To Asa Gray 19 October 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Gray
I received yesterday your article on Climbers2 & it has pleased me in an extraordinary & even silly manner. You pay me a superb compliment & as I have just said to my wife I think my friends must perceive that I like praise, they give me such hearty doses.3
I always admire your skill in reviews or abstracts, & you have done this article excellently & given the whole essence of my paper.— I daresay you are right about the climbing roses; I never thought about spring shoots behaving differently from others.4 I have had a letter from a good zoologist in S. Brazil, F. Müller, who has been stirred up to observe climbers & gives me some curious cases of Branch-climbers, in which branches are converted into tendrils, & then continue to grow & throw out leaves & new branches & then lose their tendril character.5
I am certainly better & have not vomited for above 5 weeks. This is certainly due to not having eaten any thing but toast & meat for the last 2 months. But I cannot recover mental strength & I do no regular work.6 I have had some flowers crossed for me this summer & have lately been counting seeds.7
You might like to hear that Mitchella behaves exactly like the Cowslip.8 Did I ever tell you that a year or two ago I ascertained that Pulmonaria offers a curious case. The long-styled form being absolutely sterile with its own pollen, whilst the short-styled is almost perfectly with its own pollen.9 I have also ascertained that plants raised from Dimorphic species fertilized by their own pollen, are themselves generally sterile, & are often dwarfs, so that they offer the closest analogy with Hybrids; the first cross & the product both being more or less sterile; this seems to me a very curious fact.10
I do not know when I shall be able to publish any of these results, for I have resolved, whenever able to do any thing, to publish my next book.11 I have not heard very lately from Hooker, who I believe returns tomorrow to Kew. His illness has been very serious.12 To me the loss of his correspondence has been very great.
My wife has read aloud to me Stephens’s 2 books on Central America.13 What a remarkably pleasant writer he is! & how singularly deficient in the spirit of a naturalist. Who is he & is he still alive14 we liked his books extremely.
With cordial thanks for all your kindness & you are enough to stimulate a dead man to work.
Yours affect | C. Darwin
AG’s article on climbing plants [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 40 (1865): 273–82] is admirable and complimentary.
Reports Fritz Müller’s observations on climbers.
Experiments on dimorphism with Mitchella and Pulmonaria.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4919,” accessed on 3 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4919