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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   11 April [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

My dear Gray

I was very glad to get your Photograph:2 I am expecting mine which I will send off as soon as it comes. It is an ugly affair, & I fear the fault does not lie with the Photographer.—3

I believe, but cannot swear, that I wrote & told you that Wrights Review had come through Sampson & Son.4 I had time hardly to read it, before Huxley took it away. He much feared it was too general & not natural-Historical enough for him.5 This was my impression, likewise; though I daresay it is very clever. What shall I do with it, if Huxley does not take it? I know no other Review to send it to.—

Since writing last I have had several letters full of highest commendations of your Essay:6 all agree that it is by far the best thing written, & I do not doubt it has done the Origin much good. I have not yet heard how it has sold. You will have seen Review in G Chronicle.—7 There is to be a Review by A. Murray in next Eding. New Phil. Journal.—8 I received the Letter of Credit returned: I am pleased & surprised at Profit from the American Edit.9 Remember that you are to be at no expence about your Essay. I presume nothing literary now sells in the troubled U. States.10

Poor dear Henslow, to whom I owe much, is dying; & Hooker is with him.—11

Many [thanks] for two sets of sheets of your Proceedings.12 I cannot understand what Agassiz is driving at.—13 You once spoke, I think, of Prof. Bowen, as a very clever man. I shd have thought him a singularly unobservant & weak man from his writings.14 If ever he agrees with me on any one point, I shall conclude that I must be in error on that. He never can have seen much of animals or he would seen the difference of old & wise dogs & young ones.— His paper about hereditariness beats everything.15 Tell a breeder that he might pick out his worst individual animals & breed from them & hope to win a prize; & he would think you not a fool, but insane.— I believe Bowen is a metaphysician & that I presume accounts for an entire want of common sense.

Please remember Spiranthes;16 if you insert a culm of grass, remember before you withdraw it to bend or bow it towards rostellum. Please if you come across wild Apocynum, observe whether it catches flies as in England.—17 I enclose my Photograph which has come rather crumpled, but I suppose can be ironed smooth.—18

My dear Gray | Yours most truly | C. Darwin—

P.S. I enclose a little Photograph made this morning by my eldest Son19

April 11th.—


Dated by the reference to A. Gray 1861a.
Gray’s photograph has not been found in the Darwin Archive. For a contemporary photograph of Gray, see the frontispiece to Correspondence vol. 6.
The photograph to which CD refers may be the one of him taken in the late 1850s (see the frontispiece to Correspondence vol. 8).
See letter to Asa Gray, 12 March [1861]. CD refers to Sampson Low and his son Sampson Low Jr, who were partners in the publishing firm Sampson Low, Marston & Co. of Ludgate Hill, London (Modern English biography).
Thomas Henry Huxley had agreed to consider publishing Chauncey Wright’s review of Origin in the Natural History Review, of which Huxley was senior editor. The review did not appear in the journal.
A. Gray 1861a.
A review of A. Gray 1861a appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 9 March 1861, p. 219. CD had helped to arrange the review (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 20 [February 1861]).
No notice of A. Gray 1861a appeared in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal. Andrew Murray had told CD that he would notice Gray’s pamphlet in the journal (see letter from Andrew Murray, 3 March 1861).
According to CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II), he received £10 10s. from D. Appleton and Co. in May 1861 as his share of the profits on the American edition of Origin. However, this amount reflected that remaining after Gray had used part of the money to pay for the printing costs of A. Gray 1861a. In the letter from Asa Gray, 31 March [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), Gray informed CD about this transaction: ‘I took about £50 … which ⁠⟨⁠Ap⁠⟩⁠pleton & Co sent me for ⁠⟨⁠your⁠⟩⁠ book, to pay the printers with’. In May 1860, CD had received £21 17s. 6d. Gray had negotiated on CD’s behalf with the publisher, who agreed to grant CD author’s royalties on the edition (see Correspondence vol. 8).
The United States of America was on the brink of civil war. Hostilities broke out on 12 April 1861, when Southern troops fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina (EB).
Joseph Dalton Hooker and his wife Frances Harriet Hooker were at John Stevens Henslow’s bedside at the rectory in Hitcham, Suffolk. Henslow died on 16 May.
CD obviously forgot to write ‘thanks’ when he began a new page. Gray had sent CD copies of pages from volume 5 of the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which carried discussions relating to CD’s theory of the origin of species. Both Francis Bowen, professor of natural religion, moral philosophy, and civil polity at Harvard, and Louis Agassiz, professor of natural history, had presented papers at a meeting of the Boston society on 8 January 1861 (see Bowen 1861). For CD’s earlier mention of this discussion, see the letter to Charles Lyell, 2 February [1861].
Bowen had published two reviews of Origin in 1860. The first ([Bowen] 1860a) CD described as being ‘clever & dead against me’ (see Correspondence vol. 8, letters to J. D. Hooker, 18 [April 1860], and to Asa Gray, 25 April [1860]). The second (Bowen 1860b) CD repudiated as being ‘absurd’, ‘monstrous’, and ‘rubbish’ (see ibid., letter to Asa Gray, 26 November [1860]).
In Bowen 1861, Bowen denied the heritability of mental and physical traits (see letter to Charles Lyell, 2 February [1861]).
CD had asked Gray to make observations of the American species of Spiranthes (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 31 October [1860]). Gray’s observations on Spiranthes are cited in Orchids, p. 123 n.
CD did not discuss Apocynum in Insectivorous plants.
See n. 3, above.
The photograph of CD taken by William Erasmus Darwin, from the Gray papers in the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, is reproduced as the frontispiece to this volume.


Bowen, Francis. 1860b. Remarks on the latest form of the development theory. [Read 27 March, 10 April, and 1 May 1860.] Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences n.s. 8 (pt 1) (1861): 97–122.

Bowen, Francis. 1861. Observations of the supposed hereditability of peculiar traits of bodily and mental organization, and especially of mental disease. [Read 8 January 1861.] Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 5 (1860–2): 102–10.

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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.

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.


Huxley and CD fear Chauncey Wright’s review is too general.

Reports the praise for AG’s pamphlet.

J. S. Henslow is dying.

Francis Bowen strikes CD as weak and unobservant; presumes he is a metaphysician, which accounts for his "entire want of common sense".

Does wild Apocynum catch flies in U. S.?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (53)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3115,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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