To Asa Gray 5 June 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Gray
I have been rather extra busy, so have been slack in answering your note of May 6th—2 I hope you have received long ago the 3d. Edit. of Origin.3 Andrew Murray is an Entomologist & Horticulturist & now Secretary to Hort. Soc. of London.— He read a long & hostile & rather weak Review of Origin at the Royal Soc. of Edinburgh.—4
I have heard nothing from Trübner of sale of your Essay;5 hence fear it has not been great: I wrote to say you could supply more.— I sent a copy to Sir J. Herschel; & in his new Edit. of his Physical Geography he has note on the origin of species, & agrees to certain limited extent; but puts in a caution on design, so much like yours that I suspect it is borrowed.—6 I have been led to think more on this subject of late, & grieve to say that I come to differ more from you. It is not that designed variation makes, as it seems to me, my Deity “Natural Selection” superfluous; but rather from studying lately domestic variations & seeing what an enormous field of undesigned variability there is ready for natural selection to appropriate for any purpose useful to each creature.—
I thank you much for sending me your Review of Phillips.—7 I remember once telling you a lot of trades which you ought to have followed;8 but now I am convinced that you are a born Reviewer.— By Jove how well & often you hit the nail on the head. You rank Phillips’ book higher than I do; or than Lyell does, who thinks it fearfully retrograde.— I amused myself by parodying Phillips arguments as applied to domestic varieties; & you might thus prove that the Duck or Pigeon has not varied because the Goose has not, though more anciently domesticated, & no good reason can be assigned why it has not produced many varieties.9 With respect to F. Water, small area, compared with sea or land, I believe comes into play; rate of change & of extinction in F. Water having been much slower, hence Ganoid fishes are all fresh-water.—10
How true what you say about Matthew;11 but I will not run on.—
I have been idling & working at Primula & think my experiments will explain their dimorphism:12 now I much want one piece of information; I know that there are many cases of dimorphic plants; but are not the two forms always borne on same plant? Are there other cases of two forms living mingled in nearly equal numbers?— I have also been working on insect fertilisation of Orchids—beautiful facts—& I want information on Cypripedium. Have you Botanic Garden? Could you cover up a plant with net & leave one uncovered; if it be one which sets seeds, & see whether protected one sets seeds, & whether the pollen of the two after interval of time are in the same state.13 Do not forget Spiranthes— look at flowers just opening: I am curious to know whether same curious structure as in our Spiranthes.—14
But I suppose you are all too overwhelmed with public affairs to care for science.—15 I never knew the newspapers so profoundly interesting. N. America does not do England justice: I have not seen or heard of a soul who is not with the North. Some few, & I am one, even wish to God, though at the loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against Slavery. In the long run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in the cause of humanity.—16 What wonderful times we live in.— Massachusetts seems to show noble enthusiasm.17 Great God how I shd like to see that greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished.
Farewell. Hooker has been absorbed with poor dear revered Henslow’saffairs—18 | Farewell | Ever yours | C. Darwin
AG’s review of John Phillips’ book [Life on earth (1860), in Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 31 (1861): 444–9].
Thinks his experiments will explain Primula dimorphism.
Insect fertilisation of orchids.
Wishes that the "greatest curse on Earth", slavery, were abolished.
- experiment, scientific observation
- fertilisation and generation
- relation of organism to organism
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3176,” accessed on 27 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3176