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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   10 October [1850]

Down Farnborough Kent

Oct. 10th

My dear Fox

I am very much obliged for your juicy, as my poor dear Father used to call an interesting, letter.— We were very glad to get the sentence about Bruce Castle school, for we are still in an awesome state of indecision between Rugby & it.1 I knew you were just the man to apply to to get information upon any out of the way subject.— We have taken much pains in making enquiries, & upon the whole the balance is decidedly favourable; yet there is so much novelty in the system that we cannot help being much afraid at trying an experiment on so important a subject. At Bruce castle, they do not begin Latin, till a Boy can read, write, spell, & count well: they have no punishments except stopping premiums on good behaviour. I do not see how we are ever to come to a decision; but we must soon.— Willy is 11 this coming Christmas, & backward for his age; though sensible & observant. I rather think we shall send him to Bruce C. School.—2 Your own system of Education sounds capital, & why you shd. think I shd. laugh at it, I cannot conceive: I believe a good deal of diversity an immense advantage. It is one good point at Bruce Castle: that no one subject exceeds an hour & if a Boy can do it quicker, he may go out before the hour is over.—

You say you are teaching riding: we have been teaching Willy & we began without stirrrups, & in consequence Willy got two severe falls, one almost serious; so we are thinking of giving him stirrups; more especially as I am assured, that a Boy who rides well without stirrups has almost to begin again when he takes to stirrups: Can you give me any wisdom on this head; pray do if you can?—

I never heard anything half so wonderful as your stock of cows, pigs horses & children: well might Sir Philip tell me it was marvellous what your farm did.—3 How earnestly I wish we were nearer to each other: I shd. beyond measure like to see your Noahs ark: next summer I will really try to pay you a visit of a few days.— I fear Emma will not be able, for about midsummer we expect our 8th arrival, & then we shall have, as it may be said, almost four babies of the same age.— I often speculate how wise it wd be to start off to Australia, or what I fancy most, the middle States of N. America.—4

You ask after my Pear trees; those against the wall continue to bear very well for young trees; but my standards have not borne at all; & I doubt whether the besom system of tying up, answers for them.—5 I have planted my Rivers Quince Dwarfs, which I got on your recommendation.—6

Whenever you can do pray pay us a visit even for one day.—

Susan & Catherine’s tour answered capitally

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

Do you intend to educate your Boys altogether at home?— The first-rate tutor7 at whom Willy now is, teaches nothing on earth but the Latin Grammar, & his charge is 150£ per annum! Bruce Castle is cheap with extras about 80£.


Have you any curiosity to read a pamphlet descriptive of Bruce Castle?—8


The final decision was to send William to Rugby School. He entered the school in early February 1852 (Rugby School register). In his letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852] (Correspondence vol. 5), CD confessed that he had not had the courage to break away from ‘the old stereotyped stupid classical education’.
Henry James Wharton, vicar of Mitcham, Surrey. CD’s Account Book (Down House MS) has an entry for 19 August 1850: ‘Whartton Revd.— Willy School 74 3 6.’ Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 145, notes that Wharton was schoolmaster of a preparatory school that William attended. Emma Darwin’s diary records that ‘Willy went to school’ on 28 January 1850.
Probably A. Hill 1833.


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.

Hill, Arthur. 1833. Sketch of the system of education, moral and intellectual, in practice at the schools of Bruce Castle, Tottenham, and Hazelwood, near Birmingham. London.

Rugby School register. 4 vols. Rugby: George Over. 1933–57.


Is concerned about the education of his boys and is undecided between Rugby and Bruce Castle schools; is inclined toward the latter, but afraid to experiment on so important a subject.

Reports on his pear-trees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 78)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1362,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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