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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   18 October [1860]

15 Marine Parade | Eastbourne

Oct 18th

My dear Fox

Many thanks to you for calling my attention to the Hybrids.1 But I have seen them & read about them in French—   I at first quite disbelieved the case; but I suppose it is true; though by chance I had a note from Lyell this morning, who reports that some French naturalists believe whole story is Cock & a Bull.2 It is the most curious case that ever was if true; for so many have failed to get Hybrids from Hare & Rabbit.—

We have been here for 4 weeks & return home in a weeks time.—   We came here for chance of the sea doing Etty good; & it has certainly to certain extent succeeded.3 At one time this summer I gave up all hopes of her recovery, but she does gain strength at a snail’s pace, & now suffers only from indigestion & weakness.4 We, all the others, are well; though I cannot boast very much of myself.—   I have done little of my regular work this summer; chiefly owing to incessant anxiety & movement on account of Etty. My correspondence about the “Origin” has also been gigantic, & a day hardly passes without one, two or three letters on the subject.

I have amused myself with a little natural History of other kinds; & have lately worked hard at the power of the Drosera or sun-dew in catching flies; & tremendous slaughter the plant makes.—

I shall be very glad to be at home again; for the weather is most dismal.— I hope that the world goes fairly well with you & yours.—

My dear old friend | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


CD refers to the hybrid offspring of hares and rabbits discussed in the letters to Charles Lyell, 18 May [1860] and 5 [July 1860].
The letter from Charles Lyell has not been found. Lyell may have told CD about the work of the French naturalist Pierre Paul Broca. There is an undated abstract of Broca’s paper on hybridity Broca 1858–9), which discusses the hare–rabbit cross, in DAR 205.7(2): 154. CD cited the work in Variation 1: 105 n. 7.
The Darwins took Henrietta Emma Darwin to Eastbourne on 22 September 1860 to recuperate following a long illness (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
In a letter from Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin probably written in September 1860 (DAR 210.6), Emma said of Henrietta: It is very disheartening but I don’t think poor Etty makes a bit of progress . . . Mr Williams says we cannot give her too much wine & brandy & all the food we can get her to take    He has always said that it would be most lingering & that the only thing was to keep up her strength. He thinks her going on quite favorably & that we must have patience. Poor soul she has a great deal of patience I think & is got in a manner used to it. She is as thin as possible. Edward Augustus Williams, who practised in Bromley, was the Darwin family physician.


Broca, Paul. 1858–9. Mémoire sur l’hybridité en général, sur la distinction des espèces amimales et sur les métis obtenus par le croisement du lièvre et du lapin. Journal de la Physiologie de l’Homme et des Animaux 1: 432–71, 684–729; 2: 218–58, 345–96.

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


The hybrid case is most curious, if true. So many have tried to get hybrids from hare and rabbit.

Has done little regular work – correspondence on Origin has been gigantic.

Has amused himself working on power of Drosera to catch flies.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 130)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2953,” accessed on 29 January 2023,

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