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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   24 [March 1859]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Fox

It was very good of you to write to me in the midst of all your troubles, though you seem to have got over some of them in the recovery of your wife’s & own health.— I had not heard lately of your mother’s health, & am sorry to hear so poor an account.1 But [as] she does not suffer much, that is the great thing; for mere life I do not think is much valued by the old. What a time you must have had of it, when you had to go backwards & forwards!—2

We are all pretty well & our eldest daughter is improving. I can see daylight through my work & am now finally correcting my chapters for press; & I hope in month or six weeks to have proof-sheets. I am weary of my work. It is a very odd thing that I have no sensation that I overwork my brain; but facts compel me to conclude that my Brain was never formed for much thinking.— We are resolved to go for 2 or 3 months, when I have finished to Ilkley or some such place, to see if I can anyhow give my health a good start, for it certainly has been wretched of late, & has incapacitated me for everything.3 You do me injustice when you think that I work for fame: I value it to a certain extent; but, if I know myself, I work from a sort of instinct to try to make out truth.4

How glad I should be if you could sometime come to Down; especially when I get a little better, as I still hope to be.— We have set up a Billiard Table, & I find it does me a deal of good, & drives the horrid species out of my head.—

Farewell my dear old friend.— | Yours affecty | C. Darwin

One of my Boys is turned Coleopterist, & how the sight of a fresh Brachinus crepitans did remind me of that famous trip to Whittlesea meer.—5

Pray give my very kind remembrances to your sisters.—

I most sincerely hope that Mrs Fox’s sufferings will not increase.


Ann Fox was aged 82. She died on 7 April 1859 (Darwin pedigree).
Ann Fox lived near Edgware, Middlesex, north-west of London. William Darwin Fox was rector of Delamere in Cheshire.
Ilkley Wells House in Yorkshire was a hydropathic establishment run by Dr Edmund Smith from Sheffield. It opened in 1856 and capitalised on the popularity of the neighbouring establishment of Ben Rhydding (Metcalfe 1906, p. 107). CD went to Ilkley in October 1859 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD previously told Fox (Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. D. Fox, 22 February [1857]): I am got most deeply interested in my subject; though I wish I could set less value on the bauble fame, either present or posthumous, than I do, but not, I think, to any extreme degree; yet, if I know myself, I would work just as hard, though with less gusto, if I knew that my Book wd be published for ever anonymously
Francis Darwin, aged 10, was ‘mad over beetles’ (letter to W. E. Darwin, 22 [September 1858]). For CD’s recollections of his entomological trips with Fox at Cambridge, see Autobiography, pp. 62–3. Brachinus crepitans, the bombadier beetle, squirts an acrid fluid when in danger: CD once inadvertently put one in his mouth (Autobiography, p. 62).


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

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

Metcalfe, Richard. 1906. The rise and progress of hydropathy in England and Scotland. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.


Is correcting chapters [of Origin] for press.

Health has been wretched of late.

He values fame to a certain extent, but "if I know myself, I work from a sort of instinct to try to make out truth".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 120)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2436,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7