To Asa Gray 19 January 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray
When I look over your letter of Dec 29th,2 & see all the things you tell me & all the trouble which I have caused you, overworked as you are, upon my life I am ashamed of myself.— I will be less unreasonable for the future; but with lots of gold close beneath the surface it is hard not to dig for it. I was glad to hear of Platanthera & the Butterfly, & hearty thanks for the Indian corn; what little grains! I knew nothing about “glucose partly replacing starch”.3 I have several odds & ends to say: Bates has forwarded copy of his paper to you for Haldeman.4 I have reviewed for next Nat. Hist Review, & five pages will therein, if you care, give the cream of his case.—5 Do not trouble yourself to weigh, as I asked, fruit of your wild Strawberry; what you say suffices for my purpose.—6 I was muddled about 1st part of your Review of Orchids7 —it is not worth explaining how I came to be so; but my memory returned the day after my letter went; I confounded one Review with another.—8
You ask about “Dichogamy”, term & facts are given by C. K. Sprengel in his Entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur,9—a curious old book full of truth with some little nonsense.— I have been thinking how interesting it would be to experiment on the 3 kinds of flowers of Linum Lewisii, but I fear it would be impossible to get seed.—10 I have been at those confounded Melastomas again; throwing good money (ie time) after bad.11 Do you remember telling me you could see no nectar in your Rhexia;12 well I can find none in Monochætum, & Bates tells me that the flowers are in the most marked manner neglected by Bees & Lepidoptera in Amazonia.13 Now the curious projection or horns to the stamens of Monochætum are full of fluid, & the suspicion occurs to me that Diptera or small hymenoptera may puncture these horns like they puncture (proved since my orchid book was published) the dry nectaries of true Orchis.—14 I forget whether Rhexia is common; but I very much wish you would next summer watch on a warm day a group of flowers & see whether they are visited by small insects & what they do.— I shd. die a happier man, if I could understand these Melastomas. Oh dear, I wish poor wounded Mr Rothwick would not care for such trifles as the welfare of his country, & would stick to flowers!15
Well, your President has issued his fiat against Slavery—16 God grant it may have some effect.— I fear it is true that very many English do not now really care about Slavery; I heard some old sensible people saying here the same thing; & they accounted for it (& such a contrast it is to what I remember in my Boy-hood) by the present generation never having seen or heard much about Slavery.—17 I sometimes cannot help taking most gloomy view about your future. I look to your money depreciating so much that there will be mutiny with your soldiers & quarrels between the different states which are to pay.18 In short anarchy & then the South & Slavery will be triumphant. But I hope my dismal prophecies will be as utterly wrong as most of my other prophecies have been. But everyone’s prophecies have been wrong; those of your Government as wrong as any.— It is a cruel evil to the whole world; I hope that you may prove right & good come out of it.— Do not trouble or tire yourself to write to me,—though I never receive a letter from you without real pleasure & kind instruction.—
Farewell | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin
Comments on his own review of Bates’s butterfly paper [Collected papers 2: 87–92].
Thanks AG for information on Platanthera.
Has been wasting more time with Melastomataceae; can find no nectar in Monochaetum; is there any in Rhexia?
Hopes Lincoln’s "fiat against Slavery" will have some effect.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3927,” accessed on 5 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3927