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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox    [25–9 January 1829]


My dear Fox

I waited till to day for the chance of a letter, but I will wait no longer: I must most sincerely & cordially congratulate you on having finished all your labours. I think your place a very good one,1 considering by how much you have beaten many men, who had the start of you in reading— I do so wish I were now in Cambridge (a very selfish wish however, as I was not with you in all your troubles & misery) to join in all the glory & happiness, which dangers gone by can give.— how we would talk walk & entomologize— Sappho should be the best of bitches & Dash of dogs: there should be “peace on earth—good will to men” (which by the way, I always think the most perfect description of happiness that words can give) I was very sorry to see Holdens name amongst what I suppose to be the plucked men,2 & amazed to see Pulleins name no where.—3

It would be superfluous to thank you for the Newspaper, as I am sure you must know how very anxious I was hear the issue. I believe (?) we have some bets pending about Mr. Philpot4 (who it seems has astonished the knowing ones) & about yourself, which must remain in doubt till I go to Cambridge & look at my betting book.— I received the swan about a week ago, & should have written to acknowledge & thank for it before; only that I thought it better to wait till the examination was over. We have not yet eat it & it is probable it will keep sometime longer.—

My Father has had a bad fit of the gout together with a good deal of fever. he has been confined to his bed for a week.— he was very much pleased with the Hooper & as he said himself, if we had thought for a month we could not have made two more acceptable presents than the Deaths head & swan.—

I think it is probable we shall get for you both the common & Pine Marten, the latter alive, which I should think you would like, as th⁠⟨⁠ey⁠⟩⁠ are very interesting animals to keep tame, so an Irish gentleman tells me.—

Now for Entomology.— a beautiful Agonum with dark blood red elytra.— a small Elaphrus; an insect like the Pederus ripalis,5 only with a white mark on each elytron.—cum paucis aliis.— in your next letter tell me how you get on in the science.— My life is very quiet & uniform, & what makes it more so, my lips have lately taken to be bad,6 which will prevent my going to Edinburgh.— my Studies consist of Adam Smith & Locke, in the latter of which I suppose you are an adept, & I hope you properly admire it— About the little Go7 I am in doubt & tribulation. I have had very little shooting. I went to Woodhouse for a week, & on the first day & first shot one of the young Owens8 cut his eye so badly with a Copper Cap; that he has been in bed for a week.— I think I never in my life time was half so much frightened: I am sure I have written enough about myself & my own concerns: make a handsome return tell me every thing about yourself. I am exceedingly anxious to know what steps you have taken about the Curacy? where you are going? how long you intend staying at Osmaston & the Larches?9 in short do give me an outline for the 2 or 3 next months. I hope you will write to me directly Erasmus is in Rome & likes it very much. he wants me to join him in Geneva. he intends wintering next year in Paris

Remember me kindly to Whitley if you see him, Pullein & Hore, & believe me | My dear Fox | Yours most sin | C. Darwin.

if you do not get the Curacy I do not know when we shall meet again Qære. How much of this is legible?


Fox ranked 88th on the list of 160 candidates (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal , Friday, 23 January 1829, 2d edition; repeated, Friday, 30 January 1829).
James Richard Holden’s name appears fifth in a group of fourteen names, without numbers, following the 160 that are ranked. In the list printed 30 January 1829 his name along with others appears with an asterisk, which, a footnote explains, designates men who ‘have one or more terms to keep previous to being admitted to their degrees, although they passed their examination in the above order of arrangement’ (ibid., 30 January 1829). No explanation is given of the separate unnumbered listing of 23 January.
Robert Pulleine sat for his examination the following March (see letter to W. D. Fox, [26 February 1829]).
Henry Philpott. CD’s allusion is to his having achieved Senior Wrangler, that is, the student taking first place in the examinations for mathematical honours.
No such species of Paederus exists. CD probably intended to write ‘riparius’.
A skin eruption about CD’s mouth and on his hands was a recurrent malady. John Maurice Herbert, in a letter to Francis Darwin, stated that in his youth CD took small doses of arsenic for it. ‘He told me that he had mentd. this treatment to his Father—& that his Father had warned him that the cure might be attended with worse consequences—I forget what he said the risk was, but I think it was of partial paralysis.’ (Letter from J. M. Herbert to Francis Darwin, 12 June 1882, DAR 112: 61v.). For a comprehensive study of CD’s illnesses throughout his life, see Colp 1977.
Undergraduates’ name for the University ‘Previous Examination’, taken in the second year. ‘The subjects of examination are one of the four Gospels or the Acts of the Apostles in the original Greek, Paley’s Evidences of Christianity, one of the Greek and one of the Latin Classics’ (Cambridge University calendar, 1829, p. 169). Of the works CD was studying, Locke’s An essay concerning human understanding appeared in the B.A. examination for those who were not candidates for honours. No work by Adam Smith appeared on the list of examination subjects for either the ‘Little Go’ or B.A.
CD refers to Arthur Mostyn Owen (see letters from A. M. Owen, 21 May 1873 and 28 May 1873.
The Larches, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, was the home of Samuel Tertius and Violetta Galton until 1832. (See Francis Galton Memories of my life (London: 1908), pp. 2–3, 18).


Cambridge University calendar: The Cambridge University calendar. Cambridge: W. Page [and others]. 1796–1950.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Locke, John. 1690. An essay concerning human understanding. London.

Paley, William. 1794. A view of the evidences of Christianity. London: R. Faulder.


Congratulates WDF on finishing at Cambridge; he regards his place as a very good one, and comments on how others did.

Father much pleased by gift of a swan.

Adds some entomological news.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Shrewsbury JA 2⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ 1829 153
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 8)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 56,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1