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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   [13 January 1830]



My dear old Fox

I observe that it has happened once or twice before, that at the same time that my guilty conscience has goaded me into writing, your stock of patience has been worn quite thread bare.— Owing to this exact proportion our letters unfor- tunately clashed on the road, & to show my real penitence I make this fresh start.—

I opened your letter with trepidation & awe, & as all good books say, that a forgiving spirit is the truest revenge, so I found it; for your very kind letter made me more ashamed of myself than any well deserved & severe speeches could have done.— I wish it had so happened that I had gone to Shrew: this Vacation, if it had merely been to have paid you a visit, for idle as I am, I would not have let you come all the way to Birmingham merely to see me, (always with the supposition that there was no, “metal more attractive”1 to be found in that metalliferous district) I hope you had a pleasant visit at the Larches. You do not say much about it. I hope you will mention in what sort of state you brought your heart back again to Osmaston? in a sad raggy condition I am afraid.—2

I forget whether I mentioned that I have ordered a Cabinet. I long to begin about arranging & naming my insects; amongst the Carabidæ, I think I have a third in number.— I have lately taken Demetrias: imperialis!!! & Endomychus coccineus.— What do you mean by saying Miller has sent you Saperda Carcharias; why you have already got that, it is the insect you bought of Finch, large & mottled with brown.—

There is a much better entom: than Miller in Bristol, of the name of Millard, but I hear very stingy.— N.B. Mr. Miller is suspected of having got a good many foreign insects in his collection from Germany, where he formerly collected.—

My Father has been for some time quite well, but has since had a little gout.— I thought I had mentioned, that both the Deaths Heads died in the Summer.—

I rode over the other day to pay Mr. Jenynys a visit. he has a nice snug little house, & lives very comfortably, & was altogether very civil, but not particularly liberal. I gave him an awesome lot of insects, & he gave me ⁠⟨⁠2⁠⟩⁠ good ones, & 2 or 3 more common ones, refused me a specimen of the Necroph. sepultor, (the Fen one of which he can get plenty) although he has 7 or 8 specimens by him at that time.— There is a perfect specimen of liberality for you: a true disciple of the Curtis school:3 My Dytici & Colym: astonished his weak mind: I do most sincerely hope you will at once fix a time for coming up here, & do let it be soon. I long to see you: & to go through my insects will be no small fun.— I shall call you irresolute & weak, if in your next letter you do not fix a definite time.—

The men are all in a dreadful plight, from fear & anxiety, but nevertheless Cam: is remarkably pleasant, & if you were here, to have our old breakfasts together it would be delightful.— I never saw Whitmore in such good spirits as he is at present: he goes walking about quite independently, & drinks brandy to the nth.—

It is quite curious, when thrown into contact with any set of men, how much they continue improving in ones good opinion, as one gets ackquainted with them. This was an argument used, in a religious point of view, by a very clever Clergyman in Shrews. to encourage sociability (he himself being very fond of society), for he said that the good always preponderates over the bad in every persons character, & he thought, the most social men were generally the most benevolent, & had the best opinion of human nature. I have heard my father mention this as a remarkably good observation, & I quite agree with him.—

Chapman & many other men often ask after you:

My dear Fox | Yours sincerely | C. D


Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3. 2. 116 (Arden edition).
CD alludes to Fox’s interest in Bessy Galton.
Probably William Curtis. See Curtis 1771 and 1772. Darwin Library–CUL contains Curtis’s The Botanical Magazine or Flower-Garden Displayed, vols. 1 and 2 (in one volume), London, 1793.


Curtis, William. 1771. Instructions for collecting and preserving insects, particularly moths and butterflies. London.


Has ordered a cabinet for his insects; hopes WDF will soon come to Cambridge to see his collection. Has exchanged specimens with Leonard Jenyns.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Cambridge J⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠30
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 26)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 76,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

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