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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Darwin Fox   9 January [1861]

Down Bromley Kent

Jan 9th

My dear Fox

I received yesterday from my Brother the two Inkstands for William & myself; & we are both very much obliged for your present.

I have filled mine this morning & it seems to work capitally, but I have not yet had much writing with it, as I have been merely correcting proofs—1 The only fault is that I sometimes take too much ink, but with a little practice I shall get over this, & I have been eternally plagued with my Ink getting muddy, & if that is avoided I shall be for an equal eternity grateful to you,—as no doubt William will, who writes as detestably bad a hand as I do & my good Father did before me.—

We manage to keep Etty room of a good temperature & I do not think she suffers from the extreme & dreadful cold: she has been rather better these 4 or 5 days than usual. All my Boys are now at home & very jolly.2 Farewell my dear Fox & I hope always to keep your Inkstand, as a memorial of you by me.—

Farewell | Your affect | C. Darwin

P.S. I believe you have been a pig-Breeder. I found a strange statement in a German Book that white Sows go with young a week longer or shorter (I forget which) than piebald or black Sows.—3 I presume it is false: but many odd peculiarities are correlated with colour.—4 Have you kept any exact record? Or do you know any careful Breeder that does?—

Do not think of answering this unless you have materials to judge by.—5 It must be a cock & bull story, though given rather positively by goodish man.—


CD was correcting proofs of the third edition of Origin, issued in April 1861. See ‘Journal’ (Appendix II).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, William Erasmus Darwin had come home from Cambridge University on 13 December 1860. George Howard and Francis Darwin, who were attending Clapham Grammar School in south London, stayed at Down until 4 February 1861.
CD was preparing chapter 3 of Variation, which discusses variations in pigs, cattle, and horses. The German work on pigs to which he refers may be Nathusius 1860. CD’s abstract, bound in the annotated copy of Nathusius 1860 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL, is dated ‘Jan. 14/61’. However, the remark he cites has not been traced in this work.
CD discussed correlation of colour with other characteristics of organisms in Natural selection, pp. 299–300, and Origin, pp. 144–5.
Fox was apparently able to provide CD with information on this point. In the discussion in Variation of the gestation period in pigs, CD stated: ‘The Rev. WDFox has given me ten carefully recorded cases with well-bred pigs, in which the period varied from 101 to 116 days.’ (Variation 1: 74).


Nathusius, Hermann von. 1860. Die Racen des Schweines. Eine zoologische Kritik und Andeutungen ùber systematische Behandlung der Hausthier-Racen. Berlin.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

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


Thanks WDF for an inkstand that keeps ink from getting muddy.

Asks if WDF can verify truth of a statement that white sows carry their young for a longer or shorter time (CD forgets which) than other colours. Presumes it is false, "but many odd peculiarities are correlated with colour".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
JA 10 61
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 126)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3046,” accessed on 28 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9