To Asa Gray 20 April 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray.—
Thanks for two notes,2 one about the Duke of A. (did I tell you how capitally this was criticised in the Saturday Review?)3 & the other note very savage against England:4 I cannot help fearing that we shall drift into war:5 what a curse it will be to us anyhow; for you seem to be getting to like war.— I wish I had known when I read the Correspondence that Mr Loring was your father-in-law:6 I shd. have read it, if possible, with still greater interest. We must keep to science, I fear, for we both seem to be getting to think each other’s country conduct worse & worse. But I shd. like to know whether General Butler is in your honest opinion a bad man.—7
Your remark from Wyman about the Incas came very appropriately for I am at present summing up all facts on this subject & give facts on both sides.—8 I now regret that I have always intentionally evaded case of man; but have put in a note on such facts as I have heard of.—9
I sent off two days ago two copies of my Linum paper:10 I hope the case may interest you; it has me. Amsinckia turns out with me only variability in length of pistil.—11 I forgot to ask about Intermarriage; M. Devay says explicitly that state of Ohio, from evil shown by statistical returns, has legislated against cousins marrying: can this be true?12
Here is another heterogenous question: have you ever formed any theory, why in spire of leaves (I have been reading your most clear account in your Lessons)13 the angles go &c— Why should there not be or ? It seems to me most marvellous— There must be some explanation. If you have theory, I know it would be too long to explain; but I shd like to hear whether you have. My good friend Falconer has been twitting me that these angles go by as fixed a law as that of Gravity & never vary.14 I can fancy that packing of organs in very early bud may cause general alternation in the parts of the flower & consequent interruption in the spires.—
Speaking of Falconer, I was very sorry to see his letter in the Athenæum; so irreverent & virulent towards Lyell.15 We have had lately sharp sparring in the Athenæum. Did you see the article on Heterogeny or Spontaneous generation, written I believe, certainly by Owen!! it was in Review on Carpenter, who seems to have been sillily vexed at Owen calling me Carpenter’s master; it was like his clever malignity.16 Under the cloak of a fling at Heterogeny I have sent a letter to Athenæum in defence of myself, & I take sly advantage to quote Lyells amended verdict on the Origin.—17 I suppose my letter will appear next week:18 it is no great thing.—
Be sure, if you have opportunity read Bates’ Amazonia, because you will like & admire it.—19
I have got to say a few words on Orchids. I hope that you may have time to look at the Rostellum of Gymnadenia, this summer;20 because a good observer in Bot. Garden at Edinburgh a Mr J. Scott has been experimenting on foreign genera, & he finds that the rostellum stimulates some kinds to protrude their tubes;21 but that these tubes never penetrate the rostellum only creep along its surface to the stigma. He wrote to me to know whether I could give him any details on your observations.22 By the way I lately found some primroses with 3 pistils, not united, so that I could peep into the ovarium: I put in pollen & afterwards found the tubes exserted & attached to & apparently penetrating the ovules; but never by the micropyle!23 I have now no doubt that you are perfectly right about fertilisation of Cypripedium;24 a friend lent me a plant of C. pubescens.25 I put excessively minute Bee (an Andrœna) into the Labellum & covered orifice with wet paper; but this precaution I afterwards found superfluous, for the edges all round of the orifice of labellum are folded over (just like insect traps for London kitchens) so that the Bee could not crawl out.— Well the bee immediately crawled out by one of the windows opposite the anthers, with his back towards the anther, against which he firmly pressed it, owing to the elastic wool opposite the anther. It was pretty to see under lens how the whole thorax & base of wings was smeared with pollen. I put him back into the labellum five times & five times I saw his back smeared. As you know he must pass under the stigma (with its spines directed towards the apex as you describe), for there is no other passage; & as I expected when I cut open the flower I found the stigma well smeared with pollen.—26 It was beautiful.—
Good Night | My dear Gray | Ever yours cordially | Though an Englishman | Charles Darwin
Fears England and U. S. will drift into war; he and AG must "keep to Science".
Thanks for facts on Incas; regrets he has always avoided the case of man.
Has sent his Linum paper [Collected papers 2: 93–105].
Is it true that Ohio has legislated against marriage of cousins?
Can AG explain the invariable angles in phyllotaxy; are they the consequence of packing in the early bud?
Owen’s comments on heterogeny in the Athenæum [28 Mar 1863] have vexed W. B. Carpenter; CD has replied [Collected papers 2: 78–80].
Hopes AG will observe Gymnadenia; John Scott has been experimenting on its fertilisation.
Gives his observation on pollination of Cypripedium.