From W. D. Fox 30 June 1832
Epperstone near Nottingham.
June 30. 1832
My dear Darwin
It is now I believe a month since your Sister was so kind as to send me word that you were at length heard of, and where I could write to you.— I commenced a letter at the time but was prevented finishing it, and ever since I have purposed writing from day to day, and as constantly put it off, sometimes owing to illness, sometimes idleness, & frequently from feeling that I had nothing in the world to tell you of that you will not hear from Shrewsbury; and I am now once more commencing (with a determination to finish it) merely that I may put you in mind of my existence & prevent your totally forgetting me in the midst of the wonders of Creation you are now surrounded by, & will behold previous to your return to England.— I can scarcely realize the idea sometimes of your being at such a distance, and revelling in the midst of scenes I have always longed intensely to see, and hope to have a sort of idea of sometime secondhand from your description.— I had often wondered where you were and how going on, and was very anxious to hear of you, when your sisters letter gave me the welcome news. From what she says of you, you seem most happily situated in every respect; your health, ship & Companions all remaining as perfect as you hoped they would prove previous to your departure. From all I hear of South America the Climate is very little to be feared with proper precautions. I cannot help a little fearing that the ardour (which I remember your shewing in Chase of Machaons in Bottisham Fen) may, to compare great things with small, lead you into difficulties, & into disregard of dangers of various kinds when in pursuit of Nat: History where all is new & all glorious to the last degree.— I often long so to be with you & join in your happiness, and think over the difference of our lots & the ridiculousness of my pursuits in Nat Hist: compared with yours. In consequence of a severe Inflammation of the Lungs I had early in April, I have been more or less Invalided ever since, and have amused myself in santering about the Fields on horseback studying the Small summer Birds of Passage, their nidification &c, and when thus employed the thoughts of you and your occupation most forcibly & frequently struck me. I pottering in a Hedge Rows to watch the proceedings of a Whitethroat & you surrounded by the Noble Trees of a S. American Forest with every luxury of vegitation & life around you.— You must have much regretted your not seeing the Madeira & Canary Islands, tho‘ perhaps the time thus saved will be abundantly recompenced hereafter and as they are pretty well explored, at least the former certainly, the harvest will be richer gathering where you now are & will be.— The extreme novelty of every thing around you, must now be rather wearing off, and you are becoming more used to the Intoxication of feelings, the Country you are now in, must produce.— I have often regretted one trait of your Character which will I fear prevent your making so great an advantage as you might do from your present travels, and which I regret also very much on my own account, as I might perhaps get the perusal of it;—I allude to your great dislike to writing & keeping a daily methodical account of passing events, which I fear (tho’ I have also hopes the other way from the overwhelming influence of every surrounding object) will prevent you from keeping a Regular Journal.— If you do not do this, the vast crowd of Novelty which will surround you, will so jostle about ideas, that to say nothing of the many that will be lost altogether, the vivid reality & life which a memorandum taken at the moment gives to every passing event & thing, is done away with.— With this one exception (which I dare say you have overcome) I know of no one so fitted altogether for the expedition you are engaged in. We have had many extraordinary changes in England since you went, even in this short six months, what may occur before your return therefore in three years?— You have of course heard of the Incomparable Charlotte Wedgwood changing her name. From what I hear from all that know her husband or rather have seen him, her choice seems a very happy one, indeed she is not one that would readily be taken in. You would I think much regret to hear of Sir J. Mackintoshs death, as I have often heard you speak of him as one you much esteemed. Mrs. Darwin of the Priorys Death will not much affect you. By the time of your return we shall be better judges of the happy effects of our Reform Bill, at least if it is allowed to have its natural course in the correction of the abuses of Church and state.— Party Spirit runs now very high indeed— The Tories are merely (to use their own words) endeavouring to prevent the vessel from altogether sinking, & the Whigs & Radicals all alive.— For some days we certainly were on the very verge of Revolution. The excitement in the Country was quite extraordinary among the lowest orders. All still but evidently all prepared for anything that might turn up— We have however now I trust safely passed this grand Corner, upon which so much hung & shall proceed steadily & prosperously, though much remains to be done that is formidable to look into.— The Cholera is now spread all over England, and tho’ not the very dreadful scourge we were led to expect it to be, is very awful in many places.— It began I fear at Derby last week, & is now in many of the large Towns slowly making progress in England Scotland & Ireland.— I never remember such a season as the present. Every kind of crop promises to be most abundant. It has been an extraordinary year for Insects, but I have not been able to go in search of any. I have not seen any of your Family since you went, but hear very flattering accounts of all.— Your Father is uncommonly well.— All at Osmaston I am happy to say are much as usual.— My Father has been poorly but is much better.— Of Cambridge Friends I have not heard for some time.— I hope however very shortly to hear of Henslow. I ought to have taken my Masters degree as next week, & should have rather gloried in having my vote at the Commencement of a Reformed House of Commons, but I have been obliged to forego it.— Pulleine is to spend some days with me next week— Do you remember our excursion to Moncks Wood & Whittlesea at this time of year with Albertus Way At Whittlesea the Cholera has killed 48 & there are 130 new cases last report.— I have never heard of him, whether he is still at Leamington or not. Did you ever see Old Mr. Galton of Dudston.—1 He is just dead after a lingering illness.— I must now give you a few lines about my own dear self.— I have as I told you before, been unwell which has incapacitated me from taking any duty for the last 3 months and I am only returned to Epperstone for a short time, as I fear I can be of no use at present I am now very much stronger than I have been, in fact comparatively well, but as is always the case with Chest Complaints, vary very much in health & spirits. I did at one time think I should never meet you again in this world, but trust now to do so & see you in full vigour after your wanderings are over.— I often look forward to the time of your return with great delight, and regret I did not see you before your departure. I had no idea that you had stayed so long in England— You scarcely left us in time to say it was 1831.—
I hope you will not be disgusted at my very stupid letter.— You who abound in novelty must not censure we plain housekeepers for having nothing to communicate. I do not ask you to write to me as you must have plenty to occupy your time, and I shall hear of you from Shrewsbury when you write there, as a few lines from them will give the information I want as to your welfare.—
And now my Dear Darwin with every wish for your welfare and success in all your undertakings & that I may again see you in health & happiness in Old England which after all is the prettiest & best Island in the world | Believe me your attached friend William D. Fox.—
Has been away from parish because of a three-month illness. Refers briefly to events in England since the Beagle sailed.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 175,” accessed on 24 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-175