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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   27 [June 1858]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Fox

I am extremely glad to hear the view you take of Dr. Lane’s case.1 What extraordinary facts you tell me. The soul of some great physician has transmi-grated into you. I am profoundly sorry for Dr. L. & all his family, to whom I am much attached.—2

We shall, indeed, be delighted to see you here if you can anyhow come.—

Your fact about Call-Ducks is first-rate for me, & I will quote it; as I particularly wanted such cases of influence of parent, independently of instinct.3

The Sow-case would have been valuable, had it been more recent, so that I cd. have ascertained, that the same cheek was affected in young, & had known how many young pigs had same deficiency. I have generally been inclined to account for the several similar reported cases by coincidence & inaccuracy, or from disease of bone having been set up. As the sow was actually pregnant such case does utterly stagger me.—4

I had heard something of the Leicester sheep & am very glad to have more details: my doubt is, whether in all kinds of sheep black are not sometimes dropped.5

I thank you much for all the very kind trouble, which you have taken to get me information on all the above points; and about Horses. I have lately seen some splendid cases of barred legs; but I never can find out about colour of parents.— I hardly know what roan is.— I shall be very glad to hear about young Turkeys, if you succeed;6 but in 3 out of 4 of my experiments, something, which one had not calculated on, interferes with the result.—

I have lately been observing & experimentising with much care on the construction of Bees’ cells & have been testing the accuracy of Huber’s observation & on some points I do not think the blind man’s observations stand the test very well.—7 I think I have got theory, which greatly simplifies the marvellous power of construction of all the wondrous angles & perfect cell.—

You will be sorry to hear that we have had Etty most seriously ill with a modified form of that horrid new complaint, Diptheria; but all danger is over & she is slowly recovering.8 We have the Baby, also, very ill with fever, but the Doctor declares not dangerously; We have been much terrified as Scarlet Fever has been very bad. Our nurse, too, has sickened, so we have had much trouble, but I hope things are now clearing.—9

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

Since this written our Baby has become suddenly most ill.— it is Scarlet Fever, & the Doctor can only say there is yet some hope.


CD’s impression of Edward Wickstead Lane had been favourable from the beginning of their acquaintance (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to W. D. Fox, [30 April 1857] and 30 October [1857]). He retained this opinion for the rest of his life. Lane’s name is on the ‘personal friends’ list for invitations to CD’s funeral in 1882.
CD had asked Fox to provide him with reliable information on the instincts of animals (letters to W. D. Fox, 14 January [1858] and 31 January [1858]).
This appears to have been a report of a case of an injury to the cheek of a pregnant sow that was allegedly transmitted to the progeny.
Fox is cited in Variation 2: 30 as CD’s source of information on black lambs’ sometimes being born to Leicester sheep, a breed carefully bred for its white wool.
See letters to W. D. Fox, 22 February [1858] and 28 February [1858].
François Huber had lost his sight at an early age (Jardine ed. 1840, p. 19). See also letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 9 May [1858] and 8 [June 1858].
Henrietta Emma Darwin was taken ill with diphtheria on 18 June 1858 (Emma Darwin’s diary). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1858].
Emma Darwin’s diary records that on 26 June 1858, three days after Charles Waring Darwin was taken ill, the maid Jane also had a ‘sore throat’.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Profoundly sorry for Lane.

Thanks WDF for facts about call ducks, pigs, and Leicester sheep.

Has been observing and experimenting on the construction of bees’ cells. Thinks he has a theory which simplifies the problem.

Scarlet fever in family; nurse ill.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 115)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2296,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

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