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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   29 January [1853]

Down Farnborough Kent

Jan. 29th.—

My dear Fox

Your last account,1 some months ago, was so little satisfactory, that I have often been thinking of you, & should be really obliged if you would fly me a few lines, & tell me how your voice & chest are. I most sincerely hope that your report will be good; this wonderfully mild winter must be in your favour.

As for myself I really have no news: just lately my stomach has been a little extra ailing.2 All other members of the family are flourishing. My eldest Boy is now home from Rugby: he is a thoroughily steady, industrious & good boy; I fancy, (though perhaps it is fancy) that I see the contracting effects on his mind of his very steady attention to classics: formerly I think he had more extended interests, & cared more for the causes & reasons of things.3 Our second lad Georgie, has a strong mechanical turn: & we think of making him an engineer: I shall try & find out for him some less classical school,—perhaps Bruce Castle.4 I certainly shd. like to see more diversity in Education, than there is any ordinary school: no exercise of the observing or reasoning faculties,—no general knowledge acquired,—I must think it a wretched system: on the other hand a Boy who has learnt to stick at Latin & conquer its difficulties, ought to be able to stick at any labour.— I shd. always be glad to hear anything about schools or education from you.

I am at my old, never-ending subject, but trust I shall really go to press in a few months with my second volume on Cirripedes:5 I have been much pleased by finding some odd facts in my 1st. vol. believed by Owen, & a few others, whose good opinion I regard as final.—6 I have this morning been dissecting a most abnormal cirripede, which after a good meal has to vomit forth the residuum, for there is no other exit!7

I heard yesterday from Dr. Hooker, who married Henslow’s eldest daughter, of the birth of a son8 under Chloroform, at Hitcham.

I wonder when we shall see you here again: it wd. give Emma & myself no common pleasure. Do write pretty soon & tell me all you can about yourself—& family & I trust your Report of yourself may be much better than your last.

Catherine & Susan are at present staying with Erasmus in London, & perhaps I shall go up & see them next week.9 I have been very little in London of late, & have not seen Lyell since his return from America: how lucky he was to exhume with his own hand parts of 3 skeletons of Reptiles out of the Carboniferous strata, & out of the inside of a fossil tree, which had been hollow within!10

Farewell | My dear Fox | Your’s affectionately | Charles Darwin


See letter to W. D. Fox, 24 [October 1852], in which CD mentions Fox’s chest ailment. See also Correspondence vol. 1, letters from W. D. Fox, 30 June 1832 and 29 August – 28 September 1832, for the onset of the illness affecting his lungs.
See letter to G. R. Waterhouse, 18 January [1853], n. 3. At the end of January, CD summed up that he had had 11 days on which he felt very well. This compared with 24 such days in December 1852.
After much consideration of the effects of ‘the old stereotyped stupid classical education’, CD had chosen to send William Erasmus Darwin to Rugby School rather than to the educationally innovative Bruce Castle School (letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852], and Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 10 October [1850]).
George Howard Darwin, then 712 years old, was not sent to Bruce Castle either. In August 1856 he went to Clapham Grammar School, where science and mathematics had a more prominent place in the curriculum than at more traditional schools. The school was run by Charles Pritchard, who later became Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford (Moore 1977 p. 53).
The final proofs of Living Cirripedia (1854) were not sent to the printer until July 1854, and the proofs of Fossil Cirripedia (1854) were not ready until mid-September.
The sexual relations of Ibla and Scalpellum (Living Cirripedia (1851): 281–93). See letter to Richard Owen, 17 July [1852].
Alcippe lampas has no rectum or anus (Living Cirripedia (1854): 546–7).
William Henslow Hooker, born 24 January 1853.
CD recorded the expenses of a trip to London on 3 February 1853 in his Account book (Down House MS). His Health diary (Down House MS) indicates that the visit was from 1 to 3 February.
For Charles Lyell’s description of some of the reptile bones, see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 183, 186. Later in the year, he published an account of them (C. Lyell 1853a).


Discusses education of his sons. Would like to see more diversity.

He is pleased that Richard Owen and others had a good opinion of his first volume [on Living Cirripedia].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (Fox 82)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1499,” accessed on 28 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5