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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. C. Oxenden   17 September [1862]1


Sept. 17

Dear Sir

When I am after “Epipactis palustris”, in July, I see Meneanthes in profusion—& in bloom—2

—Whether I shall as easily recognize it now, I cannot tell—but I fully believe that I should—& I will see to it the first spare day—

—Typhus, & Scarlet Fever, are each as bad as true Oriental “Plague”—only we handle them somewhat better than does the stupid Turk—3

—But even in England, whenever any treatment out of the common course—any departure from old worn rut & groove, is suggested to a Medical Man, he becomes as Mad as a Hatter; & had much rather see all his patients, & all his own family, die, than depart in any way from the old stereotyped formula—

—It is my firm belief that there does exist a Medecine which is not only a “prophylactic” against the access of either of those two fevers; but also possessed of the power of mitigating, assuaging, & subduing them, when they have got hold of the human frame—

—In the last year or two “Ozone” has not merely knocked off their pedestals those nauseous & dangerous disinfectants

Chloride of Soda Chloride of Lime

Chloride of Zinc

but has itself come to the very front as a disinfectant, in a pure, sweet, & even enjoyable shape

A patient suffering from Scarlet Fever, ought to drink (ad libitum, & whenever the Tongue is parched) of

Condy’s pure Ozonised Fluid

largely diluted with Water—

—It is impossible for a Fever patient to drink too much of it—& the Mouth shd. be rinsed with it incessantly

—It is so entirely harmless also, that any person in sound health, may drink it to any amount, as a pleasant daily diet drink, at Meals instead of Beer, Wine, &c &c—but it should be largely diluted— & all its effects are beneficial—without any strain upon the constitution4

2dly— in fever, the patient should be placed in a bath of tepid Water, into which should be poured several bottles of the “Ozonised fluid”—or, (better still) one large bottle of “Condy’s Ozonised Disinfectant”—(which is the same Medecine, in a stronger shape)—

Every Chemist sells each of these Medecines

By this Mode of treatment—the patient rapidly Convalesces—& the Medical Man becomes infuriate

Your’s most sincerely | G. Chichester Oxenden


The year is established by the references to Menyanthes, scarlet fever, and Condy’s ‘Ozonised Fluid’ (see nn. 2–4, below).
CD had apparently asked Oxenden, probably in a reply to Oxenden’s letter of 11 September 1862, if he could send him some specimens of the marsh plant Menyanthes trifoliata. Having learned that Menyanthes was dimorphic (see letter to C. C. Babington, 20 January [1862] and n. 3), CD had obtained a specimen of the genus from Joseph Dalton Hooker (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 [April 1862]). In the summer of 1861, CD had sent Oxenden a memorandum of inquiry concerning the orchid Epipactis palustris, which is also a marsh plant (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to A. G. More, 4 June 1861); for details of Oxenden’s attempts to obtain specimens of E. palustris, see the letters from G. C. Oxenden, 15 May 1862, 4 June [1862], [before 21 June 1862], and 8 July [1862].
Oxenden apparently refers to the illnesses of Emma and Leonard Darwin, both of whom became ill with scarlet fever in 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). See also letter from G. C. Oxenden, 21 June 1862.
Condy’s ‘Ozonised Fluid’ was a solution of alkaline permanganates, developed by Henry Bollman Condy, and used ‘for the purification of air and water, and sanitary objects in general’ (Condy 1862, p. 69). CD took the fluid himself later in the year (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 10–12 November [1862]).


Condy, Henry Bollmann. 1862. Air and water: their impurities and purification. London.

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


Strongly recommends Condy’s "Ozonised Disinfectant" as a cure for scarlet fever.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Chichester Oxenden
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Broome Canterbury
Source of text
DAR 173: 59
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3728,” accessed on 16 January 2021,

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