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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   9 February [1868]1

Down Bromley Kent.

Feb 9th

My dear Gray.

Last August you gave me Dr Rothrocks address simply “New York”, & to day the letter despatched in September has been returned to me, as “not found”. As I do not like that he shd. think me uncourteous & ungrateful, will you address & forward the enclosed, though it is not in itself worth sending.—2 I despatched about 2 or 3 weeks ago the last sheets, Title &c. of my Book. I have become fairly disgusted with it, but yesterday I heard that whole edit of 1500 copies was sold in a week! & a new Edit is to be printed in a fortnight, so urgent is the demand.3 Unfortunate people, they clearly do not know what they are eager for. The book has been an immense labour to me & I have the greatest doubt whether it is worth one half or one quarter of the labour. Anyhow it will show the public that I did not speak out without having worked at my subject.— Nearly all the chapters were partially and some fully written before I published the Origin.—4 If you can help me about expression, pray give any likely man a reminder.—5

My dear Gray | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin

We have been so much pleased by our second son being second Wrangler at our Cambridge, which implies profound mathematical knowledge & talent.—6


The year is established by the reference to CD’s son being second wrangler (see n. 6, below).
Gray’s letter of August 1867 has not been found, but he had probably enclosed the letter from J. T. Rothrock to Asa Gray, 22 August 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15), which gave Joseph Trimble Rothrock’s address as New York. In his reply to CD, Gray gave Philadelphia as the correct address (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from Asa Gray, 25 February [1868]). The enclosure has not been found, but was probably thanks for Rothrock’s help with the names of tribes from the Nass river, Canada.
Variation was published on 30 January 1868 (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter from John Murray, 6 February [1868]); a second printing of 1200 copies appeared in February (Freeman 1977).
CD’s ‘big book’ on species was originally drafted between 1856 and 1858. Having published Origin as an abstract of his ‘big book’, CD planned to revise the longer manuscript for publication (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to John Murray, 22 December [1859]). In the event, only the first part of the projected work was published, broadly based on the first two chapters of the original manuscript (Variation; see Natural selection). CD had started working on Variation intermittently in 1860; it was published on 30 January 1868 (Freeman 1977).
CD began sending out a standard list of queries on expression by December 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to B. J. Sulivan, 31 December [1866]). Gray had had copies of CD’s questionnaire printed and had sent some to CD (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Asa Gray, 26 March 1867). Rothrock had already recorded answers to the questionnaire from tribes in north-western British Columbia in his letter to Gray of 31 March 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15). Expression was published in 1872 (Freeman 1977).
George Howard Darwin was second wrangler at Cambridge in 1868, that is, he was second in the final examination for the mathematical tripos (Cambridge University calendar 1868).


Asks that Gray forward a parcel to J. T. Rothrock. Variation is selling well. Nearly all chapters written before Origin was published.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
William Patrick Watson (dealer) (catalogue 19, 2013)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5851F,” accessed on 17 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)