From Asa Gray to J. D. Hooker1 5 January 1860
My Dear Hooker
Your last letter, which reached me just before Christmas— has got mislaid during the upturnings in my study which take place at that season, & has not yet been discovered. I should be very sorry to lose it, for there were in it some botanical mem. which I had not secured. It will turn up, I trust. I remember you wrote of dear Lady Hooker being laid up with a bad leg.2 We hope it will not prove serious,— I fear it will be tedious.
The principal part of your letter was high laudation of Darwin’s book.—Well, the book has reached me, and I finished its careful perusal 4 days ago!— And I freely say that your laudation is not out of place.
It is done in a masterly manner,—it might well have taken 20 years to produce it. It is crammed full of most interesting matter—thoroughly digested—well expressed—close, cogent—and taken as a system it makes out a better case than I had supposed possible.
Dr. Wyman is just reading it—is struck with its ability,—but I shall know more what he thinks of it presently.3
I gave a copy to a hard-headed friend of mine, of very impartial mind, familiar with physical science, thoughtful about general problems in Nat. Hist. but neither naturalist nor geologist. He is much impressed by it.
Agassiz—when I saw him last, had read but a part of it.4 He says it is poor—very poor!! (entre nous). The fact he growls over it, like a well cudgelled dog,—is very much annoyed by it—to our great delight—and I do not wonder at it. To bring all ideal system within the domain of pure science, & give good physical or natural explanations of all his capital points, is as bad as to have Forbes take the glacier-materials A. had long muddled over, and give scientific explanation of all the phenomena.—5
Tell Darwin all this. I will write to him when I get a chance.6 As I have promised he & you shall have fair play here,—& Dana is in Italy, ill.—7 I must myself write a review of Darwin’s book for Sill. Journal, (the more so that I suspect Agassiz means to come out upon it)—for the next (March) no.—8 And I am now setting about it (When I ought to be every moment working Expl. Expedition Compositæ, which I know far more about).—9 And really it is no easy job, as you may well imagine.
I doubt if I shall please you altogether. I know I shall not please Agassiz at all. I hear [one more] reprint is in press,—and the book will excite much attention here, and some controversy.10
Your last letter had the address to Cambridge so blotted that the Boston Post office kept it a day or so to decypher. Else I should have had it in time to acknowledge in my last to Sir William.11 It answers the queries I asked, after the safety of the case I sent last summer, &c, &c.—
Opinions on the Origin: AG thinks it masterly; Agassiz considers it very poor.