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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   16 June 1874

Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.

June 16, 1874.

My Dear Darwin

The gratification I feel in learning (by yours of the 3rd.) that you are pleased, must, I am sure exceed any satisfaction of yours in regard to my subdued and quiet article in Nature. Lockyer—to my great surprise—applied to me for it, and of course I could not refuse. I think it will generally be regarded by scientific people as just and moderate.1

Odd that you should not have recognized my hand from the first in the Insectivorous Plants—written in fact to vindicate your rights. The papers called forth a 2d hoax—as elaborate as the first, & much better done. I have no idea who wrote them.2

You must, meanwhile, have received article in Nation, reviewing Dr. Hodge’s “What is Darwinism?” You see what uphill work I in making a theist of you, “of good and reputable standing”.3 Do hurry up the book about Drosera &c—4

My plants of Sarracenia variolaris—having lost their spring growth in transmission, have not yet made any that is satisfactory. So I begged Dr. Mellichamp—who had sent me leaves with gorge sanded over at the sweet-secretion part—to send some for the trail. He wrote me it was too late in the season—; they were all drying up. But this morning, with the enclosed postal card came several with the sand sticking fairly well to the glutinous line. And I send you one of them— I wish I could send you Mellichamp’s long letters—about the 2 sorts of larvæ, that appropriate—one the upper, one the lower part of the pitcher.5

My wife (who sends her love to you & yours) is much amused by your backgammon reminiscence.6 For the year past we have a way of getting on most peacefully. I sit by her side & play solitaire with 2 packs of cards, she looks on and helps, and when we dont succeed there is nobody to “flare up” against but luck.

Ever Yours | A. Gray

I think I never sent you my felicitations upon your election & F. Hon. Member of Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.!

We are proud to number you among the 75 (too many) And—I may tell you—only 2 negative votes were cast.— one by an Academician who made a speech on the occasion—to which nobody vouchsafed a word of reply.7

A. G


See the letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874], written after CD received an advance copy of Gray’s profile of him published in Nature (A. Gray 1874c); Nature was edited by Joseph Norman Lockyer.
See letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and nn. 4 and 9. Gray had enclosed copies of his paper on insectivorous plants ([A. Gray] 1874a), and of a spoof article based on it. The subject of the second hoax has not been identified.
In his review of Hodge 1874, Gray rejected Charles Hodge’s identification of certain aspects of CD’s theories, in particular naturally occurring variation, with atheism ([A. Gray] 1874d).
Insectivorous plants was published in 1875.
The postcard from Joseph Hinson Mellichamp has not been found, and his letters to Gray about Sarracenia (the genus of trumpet pitchers) are not among those that survive in the Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard. See also letter from Asa Gray, 12 May 1874 and n. 4. Sarracenia variolaris is a synonym of S. minor, the hooded pitcher-plant.
For Jane Loring Gray’s interest in backgammon, see the letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and n. 12.
See the letter from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 28 January 1874, for CD’s election as a foreign honorary member; there is no reference to the speech made against CD in the minutes of the meeting (Minutes of the stated meetings and related documents 3 (1857–79): 422–3, American Academy of Arts and Sciences archives, Cambridge, Mass.). Four new foreign honorary members were elected in January 1874; the membership included 194 fellows, 85 associate fellows, and 66 foreign honorary members (Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 9 (1874): 302, 310).


Hodge, Charles. 1874. What is Darwinism? London: T. Nelson and Sons.

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


AG’s article in Nature was "just and moderate".

Sends his review of C. Hodge’s What is Darwinism? (1874) [Nation 18 (1874): 348–51].

It is uphill work making a theist out of CD.

Gives further observations on Sarracenia variolaris.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 185
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9492,” accessed on 21 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22