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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [6 October 1859]

Ilkley Wells House | Otley Yorkshire


My dear Fox

I am in the establishment & have a sitting room & bedroom.—1 I came only on Tuesday, & your note has just reached me.— I always hate everything new & perhaps it is only this that makes me at present detest the whole place & ev- erybody except one kind lady here, whom I knew at Moor Park.—2 It would be excessively nice if you were to come here for a time. Dr Smith, I think, is sensible, but he is a Homœopathist!! & as far as I can judge does not personally look much after patients or anything else.—3 There is capital steward & the House seems well managed.

I came here intending to stay for 3 or 4 weeks, but I very much doubt whether I shall have patience.— But this mornings post has brought me note from Emma telling me to look out for for a House, as she is greatly inclined to come here.4 But I have not least idea whether there is a House which would suit or how I could do my water-cure out of Establishment.— So everything is utterly uncertain. I heartily wish you would come, but I darenot not advise or press it.

Most affecly yours | C. Darwin

I grieve to hear or rather to infer that you must be considerably worse: I hope that you will come here or at least somewhere


CD left Down for the Ilkley Wells hydropathic establishment on 2 October 1859. He remained there until 7 December (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Edmund Smith was the proprietor of Ilkley Wells (Metcalfe 1906,p. 107). Homoeopathy, the treatment of disease with minute doses of materials that cause symptoms identical to those of the disease itself, was favoured by several hydropathic doctors including James Manby Gully of Malvern, under whom CD had placed himself in 1849 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to Susan Darwin, [19 March 1849], and to W. D. Fox, 4 September [1850]). See Metcalfe 1906 and Rees 1989.
Emma Darwin and the children joined CD at Ilkley on 17 October and stayed until 24 November 1859 (Emma Darwin’s diary). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 October [1859].


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.

Rees, Kelvin. 1989. Water as a commodity: hydropathy in Matlock. In Cooter, Roger, ed., Studies in the history of alternative medicine. London: Macmillan.


First impressions of the water-cure establishment are not favourable – "I always hate everything new".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 123)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2502,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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