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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   22 February [1858]

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 22d

My dear Fox

I was in London last week & got Hewitson all safe at Athenæum Club.1 It is indeed magnificently bound & I am not surprised that you did not like to send it per post, & am only surprised that you would send it anyhow.— I was headachy & half-knocked up during all my stay & I found it impossible to look it over whilst in London & so have brought it with me, & shall consult it deliberately for I have found more variability in Birds nests than I expected after I had put my notes together.2 I presume you are in no hurry, & so will leave it at Mr. Woods,3 when next, in about 6 weeks, when I go to London.— Very many thanks for the loan.—

In your last note, what a funny fact that it of the Turkeys & the frog: I think it will do to work in: I wish I knew about how old they were, but probably you will not recollect. How fine it would have been if they had squatted at the sight of the monster.—4

You say that if you can anyhow manage it, you will this Spring pay us a visit; it would really give Emma & myself great pleasure; so do not forget & come if you can. I am not likely to be from home, this summer, without it be sometimes for a fortnight to Moor Park.— I think Etty gets gradually rather stronger.

Farewell my dear old friend. If the spirit moves you at anytime to send me a line about yourself, glad shall I be. Ever yours | C. Darwin


Hewitson 1831–44. See letters to W. D. Fox, 14 January [1858] and 31 January [1858].
Birds’ nests and the variability of nest-making instincts are discussed in Natural selection, pp. 498–506.
Possibly Charles Henry Lardner Woodd, who was Fox’s brother-in-law.
Fox had evidently replied to CD’s query about fear in young turkeys and chickens (see letter to W. D. Fox, 31 January [1858]). CD used Fox’s information in Natural selection, pp. 487–8 n. 5. Fox had observed a brood of young turkeys and their mother, all of whom were terrified by a frog peeping out of a hole. He suggested that their instinct probably led them to mistake the frog’s eyes for those of a deadly North American snake.


Hewitson, William Chapman. 1831–44. British oology; being illustrations of the eggs of British birds, with figures of each species, as far as practicable, drawn and coloured from nature: accompanied by descriptions of the materials and situation of their nests, number of eggs, etc. 2 vols. and supplement. Newcastle upon Tyne.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


Thanks for Hewitson [British oology].

Has found more variability in birds’ nests than he expected.

Interested in WDF’s note about turkey terrified by a frog [see Natural selection, p. 488 n.].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 111)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2219,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7