skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Boott   22 December [1862]1

24 Gower St.

Dec 22.

My Dear Darwin

I have just recd the enclosed from Gray, who in alluding to the War tells me they have no idea of giving up. tho’ the state of their finance I think must suggest the necessity of it sooner or later.2 I have just recd a bill at the exchange of 146123

I have never thanked you for your work on the Orchidiæ—which I read with wonder & admiration.4 It confirms my faith that White of Selborne bequeathes his mantle to you—5

I do not know whether Dear Henslow saw your sagacious interpretation, but I am quite sure that it adds to the joys which he & White & Linneus have in Heaven, for I cannot believe such pure spirits have ceased to exist,6

I hope you are well | Yrs sincerely | F. Boott

C. Darwin Esqre


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from Francis Boott, 26 December 1862.
Asa Gray’s letter has not been found; it was probably returned to Boott.
Boott, was the son of a wealthy New England merchant and had inherited ‘a competency’ (DAB s.v. Boott, Kirk; DNB). In order to avert the financial crisis precipitated by the American Civil War, the Union government abandoned the gold standard at the end of 1861, and issued large numbers of Treasury notes (‘greenbacks’) in the course of 1862, prompting fears of ruinous inflation (MacPherson 1988, pp. 442–50). Following the abandonment of the gold standard, to which the other major trading nations continued to subscribe, the price of foreign exchange became a function of the price of gold as measure in ‘greenbacks’ (Kessel and Alchian 1967, p. 15). Boott quotes a figure of $14612 in ‘greenbacks’ for $100 in gold, representing 46% inflation since the introduction of ‘greenbacks’.
Boott’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Orchids (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix IV).
Boott refers to Gilbert White, the author of The natural history and antiquities of Selborne (White 1789), who was renowned for his careful observation of detail. For CD’s reading of this work, see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *119: 6v and 119: 13a. CD’s annotated copies of White 1825 and 1843 are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 868–70).
Boott refers to John Stevens Henslow, CD’s former mentor and professor of botany at Cambridge University, who died on 16 May 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9), and to the originator of the Linnean system of classification, Carolus Linnaeus.


Has had news from Asa Gray about Civil War.

Belatedly thanks CD for Orchids, which shows CD to be the successor to Gilbert White.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Boott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Gower St, 24
Source of text
DAR 160: 251
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3873,” accessed on 17 August 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10