From W. D. Fox 29 August – 28 September 1832
Ryde. Isle of Wight.
August 29. 1832
My dear Darwin
The sight of your well known hand upon a letter back gave me no little pleasure as I began to doubt whether I should hear from you during your journeyings; it seemed so long since I had done so, I had however heard excellent accounts of you tho‘ not from you & that was next to it, tho’ far from being so pleasurable as hearing of your happiness in your own words.— I wrote a very stupid letter some three months since which you have probably received ere this, & if not you have no loss, as I felt very stupid & owlish when I wrote it & almost repented sending such rubbish so far.— Your letter I got a fortnight since when I was just on the point of leaving home for this Island in consequence of another attack upon my Lungs, which tho’ very much slighter than my former one in March, was still bad enough to make a change to Warmer Air desirable. I gained ground surprisingly for a week after leaving home, indeed was nearly well to my feelings, when an imprudent walk on a hot day gave me another attack which has lasted me now a week & will not depart while the very cold weather & rain we now have, last.— I have intended every day commencing this, but not felt equal to it, but trust now I have once begun, to go on with it & send it across the Atlantic tomorrow.— You tell me to give you a particular account of my life &c &c.— You would have a very monotonous description indeed, were I to give you one. Since my last letter I have vibrated between Epperstone & Osmaston, well enough to enjoy myself, but not sufficiently so to do any parochial Duty, or Entomologise, or in fact do any thing but amuse myself.— I shall not therefore inflict upon you the Diary of an Invalid, but sometime before Winter sets in I will write to you again & tell you how I then go on & how the World wags in these parts. I do not at present know where my Winter will be spent. I believe we (ie My Father, Mother & 2 younger sisters with my little niece1 ) stay here for about 6 weeks when it will depend upon my health whether I return to Osmaston or go somewhere where the Air is milder than Derbyshire to pass the Winter. As far as I understand myself, I have no actual affection of the Lungs but they are in such a delicate & excited state as to be extremely liable to all the Diseases liable to them, without great care &c. And unless I gain more strength & am very careful about them, Consumption would most probably ensue.— At present however I trust I am in a fair way of recovery & mean to leave no caution on my part wanting to ensure it.
September 18.— When I wrote the first page I fully intended sending this off immediately, but the next day I was so unwell that I could not finish it, & so continued for some days when finding I was losing strength very fast I applied to a Dr. Barrett (here at present to recover from an attack of Cholera) who ordered me Blisters &c &c which kept me very tame for some time longer, and until lately I have had no inclination to perform the mechanical part of writing, tho‘ very often thinking of you. Indeed there is seldom half a day passes that I do not wonder what you are about & wish I was with you.— I am now very much better, as well or very nearly so, as before my last attack and enjoy myself much.— All my plans for the Winter are however altered and it is now fixed that I & my two younger sisters stay here during the Winter, and we have already got into our Winter Quarters, a very comfortable House which seems to be very warm & snug; I much wish you were likely to be an inmate of it for a few weeks during our stay; tho’ I am a great Beast to wish you here when you seem so very delightfully occupied where you are. I saw by the Paper a few days since that a Ship from Rio left your little Beagle in safety there and of course you were then well or we should have heard; indeed from your account of yourself & from what I know of the climate of S. America from books & travellers, I should hope there is every chance of your having your health there as well as in England with common precautions.— September coming in must have brought England very much to your mind, & the Partridge shooting you used so much to enjoy here, & I trust will do again. I have now not heard from Shrewsbury for a month. At that time your Father & Sisters were in good health. Poor Fanny Wedgwoods death had just been a great shock to them, as it will be to you I am sure. Her death seems to have been very sudden, as she was not ill more than a week & then was not thought in any danger. How changed is that Family party since the last time (the only one) I saw them together.— Three sons & a daughter married & one gone.2
September 28.— Again was I stopped in my progress, and been so engaged since with one thing or another that I have never resumed my letter tho‘ every day resolving I would do so and send it off. I have often wished you were with me in my little walks here when I have seen Insects that in your infantine days of Entomology you would have thought much of. I have seen one Colias Hyale, and had I been able to go after them believe I might have seen all the species of that beautiful Genus in the Island. Not one capture have I made since I came except a few Coleoptera that have crossed me, & one Sirex juvenans, tho I every day see something new to me.— I often think when I see our minute crustacea or mollusca or any insect, of the gloriously beautiful & curious creatures that are lying in profusion round you, & fancy you revelling among them, with sky, ocean, Trees, in fact every thing grand & sublime. You must sometimes almost feel bursting with your feelings, tho’ of course by this time the extreme novelty of Tropical Climes is somewhat softened down.— I met with a case of South American Insects here some days since which I was extravagant enough to buy merely because they came from where you are collecting.— There are among them some magnificent Cerambycidæ, Geotrupidæ, Cicadæ &c &c but I have at present no book by which I can make them out. There is also among them the Walking stick Mantis and a huge Nepa, or nearly allied to it.— From the list you give of the Water Beetles taken the day you wrote to me, your favorite Family seems to be very abundant.— I looked anxiously in Stephens for the Cryctocephalus Darwinii,3 but it never appeared, nor do I think your name has ever been mentioned by him since your departure— You will however have your revenge in this I hope some time, as you will have plenty to tell the Lovers of Natural History when you return. I quite agree with you in what you say about minute insects not having been commonly collected abroad—I have very seldom seen any but those remarkable for size or beauty in any Cabinets.— Stephens is now quite out of my books. He has kept prevaricating so egregiously about his Nos as to disgust many very much, and now he has crowned all but getting an injunction in Chancery against a book of Rennies4 as infringing upon his work that has nothing to do with it, and has discontinued his Nos for the last 2 months, because forsooth others may copy out of it, if he does so. He is sadly in want of cash I hear, which may extenuate his conduct. A new Entomological Monthly M〈agaz〉ine is just come out,5 which I have not yet seen, but 〈 〉 it is likely to be well supported by the first Entomologists and 〈n〉o contests are to allowed.— Are you aware that there is now no Duty upon Shells coming into this Country.—6 I mention it as it may induce you to bring more than you otherwise might do over, as the Duty used to forbid a large collection.— You never told me whether you were to be allowed your own collection of Nat History or whether as you feared, our Government would swallow all. You surely will be allowed your duplicates, though after all the stores you will lay up in the mind is the great thing, in comparison with which, the Cabinet is of little moment.— Of course you see our Papers whenever a ship comes out and must devour them with no little interest.— Now the Reform Bill has passed away the Cholera & coming Election are the great topics.— The Cholera is now every where almost, but is not by any means so dreadful a visitor to those of our rank in Society as it at first threatened to be.— Among the poor & needy it is often very fearful in its ravages and sometimes also among the better classes, as in London where very many enjoying every comfort of life have been cut off.— In this Island there has been only one doubtful case though it has been at Portsmouth some weeks, and I believe many more have been attacked with it there, than is generally known. I say this from my own enquiries there as I often go over. To shew you how little is thought of it when it once has made its appearance, I yesterday went to the launch (with all our party of the Neptune 130 Gun ship, and I do not think an inhabitant of the country within 20 miles that could come, was left behind— It was a glorious sight to see that fine Harbour a mass of living souls all looking happy.— I do not know whether you ever were here. It is a beautiful place commanding Spithead and all that fine anchorage opposite Portsmouth, and generally enlivened, as at the present time, with Ships of war. We have now three English & one French there & are hourly expecting the French Fleet in, when they are going to give the last decision of their countries to Holland on the Belgic Question & if not acceded to, blockade all her ports.—7 It is somewhat curious to see a French Frigate with the Tricolor, abreast a 74 taken from them, in our roads. I do hope that the antipathy of the 2 nations so long cherished is now about to cease, would that your favorite Text, “peace on Earth, & good will to men” generally might spread abroad over the whole earth. It has just struck me that from my maritime situation this winter, I might be able to be of some use to you in forwarding any stores you may want. If there is anything that I can do of any sort, do not hesitate to make use of me as nothing would give me more pleasure (as I hope you know) than to be of use to you. Of course you have agents in London for common things but I thought I might of some utility in sending any Nat. Hist: stores you may now want. I can easily clear out any packages for you here, get store cases, any thing. Pray use me if you can for my pleasure.— I have gone on scribbling nonsense till my paper is gone. You will be glad to hear that I am now quite convalescent & hope a Winter here will quite restore me.— My Father Mother & sisters all in their best way and all wishing you every kind wish for success in all your undertakings, good health &c &c. I have just heard from Simpson, who tells me that Jeffry Hall8 is actually settled in Canada. Simpson is gone into Church.— Of Henslow I have not heard some months. I conclude Erasmus is alive as I have never heard to the contrary but have not heard of him in any way for some months past, I might almost say years— I must now my dear Darwin bid you farewell for a time. I shall certainly torment you again before very long. If you can find time to write me 6 lines any time, they will be thankfully & joyfully received; just tell me how & where you are & what doing—no more— Goodby. May you have a prosperous voyage & both of us live the one to hear & the other relate Your Travellers Wonders
God Bless you & Believe me. Ever yours affectionately & faithfully W D. Fox
He is staying on the Isle of Wight because he has been unwell. He is thought to be in danger of contracting consumption, and the climate is beneficial. He is convalescent now, but will spend the winter there.
Offers to forward any natural history stores CD may want.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 184,” accessed on 25 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-184