To W. D. Fox 8 [June 1856]
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Fox
I wrote just to say the splendid Cock had arrived, & now I have got your letter.1 I am most sincerely sorry, my dear old friend, at all the great suffering you have undergone. I have always understood that Lumbago & sciatica cause extreme pain.— How much illness you have had in your life, & at different times how much misery! It is lucky, when young, that one does not foresee the future. I do hope that the waters are so nasty that they will do you good.—2 We are all well here, except my poor dear wife who is wretched (perhaps in Family way) & has been wretched for weeks; & I fear that it will stop Tenby.3
I have been working of late very hard & have now an enormous correspondence.— I think I shall make an interesting collection of domestic Vars. for promises are coming in from all quarters.4 This morning I heard from Rajah Brooke with promises of energetic assistance.5 and Honbl. Ch. Murray says Pigeons & Fowls are on their road for me from Persia,6 —as are others from E. Africa.—7
At this present moment I am most interested about domestic Rabbits; having just sent an Angora to be skeletonised, & having compared a P. Santo, common, & Hare Rabbit skeletons & found, I believe, most remarkable differences.—8 Ducks too are my delight: pray do not forget a Call Drake or Duck, if you shd. have the misfortune (oh what hypocrisy!) to lose one. Can you tell me anything about differences in habits in Rabbits? Do you know any breed of Ducks besides tufted, hook-billed, (both of which I have had from Holland); Penguin; Call; & Black Indian or B. Ayres Duck.—9 Even sub-vars wd. be of value to me. On account of doubt on origin I have come to care more about these & Pigeons than about Poultry; not that I shall give up poultry.—
Sir C. Lyell was staying here lately, & I told him somewhat of my views on species, & he was sufficiently struck to suggest, (& has since written so strongly to urge me) to me to publish a sort of Preliminary Essay.10 This I have begun to do, but my work will be horridly imperfect & with many mistakes, so that I groan & tremble when I think of it. By the way I want just to put, as an illustration of singular corelations in organisation. That “I have been assured by the Rev. W. D. Fox that he has never seen or heard of a blueish-grey Cat which was not deaf.” May I quote you? or must I put in “friend”
Do you still believe in the generality of fact? Might I say that you have seen or heard of as many as 6.?11 But please mind, do not answer this note, if it pains or troubles you.— I do most truly regret that you were not able to pay us a visit; I shd. have so much enjoyed it.—
My dear old friend | Yours most truly | Ch. Darwin
I have sent you a very long note all about myself.— And now to write to Borneo & the Cape of Good Hope!12
The responses to his queries on domestic variations are coming in from all over; believes he will make an interesting collection. At present concerned with rabbits and ducks.
Has told Lyell of his views on species and CL urges CD to publish a preliminary essay. Has begun to work on it, with fear and trembling at its inadequacies.