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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   3 October 1864

Cambridge, Mass.

Oct. 3, 1864

My Dear Darwin

Great was my delight at the perusal of yours of the 13th Sept.1 I had lately written to you, by Mr. Cresy2—a lugubrious letter,3 I suppose, as I had somehow got the impression from him that you were unable to work and quite poorly. To hear that you are actually setting again at Variation-book is capital news,4 and I hope we shall continue to hear more of the s〈ame〉 sort. Pray take it easy thou〈gh so as〉 not to break down again.

The notice of Dana’s Geology 〈    〉 was from me,5—a little thing, of 〈little〉 〈sig〉nificance. The Review of H. 〈Spencer〉 dabbling in metaphysics, and su〈pplying〉 a dynamic-aerolitic for m〈etamor〉phosis, was, of course not from 〈me.〉 It was by Chauncey Wright, 〈a〉 mathematician here—given 〈to philoso〉phizing—a thorough believer 〈in your〉 theory, &c &c—6 I sent it, be〈cause he〉 wished you to see it, and beca〈use〉 〈    〉 you to see how the N. Amer. 〈    〉 by Bowen [down] upon your bo〈ok〉7 〈and per〉ceives your notions as a 〈two or three words missing〉 and goes on further. 〈half a line missing〉 time to write, or think, and am still in the agony of moving library & herbm.—8 So receive a most hasty note.

Your abstract of the material points of Scott’s interesting paper will be a great convenience, as I can now—that I have no time to ponder it—get off a notice to Sill. Jour.9 What I have to send there should have been written before this.

We have for weeks been filled with mingled amazement and amusement at the views and expectations of the English—not only the Times,10 but 〈    〉 〈r〉est, expecting peace here by the 〈one or two words missing〉 of the North, and expecting the 〈one or two words missing〉 of the weak and irresolute Mc〈Clellan〉 on a Chicago platform.11 All 〈    〉 〈    〉ghts and expectations run in a 〈differ〉ent channel. If we can 〈one or two words missing〉 the rebels in arms as thoroughly 〈    〉 all their Democratic allies in 〈one or two words missing〉 a month hence, we shall 〈one or two words missing〉 see the end. I told you from 〈one or two words missing〉 〈th〉ere would be no give up, and 〈one or two words missing〉 South obstinately persevered, 〈one or two words missing〉 of slavery would be sealed, 〈two or three words missing〉 make a great noise:—the 〈two or three words missing〉 more quiet.— perhaps they 〈 12 line missing〉 But I shall be much 〈 12 line missing〉 〈McCle〉llan carries any other States than New Jersey, Indiana?, Maryland,. possibly little Delaware, and Kentucky.12

In patience possess your soul, and take these things easy, as we do. I like to know what you think, and so of one or two more. But beyond that, like the Country generally, have ceased to take any interest in British opinions of us and our doings. In time it will all be seen aright, and we can wait.

The Reader comes to me regularly, and I am much interested in its scientific articles.13

Adieu— I hope to get settled in a month or so— Pray continue to report favorably of yourself to | Your very cordial friend | A. Gray

CD annotations14

Verso: ‘Eggs— Cuckoo’ ink; ‘Huxley Paper’ pencil, del ink; ‘B. Walsh’ ink, del ink; ‘Phosphates | my work on laws | Tendrils— your God child— [How] species they [aid] work— | Daily-News.—’ ink


Edward Cresy had apparently visited Gray during a business trip to Boston (see letter from Edward Cresy, 29 July 1864).
The letter from Gray has not been found; evidently CD did not receive it (see letter to Asa Gray, 29 October [1864]).
Gray’s anonymous review of James Dwight Dana’s A text-book of geology (Dana 1864b) appeared in the issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts for August 1864 ([Gray] 1864). CD probably received the review in early September (see letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864]).
See letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864]. Gray refers to Chauncey Wright’s anonymous review ([Wright] 1864b) of the American edition of Herbert Spencer’s Essays: scientific, political, and speculative (Spencer 1864b). In the article, which appeared in the North American Review, Wright discussed John Frederick William Herschel’s nebular hypothesis and the ‘derivative hypothesis’ in biology, two themes that were discussed in Spencer 1864b. The two hypotheses, which concerned the origin of the solar system and the origin of species respectively, were linked by Wright as examples of explanations based on natural rather than divine causes. Wright also discussed the bearing of the new science of thermodynamics on ideas about the operation of the solar system. For a discussion of Wright’s response to CD’s theory, see Russett 1976, pp. 55–61.
The North American Review also contained an anonymous review by Wright ([Wright] 1864a) of Francis Bowen’s A treatise on logic (Bowen 1864). Bowen had used the argument of Origin that there is a tendency to variation in species as an example of what he called the ‘Fallacy of the Composite and Divisive Sense’. He argued that since examples of variation were greatly in a minority, the real tendency was for species not to vary (see [Wright] 1864a, p. 601). See also letter from Asa Gray, 5 December 1864 and n. 11.
A new building had been constructed at Harvard University to house Gray’s herbarium and library. See letters from Asa Gray, 16 February 1864 and 11 July 1864, and Dupree 1959, pp. 327–9.
CD had sent Gray an abstract and commentary on John Scott’s paper on the Primulaceae, along with the paper itself (Scott 1864a). See letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and nn. 7 and 11–15. Gray’s review of Scott 1864a appeared in the January 1865 issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts (Gray 1865); the journal was also known as ‘Silliman’s Journal’ after its founder, Benjamin Silliman.
On the reporting in The Times of recent political developments in the American Civil War, see the letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and n. 10.
George Brinton McClellan, formerly general-in-chief of the Union army, stood against Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1864 as the Democratic Party candidate and became a symbol of opposition to Lincoln’s war policies. The platform adopted by the Democratic Convention at Chicago included a resolution calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and a convention of the states in order to restore peace (McPherson 1988, p. 772).
McClellan carried only three states: New Jersey, Kentucky, and Delaware (McPherson 1988, p. 840). For Gray’s view of the likely outcome of the war see, for example, the letter from Asa Gray, 1 September 1863 and n. 16 (Correspondence vol. 11).
CD had asked Gray whether he had seen the Reader, a weekly journal reviewing literary and scientific works, in his letter to Gray of 28 May [1864].
CD’s annotations are notes for his letter to Gray of 29 October [1864].


Bowen, Francis. 1864. A treatise on logic, or, the laws of pure thought; comprising both the Aristotelic and Hamiltonian analyses of logical forms, and some chapters of applied logic. Cambridge, Mass.: Sever & Francis.

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

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

[Gray, Asa.] 1864. [Review of A text-book of geology, by J. D. Dana.] American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 37: 147–8.

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

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.

Russett, Cynthia Eagle. 1976. Darwin in America. The intellectual response 1865–1912. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company.


Review of Spencer was by Chauncey Wright.

Will get a note on John Scott’s paper off to Sillimans Journal [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 39 (1865): 101–10].

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 144
Physical description
3pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4625,” accessed on 13 May 2021,

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