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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   27 August 1866

Cambride, Mass.

Aug. 27, 1866.

My Dear Darwin.

I have yours of the 4th. inst. which I think has crossed a line from me, telling you that I had got the sheets of Origin back from the Appleton’s.

You rightly infer that there is no hope at present for an Amer. reprint, unless you agree to fall in with Appleton’s shabby ways—which I think you will not be tempted to do.1

But I am encouraged to think that I can make a good arrangement with Messrs. Ticknor & Fields, of Boston, to bring out the new book, & allow Author 12 per cent. I shall confer with Mr. Fields.2

Agassiz is back (I have not seen him), and he went at once down to meeting of National Academy of Sciences—from which I sedulously keep away—and, I hear proved to them that the glacial period covered the whole continent of America with unbroken ice, and closed with a significant gesture and the remark “So here is the end of the Darwin theory”!3 How do you like that.

I said last winter, that Agassiz was bent upon covering the whole continent with ice,—and that the motive of the discovery he was sure to make was, to make it sure that there should be no coming down of any terrestial life from tertiary or post tertiary period to ours.4

You cannot deny that he has done his work effectually, in a truly imperial way!

I am glad your new ed. is not to be issued for 3 months yet. I want to read the sheets at odd moments and give a notice of the new ed. in some periodical—tho’ I can give little time to it.5

Ever dear Darwin, | Yours cordially | A. Gray

Charles Darwin, Esq | Down | Bromley | Please post

CD annotations

4.1 Agassiz … way! 6.1] enclosed in square brackets, pencil
Back of letter: ‘Lenny thanks | Lyell about Agassiz | Perfect case | copy of Origin | if Appleton | non-seeding Plants | Domestic animals woodcuts | Rhamnus’6 pencil, crossed pencil

CD note:7

P.S. I have just received a letter from Asa Gray with following passage, so that according to this I am chief cause of Agassiz’s absurd views


See letter to Asa Gray, 4 August [1866], and letter from Asa Gray, 7 August 1866 and n. 6. D. Appleton & Co. was the American publisher of Origin.
James Thomas Fields was the head of the publishing firm Ticknor & Fields. See the letter to Asa Gray, 4 August [1866] and n. 5.
Louis Agassiz headed an expedition to Brazil that left New York on 1 April 1865 and returned on 6 August 1866 (Lurie 1960, p. 346). On 12 August 1866, he read a paper ‘Traces of glaciers under the tropics’ to the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington; in this paper he advanced the hypothesis that glaciers had covered great areas in Brazil and concluded that a new creation of plants and animals occurred after the glaciers receded (Lurie 1960, p. 353). For Gray’s opinion of the fledgling National Academy of Sciences, see Dupree 1959, pp. 313–24, and Lurie 1960, pp. 334–5.
During the winter of 1864 to 1865, Agassiz had delivered a series of lectures at the Lowell Institute in Boston, in which he argued that glaciers in South America destroyed all life, and offered this claim as a proof of the fallacy of transmutation theory. He also suggested that an expedition to gather direct evidence of glacial action should be mounted (Lurie 1960, p. 345). For earlier discussion of Agassiz’s glacier theory, see the letters to Charles Lyell, 7 February [1866] and 15 February [1866].
Gray refers to the fourth edition of Origin, which had been printed in mid July but was only published in November 1866 (see letter from John Murray, 18 July [1866]). No review by Gray has been found.
CD’s note is a rough draft for a part of his letter to Charles Lyell, 8[–9] September [1866].
CD’s notes are for his reply to Gray’s letter (see letter to Asa Gray, 10 September [1866]).


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

Lurie, Edward. 1960. Louis Agassiz: a life in science. Chicago: University of Chicago 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.


Hopes to make good arrangement for publication of CD’s Variation.

Agassiz claims to have proved all of America was covered with unbroken ice during the glacial period.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 154
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5198,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

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