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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   [8 or 9 February 1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

My dear Gray

I now send my short Historical Preface & one page more of corrections.2 With respect to Agassiz, I have shamefully blundered but Von Baer is fully as good an authority; some would say better authority.3 Please forward enclosed to Agassiz & read if you think worth while. I wrote all latter part of volume from memory, & it is a blessing more blunders have not yet been detected: but the state of my health left me no choice: I felt on the point of quite breaking down.— If the M.S. now (& before) sent is of no use, no harm is done.—4 The pages all refer to the new Edition or Reprint—

I have now received your letter of the 23d of Jan. by Hooker, in which you tell me all the trouble (& you so much overworked) which you have taken about an American Edition. I fear there is no chance of your Review now appearing at the head, which would have greatly pleased me. If there is another Reprint in America, will you send the English 2d Edit (or Reprint) on account of several verbal corrections & likewise the M.S corrections; I would send you another copy, or make the Publishers give you one. If you notice any errors like “self-fertilise itself” pray correct.—5 Again & again, I thank you heartily for all your generous kindness to me.—

Now I will just run through some points in your letter. What you say about my Book gratifies me most deeply & I wish I could feel all was deserved by me.

I quite think a Review from a man, who is not an entire convert, if fair & moderately favourable, is in all respects the best kind of Review. About weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.6 I agree about sterility, & especially about fertility of the strongest marked varieties, & in the M.S already sent to you, I have confessed more plainly the difficulty. But a vast number of facts show how mysteriously & easily the reproductive system is affected.

Pray kindly remember & tell Prof. Wyman, how very grateful I shd. be for any hints, information or criticisms: I have the highest respect for his opinion. I am so sorry about Danas health; I have already asked him to pay me a visit.—7

Farewell, you have laid me under a load of obligations,—not that I feel it a load. It is the highest possible gratification to me to think that you have found my Book worth reading & reflexions from you & these others I put down in my own mind as the judges whose opinions I should value most of all.—

My dear Gray | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin

PS. I feel pretty sure from my own [experience], that if y⁠⟨⁠ou⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ by your studies to keep the subject of Origin of Species before your mind, that you will go further & further in your belief.— It took me long years & I assure you I am astonished at the impression my Book has made on many minds— I fear 20 years ago I shd not have been half as candid & open to conviction.—


Dated by the reference to the historical preface for the revised American edition of Origin, which in the preceding letter CD says he has just finished. CD also states that he has received Gray’s letter of 23 January 1860, to which he also alludes in the following letter.
CD’s historical sketch appeared as a preface to the revised and augmented American edition of Origin. It was inserted before the table of contents, presumably so as not to affect the pagination of the electrotyped plates, and is dated ‘Feb. 1860.’ The ‘one page more of corrections’ that CD sent has not been identified. Since the historical sketch was included, they too were probably incorporated into the text. Subsequent corrections that CD sent (letter to Asa Gray, 8 March [1860]), had to be listed separately in a supplement (Origin US ed., pp. 426–32). For a transcription of the historical sketch, textual alterations, and the supplement, see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix IV. See also letter to Asa Gray, 1 February [1860].
See letter from Asa Gray, 23 January 1860. In the authorised American edition of Origin, the reference to Louis Agassiz’s being unable to identify whether an unticketed vertebrate embryo was that of a mammal, reptile, or bird was replaced by a similar statement attributed to Karl Ernst von Baer (Origin US ed., pp. 381–2). CD made the same correction to the third English edition of Origin. Baer’s anecdote was related in T. H. Huxley trans. 1853, pp. 186–7.
See the enclosure with the letter to Asa Gray, 1 February [1860].
See letter from Asa Gray, 23 January 1860. The sentence was corrected in Origin US ed., p. 91.
See Origin, pp. 186–7.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Origin US ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. A new edition, revised and augmented by the author. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton. 1860.


Sends historical preface and corrections for American edition of Origin;

would have liked AG’s review [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 29 (1860): 153–84] at the head.

Agrees with AG’s assessment of weak points.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (11)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2701,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8