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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   22 [March 1860]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Fox

The hybrid exhibited some years ago was examined by Owen & showed in its filed hoofs clear proof of artifice. If I go to London I will look at that now shown; but nothing less than dissection & proof that the internal organs & bones were in some degree intermediate would convince me of the possibility of so astounding a hybrid.—1

You ask about myself; but I cannot give a good account of myself: I am trying under a Mr Headland a course of nitro-muriatic acid, eating no sweet things & drinking some wine:2 but it has done nothing for me as yet & I shall go to my grave, I suppose, grumbling & groaning with daily, almost hourly, discomfort. I have begun slowly at my larger book; & this reminds me that I have found a memorandum to the effect that I thought I remembered your saying that the common gander does not always turn white. If you have any positive knowledge will you send me a line; & if I do not hear, I will understand that you have no positive case.—3 Linnæus says the goslings of both dusky & white geese are similar yellow;4 Do you know how this is?—

The “origin of species” has made quite a commotion amongst naturalists & I am well contented with its reception. A German edition will appear immediately & two (!) American Editions. So that what is right & what wrong in my Book will soon be sifted & known.—

Like a very bad man that you are, you do not say one word about yourself

Farewell my old friend | Yours affectly | C. Darwin

Erasmus, I grieve to say, has not yet quite lost his ague.— 5


Fox had recommended to CD that he examine an alleged hybrid deer being exhibited in London. See letter to W. D. Fox, 18 May [1860].
According to Frederick William Headland’s theory of the action of medicines, ‘nitro-muriatic acid’ (nitro-hydrochloric acid) was valuable in the treatment of blood disorders such as gout. He recommended its usage specifically in cases of oxaluria, a condition that was attributed to ‘some fault in the complicated processes of assimilation and nutrition’ (Headland 1852, p. 184). Edward Headland may have diagnosed CD as suffering from oxaluria, in which there is an abnormal formation of oxalic acid in the blood and an excess of urea in the urine. The treatment described by CD in the letter was intended to interrupt and neutralise the formation of oxalic acid and urea during the digestive process. See Headland 1852, pp. 186–90.
CD stated in Variation 1: 288 that ganders of the species Anser ferus do not always become white, but he did not cite Fox as his source.
Linnaeus 1811, 1: 5. CD recorded this fact in his abstract of the work (DAR 71: 68). He had read the book in 1846 (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 17a).
Erasmus Alvey Darwin, CD’s brother.


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

Headland, Frederick William. 1852. An essay on the action of medicines in the system. London.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1811. Lachesis Lapponica; or, a tour in Lapland, now first published from the original manuscript journal of the celebrated Linnæus; by J. E. Smith. 2 vols. London.

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


Only proof that internal organs and bones were intermediate would convince CD of the possibility of the astounding [deer] hybrid WDF has reported.

Has WDF positive knowledge that common ganders do not always turn white?

Has begun his larger books. New editions of Origin will appear.

What is right and wrong in it will soon be sifted.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
MR 22 60
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 127)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2733,” accessed on 30 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8