skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   16 October [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Oct 16

My dear Gray

I send by this post clean sheets of Vol. 1. up to p. 336, & there are only 411 pages in this vol.2 I am very glad to hear that you are going to review my book; but if the Nation is a newspaper I wish it were at the bottom of the sea, for I fear that you will thus be stopped reviewing me in a scientific journal.3 The first Vol. is all details, & you will not be able to read it; & you must remember that the Chapters on plants are written for naturalists who are not botanists. The last Chap. in Vol. 1 is, however, I think a curious compilation of facts; it is on bud-variation. In Vol. 2 some of the Chaps are more interesting; & I shall be very curious to hear your verdict on the Chap. on close inter-breeding.4 The Chap. on what I call Pangenesis will be called a mad dream, & I shall be pretty well satisfied if you think it a dream worth publishing; but at the bottom of my own mind I think it contains a great truth.5 I finish my book with a semi-theological paragraph, in which I quote & differ from you; what you will think of it I know not.6

Many thanks for a 2nd note recd some time ago on Dionæa.7

I have done nothing worth mentioning this summer, as all my time has been consumed in correcting horrid proof sheets. I may mention one little fact which may possibly interest you. A man in Natal sent me a little packet by post of the dung of locusts with the statement that it was believed that locusts brought new plants to the districts which they visited.8 Six Grasses, belonging to at least two species have germinated out of the dung, & the seeds were fairly enclosed in the little pellets, as I ascertained by dissection. This verifies what I said in the Origin, that many new methods of transport wd be discovered; for locusts are often blown many 100 miles out to sea.9

The rest of the sheets which have all been corrected will be printed off by the middle of Novr. & shall be sent to you in 2 or 3 packets. Do not forget to let me have hereafter a copy of the Nation.10

My dear Gray | yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Asa Gray, [after 17 September 1867].
CD refers to proof-sheets of Variation.
Gray told CD that he planned to write a review of Variation for the Nation, a weekly newspaper (see letter from Asa Gray, [after 17 September 1867] and n. 2). The Nation was intended to discuss the political and economic issues of the day ‘with greater accuracy and moderation’ than were found in the daily newspapers, and to print ‘sound and impartial criticisms’ of books and works of art (ANB).
CD refers to chapter 17 of Variation, ‘On the good effects of crossing, and on the evil effects of close interbreeding’ (Variation 2: 114–44).
See Variation 2: 357–404. For Gray’s reaction to pangenesis, see [Gray] 1868 and Dupree 1959, pp. 356–7.
For CD’s concluding paragraph, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867], n. 7.
See letter from Asa Gray to J. D. Hooker, [after 6 July 1867]. Gray enclosed a letter from William Marriott Canby describing his experiments with Dionaea (Venus fly-trap). CD thanked Gray for Canby’s letter in a letter of 8 August [1867]. Evidently, Gray sent further observations, but no additional letter has been found.
James Philip Mansel Weale had sent CD a packet of locust dung with his letter of 7 July 1867. In his reply to Weale, CD had been doubtful of finding any seeds (see letter to J. P. M. Weale, 27 August [1867]).
See Origin, p. 363. CD reported the results of his experiments in Origin 5th ed., p. 439.
The 19 March 1868 issue of the Nation, in which Gray’s review appeared, has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.


ANB: American national biography. Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. 24 vols. and supplement. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999–2002.

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

[Gray, Asa.] 1868. [Review of Variation.] Nation 6 (19 March 1868): 234–6.

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

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.

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


Sends sheets of first volume of Variation.

Transport of seeds in locust dung.

Pangenesis will be called "a mad dream".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (95)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5649,” accessed on 5 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15