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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   22 July [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent [Hartfield]

July 22d

My dear Gray

Owing to absence from home at Water-cure & then having to move my sick girl to whence I am now writing,2 I have only lately read the discussion in Proc.s American Acad.3 And I now I cannot resist expressing my sincere admiration of your most clear powers of reasoning. As Hooker lately said in a note to me, you are more than anyone else the thorough master of the subject.4 I declare that you know my Book as well as I do myself; & bring to the question new lines of illustration & argument, in a manner which excites my astonishment & almost my envy! I admire these discussions, I think, almost more than your article in Silliman’s Journal.5 Every single word seems weighed carefully, & tells like a 32-pound shot. It makes me much wish (but I know that you have not time) that you could write more in detail; & give, for instance, the facts on the variability of the American wild fruits.—

The Athenæum has largest circulation & I have sent my copy to Editor with request that he would republish the first discussion: I much fear he will not, as he reviewed subject in so hostile a spirit & is not a liberal man.—6 I fear that I shall lose my copy.—   I have received p. 410 to 416—and pp. 425 to 434—, so that pages 417 to 424 are missing7    I wish you would tell me whether I could buy these sheets of Proceedings.—

New York Times had not arrived when I left home.—   Hooker has lent me (& was much puzzled about authorship!) the July Monthly Atlantic:8 it is uncommonly pleasantly written, & will tell well on public.—   I shall be curious (& will order) the August number, as soon as I know that it contains your Review of Reviews.—9 My conclusion is that you have made a mistake in being a Botanist, you ought to have been a Lawyer, & you would have rolled in wealth by perverting the truth, instead of studying the living truths of this world.—

Of Reviews I have to report one in Quarterly by the Bishop of Oxford (Wilberforce) aided by Owen:10 it is uncommonly clever, not worth anything scientifically, but quizzes me in splendid style till I chuckled with laughter at myself—   From all that I gather, the B. Assoc. at Oxford advanced subject greatly, owing to effort of Hooker, Huxley & Lubbock, not withstanding incessant attacks. Henslow & Daubeny are shaken.—11 I hear from Hooker that he hears from Hochstetter that my views are making very considerable progress in Germany;12 & that good workers are discussing the question. Bronn at end of his Translation has a chapter of Criticism; but it is such difficult German, that I have not yet read it.—13 Hopkins’ Review in Fraser is thought the best which has appeared against us;14 I believe that Hopkins is so much opposed because his course of study has never led him to reflect much on such subjects as Geograph. Distribution, Classification, Homologies &c &c; so that he does not feel it a relief to have some kind of explanation.—

I see most clearly that my Book would have been a dead failure, had it not been for all the generous labour bestowed on it (not for my sake, but for subject sake) by yourself, Hooker, Huxley & Carpenter; & to these names I hope soon Lyell’s may be added.—   But I know that the Quarterly will cause Lyell to shake in his shoes.15 Considering his age, his former views & position in Society, I think his conduct has been heroic on this subject.—

I am tired, so will write no more. Farewell my kind & good friend. | Yours most truly | C. Darwin


CD visited Hartfield, Sussex, where Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood lived, from 10 July 1860 to 2 August (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD had taken the water-cure at Edward Wickstead Lane’s establishment at Sudbrook Park, Richmond, Surrey, from 28 June 1860 to 7 July (‘Journal’; Appendix II). He refers to the long-continued illness of Henrietta Emma Darwin.
Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 4 (1860): 410–15, 424–31. See letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 July 1860].
Joseph Dalton Hooker’s remark was probably made in a letter, now missing, that was written in the interval between receiving the letters to J. D. Hooker, [17 July 1860] and 19 [July 1860].
[Gray] 1860a.
William Hepworth Dixon was editor of the Athenæum from 1853 to 1869. The review of Origin in the Athenæum, 19 November 1859, pp. 659–60, was written by John R. Leifchild. It upset CD, who believed he had been ‘cut up in Athenæum, and under a theological point of view, unfairly’ (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, [after 21 November 1859]). An extract from the material CD sent to Dixon (Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 4 (1860): 411–16) was published in the Athenæum, 4 August 1860, p. 161. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 August [1860].
The ‘missing’ pages did not include any discussions relating to Darwin. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, [17 July 1860].
CD’s annotated copies of all three articles from the Atlantic Monthly ([Gray] 1860b) are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Gray’s article ‘Darwin and his reviewers’ appeared in the October issue.
[Wilberforce] 1860. CD believed that Richard Owen had helped Samuel Wilberforce write the review (see letters to J. D. Hooker, [20? July 1860], and to T. H. Huxley, 20 July [1860]).
Ferdinand Hochstetter, who was appointed professor of mineralogy and geology at the Imperial Polytechnic Institute in Vienna in 1860, attended the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford.
Bronn trans. 1860, pp. 495–520.


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

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.

[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.


Greatly praises AG’s discussion of Origin in Proc. Am. Acad. Arts & Sci. [4 (1860): 411–15; 424–6].

Mentions other reviews of Origin; believes the BAAS meeting at Oxford greatly advanced the subject. Has heard his views are gaining ground in Germany.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Hartfield Down letterhead
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (30)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2876,” accessed on 26 September 2023,

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