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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   24 October [1839]

12 Upper Gower St

Octob 24th.—

My dear Fox

I have been intending for some time past to write to you, although I have little to say. My chief object is to get a letter from you, to tell me how you & MrsFox are, & whether there is any likelihood of your coming to London, as you told me at Bermingham this was possible. I had fully intended, when at Maer, to have paid you the morning visit I talked off, but during my whole visit in the country I was so languid & uncomfortable that I had but one wish & that was to remain perfectly quiet & see no one.— I scarcely even enjoyed my visit to Shrewsbury.— I have been much brisker since my return to London, & I am now getting on steadily, though very slowly with my work, & hope in a couple of months to have a very thin volume 8vo on Coral Formations published.1

Emma is only moderately well & I fear what you said is true “she wont be better till she is worse”.— We are living a life of extreme quietness: Delamere itself, which you describe as so secluded a spot, is, I will answer for it, quite dissipated compared with Gower St.— We have given up all parties, for they agree with neither of us; & if one is quiet in London, there is nothing like its quietness— there is a grandeur about its smoky fogs, & the dull distant sounds of cabs and coaches: in fact you may perceive I am becoming a thorough-paced cockney & I glory in thoughts, that I shall be here for the next six months.— I am afraid you will say if I had not anything better to write about than the advantages of London over country life, I had better have been quiet: but I have been thinking of writing for some time past, so write I would—do you follow my example & let me have a line from you—

I heard from Shrewsbury a few days since, that Mr & MrsFox2 were going to pay a visit there: my Father will enjoy very much having some family talk with MrsFox: I think our fathers have never seen each other. Talking of family affairs, can you tell me from memory what the motto to our crest is for I mean to have a seal solemnly engraved.— I have put your letter carefully by & for the life of me I cannot find it— it was aude ? et—?3 If your memory does not serve you, do not trouble yourself with looking in your papers—I gave you too much trouble before.— When at Shrewsbury I had a regular hunt through some old papers & pedigrees relating to our most ancient family, which as you say is older than the heralds office.— It has given me a great wish to see Elston,4 which some future year I will put into execution.— The pedigrees want filling up terribly; so ancient a family ought not to be neglected: My father gave me a curious old ivory box, which belonged to W. Darwin of Cleatham, who died in 1682.—5 By the way Hensleigh Wedgwood made a curious discovery regarding our august family, which I must tell you, that a W. Darwin my great grandfather is described in thePhil. Transacts for 1719, as a person of curiosity, who discovered the remains of a giant, evidently an Icthyosaurus.—so that we have a right of hereditary descent to be naturalists & especially geologists.—6

I had a letter yesterday from Caroline, the first I have received for a long time: she appears in much better spirits, & even writes about baby-linen & such points, which shows she can now somewhat master her grief.— I do not believe the deaths of but few babies have caused more bitter grief than hers, & I fear it will be a great draw back to her happiness through life.7

Goodbye my dear Fox, excuse this letter—I am very old & stupid | Ever yours, | C. Darwin

P.S. I shall direct to Delamere Rectory, though I dont know whether it is a Rectory or Vicarage, but one always ought to give the highest title


Coral reefs was not published until May 1842, mainly because of CD’s illness (see ‘Journal’, 1839–42; Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II).
Samuel and Ann Fox, W. D. Fox’s parents.
The motto was ‘Cave et aude’ (Burke 1884). CD’s sons William and George also used the motto. See Freeman 1978, p. 70.
Elston, near Newark on Trent. See LL 1: 2–3.
See letter from Susan Darwin, [c. 24 October 1839], n. 4.
Stukeley 1719, p. 963, refers to an account from ‘my Friend, Robert Darwin, Esq; of Lincoln’s-Inn, a Person of Curiosity, of an human Sceleton (as it was then thought) impress’d in Stone found lately at the Rev. Mr. John South’s, Rector of Elston’ etc. At the end of the notebook which CD used as his ‘Journal’ (DAR 158) he noted: ‘Robert Darwin my great-grandfather is described in the Philosop. Transactions for 1719 as a person of curiosity who discovered near Elston a skeleton of some large animal.—’ Robert, also known as Robert Darwin of Elston, was William Darwin of Elston’s son (Freeman 1978, p. 66).
Sophy Marianne Wedgwood had died 31 January 1839.


Burke, Bernard. 1884. The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. London.

Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 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.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Stukeley, William. 1719. An account of the impression of the almost entire sceleton of a large animal in a very hard stone, lately presented to the Royal Society, from Nottinghamshire. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 30 (1720): 963–8.


Hopes to publish volume on coral formations in a few months.

He and Emma live quietly, having given up parties.

Asks WDF if he remembers the Darwin family motto. He means to have a "seal solemnly engraved".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 58)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 541,” accessed on 23 May 2022,

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