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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   7 May 1866

Cambridge, Mass.

May 7, 1866.

My Dear Darwin

I am so delighted to get a letter from you, written with your own hand, and to see that you can work again a little.1

I am distracted with every sort of bothering occupation at this season, and am good for nothing either for scientific work or for correspondence. But I write a hurried line to say something about a new ed. of Origin.2

As to the Amer. ed. I have nothing from the Appleton’s for years; the sale, I suppose, has gone on slowly, but they have made no returns.3 Now would be a good time to bring out here a new ed., and if you would send me the sheets—or say that you will send them, I will write to the Appleton’s asking them in the first instance if they will bring it out, and allow you the paltry 5 per cent on sales. And if they decline I would arrange with a Boston publisher, and have the work brought out in a handsome form, as a standard author.4

Please write me a line that I can initiate proceedings upon. Of course I also wish a copy of the new ed. for myself.5

I have no new facts about the influence of pollen on fruit,—nor about influence of grafts.6

I have got a little plant of Bignonia capreolata growing here. I punched a lot of holes into the shady side of a lath; the tendrils thrust their ends in,—also into crevice; but did not stay; either the movement of stem or tendril, or at length the shortening of the body of the tendril by coiling—which it does promptly—brought all away. I have stuck some cotton on to the lath at the proper height for the next pair of tendrils. The tendril near by stuck fast at once, and is beginning to develop the disks. And now the tendril of the other leaf has bent abruptly round, and seized the cotton with avidity.7 Are there any new observations I can make.

The Fenian scare we have supposed here was mainly a plan of certain rogues here to fleece their poor countrymen & women here—poor servants & working-men: nothing more could come of it.8 But I sadly fear many here have enjoyed the trouble it has given and the alarm it has excited,—especially among our neighbors in New Brunswick9—who rather enjoyed our woes 2 or 3 years ago.10

—Yes, Slavery is thoroughly done for.11 We have a bad set to deal with at the South; and holding Wolf by the ears is no pleasant nor hopeful occupation,—as, the temper of the wolf does not improve under the holding. But we shall jangle out of the difficulty in time, even with such a crooked character as our President to deal with also.12

Take good care of your health; and bring out the book on Variation soon.13

Ever Yours affectionately | A. Gray

CD annotations

6.8 Are there … can make.] double scored pencil


In his letter to Gray of 16 April [1866], CD mentioned that he had been working on a new edition of Origin, which had been requested by his publisher John Murray.
See letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866] and n. 11. Gray had negotiated with the publisher, D. Appleton & Co., the author’s share of the profits of the US edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Asa Gray, 21 December [1859], and letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859], and Correspondence vol. 8). By 1 May 1860, 1750 of a print-run of 2500 copies had been sold (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 22 May [1860] and enclosure 1). The edition was reprinted in 1861, 1864, and 1865 (Freeman 1977); however, no record of these print-runs or of the volumes sold between 1861 and 1865 has been found. See letter from Asa Gray, 3 July 1866.
Gray refers to the Boston publishing firm of Ticknor & Fields (see letter from Asa Gray, 27 August 1866). D. Appleton and Co. did not publish a new edition of Origin until 1870 (Freeman 1977).
Gray’s name appears on the presentation list for the fourth edition of Origin (see Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix IV).
CD had been interested in the development of adhesive disks at the ends of tendrils in Bignonia caproleata; the plant was unable to climb on smooth surfaces, but CD had observed that the tendrils penetrated the loose fibres of wool (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 December [1864] and n. 13). He had discussed the adhesive properties of the plant with Gray, who believed that he had seen the plant climbing trees covered with mosses and lichens (see ibid., letter to Asa Gray, 28 May [1864], and letter from Asa Gray, 11 July 1864). Bignonia caproleata is discussed in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 56–9, 102–5, and 113. See also Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Fritz Müller, [12 and 31 August, and 10 October 1865].
On the Fenian movement in the United States, see the letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866] and n. 15.
Fenian troops made several raids into Canadian territory in 1866, including an attempt to capture Campobello Island, New Brunswick, in early April (Senior 1991).
Gray refers to losses incurred by the Union army in the American Civil War. A majority of the Canadian press, including most major newspapers, had been anti-Union during the war; the New Brunswick press had been predominantly anti-Union (Winks 1960, pp. 221–2).
On Andrew Johnson’s clashes with the United States Congress over the policy of reconstruction in the southern states, see the letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866] and n. 16.
See letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866] and n. 9. Variation was published in January 1868 (Freeman 1977).


‘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.

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

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.

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.

Senior, Hereward. 1991. The last invasion of Canada: the Fenian raids, 1866–1870. Toronto and Oxford: Dundurn Press.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Winks, Robin. 1960. Canada and the United States: the Civil War years. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.


Thinks a new U. S. edition of Origin is needed.

Gives observations on the climbing habits of Bignonia capreolata.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 150
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5081,” accessed on 20 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14