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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [before 3 October 1846]1

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Fox

The potato seeds were collected from ripe tubers in the Cordillera of central Chile, in a most unfrequented district, many miles from any inhabited spot, & where the plant was certainly in a state of nature— they were collected in the spring (ie autumn of the S. Hemisphere) of 1835 & shipped for England in May, & so probably were planted in the spring of 1836 by Prof. Henslow, from whom came the tuber which you had.—

I see since I wrote to you someone has urged the necessity of sending to S. America for new seed!2

I have sometime thought of calling the attention of the readers of the Gardeners Chronicle to the remarkable difference of climate of the Chonos islands & central Chile, in both of which places the Potato grows wild— if you think it worth while to allude to this, refer to the 1st. Edit. of my Journal, if you have it.—3

Many thanks for your answer about the Potash.4 I shall certainly set up a bottle & quill—

Very many thanks for your most kind invitation to us all, & I assure you it would give us much real pleasure to accept it; but the journey is fearfully long, & my wretched stomach hates visiting out, as much as the rest of the inward man enjoys seeing his old friends—

I enclose list of songs for Mrs Fox, & I wish with all my heart, I cd hear her singing them—5 pray give our kind remembrances to her & believe me | My dear Fox | Ever Yours | C. Darwin


The information in this letter was used by Fox in a letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 40, 3 October 1846, p. 661.
Continuing anxiety about the potato blight led to many different suggestions about the best way to maintain current stocks and to prevent further devastation. In his letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (see n. 1, above) Fox asserted that there was no point in growing from seed, since CD’s potatoes were also diseased.
The first edition gives more details than the second, although both refer to the difference in climate, see Journal of researches, pp. 347–8, and Journal of researches 2d ed., pp. 285–6. John Lindley, editor of the Gardeners’ Chronicle, was an outspoken proponent of the view that potato rot was caused by climatic factors.
CD’s letter containing the query has not been found, nor has Fox’s reply.
Fox’s first wife, Harriet, had died in 1842 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to W. D. Fox, 23 March [1842]). He remarried on 20 May 1846; his second wife was Ellen Sophia Woodd.


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

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.


The potato seeds were collected in 1835 from tubers in a remote area of the Cordilleras of Chile and were certainly wild. Refers him to Journal [of researches, p. 347].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 107)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13809,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3