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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   16 February 1864

Cambridge. [Mass.]

Feb. 16, 1864

My dear Darwin

Here we are past midwinter, and, not being stimulated as of old by your exciting letters, I have not written you a line since Christmas.1 Not that I have had anything in particular to tell you. I write now to say how very sorry I am that the word or two I get about you from Hooker, gives me the idea that you are having a uncomfortable and suffering time, as well as entirely broken off from scientific work.2 I feel very sorry about it, and do long for better news of you. We can sympathise with you all the more from what my wife has undergone, with a most detestable stomach.3 Soon after Christmas it got complicated with a bad liver, and what not, and laid her up for a month or two, most of the time in bed, and a sad time we have had of it. She is now convalescent, however, tho’ still feeble. This trouble, which certainly was all brewed in the digestive organs, upset her head completely, with giddiness and pain, and manifold discomfort upon any exertion, even simple listening to reading, let alone reading herself. I have a notion you suffer much in the same way. And as she is slowly throwing it off, so I trust will you, please Providence, and that soon.

I have lately printed a couple of monographs—one pretty big one, of American Astragali.4 I do not know that they contain anything you would care to see. Yet I think I shall send you a copy, presently, through Hooker.5

I feel much the loss of dear old Boott6—so good, so true a friend, and he was always writing me little notes, telling me of all that was going on.

The sentiment of our country, you must see—at least I assure you—has settled—as I knew it would if the rebellion was obstinate enough—into a determination to do away with Slavery. Homely, honest, ungainly Lincoln is the representative man of the country.7

A Boston gentleman,8 at cost of $11,000 or more, is to build a fire-proof house for my herbarium—which I give to the University, with my botanical Library. A fund of $12000 is raising to support it—which will relieve me of the expenditure of about $500 a year. But, I shall have double care and bother all the coming spring and summer.9

Dr. Scudder has gone to Cuba—to attend an invalid and wishes to examine orchid-fertilization, and asks me what in particular he should look at.10

Pray, get well, dear Darwin, and believe me to be ever Yours cordially | Asa Gray


The most recent known letter from Asa Gray is dated 23 November 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11).
Joseph Dalton Hooker may have passed on CD’s reports of his poor health sent in his letters to J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1864] and [27 January 1864]. See also ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II) for CD’s record of his illness and work in 1864.
On Jane Loring Gray’s health, see Dupree 1959, p. 182.
Gray 1863a was a study of two genera of the Leguminosae, Astragalus and Oxytropis. Gray probably also refers to Gray 1863b.
No further mention of Gray 1863a or 1863b has been found in CD’s correspondence.
Gray refers to the growing support in the northern states for the abolition of slavery, to Abraham Lincoln and his opposition to slavery, and possibly to Lincoln’s developing plans for reconstruction (see McPherson 1988, pp. 684–713).
For the costs and construction of the Harvard University herbarium and the removal of Gray’s specimens and library there, see Dupree 1959, pp. 327–9.
Gray had earlier informed CD of an observation by Samuel Hubbard Scudder of Platanthera pollinia adhering to the eyes of a butterfly; see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Asa Gray, 29 December 1862 and n. 3, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Asa Gray, 27 January 1863, enclosure 1.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

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


Is sending his monograph ["A revision and arrangement of the North American species of Astragalus and Oxytropis", Proc. Am. Acad. Arts & Sci. 6 (1863): 188–236].

Death of Francis Boott.

U. S. is now determined to do away with slavery.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 142
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4409,” accessed on 20 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12