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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   30 October [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Oct. 30th.—

My dear Fox

I was very glad to get your note with a very fairly good account of yourself.— I cannot say much for myself; I have had a poor summer, & am at last rather come to your theory that my Brains were not made for thinking, for twice I staid for a fortnight at Moor Park,2 & was so extraordinarily better that I can attribute the difference, (& I fell back into my old state immediately I returned) to nothing but to mental work; & I cannot attribute the difference but in a very secondary degree to Hydropathy. Moor Park, I like much better as a place than Malvern;3 & I like Dr. Lane very much: by the way have you seen his Brochure on Hydropathy;4 it seem to me very good & worth reading. Unfortunately for me, I believe Dr. L. means to look out for some new place.—5

We have had Etty there all summer; but she comes home for good next Saturday.—6 She has received much benefit, I think, from Hydropathy; but can walk very little & is still very feeble. For the last month or two we have had trouble about Lenny, who has been the picture of strength & vigour, & now his pulse has become feeble & often very irregular like three of our other children:7 it is strange & heart-breaking. A man ought to be a bachelor, & care for no human being to be happy! or not to be wretched.

I make slow progress in my work, which is altogether too much for me; I have done only 2 chapters in rough, first copy during the last six months!8

I see you ask about Mr Pritchards school: I have nothing to say against it; but were it not for the great advantage of having George home on monthly Sundays, & short Michaelmas & Easter holidays; I think I shd. prefer Rugby; but if you ask me why, I declare I cd. give no answer.9

You ask about all my Sisters & Eras: all are much as usual: Catherine is thinking of taking a house in London & living there at least during greater part of year, but I do not know how it will answer.10

How you have been spinning all about the English world: we have been all fixture, except Moor Park.— We have, however, been recreating ourselves with building a new Dining Room & large bedroom over it; for we found our party, when we had cousins had quite outgrown our old room.— Your Pear-trees have born very well this year for the first time; & we had lots on the wall;11 & pretty well off for Plums; but no other fruit succeeds with us. Louise Bonne & Marie Louise have been splendid. Not only have we been nowhere; but we have hardly had any visitors, except Henslow for 2 or 3 days;12 & he was, all what he always is,—than which I cannot give higher praise.— I am very glad your children are flourishing.

My dear Fox | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

Emma desires her very kind remembrances.


The year is confirmed by the reference to Henrietta Darwin’s return from Moor Park (see n. 6, below).
CD had spent a fortnight at Moor Park from 22 April to 6 May 1857 and again from 16 June to 30 June 1857 (‘Journal’; see Correspondence vol. 6, Appendix II).
At Fox’s suggestion, CD had undergone hydropathic treatment in 1849 and 1850 under the care of James Manby Gully in Malvern, Worcestershire (see Correspondence vol. 4 and J. Browne 1990).
Lane 1857.
Edward Wickstead Lane did not move his hydropathic establishment from Moor Park until 1860, when he transferred to Sudbrook Park, near Richmond, Surrey (see Colp 1977, p. 68).
Henrietta Darwin returned to Down House from Moor Park on 31 October 1857 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
CD recorded having finished chapters 7 and 8 of his species book on 29 September 1857 (see Correspondence vol. 6, Appendixes II and III).
Charles Pritchard was the headmaster of Clapham Grammar School, which George Howard Darwin had entered in August 1856 (see letter to G. V. Reed, 8 September [1856]). CD had sent his oldest son, William Erasmus Darwin, to Rugby School.
For CD’s and Fox’s earlier discussion of the value of securing fruit-trees to the wall, see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to W. D. Fox, 6 February [1849] and 10 October [1850].


Browne, Janet. 1990. Spas and sensibilities: Darwin at Malvern. In The medical history of waters and spas, edited by Roy S. Porter. Medical History, supp. 10. London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Has come to think his brains were not made for thinking – he immediately feels better when at Moor Park.

News of his family.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 104)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2161,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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