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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   6 February [1867]

Down Bromley Kent

Feb 6th

My dear Fox

It is always a pleasure to me to hear from you, & old & very happy days are thus recalled.1 This is rather a joyful day to me, as I have just sent off the M.S for two huge volumes (I grieve the Book is so big) to Printers on Domestic Animals &c &c but my book will not appear, even if completed, before next November, as Murray has strong prejudice against publishing except during Spring & Autumn.2 I am utterly in darkness about merit of my present book; all that I know is that it has been a most laborious undertaking. Of course a copy will be sent to you.—

It is true indeed that Death has been busy with us, & it is astonishing to me that I shd. have survived my two poor dear sisters.3 The old House at Shrewsbury is on sale, but has as yet found no purchaser, & I daresay will not soon.— All the furniture was sold by Auction, having been bequeathed to the Parkers, who had become like Susan’s children.4

Caroline & Erasmus are fairly well for them; but this is not saying much for them, especially for the latter, who does not often leave the House.5 I am so sorry to hear so poor an account of yourself; with your active habits being confined must be a terrible deprivation. You are quite right about riding; it does suit me admirably, & I am very much stronger; yet I never pass 12 hours without much energetic discomfort.6 But I am fairly well content, now that I am no longer quite idle.— Poor Bence Jones has been for months at death’s door, & was quite given up; but has rallied in surprising manner from inflammation of Lungs & heart-disease.7 My wife is fairly well but suffers much from repeated headachs,8 & the rest of us are well.— I hope you will get all right with returning Spring.

My dear old friend | Believe me; | Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin


CD sent the manuscript of Variation to John Murray in December 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14). In early February, he sent for the manuscript again so that he could mark sections for smaller type in order to reduce the size of the book (see letters to John Murray, 8 January [1867] and 29 January [1867]). On Murray’s reluctance to publish before autumn, see also the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 January [1867] and n. 3.
CD refers to his late sisters, Emily Catherine Langton and Susan Elizabeth Darwin (see letter from W. D. Fox, 1 February [1867] and n. 4).
Susan had lived at The Mount, the Darwin family home in Shrewsbury; following her death on 3 October 1866, CD’s surviving siblings, Erasmus Alvey Darwin and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, travelled to Shrewsbury to sort out some of the family belongings in the house (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from E. A. Darwin, 11 October [1866]). The remaining contents were put on sale from 19 to 24 November 1866 (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 16 November 1866; see also Correspondence vol. 14, letter from J. D. Hooker, [22 November 1866]). The house was let and eventually sold (see letter from Salt & Sons, 17 July 1867). CD’s eldest sister, Marianne, married Henry Parker (1788–1856); after the Parker parents died, their grown-up children, Robert, Henry, Francis, Charles, and Mary Susan, had stayed at The Mount when in Shrewsbury (Freeman 1978).
Fox had asked about CD’s surviving sister, Caroline, in his letter of 1 February [1867]. The invalidism of CD’s elder brother, Erasmus, is discussed in B. Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, p. 233. Erasmus was also depressed following Susan’s death in October 1866; Susan had been his favourite sister (see n. 4, above, B. Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, p. 288, and Browne 2002, p. 267).
Henry Bence Jones, a physician who had treated CD in 1865 and 1866 (see Correspondence vols. 13 and 14), became dangerously ill in September 1866 and had been close to death in January 1867 (Kyle 2001, p. 16). For more on Jones’s recovery, see the letter from H. B. Jones to Emma Darwin, 1 October [1867].
Emma Darwin noted headaches in her diary for 6, 7, and 8 February 1867 (DAR 242).


Browne, Janet. 2002. Charles Darwin. The power of place. Volume II of a biography. London: Pimlico.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Kyle, Robert A. 2001. Henry Bence Jones – physician, chemist, scientist and biographer: a man for all seasons. British Journal of Haematology 115: 13–18.

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

Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Has just sent MS of Variation off to printer. Is in darkness about its merits.

News of family and their health. Riding seems to help him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Bromley FE 7 67
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 147)
Physical description
ALS 7pp, Acov

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5392,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15