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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   24 [October 1852]

Down Farnborough Kent


My dear Fox

I received your long & most welcome letter this morning, & will answer it this evening as I shall be very busy with an Artist drawing Cirripedia1 & much overworked for the next fortnight. But first you deserve to be well abused, & pray consider yourself well abused, for thinking or writing that I could for one minute be bored by any amount of detail about yourself & belongings. It is just what I like hearing: believe me that I often think of old days spent with you, & sometimes can hardly believe what a jolly careless individual one was in those old days. A bright autumn Evening often brings to mind some shooting excursions from Osmaston.2 I do indeed regret that we live so far off each other, & that I am so little locomotive: I have been unusually well of late, (no Water Cure)3 but I do not find that I can stand any change hardly better than formerly. All excitement & fatigue brings on such dreadful flatulence; that in fact I can go nowhere. The other day I went to London & back, & the fatigue, though so trifling brough on my bad form of vomiting. I grieve to hear that your chest has been ailing; & most sincerely do I hope that it is only the muscles: how frequently the voice fails with the Clergy. I can well understand your reluctance to break up your large & happy party & go a broad; but your life is very valuable, so you ought to be very cautious in good time.

You ask about all of us, now 5 Boys (oh the professions, oh the gold, & oh the French,—these three oh’s all rank as dreadful bugbears)4 & two girls: Emma has been very neglectful of late & we have not had a child for more than one whole year.5 She is, thank God, right well, & so are all the chicks; but another & the worst of my bugbears, is heredetary weakness. All my sisters are well, except Mrs. Parker,6 who is much out of health; & so is Erasmus at his poor average: he has lately moved into Q. Anne St. I had heard of the intended marriage of your sister Frances: I believe I have seen her since, but my memory takes me back some 25 years, when she was lying down; I remember well the delightful expression of her countenance: I most sincerely wish her all happiness.7 Tenby by all accounts is a delightful place.—8

I see I have not answered half your Queries: we like very well all that we have seen & heard of Rugby, & have never repented of sending him9 there: I feel sure schools have greatly improved since our days; but I hate schools & the whole system of breaking through the affections of the family by separating the boys so early in life, but I see no help & dare not run the risk of a youth being exposed to the temptations of the world, without having undergone the milder ordeal of a great school.—

I see you even ask after our Pears: we have had lots of Beurre d’Alenbery, Winter Nelis, Marie Louise, Passe Colmar & Ne Plus Meuris but all off the wall: the standard dwarfs have borne a few, but I have no room for more trees, so their names wd. be useless to me. You really must make a holiday & pay us a visit sometime: nowhere could you be more heartily welcome.—

I am at work on the second vol. of the Cirripedia, of which creatures I am wonderfully tired: I hate a Barnacle as no man ever did before, not even a Sailor in a slow-sailing ship. My first vol. is out: the only part worth looking at is on the sexes of Ibla & Scalpellum; I hope by next summer to have done with my tedious work.10

Farewell,—do come whenever you can possibly manage it. I cannot but hope that the Carbuncle may possibly do you good: I have heard of all sorts of weaknesses disappearing after a carbuncle: I suppose the pain is dreadful. I agree most entirely, what a blessed discovery is Chloroform: when one thinks of one’s children, it makes quite a little difference in ones happiness. The other day I had 5 grinders (two by the Elevator) out at a sitting under this wonderful substance, & felt hardly anything.11

My dear old Friend | Yours very affectionately | Charles Darwin


On 25 October 1852, Emma Darwin noted in her diary: ‘Mr Sowerby came’. On 4 November CD recorded in his Account book (Down House MS) that George Brettingham Sowerby Jr was paid £10: ‘for drawing & journey [to Down] £7. 14 giving 2 guineas extra, & on Engraving account 2. 6. 0’. These drawings were presumably for Living Cirripedia (1854).
Osmaston Hall, the Fox family home near Derby.
CD’s Health diary (Down House MS) indicates that he suspended his douche treatment on 22 August, noting: ‘Six weeks treatment; not much good effect, extremely tired in Evening. I do not think last Treatment did me much good.—’ The Health diary shows that CD was unusually well during October 1852: this good health continued to the end of the year.
Horace Darwin was born on 13 May 1851 and was Emma’s last child until the birth of Charles Waring Darwin on 6 December 1856.
Marianne Parker was CD’s oldest sister.
Frances Jane Fox was married on 28 October to John Hughes, vicar of Penelly, near Tenby, South Wales (Darwin pedigree). See Correspondence vol. 1 for CD’s visit to Osmaston before the Beagle voyage, and the letter from Susan Darwin, 22–31 July 1833, for a description of Frances Jane Fox.
Several of Emma’s aunts lived in Tenby (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Emma Darwin, [24 June 1846], n. 2).
William Erasmus Darwin, CD’s oldest son.
CD’s estimate was optimistic. He did not see the proofs of the later Cirripedia volumes until 1854 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I).
On 25 June 1852, CD recorded in his Account book (Down House MS): ‘Teeth extracted & Journey to London [£]4 17[s.]’ CD’s entry in his Health diary (Down House MS) indicates that the extraction took place on 24 June. His Account book records that on 5 September ‘Mr Waite. Dentist’ was paid £1 1s. (Down House MS). The ‘Elevator’ is ‘an instrument used in Dentistry for the removal of stumps of teeth’ (OED).


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

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


News of his health; has been well of late, but cannot stand excitement. Hereditary weakness is another of his bugbears.

At work on cirripedes – "I hate a Barnacle as no man ever did before."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 81)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1489,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

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