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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [30 April 1857]1

Moor Park | Farnham | Surrey


My dear Fox.

I have now been here for exactly one week, & intend to stay one week more.— I had got very much below par at home, & it is really quite astonishing & utterly unaccountable the good this one week has done me.— I like Dr. Lane & his wife & her mother, who are the proprietors of this establishment very much.— Dr. L. is too young,—that is his only fault—but he is a gentleman & very well read man.2 And in one respect I like him better than Dr. Gully, viz that he does not believe in all the rubbish which Dr. G. does; nor does he pretend to explain much, which neither he or any doctor can explain.—3 I enclose a paper for the strange chance of your ever knowing anyone in the S. in want of Hydropathy.— I really think I shall make a point of coming here for a fortnight occasionally, as the country is very pleasant for walking.—4

But I, also, think it highly probable that we all shall move to Malvern this summer, not for my sake, but for Etty’s, who has now been out of health for some six or 8 months. I hardly know yet when we shall go, if we do go; but I very much wish that we might meet you there. Etty is now & has been for some time at Hastings.5 I am well convinced that the only thing for Chronic cases is the water-cure.—6 Write to me either here or after Wednesday next to Down, & tell me how the world goes on with you, & how, especially, the Sciatica has been, if it was sciatica, which caused you so much suffering.—7

I believe that I worked too hard at home on my species-Book, which progresses, but very slowly. Whenever you write, as you are, I know, very learned in Pigs, pray tell me, whether any breed, known to have originated or to have been greatly modified, by a cross with the Chinese or Neapolitan Pig, whether any such crossed-breed, breeds true or nearly true.—8 I am pretty sure I have read of some breed known to have been formed by a cross with one of the above Breeds, but I cannot remember particulars.— I must now take a sitz Bath, my treatment being,—daily Shallow, Douche, & Sitz.9

Farewell, my dear Fox | Yours most truly | C. Darwin


The date is provided by the postmark and by CD’s reference in the letter to having been at Moor Park ‘for exactly one week’ (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Edward Wickstead Lane was 34 years old. He took over the lease of Moor Park, a large country house with associated parkland, from Thomas Smethurst. Smethurst had turned the house into a hydropathic establishment in or around 1850; by 1855, Lane had become the proprietor (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1851 and 1855). The patients at Moor Park were accommodated in the same building as Lane and his family. It was Lane’s belief that this arrangement was greatly beneficial to the patient (Lane 1857, p. 79).
James Manby Gully advocated homoeopathy, and clairvoyance in some cases, in his water-cure establishment in Malvern. For CD’s opinion of these remedies, see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to Susan Darwin, [19 March 1849], and to W. D. Fox, 4 September [1850].
Lane believed that a change of scenery was an essential constituent of therapy, the site of Moor Park having been chosen for its location in a ‘picturesque district abounding in pleasant and varied walks, with a dry soil under-foot and the fresh breezes of health playing about … over-head from morning till night’ (Lane 1857, p. 43).
Emma Darwin had taken her daughter Henrietta Emma to Hastings on 9 April 1857 to see whether her health would improve at the seaside. Henrietta returned home on 12 May. The family did not go to Malvern for the summer; instead, Emma took Henrietta to Moor Park on 29 May where she remained until 7 August (Emma Darwin’s diary). CD returned to Moor Park for two weeks in June (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
For CD’s belief that his condition was much relieved by the water-cure, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 7 [July 1849].
Fox had recently visited Gully’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern for treatment. See letter to W. D. Fox, 3 October [1856].
CD discussed this subject in Variation 1: 78–9, but Fox’s name is not mentioned.
See Correspondence vol. 4, letter to Susan Darwin, [19 March 1849], for a description of CD’s previous treatment at Gully’s establishment in Malvern. Lane described his method of treatment in a handbook on hydropathy issued in 1857. He attributed most disorders to imperfect digestion (Lane 1857, pp. 51–78).


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

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.

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


His impressions of the hydropathic establishment and E. W. Lane. Is convinced the only thing for "chronic cases" is the water-cure.

Asks if WDF knows of any breed of pig that originated or was modified by a cross with a Chinese or Neapolitan pig, and whether the crossbreed bred true.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Moor Park
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 103)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2085,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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