To Asa Gray 26 November 1
Down Bromley Kent.
My dear Gray.
I have to thank you for two letters.2 The latter with corrections, written before you received my letter asking for an American Reprint & saying that it was hopeless to print your Reviews as a pamphlet, owing to impossibility of getting pamphlets known.—3 I am very glad to say that the August or second Atlantic Article has been reprinted in Annals & Mag of N. History;4 but I have not yet seen it there.
Yesterday I read over with care the third Article;5 & it seems to me, as before, admirable. But I grieve to say that I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design. I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.— To take a crucial example, you lead me to infer (p. 414) that you believe “that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines”.—6 I cannot believe this; & I think you would have to believe, that the tail of the Fan-tail was led to vary in the number & direction of its feathers in order to gratify the caprice of a few men. Yet if the fan-tail had been a wild bird & had used its abnormal tail for some special end, as to sail before the wind, unlike other birds, everyone would have said what beautiful & designed adaptation. Again I say I am, & shall ever remain, in a hopeless muddle.—
Thank you much for Bowen’s 4to Review.7 The coolness with which he makes all animals to be destitute of reason is simply absurd. It is monstrous at p. 103, that he should argue against the possibility of accumulative variation & actually leaves out entirely Selection!8 The chance that an improved Short-Horn, or improved Pouter-pigeon should be produced by accumulative variation, without Man’s selection is as almost infinity to nothing; so with natural species without natural selection. How capitally in the Atlantic, you show that Geology & Astronomy are according to Bowen Metaphysics;9 but he leaves out this rubbish in the 4to. Memoir.—
I have not much to tell you about my Book.— I have just heard that Dubois Reymond agrees with me.10 The sale of my Book goes on well, & the multitude of Reviews has not stopped the sale. Murray sold a few days ago at his sale 700 copies; & he has not half; so I must begin at once on new corrected Edition.— I will send you a copy; for chance of your ever rereading; but good Heavens how sick you must be of it.—
Hooker has returned “rosy fat & jolly”, I am glad to say; but I have not seen him & not heard much news; except that he found traces of Glacial action on Lebanon.—11 I have gone on working at Drosera, but shall not publish till next summer, as I am frightened at my results & must retest them; (By the way I have been rereading in consequence some part of your Lesson in Botany,12 & have been so much pleased with the extremely clear way you put things), but you may rely on the truth of the fact that the prolonged weight of an innutritious atom, placed with all care on one of the glands, though it weighed only 1/78,000 of one grain caused conspicuous movement. I got the weight by weighing a length of fine hair & cutting off atoms & measuring them with micrometer. This weight is 78 times less than that with which best balance will turn with; & yet you may rely on it, this suffices to start the movement. Moreover it produces such changes within the cells of the glandular hairs; that an hour after weight had been put on, I could distinguish which hair had carried this fairy weight from all the other 100 & more hairs on the leaf.—
I suppose in summer you take walks in the country: I see in your Flora, you say that Apocynum androsæmifolium is common & another species.13 Will you observe whether the flowers of both species catch numbers of flies by their probosces, as the former does in England. And whether Bees visit the flowers. I mean to get this plant, if I can, & observe it; as a Boy I was surprised at number of flies captured.14 Please make a memorandum about this plant & the Spiranthes.—15
My daughter improves very slowly & I have now the heart to work again nearly as hard (strictly as lightly) as I ever can.—
My dear Gray | Ever yours most truly | C. Darwin
Have you read Olmsted Journey in the Back Country; what a remarkably interesting Book.—16
Has reread AG’s third Atlantic Monthly article. It is admirable, but CD cannot go as far as AG on design.
Mentions other opinions and reviews of Origin.
Relates some experiments on Drosera showing its extreme sensitivity; requests some observations on orchids.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2998,” accessed on 28 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-2998