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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [17 January 1850]1

Down Farnborough | Kent


My dear Fox

Will you be so kind as to tell Mr Wood,2 I shall be happy to answer honestly & to the best of my power any question he may put—though any very general question could hardly be answered in the compass of a letter. I have only been at Geolog. meeting once this year,—Proh pudor.—

The day before yesterday Emma was confined of a little Boy. Her pains came on so rapidly & severe, that I cd not withstand her entreaties for Chloroform & administered it myself which was nervous work not knowing from eye-sight anything about it or of midwifery.3 The Doctor got here only 10 minutes before the Birth.— I thought at the time I was only soothing the pains—but, it seems, she remembers nothing from the first pain till she heard that the child was born.— Is this not grand?—

You ask after water cure.— I go honestly on & had the douche 36o to 37o for 5 minutes & the shallow bath with water at 39o for 4 minutes this very morning: it is sharp work, but not half so sharp as you would think & admirably invigorating.— My health is better than when you were here.— Your visit was not thrown away upon us, we both much enjoyed it.—4

Pray remember me most kindly to Mrs. Fox | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I am now at work on fossil Cirripedia.—


Dated from the reference to the birth of Leonard Darwin, 15 January 1850.
Charles Henry Lardner Woodd of Oughtershaw Hall, Yorkshire, was the brother of Ellen Sophia Woodd, who had become Fox’s second wife in 1846. Woodd had been elected a fellow of the Geological Society in 1846.
There are earlier references to the use of chloroform (letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1848, and letter to Francis Boott, 20 August 1848) suggesting that it had been employed during the birth of Francis Darwin, 16 August 1848. It would have been applied to a pad held over the nose.
Emma Darwin’s diary records that ‘Mr Fox’ came on 2 November 1849.


Account of the birth of Leonard Darwin, during which he administered the chloroform to Emma.

Continues the water-cure.

Has begun work on fossil cirripedes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 75)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1292,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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