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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Fox to G. H. Darwin   15 April [1879]1

Broadlands | Sandown | I. W

April 15

My dear Darwin

I fear I cannot give any information of Dr Darwin. I am a generation too late.

My Father and Mother abounded with remembrances of him. He was most kind and useful to my dear Mother when a girl and thro life.2

When in her teens the Med: Man at Stamford feared she was going into a decline, and recommended great care as to diet &c— The Dr heard of her illness and invited her to pay him a visit. To her great surprise, he encouraged her to take all sorts of forbidden food—giving her after dinner a large Bowl of rich cream and strawberries, & repeating the same treatment at breakfast. A most liberal diet completely set her up and she returned to her Mother a strong healthy lassie.3

He was always most kind to her. I will try to recollect some of the many anecdotes I have heard from my Father and Mother, but fear I shall remember none worth narrating. I fear we have next to no letters of his. My Mother never kept letters on principle.

Of course the Wedgwoods must have many letters of his.4

I have always thought him a very great man— & compared him in my mind with Dr Johnson.5 In those days Men of Mind did not exist by the million as they do now.

I hope your Father will take time in his work, & probably things may turn up when it is known that he is looking out for letters &c.

The Dr once got me into a great mess. I was travelling as a Boy & rather a shy one, when a lady in the Coach with me, my only fellow passenger—found out my name was Darwin. She attacked me with great vehemence asking if I was related to that Brute Dr D. On my acknowledging the crime, she told me with much impetuosity & anger— “that she was a young lady with beautiful teeth, when that Brute had them all taken out, to cure some nervous pains.” I remember I was much alarmed & feared she would attack me. I rejoice to hear your Father is strong—

Ever yours | W D Fox


The year is established by the references to collecting materials for Erasmus Darwin. George Howard Darwin was helping CD with with this research (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 19 April [1879]).
Fox’s father, Samuel Fox (1765–1851), was a founding member of the Derby Philosophical Society, formed by Erasmus Darwin in 1783 (Larkum 2009, p. 4). He married Ann Darwin (1777–1859), a niece of Erasmus Darwin, in 1799 (ibid., p. 503).
Ann Darwin’s mother was Jane Darwin (1746–1835).
Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood I were close friends for thirty years, and Erasmus’s son Robert Waring Darwin (1766–1848) married Wedgwood’s daughter Susannah Wedgwood (1765–1817) (King-Hele 1999, pp. 54–9, 294, 302).


Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1879.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin. A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers.

Larkum, Anthony W. D. 2009. A natural calling: life, letters and diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox. [Dordrecht]: Springer.


Fears he cannot give much information for CD’s book [Erasmus Darwin]. Recounts how his mother’s health was improved by Erasmus Darwin’s treatment. Remembers being attacked as a boy by an angry lady whose beautiful teeth were extracted by Dr Darwin "to cure some nervous spasms".

Letter details

Letter no.
William Darwin Fox
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 99: 175–6
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11995,” accessed on 23 July 2024,