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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. D. Fox   20 August [1866]1

Delamere Rectory | Northwich

August 20

My dear Darwin

Though very unwilling to give you trouble, I cannot quite cease writing to you and hoping for a few lines whenever you are able to write.

Erasmus2 gave a better account of you when I saw him in the Spring— I hope this may have continued, and that your wretched health, has been less wretched than usual.

Nothing but mental rest will ever give you any comfort and you have got into such a normal state of requiring the stimulus of mental activity, that you must have it, & the poor body go to the wall.

How goes on the Book?3 Requiring so many additions and corrections, that it never approaches its end I suppose.

I am anxiously looking for your work on domestic animals, which will I suppose soon be out.4 Possibly it may be so already, for I am sadly behind hand with knowledge of what is going on in the literary world. Except Sir P Egerton5 I have no literary bot Histy friends here—& he is never at home for more than a few weeks.

I was deeply grieved a few days since, to hear of poor Susans suffering state, from Frank Parker.6 I knew she was very ill, but I hoped not in such pain as he told me she was.

Erasmus I thought looking extremely well. He gets younger, not having a Book to destroy him.

We have all been at Whitby.—a famous place in any point of view.— I just left it before Sir C. Lyell arrived there.7 I should have much liked to see him again. There were some grand specimens of Ichthyosaurus & Plesiosaurus there for ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ Inspection.

Possibly you may be interested in the fact of Smerinthus Ocellatus & Populi being now regularly bred between. They are cognate species—The eyed Hawk Moth & the Poplar. I imagine there is little difficulty in procuring the mules. I have a lot of the caterpillars of each & hope next year to try whether the mules will breed again.8

Possibly this may be proved by others this year.

When you write, if you ever do, tell me how you all are—and also how Caroline9 & her belongings are.

My Brood are all well I am thankful to say— it is a good deal to say of 16.10

With our kindest regards to Mrs Darwin11 Believe me Ever yours affecly | W. D. Fox


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. D. Fox, 24 August [1866].
Erasmus Alvey Darwin, CD’s brother.
Fox refers to the fourth edition of Origin, which CD had recently finished, but which had not yet been published (see letter from John Murray, 18 July [1866]).
Variation was not published until January 1868 (Freeman 1977).
Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton.
The references are to Susan Elizabeth Darwin, CD’s sister, and Francis Parker, CD’s nephew.
Fox refers to Whitby, a seaside town in North Yorkshire, and to Charles Lyell.
Fox refers to two species in the family Sphingidae, Smerinthus ocellatus, the eyed hawk-moth, and S. populi (now Laothoe populi), the poplar hawk-moth. The species interbreed in captivity, but only sterile hybrids are produced.
Caroline Sarah Wedgwood.
Fox had four surviving children from his first marriage and twelve from his second (Darwin pedigree).


Darwin pedigree: Pedigree of the family of Darwin. Compiled by H. Farnham Burke. N.p.: privately printed. 1888. [Reprinted in facsimile in Darwin pedigrees, by Richard Broke Freeman. London: printed for the author. 1984.]

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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.


Is looking for CD’s book [Variation]; does not know whether it is yet published.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Darwin Fox
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 184
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5195,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14