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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   28 January 1876

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan 28. 76

My dear Gray

I have to thank you for a whole pile of things, but beyond every thing else for the reviews in the Nation & Journal of Science.1 I do not think it would be possible to have given a fuller & clearer account of all my work. Although my own book is of course well-known to me, I found your articles quite instructive, and as you may well believe very pleasant to my vanity

I was much interested by your little essay on the diversified means of the dispersal of seeds. Do you know Hildebrand’s “Verbreitung’s mittel”? It is a capital essay; and he gives a great many analogous cases, but none more striking than yours.2 Lastly many thanks for your letter with the facts about Maurandia: what would I not have given for them when I was preparing the new Edit; but it is now too late, for I do not suppose I shall ever again touch the book.3 After much doubt I have resolved to act in this way with all my books for the future; that is to correct them once and never touch them again, so as to use the small quantity of work left in me for new matter. By the way there was an article in the last Gardener’s Chronicle well worth reading on vine tendrils.4

I am now getting ready a book on the advantages of crossing, which will be a sort of complement to my orchid book, as this was devoted to the means of crossing.5 I have given you a long tirade about myself, but I have nothing else to say as I have not seen a scientific soul for a very long time. Hooker6 seems to be absorbed in all sorts of routine work, and I fancy that you suffer largely in the same way.—

Believe me my dear Gray | Yrs ever sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Pray give our very kind remembrances to Mrs. Gray. I know that she likes to hear men boasting,—it refreshes them so much. Now the tally with my wife in backgammon stands thus: she, poor creature, has won only 2490 games, whilst I have won, hurrah, hurrah,




Gray’s reviews of Insectivorous plants appeared in Nation, 6 and 13 January 1876 ([A. Gray] 1876c; CD’s copy is in DAR 139.18: 11–12), and in the American Journal of Science and Arts, January 1876, pp. 69–74. See also Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Asa Gray, 28 December 1875.
In his paper on burrs in the borage family (Boraginaceae; A. Gray 1876b), Gray gave examples of mechanisms by which seeds could stick to animal coats and be dispersed. The mechanisms were more or less developed and had been adapted from different parts of the plant in different members of the family. CD’s copies of Gray’s paper and Friedrich Hildebrand’s Die Verbreitungsmittel der Pflanzen (Means of dispersal of plants; Hildebrand 1873), both annotated, the latter heavily, are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In Climbing plants 2d ed., p. 198, CD noted that Maurandia semperflorens (a misspelling of Maurandya semperflorens; a synonym of Maurandya scandens, creeping snapdragon) had peduncles capable of revolving in small circles, and postulated that they might easily become adapted into coiling tendrils. In his letter of 28 December 1875 (Correspondence vol. 23), Gray gave CD examples of Californian species of Maurandia that had fully coiling peduncles.
In Orchids, CD had discussed how floral morphology prevented self-fertilisation and ensured crossing, while in Cross and self fertilisation, he compared the growth and vigour of several generations of crossed and self-fertilised plants.
Backgammon was probably played during Asa and Jane Loring Gray’s visit to Down in 1868, and CD sent Gray at least one previous report on his games with Emma (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and n. 12).


Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Fish, David Taylor. 1876. Bunches v. tendrils. Gardeners’ Chronicle, 22 January 1876, pp. 116–18.

Hildebrand, Friedrich. 1873. Die Verbreitungsmittel der Pflanzen. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Thanks for reviews of Insectivorous plants and of Climbing plants in Nation and American Journal Science [see 10329].

AG’s essay on seed dispersal ["Burs in the borage family", Am. Nat. 10 (1876): 1–4].

Preparing book on advantages of crossing [Cross and self-fertilisation].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (111)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10370,” accessed on 27 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24