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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [15 February 1831]



My dear Fox

I am going out this evening & have only time to write about business—

I saw Baker this morning & told him your message about writing, which he did not seem to like, so I do it for him.— He has for you the following Birds, pair of Hen Harriers— 3 ash coloured Falcons.— Woodpecker— pair Bearded Titmice.— Shrike.— Swan. (I sent to him to Price, but have not heard whether he is up) The Swan is in very bad condition.— I have sent also a dusky grebe, which I procured sometime ago.— His bill amounts to 5£"3s"0. which includes a packing case 14s. & a bushel Ribston pipins 12s.— I have not yet paid Aiken but will see about it.— You will then be indebted to me to some small amount.— If you will give me directions I will tell Baker to send your birds off. (You had perhaps better have the engraving with them) Henslows former servant has left his service some time ago.—

Yours sincerely | Chas Darwin

I shall go away in the course of 10 days or there abouts.—


If you have not read Herschel1 in Lardners Cyclo2 —read it directly.




Herschel’s Preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy was published in 1831 in Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet cyclopaedia. It became an authoritative statement of the methods of scientific investigation, anticipating John Stuart Mill in the formulation of the famous four methods of scientific investigation. In his Recollections, pp. 381–2, CD says that Humboldt’s Personal narrative and the Preliminary discourse ‘stirred up in me a burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science. No one or a dozen other books influenced me nearly so much as these two.’ The copy of the Preliminary discourse in Darwin Library–CUL has no annotations in CD’s hand. Several passages are marked in the margin. These markings occur in section 19, the criterion of a true statement of a law of nature; section 129 and section 130, on naming and nomenclature; section 384, on the superiority of residents over travellers in scientific investigation; and section 385, on the importance of institutions and journals in promoting the spread of science.


‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.


Informs WDF of a shipment of birds ready to be sent by Baker.

Urges WDF to read Herschel’s essay [A preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy (1830)] in Lardner’s [Cabinet] Cyclopedia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Cambridge FE 15 1831
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 37)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 94,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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