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Darwin Correspondence Project

From WDFox   22 August [1873]1

Delamere Rectory | Northchurch | Cheshire

August 22

My dear Darwin

What an age it is since I have heard any thing of you. It has been my fault, as I do not think I have ever writte〈n〉 even to thank you for sen〈ding〉 me a copy of your Expression of Emotions &c.2 I do very greatly 〈    〉e your so kin〈dly〉 thinking of me when you publish. Your Books are very often in my hand, & give me great pleasure, but I cannot quite go with you on all points—in fact I think I diverge from some 〈o〉f your leading ideas more than I did, as I think more of them.

〈Y〉our works have the 〈v〉ery great advantage over most of this day, that they make you think and meditate—and the delicious freshness of y〈our〉 〈ear〉lier ones is always a source of intense pleasure. I do not think I have heard from you, since a letter last year recalled the glorious days of Panagæus Crux Major.3 I never now see an Entomologist. My own Boys hunt Lepidoptera but that is all. If your Sons friend the Butter〈fly〉 hunter ever comes to the Is of Wight, send him to me.4

It would be quite refresh〈ing〉 to see a general Entomolog〈ist.〉

I take the same pleasure in all branches of Nat: History as I did 50 years ago— but Eheu labuntur fugaces anni5 and I have not much time or strength to follow up the pursuit.

I have a lovely little Natterjack6 staring at me from under some moss at this moment which I brought from Island. What pretty little creatures they are.

You gave me but a poor description of the health of your children last year.7 I hope they are better & stronger, and that you are as well as usual, which 〈is〉 not I fear saying much.

We are all here for some weeks 〈to〉 come, when I mean to resign 〈m〉y little living here, where I have 〈li〉ved some 35 years in much 〈en〉joyment.8 It is a severe 〈w〉rench, but as I cannot do the work of a Parson, it seems right 〈to〉 resign to one who can. If I ever 〈h〉ave a day in London— I shall run 〈d〉own & have a look at the Old Philos〈opher〉 at Down. My heart warms when I think of the happy days we spent together. A line telling me how you and Mrs Darwin are, will be always a treat.

Ever yours affec Friend | WDFox

P.S. | I must send you an extract from a letter received a day or two since from a Mr Gover9 residing at present in my house at Sandown.

First he says “I see you have a complete set of Darwins works. Many of his facts are valuable in connexion with the hereditary principle in which I am deeply inter〈es〉ted.”

He then adds— to shew how much he has profited by 〈re〉ading your works

〈“〉I have been much interested with the Birds flying to and from their nests in the Verandah. One has a black patch like a collar on under part of neck, & a transverse black line to the Bill. I do not know what Birds they are, and whether the marked one is Male or Female”

One can scarcely imagine a man so well describing a Cock Sparrow, & not recognising the bird, especially as hes a Livery man of London & has a house at Blackheath.10

This tickles me immensely.


The year is established by the reference to Expression, which was published in November 1872 (Freeman 1977).
Fox’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Expression (see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix V).
See Correspondence vol. 20, letter to WDFox, 16 July 1872. As students at Cambridge, CD and Fox collected beetles, and CD later told Fox that looking at Panagaeus crux-major always reminded him of their first meeting (Correspondence vol. 2, letter to WDFox, [25 March 1843]).
In his letter to Fox of 16 July 1872 (Correspondence vol. 20), CD had referred to a visit from a Cambridge friend of one of his sons who was ‘an ardent collector of Beetles’; the friend has not been identified. Fox spent winters on the Isle of Wight.
Eheu labuntur fugaces anni: alas, the fugitive years slip away (Latin). Fox slightly misquotes Horace, Odes 2: 14.
Natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita).
Fox lived in Northwich, Cheshire, where he was vicar of Delamere until his retirement in 1873. From 1873, Sandown on the Isle of Wight was his permanent home.
William Sutton Gover.
Fox evidently refers to the tree sparrow (Passer montanus), but the description could fit other birds, such as the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), which is very common on the Isle of Wight. Gover lived at Havering house, Blackheath, Kent (Post Office directory of the six home counties (1870, 1874); a liveryman is a full member of one of the livery companies or trade associations of the City of London.


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

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Thanks CD for a copy of Expression. Is always interested in CD’s work, but finds himself diverging from some of his leading ideas.

P.S. Has found shedding of toenails in a nephew as well.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Darwin Fox
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 198/3, 199
Physical description
8pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9023,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21