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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   18 May [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

May 18th

My dear Gray

I thank you for your pleasant letter received this morning.2 I return Messrs. Appleton’s letter: you refer to two letters from them. I have habit of filing everything, & have looked through my whole file & can find no other.3 It is provoking that he does not publish 2d. Edit. & how kind it is in you to go on troubling yourself on the subject.—4 It seems very true that as you have put your hand in it, it is not so easy to draw it out. What a battle you do seem to have been fighting on the origin of species.—   I can most plainly see that whatever amount of truth my book may contain, the saving of it (as I told Hooker the other day) will surely be wholly due to a very small body of men. Had it not been for Lyell, Hooker, yourself & two or three others, I am well convinced my book & the whole subject would have been mere flash in the pan. For the attacks are now here incessant & very bitter. For instance Sedgwick & Prof. Clarke attacked me savagely at Cambridge Phil. Soc. but dear old Henslow (though he goes but little way with me) stood up manfully for the subject as legitimately within bounds of science, & produced excellent effect.— Since then Prof. Phillips the Geologist has lectured against me at Cambridge—5 A. Murray the Entomologist has read paper at Royal Soc. of Edinburgh against me.6 Dr Dawson in Canada Nat. Mag. do.7 Some one in Dublin Nat. Mag.8    Mr Haughton at Dublin Geolog. Soc.9 And thus I could go on for many more!!

But the effect on me is that I will buckle on my armour & fight my best. You seem to have done so allready in grand style. And I believe Hooker will, as certainly will Lyell & Huxley. But it will be a long fight. By myself I shd. be powerless. I feel my weak health acutely, as I cannot work hard.—   So bitter is the feeling of some that Hooker tells me that neither Harvey, Balfour, or Arnott have ever read his Australian Essay!10 Is this not incredibly paltry? It makes me savage to think of the slighting way in which Owen alludes to Hooker’s Essay in Edinburgh Review.11 Lyell is working very hard at geological history of Man; & it is really marvellous how rapidly curious facts are turning up. I expect his Essay, in which he will discuss origin of species, will make a great commotion with the reading public.

Thanks about red “roots”.—12 I most sincerely hope that you may publish your stunner of an answer to Bowen Agassiz & Co.—13

With hearty thanks | Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is given by the references to reviews of Origin.
Gray’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Asa Gray, 20 February 1860.
Gray had forwarded to CD a letter he had received from D. Appleton & Co. of New York dated 17 February 1860 agreeing to grant CD copyright over the American edition of Origin that they published (see enclosure to letter from Asa Gray, 20 February 1860). The second letter to which CD refers may be that of 7 February 1860 from D. Appleton to Gray (Gray Herbarium Archives). The text of this letter reads as follows: We return you as requested the contents &c of Darwin’s work and must apologise for the soiled state but the printers who supplied the article for the new edn. did not understand you wished it again. We suppose before long we shall require a new edn. & we thought we would write to learn if any additions could be made for a second edition Gray had apparently thought he had sent this letter on to CD as well. See also letter from Asa Gray, 23 January 1860, n. 2, and letter to Asa Gray, 22 May [1860].
The first three printings of Origin published in the United States by D. Appleton & Co. of New York (issued in January, February, and March 1860) all had identical texts taken from the first English edition. The fourth printing, however, was ‘revised and augmented’, including a ‘Historical preface’, a number of corrections to the text, and a supplement of seven pages of additional changes that CD sent to Asa Gray (see letters to Asa Gray, 28 January [1860], 1 February [1860], [8 or 9 February 1860], and 8 March [1860]). The revised American edition thus incorporated most of the changes made to the second English edition of Origin as well as several subsequently added to the third English edition (1861). See Freeman 1977, p. 83.
Murray 1860a.
Dawson 1860b.
[Haughton] 1860b.
Haughton 1860a.
[R. Owen] 1860a.
CD refers to Francis Bowen, Louis Agassiz, and John Amory Lowell. Gray defended CD’s theory at a meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on 10 April 1860. Bowen, Agassiz, and Lowell had criticised CD’s views at a previous meeting on 27 March. The remarks were later published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 4 (1860): 410–16, 424–31. CD’s annotated copy of an offprint of these pages is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The discussion also formed the basis for Gray’s article on Origin in the Atlantic Monthly ([Gray] 1860b).


Bitter and incessant attacks on the Origin.

Any truth in it has been saved only by a small body of men like Lyell, AG, Hooker, and Huxley.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (14)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2808,” accessed on 23 June 2017,

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