To Asa Gray 6 November 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray
When your note of Oct 4th & 13th, (chiefly about Max Muller) arrived I was nearly at the end of the same book & had intended recommending you to read it!1 I quite agree that it is extremely interesting, but the latter part about first origin of language much the least satisfactory.2 It is a marvellous problem. I have heard, whether truly or not I do not know, but the book has rather given me the same impression, that he is dreadfully afraid of not being thought strictly orthodox. He even hints at truth of Tower of Babel!3 I thus accounted for covert sneers at me, which he seems to get the better of towards the close of the book.—4 I cannot quite see how it will forward “my cause” as you call it; but I can see how anyone with literary talent (I do not feel up to it) could make great use of the subject, in illustration. What pretty metaphors you would make from it!5 I wish some one would keep a lot of the most noisy monkeys, half free, & study their means of communication!
A book has just appeared here, which will, I suppose make a noise, by Bishop Colenso, who, judging from extracts smashes most of the old Testament.—6 Talking of Books, I am in middle of one which pleases me, though it is very innocent food, viz “Miss Cooper’s Journal of Naturalist”. Who is she?7 She seems a very clever woman & gives a capital account of the battle between our & your weeds.8 Does it not hurt your Yankee pride that we thrash you so confoundedly. I am sure Mrs. Gray will stick up for your own weeds. Ask her whether they are not more honest downright good sort of weeds.—9 The Book gives an extremely pretty picture of one of your villages; but I see your autumn, though so much more gorgeous than ours, comes on sooner, & that is one comfort.
I am glad to hear that you have sent off your account of orchids to Newhaven; let me have a copy if you can, for I see no periodicals.—10 I wish you had an active pupil in the country: it would be curious to block up with cotton or something the holes on each side of the sterile anther in Cypripedium; & then if pollen were at all disturbed it would show that little insects had entered by the toe.11 I shall be very glad indeed of Mitchella, & of seed, if possible, of Nessæa. I am more than ever interested in Lythrum; the seed of my 88 crossed flowers prove truth of diagram, if you remember it;12 but there is something more, mid-styled is in addition moderately fertile with half its own stamens, & I must make many more crosses, & shall not publish this year—13 The case, I think, is worth any labour.—
I did not know, & yet doubt, that it was Hooker who reviewed me so gorgeously in Gardeners Chle. but I have asked him.—14
Now for two questions: please give me reference to your notice of Gourds affecting each others fruit;15 & secondly on the movements of the tendrils.—16
Also do you know of any treatise descriptive of all your vars. of Maize, if so give me title.—; if I fail to get here, could you help me to half-a-dozen grains of the most marked varieties of Maize.—17 What a good book “Downing on Fruit” is.—18
I am crawling steadily on & today have been compiling all about peaches & nectarines; & a curious case it is.—19
I shd. like to try a few experiments on your Tendrils;20 I wonder what would be good & easy plant to raise in pot.
Farewell, my dear Gray. God help your poor country, though perhaps you scorn our pity. Farewell, my good friend | C. Darwin
Agrees Max Müller’s book [see 3752] is interesting but cannot see how it will further his "cause".
A book by J. W. Colenso [The Pentateuch and book of Joshua critically examined, pt 1 (1862)] has just appeared and will "make a noise".
Would like some observations made on Cypripedium.
Will not publish yet on Lythrum as he must make many more crosses; the mid-styled is fertile with half of its own stamens.
Would like to try a few experiments on tendrils.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3796,” accessed on 13 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3796