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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   14 June [1856]

Down Bromley Kent

June 14th

My dear Fox

Very many thanks for the capital information on Cats;1 I see I had blundered greatly, but I know I have somewhere your original notes; but my notes are so numerous during 19 years collection that it wd. take me at least a year to go over & classify them.—2 I do not intend to attend systematically to cats, there are such great doubts on origin & they have been crossed in so many countries with native Cats.—

I have bespoken the so-called Himmalaya Rabbit in Zoolog. Gardens.3

I am particularly obliged about Call Drake.4 Have you ever crossed them with common Ducks: it would be a very valuable experiment for me to know whether the half-bred are fertile inter se, or with some third breed; I am trying this extensively with Pigeons; but I am overwhelmed with subjects & work, & do so wish I was stronger.—

What you say about my Essay, I daresay is very true; & it gave me another fit of the wibber-gibbers; I hope that I shall succeed in making it modest. One great motive is to get information on the many points on which I want it. But I tremble about it, which I shd. not do, if I allowed some 3 or 4 more years to elapse before publishing anything.

My dear old friend | Yours affecty | C. Darwin

I am off in 10 minutes to a great Pigeon Fancier at Black Heath.—5


See letter to W. D. Fox, 8 [June 1856]. CD cited Fox on cats in Variation 2: 329.
‘I keep from thirty to forty large portfolios, in cabinets with labelled shelves, into which I can at once put a detached reference or memorandum.’ (Autobiography, p. 137).
The gardens of the Zoological Society of London. CD had been a member of the society since 1839. CD was collecting skeletons of wild and domestic rabbits to enable him to make osteological comparisons (see Variation 1: 115–30). He cited information given to him by Fox about Himalayan rabbits in Variation 1: 109. See also letter to John Thompson?, 26 November [1856].
CD’s Address book (Down House MS) gives Matthew Wicking’s address as ‘Clifton Villa, Blackheath Park’.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Does not intend to work systematically on cats. Their origin is in doubt and they have been crossed too many ways.

It would be valuable to know whether half-bred ducks are fertile inter se or with a third breed. Is investigating this with pigeons.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 98)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1901,” accessed on 21 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6