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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Fox   29 November [1877]1

Broadlands, | Sandown, I.W.

Nov 29

My dear Darwin

I have often wished to write to you to know how you and yours were getting on but did not like to bother you with a letter. As I have however to day heard that your Son William is about to be married, I write to most heartily congratulate you and Mrs Darwin upon an event which I know you wished to take place.2 I am sure she will get a good husband, and I hope he will a good wife. I have not stirred from home this Summer, and therefore not heard much about you.

I was sorry to hear that your Son in law, (Mr Litchfield I think) had undergone a severe illness in Switzerland. I trust he is now well and at home. Was it the Typhoid Fever which is now become so prevalent in the Continental Cities & Hotels?3

I also heard one of your Sons had severely sprained his knee at Lawn tennis—4 that is I hope likewise well.

It is some months since I heard that you had at last overcome the antipathy between your system and tobacco. I remember the fearful headaches you went thro’ at Cambridge, and I think you told me, only a few years since, that it continued to always overcome your nervous system.5

I am very glad you are become a smoker, as I hope you will find it a great comfort, and do you much good. Up to middle age I think it does more harm than good, but after, it is often most useful.

I am almost afraid to ask after your sister Mrs Wedgwood—(Caroline of old and a dear good creature she was— My heart always bumps when I think of her and dear Susan centuries ago)6   I should be delighted to hear she was free from suffering.

Do not be in any hurry to answer this, but when you have ten minutes to spare I should like vastly to see your well known handwriting again. Has your Son given up his ideas upon consanguinity in marriage being unobjectionable.7 I think upon more reflection and enquiry he would do. Forgive this long yarn   Mrs Fox8 desires me to give her kindest regards and hearty congratulations to you and Mrs Darwin

Ever yours affecly | W. D. Fox.

P.S. I was so pleased to hear of the marriage, that it drove out of my head your Honours at Cambridge, which I think do Honour to the University. How I shd have liked to see you Doctored.9


The year is established by the reference to William Erasmus Darwin’s marriage (see n. 2, below).
William Erasmus Darwin and Sara Sedgwick were married on 29 November 1877 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Richard Buckley Litchfield had fallen ill with appendicitis (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 227).
In 1882, CD wrote,

I have taken snuff all my life and regret that I ever acquired the habit, which I have often tried to leave off and have succeeded for a time. I feel sure that it is a great stimulus and aid in my work. I also daily smoke 2 little paper cigarettes of Turkish tobacco. This is not a stimulus, but rests me after my work, or after I have been compelled to talk, which tires me more than anything else.

(Letter to A. A. Reade, 13 February 1882 (Calendar no. 13685).) CD may have smoked pipes and cigars as an undergraduate (Wyhe 2014, p. 33), and may have begun smoking cigarettes in the early 1870s (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from W. E. Darwin, [29 February 1872] and n. 4, Correspondence vol. 22, letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 November [1874], and Correspondence vol. 24, letter to W. E. Darwin, [before 29 January 1876?]). William, who lived at Southampton, close to the Isle of Wight, may have been Fox’s informant.
Caroline Sarah Wedgwood and Susan Elizabeth Darwin were CD’s sisters. Susan had died in 1866; Caroline had been in poor health (see Correspondence vol. 24, letter to W. D. Fox, 26 May [1876]).
George Howard Darwin had published on cousin marriage (G. H. Darwin 1875; see also G. H. Darwin 1873b).
CD had received an honorary LLD from Cambridge University on 17 November 1877 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

Wyhe, John van. 2014. Charles Darwin in Cambridge: the most joyful years. New Jersey: World Scientific.


Congratulates W. E. Darwin, who is about to be married,

and CD for the LL.D. conferred upon him by Cambridge.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Darwin Fox
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 201
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11261,” accessed on 4 June 2023,