skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [3 January 1830]

Christ Coll: [Cambridge]

Sunday Evening

My dear Fox

I shall think myself very lucky if this letter is not returned unopened, for my shameful conduct well deserves it. I should have written long enough ago, only that when in Cambridge, I thought I should have had more to say in London, & when there I thought it better to put it off till I came here. So owing to these two weighty reason, it is nearly six weeks since I received your last, & it would serve me right, if it were six weeks till I received another, but I hope better things.—

Cambridge is very empty, but for a change, I daresay it will be very pleasant: any how the bachelors dinners, I have no doubt will be very good.— I came here on Friday evening, having been staying with my brother for the last three weeks in Town. I never was there for so long a time before & enjoyed it much more than I expected. There is literally nothing at all going on, & I cannot mention a single thing that I did. The time however glided away, much in the same way as it does at Osmaston: I performed one Herculean task, having nearly finished Clarissa Harlowe, the most glorious novel ever written, & I advise you begin it as soon as you can.—1 Mr. Hope was in Town for the last week, & I worked away very hard at entomology. I went two evenings to Mr. Stephens, & I begin to like him very much.— a Mr. Waterhouse2 gave me some most glorious insects, inter alia, 2 species of Trichius: Your Tarus is basalis.—

I hope you have not thrown away the Fungi: but I believe we collected it rather too late. You can have no conception what magnificent insects some of the Fungiverous are.— Mr. Jenynys has been looking at my insects, & he was very grateful for a good many insects I gave him.— I wrote to Baker about the Shovellers & tracheæ: Mrs Field bill is: 5£"7.6 & Bretts for packing up a case, 12s"6. & I paid 2"6 for a grebe that he has got to skin: so you must keep an account of how we stand together, when I have paid Brett.—

The men are all reading at a most wonderful pace. Old Simpcox counts every minute in the 24 hours.— I am afraid Whitley has a very poor chance of being Senior W. but I trust he will be second.— Herbert I believe will be in the first six.—3 I hope you will write soon & tell me what your future plans are.—for from the weekly variations, I can generally make a guess what they really will be. This indeed with my Brother is my only way of finding out:—

I shall if possible withstand temptation & not ride this term. I had one or two most glorious days hunting at the end of last. But the last day I had two such aweful rolls as nearly knocked my lungs out. This puts me in mind to give you a good scolding for imagining me such a blackguard as to forget my old friends & do nothing but poke about the stable & look knowing. Forgive my negligence as I do you for making so unjust a supposition & believe me dear Fox | Yours very sincerely | Chas Darwin

I saw old Pulleine, he looked very fat & rosy. I forgot to mention, I dined with Sir J. Mackintosh4 & had some talk with him about Phrenology,5 & he has entirely battered down the very little belief of it that I picked up at Osmaston. He says, as long as Education is supposed to have any effect in decreasing the power of any organ of the brain, he cannot see how it ever can be proved true6


Charles Thomas Whitley achieved Senior Wrangler and 2d Class in Classics. John Maurice Herbert was 7th Wrangler.
Sir James Mackintosh, ‘the best converser I ever listened to’ (Autobiography, p. 55).
According to the phrenological doctrine, as elaborated by Franz Joseph Gall, the shape of the skull reflects the ‘organs’ or faculties of the brain. Phrenology attained considerable popularity in England—by 1832 there were 29 phrenological societies and an influential journal edited by George Combe. See EB 21: 534–40.
Mackintosh’s argument appears to be that if education can reduce the powers of the organs of the brain—for instance, those of acquisitiveness or secretiveness—then these powers are not innate and no causal relation exists between the organs and the shape of the skull.


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Richardson, Samuel. 1747–8. Clarissa; or, the history of a young lady. 7 vols. London: [the author].


Spent three weeks in London with Erasmus.

Entomologised with Hope, Stephens, and G. R. Waterhouse.

Cambridge is very quiet, men reading at a wonderful pace. Dined with Sir J. Mackintosh.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Christ’s College, Cambridge
Cambridge JA 3 1830
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 25)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 75,” accessed on 23 May 2024,

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