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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [27 March 1851]



My dear Fox

In passing through London two days ago2 I heard from Erasmus3 with sorrow of your Father’s death.4 A few weeks since I had been much interested in hearing from Susan5 an account of your Fathers equable & apparently happy state, & of the surprising manner in which he retained his faculties & interests. In a note from Susan she expresses how very glad she now is at her last visit.— I grieve to hear that your health prevents you attending the Funeral: this was my case,6 & though it is only a ceremony I felt deeply grieved at this deprivation & you no doubt will feel this more.7 You have my sincere sympathy & very sorry indeed I am to hear that your health is not so good, even as formerly.

Hereafter, when at leisure, do let me have a line from you, my dear old Friend. I often think of our happy days at Cambridge; almost if not quite, the happiest part of my life & much associated in my memory with you.—8 Long continued ill-health has much changed me, & I very often think with pain how cold & different I must appear to my few old friends to what I was formerly; but I internally know that the inner part of my mind remains the same with my old affections.

Believe me, my dear Fox, I am & shall ever be your affectionate friend | Charles Darwin

I have brought my eldest girl here & intend to leave her for a month under Dr. Gully;9 she inherits I fear with grief, my wretched digestion. I return in a day or two home.—

When next you write to any of your Family pray express my sincere sympathy for Mrs. Fox10 & all your sisters.


CD’s Journal (Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I) records that he left Down for Malvern on 24 March 1851.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin, CD’s brother. CD usually visited Erasmus when passing through London or attending meetings there.
Samuel Fox died 20 March 1851 at Rendalls, Hertfordshire (Darwin pedigree).
Susan Elizabeth Darwin, CD’s sister, still residing at The Mount, Shrewsbury, was a close friend of Fox’s sister.
For CD’s inability to attend his father’s funeral, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter from Catherine Darwin, [13 November 1848], n. 1.
Fox was a clergyman in the Church of England.
See Correspondence vol. 1 for CD and Fox’s friendship at Cambridge.
CD had first been treated by James Manby Gully at his hydropathic establishment in Malvern in 1849. Anne Elizabeth Darwin, whose health had been failing since the summer of 1850 (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 132), was to be left in Malvern under the care of her nurse, Jessie Brodie, and governess, Catharine Ann Thorley, and with Henrietta Emma Darwin as a playmate. According to Emma Darwin’s diary, Miss Thorley left for Malvern on 28 March. CD arrived back in London on Friday, 28 March, and did not return to Down until 31 March (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 130 and ‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I).


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

Darwin pedigree: Pedigree of the family of Darwin. Compiled by H. Farnham Burke. N.p.: privately printed. 1888. [Reprinted in facsimile in Darwin pedigrees, by Richard Broke Freeman. London: printed for the author. 1984.]

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


Sends condolences to WDF on the death of his father. Has brought his daughter [Anne] to J. M. Gully for the water-cure.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 78a)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1396,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5