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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   29 July 1862

Providence R.I.

July 29, 1862

My Dear Darwin.

No more news in the Orchis line. I am making 2 or 3 days of holiday, and yesterday I found a few specimens of Gymnadenia tridentata. But the flowers are too small to examine well with a hand lens. If they keep, I will take them back to Cambridge in a day or two, and see what is to make of them.1 I write a line to say that I have just received the 6 copies of Orchis-book from Trübner. And I wish to ask you not to pay Trübner for them.2 Leave it for me to do at my leisure. I find—supposing the book is a half-guinea book, that he has charged me £3.3. for the six,—i.e. full retail price, instead of treating my order as he would have treated one from a bookseller.—which is what I was fairly entitled to.

It would be gross, therefore that you should pay £3.3. for what your own publisher would have supplied you for a little more than two.

On my return home I must sit down and write a further notice of your book. But I hope that, meanwhile, I shall learn from you how you like my first notice.3 You ought to be satisfied with it, as it is mainly a string of extracts from the book itself.

As to the country, you will see by this time that we have not the least idea of abandoning the struggle. We have learned only, that there is no use trying any longer to pick up our eggs gently, very careful not to break any. The South force us at length to do what it would have been more humane to have done from the first,—i.e. to act with vigor,—not to say rigor.4

We shall be complained of for our savageness, no doubt,,—whereas we feel that our error has been all the other way. But the independence, the total indifference to English feeling which you recommended last year, has come at length. Now we care nothing what Mrs. Grundy says.5

Ever, dear Darwin. | Yours faithfully | Asa Gray


For Gray’s observations on this species, see the letters from Asa Gray, 4 August 1862 and 18–19 August 1862.
Gray had asked CD to arrange for six copies of Orchids to be sent to him by the London publisher and bookseller, Nicholas Trübner, who frequently acted as Gray’s London agent (see letter to Nicholas Trübner, 23 June [1862]). CD had offered to pay for these copies (see letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862]), but Gray declined CD’s offer in the letter from Asa Gray, 21 July 1862.
A. Gray 1862a; the review appeared in the July number of the American Journal of Science and Arts, of which Gray had sent CD a copy (see letter from Asa Gray, 15 July [1862] and n. 16). Gray followed the review with an article in the November issue of the journal, consisting of observations on a number of North American orchids (A. Gray 1862b).
Following the failure of the Union army to take the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, at the start of July 1862, Union policy ‘took a decisive turn toward total war’ (McPherson 1988, p. 490; see also letter from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862 and n. 22).
‘Mrs Grundy’ is a character in Thomas Morton’s play, Speed the plough (1798); fear of her sneering causes her neighbour, Dame Ashton, repeatedly to ask ‘What will Mrs. Grundy say?’ (OED).


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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

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.


Is observing Gymnadenia tridentata.

Has received six copies of Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Providence, R.I.
AU 11 62
Source of text
DAR 165: 115
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3670,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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