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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   23 May [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

May 23d.

My dear Fox

I thank you heartily for the way you take all my requests.

I think I will insert request in Gardeners Chron. about Lizard Eggs;1 it seems cool, however, making such a request to the world at large.— Very many thanks to your Lady friend from Jersey.—

I write now to say that I have been looking at some of our mongrel chickens & I should say one week old would do very well. The chief point which I am & have been for years very curious about is to ascertain, whether the young of our domestic breeds differ as much from each other as do their parents, & I have no faith in anything short of actual measurement & the Rule of Three.—2 I hope & believe I am not giving so much trouble without a motive of sufficient worth.—

I have got my Fan-tails & Pouters (choice Birds, I hope, as I paid 20s for each pair from Baily) in a grand cage & Pigeon House, & they are a decided amusement to me, & a delight to Etty.3 Both kinds have laid eggs.—

My wife is away from home at Rugby, nursing Willy, who has had your dreadful enemy the Scarlet Fever, rather badly, but yesterday & today’s letters make me perfectly easy;4 but I think I shall go in a few days, & relieve guard.— We are in terrible perplexity about contagion, for here all the children have the Hooping cough, which Willy has not had.—5

I am glad to see from your note that you keep up your vivid interest about Birds, & all living things. With so many children & parishioners I feared that you could hardly have had time to care for anything else.

Farewell my dear old friend | Ever yours | C. Darwin

PS | I have sent a communication to the Gardeners’ Chronicle on the means of distribution of plants by sea-currents,6 but I expect that it is too long for insertion at least of the whole.—

I had quite forgotten when I wrote to you, that the very common British Lizard is ovo-viviparous! & the chance of getting ova of the L. agilis, I fear is small. Jersey is evidently the best chance.— I am going to try land-snail shells & their eggs also. in sea-water.—


See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 26 May 1855].
CD described his observations on this point in Variation 1: 249–51. The rule of three allows the calculation of an unknown, x, using the formula: a is to b as c is to x.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, they heard of William’s illness (which began on 18 May) on 20 May and she travelled to Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house in London on that day. On 21 May, she arrived in Rugby and remained there until 28 May.
All the children living at home had had whooping cough in March 1855 (see letter to W. D. Fox, 19 March [1855], n. 5). On 19 June, Emma Darwin recorded in her diary: ‘W. came to Sales’. William Sales was a publican and grocer in Down.
Letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 21 May [1855].


Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


He may insert his request for lizards’ eggs in Gardeners’ Chronicle.

His study of mongrel chicks is to ascertain whether the young of domestic breeds differ as much as their parents.

Has already sent a communication on means of distribution of plants by sea to Gardeners’ Chronicle [Collected papers 1: 255–8].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 92)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1686,” accessed on 24 February 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5