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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [11 December 1837]

36 Grt Marlbro’ St


My dear Fox

I have been shamefully idle in not having written to you some weeks since. But you can make allowance for indolence in this particular line:—why writing a letter should require a greater stock of energy, than almost any other act during the whole week, I know not, but so it is with me.— I had a very prosperous journey after leaving you at the inn at Portsmouth, although I did not see so much of the country as in coming down.— Is there any chance of your coming up: if you do, you ought to bring that lower jaw.—1

I made Lyell open his eyes at hearing about it. What a shame and pity it was, that the quarry was closed.—

Since being in town Henslow has been up about some London University business,—he is one of the Senators.— He enquired much after you.— I saw also little Albert Way, who expressed great delight at seeing a South American Brachinus; which brought back to his mind the famous old expedition to Whittlesea Meer.2 Way’s chief occupation is hunting out old engraved brass-plates in churches, & poring over antiquities in the British Museum.—

I am sure you will be sorry to hear a piece of bad news, with respect to the Wedgwoods. Hensleigh W. who married Fanny Mackintosh (& who is the pleasantest of the whole family) has long had great scruples, about the profanation of taking oaths on trifling occasions. A week since it ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ for him to swear 42 oaths(!) under the new reign to qualify as magistrate.— this he could not bring himself to do, & consequently resigned his place of 800£ per annum & is now utterly thrown out of all employment.— He has three children & may probably have many more, & has scarcely anything to live on.— It is a most distressing case: many thousand people might be searched & not so excellent, clever & admirable a pair could be found as H. & his wife.—and now they are actually thinking of going to America!—thoug⁠⟨⁠h⁠⟩⁠ I cannot but hope that something may turn up.—

I hope before very long, you will summon up some of the energy, which I say is so difficult to do, & write to me & tell me how you are all going on.— Though most certainly this letter deserves no return.— I am very glad I paid you that flying visit, hurried as it was, for I like being able to form a picture in my mind of the place, whence a letter comes.—

Good bye, my dear Fox | ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠mo⁠⟩⁠st sincerely, | Chas. Darwin.—

Pray remember me most kindly to all your family.—

T. Eyton is in town, preparing a great book, a monograph on Ducks of the World.—3 with drawing of skeleton of each genus.— Eyton will make a first rate naturalist, some day, I think.—and it is a shame that you are not so now. recollect that Sir—


The lower jaw of a Chaeropotamus and other fossil remains found by Fox were described by Richard Owen at the Geological Society on 7 November 1838 (Owen 1838b).
CD’s encounter with Brachinus, the bombardier beetle, is described in Autobiography p. 62. See also Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Leonard Jenyns, 17 October [1846]. For CD’s recollections of his visit to Whittlesea Meer see Correspondence vol. 1.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Eyton, Thomas Campbell. 1838. A monograph on the Anatidae, or duck tribe. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman.


Writes following his visit to WDF.

Mentions fossils Fox has collected.

News of Albert Way.

Hensleigh Wedgwood has resigned his post because of scruples about taking oaths.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 53)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 393,” accessed on 15 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2