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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Fox   1 November 1834


November 1. 1834

My dear Darwin

It is now so long since I have heard from you that I thought you most probably were really in the South Seas, your long promised Land, and tho’ I much wished to write to shew you that I had not forgotten you, I hesitated to do so thinking that a letter directed to South America would not reach you. I have however written to your Sister Caroline for instructions, & today having heard from her, that if I direct Valparaiso, you will certainly get it, down I sit determined that this shall forwith set sail after you.— My letters must all be sadly prosy I fear, but you say (& I believe you from my own feelings) that you like to hear from me, & therefore I write. I will commence by telling you, as it may be later information than you have when this reaches, that the Dr. Erasmus & your Sisters are all quite well—the Dr. particularly so & enjoying Gardening more than ever. You will be sorry to hear that Mr. Langton is so unwell that he & his Wife are thinking of leaving England for the two next Winters—going to Madeira or the West Indies for the sake of the voyage. Your old friend Eyton is going to be married to Miss Slaney— Has not a love of Nat: Histy been probably the means of this match, as Slaney is himself I know an Ornithologist.— This is the first thing I have heard of Eyton since I remember going to his Fathers with you to entomologise & see his Cygnus Bewickii.—

I must now tell you all about our Party here. We are all very much as when you were here. My Grandmother, Father, Mother, & Sisters all in the same health and following their avocations as then. Indeed every thing at Osmaston has gone on just as it has for years. Our Landlord Sir Robert Wilmot died after some weeks illness in July, & at the request of the Family was buried by myself—the first bit of duty I have done for two years. You will I dare say remember him well. I do not think that his death will make any difference as to our, or rather I should say, my Fathers living at Osmaston, as its present Possessor Wilmot Horton is Governor of Ceylon & so deeply in debt that he will most likely remain at present where he is.1 I wrote to you about four months ago, and directed my letter to Valparaiso, so trust you have got it tho I dare say it was not worth much— It is always a comfort to me in writing foreign letters, that I pay the Postage. I think I wrote to you from the neighborhood of Doncaster where I was staying with my Wifes sister & her husband. After that I came here & spent a few weeks when we set out on a little tour into Yorkshire, where we were moving about the neighborhood of Harrogate York & Ripon till the middle of September. We were almost all the time at different friends & Relations Houses—amongst others, we were several days with Robert Pulleine, whom you must well remember at Cambridge. He is living in a most beautiful romantic part of Wensleydale;2 in a most comfortable Parsonage House, sur-rounded by dogs, Pigs & Poultry. I never was with a more truly hospitable kind hearted fellow. He fed us upon Venison & Moor Game & wanted us very much to stay as many weeks as we did days. Among many of our old friends and former times Charles Darwin was not forgotten, & we talked you over thoroughly. I wish you could have been with us— It was just at the commencement of Grouse shooting, which is excellent in that neighborhood, and thro’ Harriets friends I could have got as much shooting as we liked, & though I have never fired a Gun since I was in the Church, I should so much have enjoyed walking over this beautiful country with my much valued & old friend Darwin, and unless you are much changed, & have learnt to despise such small game since you took to Ostriches, you would I think have enjoyed it too. I hope we shall yet have this pleasure together, and as you bring down your Grouse or Partridge you can tell me prodigious tales of your sport in other climes.

We have this Summer travelled eleven hundred miles in a little Pony Carriage which with all our Luggage a stout Pony has conveyed. In this distance we have only had one break down, which was of no consequence as we soon got our Carriage mended, & no one untoward event of any kind.— I cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed it, tho’ I am not sure that our enjoyment would not have been as great if we had been quietly located in some snug little Parsonage—my wife being quite as homely & domestic in her tastes & pursuits as your humble servant.

We came here about six weeks since, intending to go to Ryde late last month in our little Carriage, and to stay there the Winter, and I had hoped that a Winter there in addition to my two last, would enable me to take a curacy in the South in the spring, as tho’ very much better in my Lungs, I am still incapacitated from exerting them much: however things have fallen out otherwise—three weeks since my Wife was taken very suddenly extremely unwell with inflammation in the Peritonæum. We luckily had Medical Aid at hand immediately and after bleeding &c she was brought round, but requires extreme Care, as there is a great tendency to recurrence. This alone would have been sufficient to have made it extremely hazardous for her to have undertaken a long journey; but in addition to this, she expects to be confined at the end of December or beginning of the following month, and the two things together make it perfectly impossible for her to think of it. We therefore now purpose staying at Osmaston thro’ the Winter, and in Spring I hope we shall set out a trio, instead of a Duet.

I begin now to think that your early prediction when you set off, of my having a family of children before you returned, may be realised, as at all events, unless something untoward occurs, there is a great probability of one child. I need not set forth to you the manifold advantages of Matrimony, as you were always a Philo⁠⟨⁠gyn⁠⟩⁠ist & purposed entering that state as soon as you could.— I will on⁠⟨⁠ly⁠⟩⁠ say that from my present experience, I warmly recom-mend it to you & all I wish well to. I love my dear little wife more dearly now if possible, than when we were married, & have every reason to hope that we shall pass thro’ life together, each adding much to the others comforts. But you will say I am writing a most pretious heap of nonsense—& so I am—but the truth is, that I am always apt to write to you as I should speak.— I wish you would do the same— It is now so long since I saw your handwriting that I cannot tell you the pleasure it would give me. I feel however that your time is valuable & mine worth nothing, which makes a vast difference.—

My Uncle & Aunt Darwin3 from Elston are now staying with us for a week. I was much amused a day or two since at my Uncles saying—“That he was quite sure no son of his would live to inherit Elston— That both his would die—that then the Estate would come to Erasmus, who he had understood never meant to marry—that you would be drownd in your present voyage—when it would pass to Sir Francis Darwin’s children.” Do you remember my being your first informant that Elston was entailed upon Erasmus & you after my Uncles sons?— His eldest Son is a dreadful invalid, having a complaint of the heart, but is a very nice dispositioned Boy. He has now had these attacks so long & always got over them, that I think he may be reared, but must always be an Invalid. His other son is a fine healthy Boy as ever was seen, so that I do not think your & Erasmus’s chance is a very good one, but many more improbable events have happened.4

I heard a few days since a very poor account of Sir Francis Darwins health. He fancies that he has some mortal disease and doctors himself for it. He either has used strong Medicines which have much brought him down, or is become very low spirited. He does not go out any where to his old friends & is very uncomfortable about himself. He is just expecting an increase to his Family from Lady Darwin, who had I imagined long since ceased from such expectations. I had fully arranged to have accepted a very kind invitation I had from Shrewsbury this Summer to go there & spend some time at your Fathers, but time slipped on so fast while we were moving about the country, that at last we were obliged to give up the idea, fearing we could not get to the Isle of Wight before the Winter set in.

I wish much I knew where you were at this time. I find from Caroline that your last letter was in April from the Falkland Isles, and she mentions something of one Jemmy Button, thinking I know all about him, but she has quite mystified me as you never mentioned him to me. I hope you will experience as much delight in the South Sea as you anticipate— If you are not already on your way when this letter reaches Valparaiso, you must be on the point of setting off for that long promised land—

Pray do not think my dear Darwin from this very dull letter that my feelings of friendship are correspondently blunted— You are never a whole Day absent from my thoughts & I think there are few of your friends who will more heartily rejoice to welcome you to England again than myself. But you will find me a strange dull fellow then I fear. All here unite in sending their kind love & best wishes for you in every way & believe me to remain | Ever your faithfully attached friend | William Darwin Fox.


Sir Robert John Wilmot-Horton was Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1831 to 1837.
Spennithorne, North Yorkshire. Pulleine was curate from 1830 to 1845.
The William Brown Darwins of Elston, the Darwin family seat near Newark, Nottinghamshire, since the mid-seventeenth century (see LL 1: 2–3).
Of the two sons, one, William Waring Darwin, died the following year aged thirteen; the second, Robert Alvey Darwin, died unmarried in 1847 (Darwin Pedigree). He left Elston Hall to his sister Charlotte (Freeman 1978).


Darwin pedigree: Pedigree of the family of Darwin. Compiled by H. Farnham Burke. N.p.: privately printed. 1888. [Reprinted in facsimile in Darwin pedigrees, by Richard Broke Freeman. London: printed for the author. 1984.]

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.


WDF sends news of his activities and of his family.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Darwin Fox
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 124
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 261,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1