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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   21 April [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 21st

My dear Gray.—

I am in your debt for two pleasant notes.2 First for business: I should greatly prefer your not returning any of Trübners remittance;3 but you really must not return more than half, as otherwise I shall have gained an immense advantage in having given away many copies of your Pamphlet, gratuitously.4 So add to all your kindness by letting matters remain as they are. I have settled with Trübner.— Trübner has not sold quite all; if copies are quite superfluity rich I shd. certainly like 12 a dozen or dozen to give away. I was asked for one but yesterday. I have never met one person who was not delighted with your writing.—

Secondly, in a week or 10 days I shall send 12 of my vol. on Orchids, as you desired;5 & other half will soon follow for they set up the whole, before they printed off a sheet.— I fear it can never be popular; but do not judge too severely by first half; for, if I do not deceive myself the two last chapters are better.—6 I believe I have been very foolish in publishing in popular form.—7 When I told Murray that I wanted clean sheets to send you; he thought of some arrangement for American republication, as he said Lyell’s new Book is to appear in America; but with my incomparably less important book it seems to me, as things now are, quite out of the question; but I have thought it as well just to mention what Murray said.—8

The North seems going on grandly victorious;9 & thank God there is distinct ground broken on the Slavery question;10 but we stupid English cannot yet believe that you will ever be a single Union again.—

I hope that you will ask your pupil to look carefully to gradation in sexes in your Hollies.—11 As far as I can yet judge, I am not only wrong, but diametrically wrong about Melastomas, or at least about some of them;12 if a Rhexia grew in a Garden, it would be good to cover up a plant under net & see if it seeded as well as uncovered plants.—13

Thanks for Mill’s pamphet, which is very good & I had not seen it;14 indeed I see hardly any Reviews or Periodicals.—

Hooker has been here for 3 days & we had lots of pleasant talk:15 I am always full of admiration & love for him: I wish he had not so tremendous & dry a job in hand, as the Genera Plantarum.—16

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to the publication of Orchids (see n. 5, below).
See letters from Asa Gray, 6 March [1862] and 31 March [1862].
The reference is to the London publisher Nicholas Trübner (see letter from Asa Gray, 31 March [1862]). See also n. 4, below.
CD and Gray shared the cost of reprinting and publishing as a pamphlet Gray’s reviews of Origin from the Atlantic Monthly (A. Gray 1861). CD privately distributed over 100 copies of the pamphlet. Trübner acted as London agent for the sale of the remainder of the pamphlets sent to Britain. See Correspondence vol. 9, especially Appendix III.
Gray had asked CD to send him the sheets of Orchids as soon as they were printed because he wished to write an early review (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 31 December 1861). Orchids was published on 15 May 1862 (Freeman 1977, p. 112).
The penultimate chapter of Orchids, chapter 6, was devoted largely to the Catasetidae, described by CD as ‘the most remarkable of all Orchids’ (Orchids, p. 211). The final chapter discussed homologies of orchid flowers and the diversity of flower structure, and presented CD’s general conclusions about the functions of the various contrivances for pollination.
CD originally intended to publish his account of orchid adaptations as a paper in the Proceedings or Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Murray, 21 September [1861]).
CD refers to his publisher, John Murray, who also published Charles Lyell’s Antiquity of man (C. Lyell 1863a). Lyell’s book was first published in America in 1863 (NUC); an American edition of Orchids did not appear until 1877 (Freeman 1977, p. 113).
The Union army secured a number of victories in the American Civil War during the spring of 1862—at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February, Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March, and Shiloh, Tennessee, in April (McPherson 1988, pp. 392–414).
On 6 March 1862, President Abraham Lincoln asked the United States Congress to support a resolution offering Federal compensation for voluntary emancipation of slaves. Congress adopted Lincoln’s resolution on 10 April 1862 (Curry 1968).
In the letter to Asa Gray, 17 September [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), CD asked whether, unlike the ‘English Holly (& all the cultivated vars.)’, any of the American species of holly showed signs of gradation indicating ‘the steps by which it became dioicous’. In reply, Gray sent some observations, but reported that further observations would be necessary (see ibid., letter from Asa Gray, 11 October 1861, and letter to Asa Gray, [after 11 October 1861]). CD refers to Gray’s ‘zealous pupil’, probably Joseph Trimble Rothrock (see letter from Asa Gray, 6 March [1862] and n. 6).
CD had asked Gray to carry out some observations on Rhexia in the letters to Asa Gray, 16 February [1862] and 15 March [1862].
Mill 1862. See letter from Asa Gray, 6 March [1862] and n. 8.
Joseph Dalton Hooker was a guest at Down House from 17 to 21 April 1862 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Bentham and Hooker 1862–83.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Curry, Leonard P. 1968. Blueprint for modern America: nonmilitary legislation of the first Civil War congress. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

McPherson, James M. 1988. Battle cry of freedom: the Civil War era. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

NUC: The national union catalog. Pre-1956 imprints. 685 vols. and supplement (69 vols.). London and Chicago: Mansell. 1968–81.

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.


Is sending first half of orchid book.

Feels he is wrong about Melastoma.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (65)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3513,” accessed on 28 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10