skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [15 June 1838]

36 Grt. Marlbro’

My dear Fox

I have been in great trepidation for the last fortnight at the thoughts of receiving a letter from you: for the fossils only came to my house three days since. The casts were to have come yesterday, but have not yet. I do not doubt, however, I shall have them directly.— My chief object in writing now is to tell you than in a week, or 10 days, or at most a fortnight I leave London for about five weeks, so that if you want the fossils & casts sent anywhere you must let me know at once, or leave them till the beginning of August, when I shall be back here.— Owen was annoyed at having been the cause of the delay: but in fact he is worked out of life & soul. He has sent me a letter to forward to you, which I have not done, thinking I would wait, till I heard, whether you chose to have the fossils sent to you; or what plan was decided on.—1

Although I was in great fears at seeing your handwriting until I had the fossils safe & sound, yet I have at the same time been wishing very much to hear how Delamere gets on.—2 You must give up an hour of one of your solitary evenings, (for I suppose Mrs Fox has not yet joined you) & give me long account, of place & people.

I have not been very well of late, which has suddenly determined me to leave London earlier than I had anticipated. I go by the steam-packet to Edinburgh.—take a solitary walk on Salisbury crags & call up old thoughts of former times3 then go on to Glasgow & the great valley of Inverness,—near which I intend stopping a week to geologise the parallel roads of Glen Roy,4 —thence to Shrewsbury, Maer for one day, & London for smoke, ill health & hard work.—

Catherine came back yesterday from Paris, where she has been staying with party of Wedgwoods for a month— She stays a week in London & then returns ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ Shrewsbury.—

I am going today to dine at the great Herschel dinner, which you probably will have seen announced in the Papers.—5 it will, I am afraid be stupid but I trust Sir J. will give us some account, of his discoveries.—

My journal will not be out until the Autumn, I am crawling on with the geology,—but the Zoological parts6 murder much of my time.—

I am delighted to hear, you are such a good man, as not to have forgotten my questions about the crossing of animals. It is my prime hobby & I really think some day, I shall be able to do something on that most intricate subject species & varieties.

Good Bye my dear old Fox— make a noble return to this excessively stupid letter, & tell me all the &cc of Delamere. Yours most Sincerely | Chas. Darwin

Friday36 Gt. Marlbro’ St


Fox had collected some fossil bones from freshwater beds on the Isle of Wight that were described by Richard Owen (see letter to W. D. Fox, [11 December 1837], n. 1).
Fox had become Rector of Delamere, Cheshire, in 1838.
See Autobiography, p. 53, for CD’s unflattering recollection of Professor Robert Jameson’s field lecture on the Salisbury Crags. CD’s notes of the visit of 1838 are in DAR 5 (ser. 2): 33–8.
The parallel ‘roads’ or terraces on the slopes of Glen Roy were a geological puzzle of the time. CD, having seen apparently similar phenomena in South America, set out on 23 June 1838 to investigate them.
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, having just returned from South Africa, was much fêted for his astronomical discoveries. At Victoria’s coronation (28 June 1838) he was made baronet.
CD refers to numbers of the Zoology for which he wrote notes. For Fossil Mammalia he contributed a geological introduction on where the fossils were found, for Mammalia and Birds the notes describe habits and ranges of the species.


Birds: Pt 3 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. By John Gould. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1839–41.

Fossil Mammalia: Pt 1 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle … during the years 1831 to 1836. By Richard Owen. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1839–43.

Mammalia: Pt 2 of The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle. By George Robert Waterhouse. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1838–9.

Zoology: The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. 5 pts. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1838–43.


Has not been well.

Plans a geological trip to Glen Roy in Scotland.

Thanks WDF for remembering the crossing of animals, CD’s "prime hobby". "I really think some day I shall be able to do something on that most intricate subject species and varieties."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 54)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 419,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2