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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   8 June [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

June 8th

My dear Gray

I have to thank you for two notes, one through Hooker, & one with some letters to be posted, which was done.—1 I anticipated your request by making a few remarks on Owen’s Review.2 Hooker is so weary of Reviews; that I do not think you will get any hint from him.—3 I have lately had many “more kicks than half-pence”. A review in last Dublin Nat. Hist. Review. is the most unfair thing which has appeared,— one mass of misrepresentation. It is evidently by Haughton, the geologist, chemist & mathematician. It shows immeasurable conceit & contempt of all, who are not mathematicians. He discusses Bees-cells, & puts a series, which I have never alluded to, & wholly ignores the intermediate comb of Melipona which alone led me to my notions. The article is a curiosity of unfairness & arrogance. But as he sneers at Malthus, I am content, for it is clear he cannot reason.4

He is a friend of Harvey, with whom I have had some correspondence.5 Your article has clearly as he admits influenced him: he admits to certain extent natural selection, yet I am sure does not understand me. It is strange that very few do, & I am become quite convinced that I must be an extremely bad explainer. To recur for moment to Owen. He grossly misrepresents & is very unfair to Huxley.6 You say that you think the article must be by pupil of Owen; but no one fact tells so strongly against Owen, considering his former position at Coll. of Surgeons, as that he has never reared one pupil or follower.—

In the number just out of Fraser’s magazine, there is article or Review on Lamarck & me by W. Hopkins, the mathematician; who like Haughton despises the reasoning powers of all naturalists. Personally he is extremely kind towards me; but he evidently in following number means to blow me into atoms.7 He does not in least appreciate the difference in my views & Lamarck’s, as explaining adaptation, the principle of divergence, the increase of dominant groups, & the almost necessary extinction of the less dominant & smaller groups &c. &c.—

Talking of adaptation, I have lately been looking at our common orchids, & I daresay the facts are as old & well-known as the hills, but I have been so struck with admiration at the contrivances, that I have sent notice to Gardeners Chronicle.8 The Ophrys Apifera, offers, as you will see, a curious contradiction in structure.— I get on very very slowly with my larger work; & of late from a very unhappy cause, my poor eldest daughter about 16 years old, has now been 40 days ill with low fever: we have had a good deal of anxiety, but I hope & think she has at last turned the corner, though the fever has not gone.—9

Farewell. When so inclined, pray write;—it is a great pleasure to me to hear from you.—   Yours most truly & gratefully | C. Darwin

P.S. I have been making some little trifling observations which have interested & perplexed me much. I find with Primroses & Cowslips, that about an equal number of plants are thus characterised So called (by me) male plants    Pistil much shorter than stamens; stigma rather smooth,—pollen grains large, throat of corolla short.—

So-called female plants    Pistil much longer than stamens, stigma rougher—pollen-grains smaller,—throat of corolla long.

I have marked a lot of plants, & expected to find so-called male plants barren; but judging from the feel of the capsules, this is not the case, & I am very much surprised at difference in the size of pollen, which I measured many times & always found 2 to 3/6000 of an inch less in diameter in the “female” than in the “male” plants.— If it should prove that the so-called male plants produce less seed than the so-called females, what a beautiful case of gradation from hermaphrodite to unisexual condition it will be! If they produce about equal number of seed, how perplexing it will be.—10


Neither of Gray’s letters has been located.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 June [1860]. CD refers to [R. Owen] 1860a.
In a letter to John Stevens Henslow written in June 1860, Hooker commented that he was ‘getting very tired of Darwinian Reviews; there is wonderfully little to the purpose in any but Gray’s and Owen’s, Huxley’s and Carpenter’s. All the rest seem ignorant prejudice.’ (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 514).
[Haughton] 1860b. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 5 June [1860], and to Charles Lyell, 6 June [1860].
William Henry Harvey was a close friend of Gray’s and had corresponded with him about Origin (Dupree 1959, p. 278).
[R. Owen] 1860a, which reviewed Origin and Hooker 1859, attacked Thomas Henry Huxley’s February 1860 lecture on species at the Royal Institution (T. H. Huxley 1860a).
Hopkins 1860. The review was published in Fraser’s Magazine in two parts: the first part appeared in the June issue, no. 61 (1860): 739–52; the second in the July number, no. 62 (1860): 74–90.
See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [4–5 June 1860].
For CD’s relief at Henrietta Emma Darwin’s improving health, see letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 June [1860].
See letters to J. S. Henslow, 14 May [1860] and 17 May [1860], and to J. D. Hooker, 20 May [1860]. CD’s observations are recorded in his Experimental book, pp. 53–7 (DAR 157a).


Dupree, Anderson Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Hopkins, William. 1860. Physical theories of the phenomena of life. Fraser’s Magazine 61: 739–52; 62: 74–90.

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.


Discusses recent reviews of Origin and has made a note on Owen’s [see 2737].

Has become interested in the floral structures of orchids.

Notes his recent observations on Primula; believes he has found male and female forms.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (40)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2825,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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