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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   21 [and 22] January 18781

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R. [6 Queen Anne Street, London.]

Jan. 21st 78

My dear Gray

I received 2 or 3 days ago your review of my Forms of Flowers, which has pleased & as usual instructed me much.2 I was specially pleased at my suggestion of giving names to the subdivisions of polygamous plants being approved of by you.—3 Thanks, also, for the review of Mr Cook, written, I suppose by you.4 It seems to me rather too mild, but I have been very glad to read & have been amused by it.— By the way Carlyle’s letter about me was a forgery, or as he said to my Brother,—“it is all infernal lies”.—5

Could you not get some young man to experiment on & observe grades of fertility of Epigæa & Rhamnus. &c. Herman Müller describes Valeriana dioica as consisting of 4 analogous forms. He attributes their case primarily to the existence of 2 forms, one with larger & the other with smaller corolla, such as he has shown exist in other cases; but his German was obscure, & I could not follow the further supposed transformations.6

I hope that you have got over the first great press of accumulated work & are now not so much overworked. I hope tomorrow to see Hooker, for I am writing this in London, to which place I have come for a few days rest after working rather too hard.7

My son Frank & I have been observing the autonomous movements of seedlings & those due to Heliotropism, which latter from their complexity have almost driven us mad.8

We have made out something, but not very much about the uses of bloom or the waxy secretion on the leaves & stems of plants.9 Did you notice whether such glaucous plants are more or less common in the arid countries to the west or centre than in the more humid districts on the Atlantic?

You know my opinion of all American ladies, so you will believe how delighted we have been at my son marrying Sara Sedgwick—10 She is in every possible way quite charming.

Yours affectionately | Ch Darwin

Jan 21

P.S. | I forgot to add the following as I wished to do yesterday. Mr Meehan in a paper lately read before the Philadelphia Soc. says in a somewhat sneering tone that plants behave differently in one country from another for that a single plant of Linum perennes brought from Colorado by him was quite fertile with him, where I state (confirmed he might have added by Hildebrand) that it is absolutely sterile with its own pollen.11 Now he does not state whether his plant was long-styled or short-styled, & as he speaks of bringing the plant from Colorado, I imagine that it was there endemic. Does L. perenne grow there? Dr Alefeld says none of the true American species are heterostyled.12 Now if Mr Meehan has mistaken the species it seems to me too bad to throw a slur or doubt on another man’s accuracy without taking the smallest pains to be accurate himself. I have been almost tempted to write formally to the Phil. Soc. to enquire how the case really stands. But I have resolved not to do so, as Hildebrand has fully confirmed my statement.— Mr Meehans inaccuracy seems to me injurious in no small degree to Science


I have just spent a delightful 2 hours at Kew, & heard prodigies of your strength & activity. That you run up a mountain like a cat!—13


Thanks for AG’s review of Forms of flowers [Am. J. Sci. 3d ser. 15 (1878): 67–73].

Thomas Carlyle’s letter about CD was a forgery.

Gives Hermann Müller’s observations on Valeriana dioica.

Is unsure about function of "bloom"; are glaucous plants more or less common in arid parts of U. S.?

Observations on heliotropism.

Thomas Meehan reports that Linum perenne is self-fertile; CD thinks that he has mistaken the species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6 Down letterhead
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (123 and 127)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11330,” accessed on 28 January 2020,