The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 55 of 188

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

Cambridge, Thursday [February 26, 1829].

My dear Fox,

When I arrived here on Tuesday I found to my great grief and surprise, a letter on my table which I had written to you about a fortnight ago, the stupid porter never took the trouble of getting the letter forwarded. I suppose you have been abusing me for a most ungrateful wretch; but I am sure you will pity me now, as nothing is so vexatious as having written a letter in vain.

Last Thursday I left Shrewsbury for London, and stayed there till Tuesday, on which I came down here by the ‘Times.’ The first two days I spent entirely with Mr. Hope (Founder of the Chair of Zoology at Oxford.), and did little else but talk about and look at insects; his collection is most magnificent, and he himself is the most generous of entomologists; he has given me about 160 new species, and actually often wanted to give me the rarest insects of which he had only two specimens. He made many civil speeches, and hoped you will call on him some time with me, whenever we should happen to be in London. He greatly compliments our exertions in Entomology, and says we have taken a wonderfully great number of good insects. On Sunday I spent the day with Holland, who lent me a horse to ride in the Park with.

On Monday evening I drank tea with Stephens (J.F. Stephens, author of ‘A Manual of British Coleoptera,’ 1839, and other works.); his cabinet is more magnificent than the most zealous entomologist could dream of; he appears to be a very good-humoured pleasant little man. Whilst in town I went to the Royal Institution, Linnean Society, and Zoological Gardens, and many other places where naturalists are gregarious. If you had been with me, I think London would be a very delightful place; as things were, it was much pleasanter than I could have supposed such a dreary wilderness of houses to be.

I shot whilst in Shrewsbury a Dundiver (female Goosander, as I suppose you know). Shaw has stuffed it, and when I have an opportunity I will send it to Osmaston. There have been shot also five Waxen Chatterers, three of which Shaw has for sale; would you like to purchase a specimen? I have not yet thanked you for your last very long and agreeable letter. It would have been still more agreeable had it contained the joyful intelligence that you were coming up here; my two solitary breakfasts have already made me aware how very very much I shall miss you.

Believe me,
My dear old Fox,
Most sincerely yours,
C. Darwin.

[Later on in the Lent term he writes to Fox:–

“I am leading a quiet everyday sort of a life; a little of Gibbon’s History in the morning, and a good deal of “Van John” in the evening; this, with an occasional ride with Simcox and constitutional with Whitley, makes up the regular routine of my days. I see a good deal both of Herbert and Whitley, and the more I see of them increases every day the respect I have for their excellent understandings and dispositions. They have been giving some very gay parties, nearly sixty men there both evenings.”]

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

Christ’s College [Cambridge], April 1 [1829].

My dear Fox,

In your letter to Holden you are pleased to observe “that of all the blackguards you ever met with I am the greatest.” Upon this observation I shall make no remarks, excepting that I must give you all due credit for acting on it most rigidly. And now I should like to know in what one particular are you less of a blackguard than I am? You idle old wretch, why have you not answered my last letter, which I am sure I forwarded to Clifton nearly three weeks ago? If I was not really very anxious to hear what you are doing, I should have allowed you to remain till you thought it worth while to treat me like a gentleman. And now having vented my spleen in scolding you, and having told you, what you must know, how very much and how anxiously I want to hear how you and your family are getting on at Clifton, the purport of this letter is finished. If you did but know how often I think of you, and how often I regret your absence, I am sure I should have heard from you long enough ago.

I find Cambridge rather stupid, and as I know scarcely any one that walks, and this joined with my lips not being quite so well, has reduced me to a sort of hybernation…I have caught Mr. Harbour letting — have the first pick of the beetles; accordingly we have made our final adieus, my part in the affecting scene consisted in telling him he was a d–d rascal, and signifying I should kick him down the stairs if ever he appeared in my rooms again. It seemed altogether mightily to surprise the young gentleman. I have no news to tell you; indeed, when a correspondence has been broken off like ours has been, it is difficult to make the first start again. Last night there was a terrible fire at Linton, eleven miles from Cambridge. Seeing the reflection so plainly in the sky, Hall, Woodyeare, Turner, and myself thought we would ride and see it. We set out at half-past nine, and rode like incarnate devils there, and did not return till two in the morning. Altogether it was a most awful sight. I cannot conclude without telling you, that of all the blackguards I ever met with, you are the greatest and the best.

C. Darwin.

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