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Darwin Correspondence Project

To WDFox   18 June [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

June 18th

My dear Fox

I have been looking over old letters of yours, & I want to ask a question: but I do so on condition, that you just answer it, at your leisure as briefly as possible.— Dixon says that his Musk Ducks often took to roost & perch on high places or ridge of Barn, or perch along side Hens &c.—1 I see you used to keep Musk ducks—did you ever observe this or any tendency to lay eggs on high places? Case bears on retention of aboriginal habits— I see in your letter capital case of a cross between white & some other var. of Musk-duck reverting to black & white or aboriginal colour of Musk Duck.—2

Can you give me any authoritive case with exact dates of period of gestation of any breeds of Dog?3 How I wish I knew for instance about Blood Hounds— I suppose no chance of Galton’s knowing; indeed I do not know whether Mr H. Galton is alive.—4

Poor Etty has now been in bed for exactly 7 weeks with low fever; but at last, thank God, she is beginning to gain little strength.—5

Yours affect. | C. Darwin


Dixon 1848, p. 66. The passage is marked in CD’s copy (Darwin Library–CUL).
Fox’s letter discussing this point has not been found. CD cited Fox’s responses in Variation 2: 40: ‘the Rev. WDFox tells me that, by putting a white drake to a slate-coloured duck, black birds, pied with white, like the wild musk-duck, were always produced.’
In Variation 1: 30, CD stated: ‘Rev. WDFox has given me three carefully recorded cases of [the period of gestation of] retrievers’.
CD refers to John Howard Galton, a relative of both Fox and CD, with whom Fox had corresponded about bloodhounds in 1838. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from WDFox, [c. November 1838].
Henrietta Emma Darwin.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dixon, Edmund Saul. 1848. Ornamental and domestic poultry: their history and management. London: Office of the “Gardeners’ Chronicle”.

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


Has WDF ever observed musk ducks laying eggs in high places? The case bears on retention of aboriginal habits.

Also wants data on period of gestation of dog breeds. [See Variation 1: 30.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
JU 18 60
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 129)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2836,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

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