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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   19 June 1874

Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.

June 19 1874.

My Dear Darwin

Your 2nd letter reached me last evening, and this morning came from the publishers some copies of the no. of Nature. You seem as pleased and are as ingenuous as a Maiden when she first finds out that she has an admirer!1 Now I am a little vexed—as I am apt to be when I let anything be printed without reading the proof myself. Some one has doctored one sentence, and made it say the contrary to what I wrote, and to what is true.2

I make the reclamation on a separate sheet*:—and also another—which may be typographical—but which I am confident I could not have written. I surely wrote TO many, not “in many”3

My claim for you about Teleology I have made several times, in Sill. Jour.** and elsewhere.4 It is a matter on which I have a good deal insisted.

Yours affectionately | Asa Gray

*My point (which is blunted) was to show how very near Brown came to “hitting the nail on the head”—without hitting it.—striking wild instead.!

**See vol. XXXIV n. ser, Nov. 1862, p. 428, 429,5


See letters to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and 5 June [1874]; CD had seen both an advance copy and then the published version of an article about him by Gray in Nature, 4 June 1874 (A. Gray 1874c).
Gray published a correction in Nature, 2 July 1874, p. 161: I supposed that I had written “And we know from another source that he (Mr. Brown) looked upon Sprengel’s ideas as by no means fantastic. Yet instead,” &c. The object was to show how very near Mr. Brown came to reaching the principle that Nature abhors close-fertilisation in plants, and yet did not reach it at all. The authority for the statement I wished to make will be found in a footnote in Mr. Darwin’s book on the “Fertilisation of Orchids,” p. 340. (See also letter to Asa Gray, 30 June [1874]). Gray referred to Robert Brown, Christian Konrad Sprengel, and Orchids, where CD wrote that Brown had spoken highly to him of Sprengel’s work. In the original article (A. Gray 1874c), the passage reads: yet we know from another source that he looked upon Sprengel’s ideas as fantastic.
Gray refers to the penultimate paragraph of his article and the sentence that begins, ‘In many, no doubt, Evolutionary Teleology comes in such a questionable shape as to seem shorn of all its goodness’ (A. Gray 1874c, p. 81). CD forwarded the enclosure containing both corrections to Nature (see letter to Asa Gray, 30 June [1874]), and a version was published in the form of a letter to the editor (Nature, 2 July 1874, p. 161; see n. 2, above); the original has not been found.
See letter to Asa Gray, 5 June [1874]. Gray had made the same point about reconciling teleology with morphology in A. Gray 1862, which was published in the American Journal of Science and Arts; the journal was popularly known as ‘Silliman’s Journal’ after its founder, Benjamin Silliman.
The reference is to A. Gray 1862.


Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Writes of his article in Nature. Corrects some errors that have appeared in the published version.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 186
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9501,” accessed on 17 April 2021,

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