He once killed a hare sitting in the flower-garden at Shrewsbury by throwing a marble at it, and, as a man, he once killed a cross-beak with a stone. He was so unhappy at having uselessly killed the cross-beak that he did not mention it for years, and then explained that he should never have thrown at it if he had not felt sure that his old skill had gone from him.
When walking he had a fidgetting movement with his fingers, which he has described in one of his books as the habit of an old man. When he sat still he often took hold of one wrist with the other hand; he sat with his legs crossed, and from being so thin they could be crossed very far, as may be seen in one of the photographs. He had his chair in the study and in the drawing-room raised so as to be much higher than ordinary chairs; this was done because sitting on a low or even an ordinary chair caused him some discomfort. We used to laugh at him for making his tall drawing-room chair still higher by putting footstools on it, and then neutralising the result by resting his feet on another chair.
His beard was full and almost untrimmed, the hair being grey and white, fine rather than coarse, and wavy or frizzled. His moustache was somewhat disfigured by being cut short and square across. He became very bald, having only a fringe of dark hair behind.
His face was ruddy in colour, and this perhaps made people think him less of an invalid than he was. He wrote to Dr. Hooker (June 13, 1849), "Every one tells me that I look quite blooming and beautiful; and most think I am shamming, but you have never been one of those." And it must be remembered that at this time he was miserably ill, far worse than in later years. His eyes were bluish grey under deep overhanging brows, with thick bushy projecting eyebrows. His high forehead was much wrinkled, but otherwise his face was not much marked or lined. His expression showed no signs of the continual discomfort he suffered.
When he was excited with pleasant talk his whole manner was wonderfully bright and animated, and his face shared to the full in the general animation. His laugh was a free and sounding peal, like that of a man who gives himself sympathetically and with enjoyment to the person and the thing which have amused him. He often used some sort of gesture with his laugh, lifting up his hands or bringing one down with a slap. I think, generally speaking, he was given to gesture, and often used his hands in explaining anything (e.g. the fertilisation of a flower) in a way that seemed rather an aid to himself than to the listener. He did this on occasions when most people would illustrate their explanations by means of a rough pencil sketch.
He wore dark clothes, of a loose and easy fit. Of late years he gave up the tall hat even in London, and wore a soft black one in winter, and a big straw hat in summer. His usual out-of-doors dress was the short cloak in which Elliot and Fry's photograph represents him leaning against the pillar of the verandah. Two peculiarities of his indoor dress were that he almost always wore a shawl over his shoulders, and that he had great loose cloth boots lined with fur which he could slip on over his indoor shoes. Like most delicate people he suffered from heat as well as from chilliness; it was as if he could not hit the balance between too hot and too cold; often a mental cause would make him too hot, so that he would take off his coat if anything went wrong in the course of his work.
He rose early, chiefly because he could not lie in bed, and I think he would have liked to get up earlier than he did. He took a short turn before breakfast, a habit which began when he went for the first time to a water-cure establishment. This habit he kept up till almost the end of his life. I used, as a little boy, to like going out with him, and I have a vague sense of the red of the winter sunrise, and a recollection of the pleasant companionship, and a certain honour and glory in it. He used to delight me as a boy by telling me how, in still earlier walks, on dark winter mornings, he had once or twice met foxes trotting home at the dawning.