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 28 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4919