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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   3 August 1871

Botanic Garden, | Cambridge, Mass.

Aug 3, | 1871

My Dear Darwin

Thank you for apprising me of the coming of your sons.1 It will be a great pleasure to us to do the little we can to make their visit interesting. I will communicate with them at N. Y. and very likely see them there a day or so later.2 I have to go next week W. a summer journey into a hot region not to be coveted, but it can’t be helped as I have consented to preside at the Meeting of our Amer. Association for Adv. Science—which meets this year at Indianapolis, one of the new cities of the plains of the west— as uninteresting as possible.3 I was doubting whether to go via New York City & Pennsylvania or by a more northern route. This decides me to go via New York, and if, as I conjecture, they mean to push for the West at once, I shall try to have them take Indianapolis in their way and tarry for the meeting, where they will find a hearty welcome for your sake. and a good many people they may like to know or who will be useful acquaintances at their respective places of abode. The Association are engaged for an excursion half way to the Mammoth Cave, and some of us are very likely to go on to it.4

Of course I shall have introductions to offer them at some of the places on the list,5 and will arrange when I see them and know their plans. Ten weeks are all too short, and they will want to make the most of time. It is right to come here later, both for Boston and for Cambridge.

I have never been west farther than Ohio, and all that country is monotonous & dull. I have promised to spend the Sunday & Monday week at one of the towns on your list, Columbus, Ohio—with my old friend Sullivant.6 And if my programme suits I hope your sons will meet or overtake me there.

Except a charming short visit to a friend on Hudson R. we have been at home all summer so far7—I working at Flora of N. America—and superintending the construction of a Lecture-room, &c—and an orchid-house adjoining here,—a generous and sensible man having given me the money to build these—for the University.8 It takes up a deal of my time.

You do not speak of yourself, but as you write with your own hand, I infer you are pretty well. Do not forget, nor too long delay, that paper on Dionæa & Drosera.9

Ever Yours most truly | Asa Gray


Gray refers to George Howard Darwin and Francis Darwin, who had sailed for New York on 29 July 1871 (see letter to Asa Gray, 16 July [1871]).
Gray met George and Francis in New York on his way to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (see J. L. Gray 1893, p. 619, and n. 3, below).
The twentieth annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science took place in Indianapolis from 16 August 1871; its proceedings were published in September 1871 (see American Naturalist 5 (1871): 385–6, 510–13). Gray assumed the presidency of the association at the meeting (J. L. Gray 1893, p. 619).
For an account of the expedition to the Mammoth Cave complex, on the Green river in Edmondson County, central Kentucky, see [Packard] 1871; Gray did not join the expedition as it was oversubscribed (J. L. Gray 1893, p. 619).
See letter to Asa Gray, 16 July [1871]; the list has not been found.
Gray refers to the bryologist William Starling Sullivant.
The Grays stayed at the house of Joseph Howland at Matteawan, New York, in June 1871 (letter from Jane Gray to Susan Loring, 16 June 1871 (Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Box G:22)).
Gray had continued to work sporadically on Flora of North America (Torrey and Gray 1838–43); no further parts were published under that title but the work was revised and some of it incorporated into his Synoptical flora of North America (A. Gray 1878–84; Dupree 1959). Horatio Hollis Hunnewell provided funding for a lecture room at the Botanic Garden at Harvard, built between February and December 1871 (Dupree 1959, p. 345; J. L. Gray 1893, pp. 612–15 and 619–20). See also letter from Asa Gray, 14 April 1871.
Gray had encouraged CD’s interest in the sensitivity of insectivorous plants such as Dionaea and Drosera, and had provided him with specimens on which to experiment; the most recent known correspondence between them on the subject was in December 1870 (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter to Asa Gray, 7 December 1870 and n. 5). CD published Insectivorous plants in 1875.


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. 1878–84. Synoptical flora of North America. 2 vols. New York: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co.

Gray, Jane Loring, ed. 1893. Letters of Asa Gray. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

[Packard, Alpheus Spring, Jr.] 1871. The mammoth cave and its inhabitants. The American Naturalist 5: 739–61.


AG hopes to meet CD’s sons, who are visiting America.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 176
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7894,” accessed on 16 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19