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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   12 September [1862]

Cliff Cottage | Bournemouth

Sept. 12th

My dear Fox

Very sincere thanks for all the trouble which you have so kindly taken for me about the Turkeys: your information will be of use to me, whenever circumstances will permit me to finish my half completed volume.—1 Your ancient case of the woman with a hairy face is curious;2 for, as perhaps you know, there has of late occurred an instance in the Malay archipelago; & the peculiarity was hereditary & accompanied by peculiarities in the teeth.3

Thanks for all your sympathy about us: we have been most unfortunate; Horace4 seriously ill, in a strange manner, all the Spring; & then Leonard came home from school with Scarlet Fever, had recurrent fever, with serious mischief in his kidneys & then bad erysipelas.5 At last we started for this place; but he suffered much from the journey & at Southampton Emma had Scarlet-fever pretty sharp: we have been here for about 10 days & both my patients are going on admirably, & we have two Houses so that I trust the other children will escape. I have never passed so miserable a nine months.—6 I hope we shall all get safe home in about 3 weeks. I had thought of going to Cambridge;7 but now I feel very doubtful & shall not make up my mind till the time arrives & I see how I am. If I do go it will be only for 2 or 3 days. It would indeed be most pleasant to meet you there; but I never know what I can do. All this misery has shaken me a good deal; but I am righting now.— Emma sends her kind remembrances to you.

My dear old friend | Yours affectionly | C. Darwin

If you go to Cambridge please tell me.


CD refers to Variation, which was eventually published in 1868. In the letter to W. D. Fox, 12 May [1862], CD asked Fox whether he could provide him with information about crosses between the wild and the common turkey. Fox’s reply has not been found; however, in Variation 1: 392, CD reported Fox’s observation that wild turkeys crossed freely with the common domestic kind, and that ‘during many years afterwards … the turkeys in his neighbourhood clearly showed traces of their crossed parentage’.
CD refers to the case of Barbara Van Beck; he acknowledges Fox’s assistance in providing information about this case in Variation 2: 4.
CD may be referring to the case, reported in 1855, and cited in Variation 2: 327, of a Burmese family in which superfluous hair growth and abnormal dental structure persisted through three generations.
Horace Darwin.
Leonard Darwin was sent home from Clapham Grammar School on 12 June 1862, suffering from scarlet fever (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862] and n. 3); his condition deteriorated in early July (see, for example, the letter to Asa Gray, 14 July [1862] and n. 3, and Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
CD, Emma, and Leonard Darwin had started their journey to Bournemouth on 13 August 1862, but were delayed at Southampton until 1 September by Leonard’s relapse and by Emma’s becoming ill with scarlet fever (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
In 1862, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Cambridge during the first week of October.


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

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


WDF’s information on turkeys will be useful when CD resumes his half-finished volume [see Variation 1: 292].

Illness in the family.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
SP 13 62
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 134)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3717,” accessed on 25 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10