skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   28 January [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 28th

My dear Gray

Hooker has forwarded to me your letter to him; & I cannot express how deeply it has gratified me.2 To receive the approval of a man, whom one has long most sincerely respected, & whose judgment & knowledge are universally admitted, is the highest reward an author can possibly wish for; & I thank you heartily for your most kind expressions.—

I have been absent from home for a few days, & so could not earlier answer your letter to me of the 10th of Jany. —3 You have been extremely kind to take so much trouble & interest about the Edition. It has been a mistake of my publisher not thinking of sending over the sheets. I had entirely & utterly forgotten your offer of receiving the sheets as printed off.4 But I must not blame my publisher; for had I remembered your most kind offer, I feel pretty sure I shd not have taken advantage of it; for I never dreamed of my Book being so successful with general readers: I believe I shd. have laughed at the idea of sending the sheets to America.—

After much consideration & on the strong advice of Lyell & others, I have resolved to leave the present book as it is (excepting correcting errors or here & there inserting short sentence) & to use all my strength which is but little to bring out the first part (forming a separate volume with index &c) of the three volumes which will make my bigger work; so that I am very unwilling to take up time in making corrections for an American Edition.— I enclose list of few corrections in the 2d Reprint, which you will have received by this time complete;5 & I could send 4 or 5 corrections or additions of equally small importance, or rather of equal brevity.—6 I, also, intend to write a short Preface with brief history of subject.—7 These I will set about, as they must some day be done & I will send them you in a short time,—the few corrections first, & the preface afterwards, unless I hear that you have given up all idea of separate Edition. You will then be able to judge whether it is worth having new Edition with your Review prefixed.8 Whatever be the nature of your Review, I assure you I should feel it a great honour to have my Book thus preceded.— In business matters it is always best to speak out plainly: as I should not, as we have managed it, get anything from an American publisher, if you do print an Edition & can get any profit, nothing should induce me to touch a penny of it.9 My terms with Murray are that I receive 23 of Profits, & he 13;—10 with respect to latter, I can of course say nothing.— But I expect when you come to consider the case, you will not think a new Edition worth thinking about; though an answer to Agassiz would be a great advantage to subject.—

Thank you much for telling me the magnificent compliment of Wyman & for sending me extract from Agassiz.11 I cannot see the force of his argument; & if he wished to puff my book he could not have been more ingenious.— I am delighted to hear that H. D. Rogers, the Professor at Glasgow & so excellent a geologist goes very long way with my views.—12

Believe me, my dear Gray I feel all your most generous sympathy & assistance

Yours most truly | C. Darwin

I shall value much at any time your criticisms, either in your Review or by letter.


Dated by the reference to an authorised American edition of Origin.
CD was in London from 24 to 27 January (Emma Darwin’s diary).
The enclosure has not been found. CD had asked his publisher to send Gray the unbound sheets of the second English edition of Origin late in 1859 (Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859]). For some of the corrections CD made to the second edition of Origin, published on 7 January 1860, see Correspondence vol. 7.
See the letters to Asa Gray, 1 February [1860] and [8 or 9 February 1860], in which CD enclosed additional changes for the American edition of Origin. The latter changes, however, arrived too late to be incorporated into the text and were included in a ‘Supplement’ to the revised fourth printing (Origin US ed., pp. 426–32). This edition also included other previously unpublished material: a long section responding to criticisms of natural selection by naturalists such as Hewett Cottrell Watson was added to the end of chapter four (Origin US ed., pp. 116*–21*). CD substantially reworked this discussion for the third English edition of Origin. See also Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix IV.
CD’s historical preface was included in the revised American edition of Origin, pp. v–xi. This issue was advertised on the title page as ‘a new edition, revised and augmented by the author’. See Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix IV.
Gray may have suggested this arrangement in the missing section of the letter from Asa Gray, [10 January 1860]. His review of Origin however, was not included in the revised and augmented American edition.
Gray’s letter of 23 January [1860], discussing details of the American negotations, did not reach CD until mid-February (see letter to Asa Gray, [8 or 9 February 1860]).
For CD’s arrangement with John Murray concerning the publication of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from John Murray, 1 April 1859. See also letter to Asa Gray, 1 February [1860].
CD refers to Jeffries Wyman and Louis Agassiz. The ‘extract from Agassiz’ may refer to a passage taken from a lecture delivered by Agassiz in January 1860 that was reported in a Boston newspaper. It is possible that CD sent the extract on to Charles Lyell, as he did other letters and material concerning Origin, for in Lyell’s scientific journal for the period there is an entry headed ‘Extract from lecture by Agassiz, Boston, January 1860’ (Wilson ed. 1970, pp. 348–9) that reads: What has the whale in the arctic regions to do with the lion or the tiger in the tropical Indies? There is no possible connection between them; and yet they are built respectively according to one & the same idea. There is behind them & anterior to their existence, a thought. There is a design according to which they were built, which must have been conceived before they were called into existence; otherwise these things could not be related in this general manner. Whenever we study the general relations of animals, we study more than the affinities of beasts. We study the manner in which it has pleased the Creator to express his thoughts in living realities; and that is the value of that study for intellectual Man; for while he traced these thoughts as revealed in nature, he must be conscious that he feels, and attempts as far as it is possible for the limited mind of man to analyze the thoughts of the Creator, to approach if possible into the counsels that preceded the calling into existence of this world with its inhabitants, and there lies really the moral value of the study of nature; for it makes us acquainted with the Creator in a manner in which we cannot learn [of] Him otherwise. As the Author of Nature, we must study Him in the revelation of nature in that which is living before our eyes.
Henry Darwin Rogers, an American-born geologist, was Regius professor of natural history at Glasgow University. On 23 December 1859, he wrote to his brother William Barton Rogers and mentioned his opinion of Origin (Rogers ed. 1896, 2: 17–18): The only matter of any interest is the appearance of Charles Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” It is a suggestive book, full of ingenious arguments in favour of the Lamarckian hypothesis … When you read it you will often say, I think, that in his geology Darwin outdoes Lyell himself in ignoring paroxysmal actions. This is its chief blemish with me.


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

Origin 2d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1860.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Origin US ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. A new edition, revised and augmented by the author. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton. 1860.

Rogers, Emma, ed. 1896. Life and letters of William Barton Rogers. 2 vols. Boston and New York.

Wilson, Leonard Gilchrist, ed. 1970. Sir Charles Lyell’s scientific journals on the species question. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.


If an American edition of Origin is considered worth while, CD would like AG’s reviews prefixed to it.

Will use all his strength to produce first part of his three-volume big work [Variation].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (43)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2665,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8