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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   25 February [1864]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 25

My dear Gray

You have been so kind & good a friend to me, that I think you will like to have a note in pencil to hear that I am better. The vomiting is not now daily & on my good days, I am much stronger. My head hardly now troubles me, except singing in ears— It is now six months since I have done a stroke of work;2 but I begin to hope that in a few more months, I may be able to work again.— I am able most days now to get to my Hot-house   I amuse myself a little by looking at climbing plants. The first job which I shall do is to draw up result of Lythrum crosses3 & on movements of climbing plants.—4

I have of course seen no one & except good dear Hooker,5 I hear from no one. He like a good & true friend, though so overworked, often writes to me.—

I have had one letter which has interested me greatly with a paper which will appear in Linn. Journal by Dr. Cruger of Trinidad,6 which shows that I am all right about Catasetum. Even to spot where pollinia adhere to Bees, which visit flower, as I said, to gnaw the labellum.—7 Cruger’s account of Coryanthes & the use of the bucket-like labellum full of water beats everything: I suspect the Bees being well wetted flattens hairs & allows viscid disc to adhere.8

I have given up hearing the newspaper read aloud as Books are more amusing & less tiring. Good Heavens the lot of trashy novels, which I have heard is astounding.— I have heard little about America.— You wrote me some little time ago a pleasant letter,9 which for a month I have been wishing to answer & thank you for.— Sometime let me hear what you are doing & what you expect for your country.10

Your poor broken down brother naturalist & affetiont friend, | C. Darwin

I wish Dana was not so imaginative & speculative in his writings.—11


The year is established by the reference to Hermann Crüger’s paper (Crüger 1864), which had just been sent to the Linnean Society (see letter from Daniel Oliver, 18 February 1864).
For CD’s health and progress with his work in 1863 and 1864, see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II, and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 14, and ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II). See also Colp 1977, pp. 73–81, Bowlby 1990, pp. 370–8, and Browne 1998.
CD began counting Lythrum seeds in late April, and finished his paper ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria on 25 May 1864 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II)); for an early draft, see DAR 27.2. The paper was read at the Linnean Society on 16 June 1864.
In his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix II) CD wrote that he finished his paper on climbing plants in September 1864; however, he was still making additions in December 1864 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 December [1864] and n. 6.). ‘Climbing plants’ was read at the Linnean Society on 4 February 1865.
For CD’s excitement regarding Crüger’s confirmation of his Catesetum work, see letter to Daniel Oliver, 17 February [1864] and nn. 6–10.
The most recent known letter from Asa Gray is that of 23 November 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11). Gray’s letter of 16 February 1864 would not yet have reached CD.
CD refers to Gray’s reports of the American Civil War.
CD is probably referring to James Dwight Dana’s article ‘On the Appalachians and Rocky Mountains as time-boundaries in geological history’ (Dana 1863d). Dana 1863d was reprinted in the Reader, 2 January 1864, pp. 17–18; a cutting of this reprint, annotated by CD, is in DAR 205.2: 16. For discussion in 1863 of Dana’s recent work see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Charles Lyell, 17 [February 1863] and nn. 2–4, and letter to J. D. Dana, 20 February [1863].


Bowlby, John. 1990. Charles Darwin: a biography. London: Hutchinson.

Browne, Janet. 1998. I could have retched all night. Darwin and his body. In Science incarnate. Historical embodiments of natural knowledge, edited by Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

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

Crüger, Hermann. 1864. A few notes on the fecundation of orchids and their morphology. [Read 3 March 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 127–35.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


Has not worked for six months due to illness.

Has been looking at climbing plants.

Hermann Crüger’s paper shows that CD was right about Catasetum pollination. Crüger’s account of pollination of Coryanthes "beats everything".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (80)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4415,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

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