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Darwin Correspondence Project

To WDFox   4 November 1868

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov. 4 1868

My dear Fox

It was very good of you to write to me fully about your health. I grieve to hear that you suffer from so much pain; but I remember that in old times you bore pain well, & that is very hard to do.1

Although you make such fun of your Drs, your case seems to be very mysterious, & I wish I cd think that the one who says nothing is the matter with you was at all near the truth.—2

In yr travels southward is there any chance of your being able to pay us a visit, for this wd give us very great pleasure? We go on the 7th to Erass. for 8 or 9 days & after that shall be at home for ever so long.3

I fear that it must have cost you a great deal of fatigue writing me so long a letter. I have read it twice over & have been much interested by yr various facts on inheritance & especially on the courtship of birds.4 I shall use some of yr facts, & have been very glad to consider all of them; for I am in a great muddle on many points. I wish I cd believe that when one of a pair is shot & is soon replaced, that it was always the male, but from some trustworthy accounts this likewise occurs with the female. I wonder how yr keeper recognized the male magpies & crows. I have not yet got together all my notes (which are but scanty) on the numerical relations of the sexes; so that if yr strength permits I shall be extremely glad to receive the account of the births of yr sheep &c. With race horses alone I have a moderately large table, viz above 20,000 & the sexes turn out almost exactly equal.5

It is a shame to trouble you but I do not quite understand yr goose case. Is the Swan-goose the same as the China goose? You say “out of 32 goslings there are only 4 which are common geese, tho’ 2 geese sat & brought out about 20”.6 But how many geese altogether sat? which kinds were they? As all the goslings, except 4, showed signs of a cross, how many of the geese played false with the Swan-gander? But do not answer this, if you are bothered with things to do.—

Many thanks for all your kind help. I do most deeply hope, my dear old friend, that your health may improve & that you may suffer less pain.

Yours affectionately | Ch. Darwin

Do you know anyone, to whom I cd. write, who keeps Merino sheep, of which the ewes are Hornless, for I want to know whether the Horns are developed earlier or later in life, in rams, than with sheep, in which both sexes are Horned.


See letter from WDFox, 29 October [1868]. CD and Fox were both students at Cambridge in 1828 and had corresponded from that time (Correspondence vol. 1).
CD stayed in London at the home of Erasmus Alvey Darwin from 7 to 16 November 1868 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)).
William Bernhard Tegetmeier had placed a notice in the 22 February 1868 issue of the Field asking for information on the proportion of the sexes born to various domestic animals (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 11 February [1868] and n. 2). For CD’s information on racehorses, see the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [before 15 February 1868] and n. 5.
See letter from WDFox, 29 October [1868]. The swan goose is Anser cygnoides. The domestic swan goose is also known as the Chinese goose (Madge and Burn 1988, p. 134).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Much interested in WDF’s letter on inheritance and courtship of birds. CD "in a great muddle" on many points.

Asks for further information on proportion of sexes in sheep.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 150)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6447,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16