skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   24 November [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 24th

My dear Dr. Gray

Although I have nothing particular to say, yet I cannot resist thanking you warmly for your letter of Nov. 4th.—2 Your facts on northern range have indeed astonished me; they will be preeminently useful for my especial purpose.3

I forwarded your enclosures the same day of their receipt.—4

I am delighted to hear that you intend to attack the naturalised plants, with especial care.— I have ordered (indeed I ordered it many months ago) your new Edit. & hope soon to get it.—5

The last sentence in your letter at first surprised me & troubled me to a degree which would have made you laugh, had you seen me, viz “that a considerable part of our Alpine plants are not known in our Arctic continental regions”. I did not perceive that you had added but are connected with Scandinavia through Labrador &c.— And this made me happy again. But looking at the Globe is it not rather a forced expression to exclude Labrador from your “Arctic continental regions”?— Pray think of this, or you may confound some one else as you did me.

When you say that the only method to make you work is “to show you the way”—it convinces me of one thing alone,—that, as the very best workman sees blemishes in his work which other & poorer workmen cannot even perceive, so you cannot appreciate your own work in the generalising line.— Good Heavens if I had written a paper half as good as yours, how conceited I should have been!6

With my hearty thanks for all your kindness,—& I have just been looking over some of your old letters— Believe me | Your’s most truly | C. Darwin

I cannot get over my surprise at your naturalised & agragrian plants not being variable (I do not mean by this presenting marked races)—7 Pray keep this point in mind.


Gray, Asa. 1856–7. Statistics of the flora of the northern United States. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 22: 204–32; 23: 62–84, 369–403.


Variability of naturalised plants.

Distribution of Arctic/alpine plant species.

Limits to the northern range of plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (5)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1999,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6