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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   6 February [1849]

Down Farnborough Kent

Feb 6th.

My dear Fox

I was very glad to get your note. I have often been thinking of writing to you, but all the autumn & winter I have been much dispirited & inclined to do nothing but what I was forced to.1

I saw two very nice notes of yours on the ocasion of my poor dear Father’s death. The memory of such a Father is a treasure to one; & when last I saw him he was very comfortable & his expression which I have now in my mind’s eye serene & cheerful.—

Thank you much for your information about the water cure: I cannot make up my mind; I dislike the thoughts of it much— I know I shall be very uncomfortable there, & such a job moving with 6 children. Can you tell me (& I shd be much obliged sometime for an answer) whether either your cases was dyspepsia, though Dr. Holland does not consider my case quite that, but nearer to suppressed gout.2 He says he never saw such a case, & will not take on him to recommend the water cure.— I must get Gully’s Book.—3

We shall indeed be very glad to see you here at any time; though Miss Annie is not quite ready to be married yet: the new handwriting is our Governesses.—4

Do you remember recommending me to tie up our fruit trees like besoms— well I did so, & then wrote Gardeners Chronic to ask his opinion5 —& he answered “cut loose at once or you will spoil all your trees”; but I kept 2 or 3 pears & plums—standard & wall, tyed for experiment, & they answered wonderfully this summer being the only trees of several of same age which bore fruit—& made hardly any wood—one little Pear on wall had 90.— Have you gone on with this plan? do tell us, ie Comfort6 & myself, as we are both very curious to hear.— We are now trying Apricots & Peaches.—

Pray give our kind remembrances to Mrs Fox, & believe my dear old Friend | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I) records that his health was ‘very bad January 1s t to March 10t h’. In January 1849 he began to keep a health diary in which he made meticulous daily entries of his symptoms and treatment until 1855; the diary is preserved at Down House.
Henry Holland believed gout to be a hereditary disorder in which attacks were brought on by an accumulation of unknown toxic materials in the blood; the ‘habit’ or ‘predisposition’ which in some people produced an outward attack of gout occasionally had the effect of a ‘disorder of the internal parts, and especially of the digestive organs’ (H. Holland 1839, p. 117). He further remarked that many chronic nervous and dyspepsic symptoms were relieved, or even ceased, with the first fit of gout (p. 123). Holland may well have been thinking of Robert Waring Darwin’s gout when he diagnosed CD as suffering from ‘suppressed gout’.
Gully 1846. Both James Manby Gully and James Wilson set up hydropathic establishments in Malvern, Worcestershire, in 1842, which rapidly became the most famous location for this kind of therapy in England. Gully’s regime was based on the idea that all chronic diseases were caused by a faulty supply of blood to the viscera and that the application by various means of cold water to the skin would return the circulation to normal (Metcalfe 1906; Jenkins 1974, p. 5).
Miss Thorley. CD’s Account Book (Down House MS) lists payments to her until 1 January 1857.
Presumably CD had written to John Lindley, editor of the Gardeners’ Chronicle. This letter has not been found.
The gardener at Down House.


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

Gully, James Manby. 1846. The water cure in chronic disease: an exposition of the causes, progress, & terminations of various chronic diseases of the digestive organs, lungs, nerves, limbs, & skin; and of their treatment by water, and other hygienic means. London: J. Churchill.

Holland, Henry. 1839. Medical notes and reflections. London.

Jenkins, Elizabeth. 1974. Tennyson and Dr Gully. Lincoln: The Tennyson Society.

Metcalfe, Richard. 1906. The rise and progress of hydropathy in England and Scotland. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.


His memory of his recently deceased father is a treasure to him.

Thanks WDF for information on the water-cure. Dislikes the thought of it.

Reports results of his experiments with tied-up fruit-trees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 71)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1222,” accessed on 26 September 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4