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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   12 March [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 12th.

My dear Gray

This note will be chiefly on business.— I received this morning Wrights Article:2 I have hardly glanced at it, but rather fear it is too metaphysico-theological for me. Huxley will be here in few days, & I will hand it to him & he will decide.3 If it does not suit him; what on earth shall I do with it? I have received, also, Procs. of American Academy in 4 vols.,—very many thanks for them.—4

I have received your note of Feb. 15th & am truly obliged to you for allowing me to bear very small risk of publication.5 I am surprised & pleased at sale of new Edit. of Origin in America.— You will have received before this the Bill for £7. s10. d0.—6 Your pamphlet will do the subject very great good, whether or no it sells.— I have had many letters about it; all full of praise—“truly admirable” says one, “& am lending my copy to one person after another”. Another says, “has read nothing on the subject with anything like the satisfaction”— Another says he (ie you) “is a cunning fencer & believes in you entirely”.— I wish this was half true; though I do not mean the cunningness, which is utterly mistaken & false.

I sent copies to Ward, Martineau & Mansell;7 but had already sent copies to Hooker, Bentham, Harvey & Balfour;8 so they will have duplicates. I was much pleased the other day by note from Leidy who professes adherence to natural Selection—9

Is any species of Cypripedium common with you? I wish you would just look whether pollen-masses are removed (by insects?).—10

Could you do me a great favour   procure me a pamphlet published in 1850 in Charleston, entitled “Letter to J. Bachman on the Question of Hybridity in Animals by D. Morton”.—11 Or was it subsequently published in any Journal? I know his paper in Silliman (& poor it is.)—12

I am heartily glad to hear about your thumb.—13

I have had my stomach so extra bad of late, that we have resolved to go bag & baggage for 6 weeks or two months, before May 1st., to Malvern for Hydropathy, which is sole thing which revives me.—14

Forgive this extra dull note, & believe me your ever most truly & obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is provided by the reference to A. Gray 1861a.
Chauncey Wright’s review of Origin was not published in the Natural History Review, of which Thomas Henry Huxley was chief editor. See also letters to Asa Gray, 11 April [1861], and to T. H. Huxley, 22 May [1861].
CD’s copies of the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences are in the Darwin Library–CUL. In the preceding year, the journal had carried reports of a number of discussions about CD’s theory.
Gray’s letter has not been found.
The botanist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was a fellow of the Linnean Society and of the Royal Society of London. Both James Martineau and Henry Longueville Mansel were noted for their theological and philosophical writings. See Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix III for CD’s presentation list for Gray’s pamphlet (A. Gray 1861a). Ward appears on the list, but Martineau and Mansel do not.
In a previous letter to Gray, CD included Joseph Dalton Hooker, George Bentham, and William Henry Harvey in a list of those to whom he planned to send a copy of A. Gray 1861a (see letter to Asa Gray, 23 [January 1861]). John Hutton Balfour may have received a personal copy or the one that CD sent to the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, of which Balfour was an editor. See Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix III.
Joseph Leidy’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to Joseph Leidy, 4 March [1861].
Gray’s observations on the orchid Cypripedium were not sent to CD in time to be included in the first edition of Orchids. In the second edition of 1877, however, CD cited Gray’s descriptions of several American species and quoted his statement that these orchids are ‘excellently adapted to brush off the pollen from an insect’s head or back.’ (Orchids 2d ed., p. 229).
S. G. Morton 1850a. CD had recorded this and other papers of Samuel George Morton published in the Charleston Medical Journal in the ‘books to be read’ section of his reading notebook (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *128: 165). A heavily annotated copy of the paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Morton’s essay endorsed the view that human races were separate species or ‘types’ and that interracial breeding produced ‘hybrids’. It was heavily cited by pro-slavery adherents before the American Civil War (see Stanton 1960).
S. G. Morton 1850a was a reply to a paper by John Bachman (Bachman 1850), which in turn commented on S. G. Morton 1847, a paper on hybridity published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, also known as ‘Silliman’s journal’. The correspondence on this issue carried on throughout 1850 in the Charleston Medical Journal.
Asa Gray had lost part of his left thumb in a gardening accident (Dupree 1959, pp. 307–8).
CD refers to James Manby Gully’s hydropathic establishment at Malvern, Worcestershire. The planned visit did not take place.


Bachman, John. 1850. An investigation of the cases of hybridity in animals on record, considered in reference to the unity of the human species. Charleston Medical Journal 5: 168–97.

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

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

Morton, Samuel George. 1847. Hybridity in animals, considered in reference to the question of the unity of the human species. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 3: 39–50, 203–12. [Vols. 4,7,9]

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

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.

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.

Stanton, William. 1960. The leopard’s spots; scientific attitudes toward race in America 1815–59. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.


Has received Chauncey Wright’s article.

Reports on favourable response to AG’s pamphlet.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (52)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3087,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9