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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [23 January 1831]



My dear Fox

I do hope you will excuse my not writing before I took my degree.—1 I felt a quite inexplicable aversion to write to any body.— But now I do most heartily congratulate you upon passing your examination; & hope you find your curacey2 comfortable; if it is my last shilling (I have not many) I will come & pay you a visit.—

I do not know why the degree should make one so miserable, both before & afterwards; I recollect you were sufficiently wretched before, & I can assure I am now; & what makes it the more ridiculous, is I know not what about.— I believe it is a beautiful provision of nature to make one regret the less leaving so pleasant a place as Cambridge.—& amongst all its pleasures, I say it for once & for all, none so great as my friendship with you.—

I sent you a Newspaper yesterday, in which you will see what a good place I have got in the Polls.—3 As for Christ did you ever see such a college for producing Captains & Apostles.—4 There are no men either at Emmanuel or Christ plucked.— Cameron5 is gulfed,6 together with other 3 Trinity scholars!— My plans are not at all settled, I think I shall keep this term, & then go & economize at Shrewsbury, return & take my degree.— A man may be excused, for writing so much about himself, when he has just passed the examination. So you must excuse.— And on the same principle do you write a letter brim-full of yourself & plans.— I want to know something about your examination: tell me about the state of your nerves.—: what books you got up, & how perfect? I take an interest about that sort of thing as the time will come, when I must suffer.— Your tutor Thompson begged to be remembered to you, & so does Whitley.— If you will answer this; I will send as many stupid answers as you can desire.—

Believe me dear Fox | Chas. Darwin.—


CD here refers to passing the examination for the B.A. Because he took residence only at the beginning of the second (Lent) term of 1828, he is officially listed among the B.A.s of 1832. See Autobiography, p. 68 and LL 1: 163.
Fox had obtained a curacy at Epperstone, near Nottingham.
The Poll: those students who read for or obtain a “pass” degree’ (OED). The examination consisted of six parts: Homer, Virgil, Euclid, Arithmetic and Algebra, Paley’s Evidences of Christianity and Principles of moral and political philosophy, and Locke’s An essay concerning human understanding (Cambridge University calendar, 1831). ‘By answering well the examination questions in Paley, by doing Euclid well, and by not failing miserably in Classics, I gained a good place among the οἱ πολλοί, or crowd of men who do not go in for honours’ (Autobiography, p. 59). CD was placed tenth on the list of 178 who passed (Cambridge Chronicle, 22 January 1831, 2d ed.).
The ‘Captain’ headed the list of the ‘Poll’; the last twelve in the Mathematical Tripos list were called the ‘Apostles’—not to be confused with the famous Apostles or Cambridge Conversazione Society founded in 1820, of which CD’s brother Erasmus was briefly a member in 1823 (Levy 1979, p. 301; Allen 1978, p. 27).
Jonathan Henry Lovett Cameron. In a letter to Francis Darwin, written after CD’s death, he refers to his ‘bright and sunny’ recollection of CD at school and university: ‘At Shrewsbury we slept in the same room for some years & often beguiled the night with pleasant conversation. He was always cheerful & good tempered & much beloved by his school-fellows. He was not a great proficient in the school studies, but was always busy collecting beetles, butterflies &c. He spent some time, most evenings, with a blow-pipe at the gas-light in our bed-room At Cambridge I used to read Shakspere to him in his own rooms & he took great pleasure in these readings. He was also very fond of music, though not a performer & I generally got an order for him for Kings Coll. Chapel on Sunday evenings.’ (DAR 112: 14).
‘The position of those candidates for mathematical honours who fail to obtain a place in the list, but are allowed the ordinary degree’ (OED).


Allen, Peter. 1978. The Cambridge Apostles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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

Levy, Paul. 1979. G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Congratulates WDF on passing his examination for the curacy; hopes he will find it comfortable.

CD is pleased at his own good showing.

Asks about WDF’s examination, books, etc.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Cambridge JA 23 1831
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 36)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 89,” accessed on 22 May 2024,

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