Footnotes Add

  • +
    f1 2296.f1
    See letter to W. D. Fox, 24 June [1858].
  • +
    f2 2296.f2
    CD's impression of Edward Wickstead Lane had been favourable from the beginning of their acquaintance (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to W. D. Fox, [30 April 1857] and 30 October [1857]). He retained this opinion for the rest of his life. Lane's name is on the ‘personal friends’ list for invitations to CD's funeral in 1882.
  • +
    f3 2296.f3
    CD had asked Fox to provide him with reliable information on the instincts of animals (letters to W. D. Fox, 14 January [1858] and 31 January [1858]).
  • +
    f4 2296.f4
    This appears to have been a report of a case of an injury to the cheek of a pregnant sow that was allegedly transmitted to the progeny.
  • +
    f5 2296.f5
    Fox is cited in Variation 2: 30 as CD's source of information on black lambs' sometimes being born to Leicester sheep, a breed carefully bred for its white wool.
  • +
    f6 2296.f6
    See letters to W. D. Fox, 22 February [1858] and 28 February [1858].
  • +
    f7 2296.f7
    François Huber had lost his sight at an early age (Jardine ed. 1840, p. 19). See also letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 9 May [1858] and 8 [June 1858].
  • +
    f8 2296.f8
    Henrietta Emma Darwin was taken ill with diphtheria on 18 June 1858 (Emma Darwin's diary). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1858].
  • +
    f9 2296.f9
    Emma Darwin's diary records that on 26 June 1858, three days after Charles Waring Darwin was taken ill, the maid Jane also had a ‘sore throat’.
Maximized view Print letter