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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   8 February [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 8th

My dear Fox

I was very glad to get your note; but it was really too bad of you not to say one single word about your own health. Do you think I do not care to hear?—

It was a complete oversight that I did not write to tell you that Emma produced under blessed Chloroform our sixth Boy almost two months ago.2 I daresay you will think only half-a-dozen Boys a mere joke;3 but there is a rotundity in the half-dozen which is tremendously serious to me.— Good Heavens to think of all the sendings to School & the Professions afterwards: it is dreadful.—

I am very sorry to hear of your 34 child!4

We shall be most heartily rejoiced to see you here at any time: we have now Ry to Beckenham which cuts of 2 miles & gladly will we send you both ways at any time.5

But the other morning I was telling my Boys about some of our ancient entomological expeditions to Whittlesea meer &c;6 & how we two used to drink our tea & Coffee together daily. We had not then 2034 children between us; & I had no stomach.

I do not think I shall have courage for Water Cure again: I am now trying mineral Acids, with, I think, good effect.7 I am not so well as I was a year or two ago.

I am working very hard at my Book, perhaps too hard. It will be very big & I am become most deeply interested in the way facts fall into groups. I am like Crœsus overwhelmed with my riches in facts. & I mean to make my Book as perfect as ever I can. I shall not go to press at soonest for a couple of years.

Thanks about W. Indies. I have just had a Helix pomatia withstand 14 days well in Salt-water; to my very great surprise.8

I work all my friends: Are there any Mormodes at Oulton Hothouses9 or any of those Orchideæ which eject their pollen-masses when irritated: if so will you examine & see what would be effect of Humble-Bee visiting flower: wd. pollen-mass ever adhere to Bee, or wd. it always hit direct the stigmatic surface?—

You ask about Pigeons: I keep at work & skins are now flocking in from all parts of world.—

You ask about Erasmus & my sisters: the latter have been tolerable; but Eras. not so well with more frequent fever fits & a good deal debilitated: Charlotte Langton has been very ill with Asthma & Bronchitis; but I hope is recovering.

Farewell, my dear old Friend. | Yours affecty | C. Darwin

Are castrated Deer larger than ordinary Bucks? Do you know?


The letter is dated by the reference to the birth of Charles Waring Darwin (see n. 2, below).
Charles Waring Darwin was born on 6 December 1856. CD had administered chloroform to Emma Darwin during previous labours (see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to W. D. Fox, [17 January 1850], and to J. D. Hooker, 3 February [1850]).
Fox had twelve children in all, five by his first marriage and seven by his second. Of these, four were boys.
An allusion to the advanced stage of Ellen Sophia Fox’s pregnancy. Edith Darwin Fox was born on 13 February 1857 (Darwin pedigree).
In April 1855, a plan was drawn up for an extension to the South Eastern Railway to run from Lewisham to Beckenham. John William Lubbock was the chairman of the committee; CD was a shareholder (Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. E. Darwin, [25 April 1855], n. 4). The Mid-Kent Railway was opened on 1 January 1857 (The Times, 9 February 1857, p. 7).
Whittlesea, a village near Cambridge, was the site of entomological excursions during CD’s and Fox’s undergraduate days. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to W. D. Fox, May 1832, and letter from W. D. Fox, 30 June 1832.
‘Mineral acids’, according to Colp 1977, p. 57, ‘probably meant a mixture of muriatic (hydrochloric) acid and nitric acid’. It was believed that some cases of dyspepsia were caused by a lack of acid secreted by the stomach and could be treated by administering replacement acids. For CD’s precise prescription, transcribed from the ‘Receipts’ book (the medical prescription book used by the family), see Colp 1977, p. 157.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1856], and letter from T. V. Wollaston, [11 or 18 December 1856]. On 22 January, after one of the Helices provided by Thomas Vernon Wollaston had survived the effects of immersion in salt water, CD began a new experiment with Helix pomatia and H. aspersa. In his Experimental book, p. 16 (DAR 157a), CD recorded on 5 February 1857 that a snail ‘moved distinctly after 14 days in salt-water—’.
Probably Oulton Park, Cheshire, the home of CD’s and Fox’s friend, Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton.


Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Darwin pedigree: Pedigree of the family of Darwin. Compiled by H. Farnham Burke. N.p.: privately printed. 1888. [Reprinted in facsimile in Darwin pedigrees, by Richard Broke Freeman. London: printed for the author. 1984.]


Birth of his sixth son [C. W. Darwin]. It is dreadful "to think of all the sendings to school and the professions afterwards".

CD is not well but has not the courage for water-cure again; trying mineral acids.

Working hard on the book [Natural selection]; is overwhelmed with riches in facts and interested in way facts fall into groups.

To his surprise [Helix pomatia] has withstood 14 days in salt water.

Pigeons’ skins come in from all parts of the world.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 110)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2049,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6