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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [7 June 1840]1


⁠⟨⁠about seven lines missing ⁠⟩⁠old friend much to endure in the ill-health of your wife.— There is a degree of anxiety about the health of ⁠⟨⁠about ten lines missing ⁠⟩⁠2 boy—(William Erasmus,—proper family names)—he is a prodigy of beauty & intellect. He is so charming, that I cannot pretend to any modesty.— I defy anybody to flatter us on our baby,—for I defy anyone to say anything, in its praise, of which we are not fully conscious.—

He is a charming little fellow, & I had not the smallest concepcion there was so much in a five month baby:— You will perceive, by this, that I have a fine degree of paternal fervour. And now for myself, about whom I can now give a very good account.— I have during the last six weeks been gradually, though very slowly, gaining strength & health, but previous to that time I was for nearly six months in very indifferent health, so that I felt the smallest exertion most irksome. This is the reason I have been so long without writing

I had no spirits to do anything. I have scarcely put pen to paper for the last half year, & everything in the publishing line is going backwards— I have been much mortified at this, but there is no help, but patience.—

My Father, who has certainly in a quite unexpected degree put me on the course in getting well, (having put a stop to periodical vomiting to which I was subject) feels pretty sure that I shall before long get quite well.— At present I only want vigour—in wanting which, however, one wants almost all, which makes life endurable.—

We came here the day before yesterday and are enjoying the delightful smell of the damp earth & plants.— I think we shall never be able to stick all our lives in London, & our present castle in the air is to live near a station in Surrey about 20 miles from Town.— We shall remain here about a month.— should my health continue getting stronger, I will, should all things be fitting with you, pay you a flying visit.— I want much to see your house.— it is always very pleasant to have a picture of a person’s residence rise before one, when one thinks of the person.— At present, however, I am determined to obey implicitly my Father & remain absolutely quiet.— You speak in your letter of going with Mrs. Fox to the sea.— pray send me a short note before long, telling me your plans.— I hope Mrs Fox came home from Osmaston as well as could be expected after her confinement.— What an awful affair a confinement is: it knocked me up, almost as much as it did Emma herself.—

You ask about scientific news— I have none to tell, for I have of late literally seen no one except Lyell occasionally.— He is going to start immediately to examine Fren⁠⟨⁠ch⁠⟩⁠ Tertiary deposits—3 I have not seen Henslow for a long time, though I have occasionally heard from him. He likes his living exceedingly, & is growing fat.— He is very active, giving scientific lectures to parish & whole neighbourhood: displaying fire works, & preparing for publication a continuation of Lindley & Hutton’s fossil coal Flora.—4

Pray remember me most kindly to Mrs Fox, & believe me dear Fox, your’s affectionately | Chas. Darwin


Dated from the postmark and the reference to William’s age as five months. CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II) for 1840 reads ‘June 10th Went to Maer & paid a visit to Shrewsbury’, but the entry appears to be a mistake made in retrospect. A note on the letter in Francis Darwin’s hand reads ‘W. D. Fox July 7 1840’, perhaps because the ‘Journal’ entry caused Francis to read the ‘JU’ in the postmark as an abbreviation for July. However, the date stamp for that month would have read ‘JY’.
All except the bottom few lines have been excised from the first and second pages.
Lyell left for France in July (Wilson 1972, pp. 490–2).
Lindley and Hutton 1831–7.


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

Wilson, Leonard Gilchrist. 1972. Charles Lyell. The years to 1841: the revolution in geology. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Family news.

CD’s health is improving, but he has scarcely put pen to paper in the last half-year, and everything in the publishing line is going backwards.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 60)
Physical description
ALS 9pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 572,” accessed on 10 December 2022,

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