To Asa Gray 11 December 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray.—
Many & cordial thanks for your two last most valuable notes.—2 What a thing it is, that when you receive this we may be at war, & we two be bound, as good patriots, to hate each other, though I shall find this hating you very hard work.—3 How curious it is to see two countries, just like two angry & silly men, taking so opposite a view of the same transaction! So far as I can see we rest entirely on Wilkes’ acting as Judge.—4 I fear there is no shadow of doubt we shall fight, if the two Southern rogues are not given up.5 And what a wretched thing it will be, if we fight on side of slavery. No doubt it will be said we fight to get cotton; but I fully believe that this has not entered into the motive in the least.— Well, thank [Heaven]6 we private individuals, have nothing to do with so awful a responsibility.— Again how curious it is that you seem to think that you can conquer the south; & I never meet a soul, even those who would most wish it, who thinks it possible,—that is to conquer & retain it. I do not suppose the mass of people in your country will believe it; but I feel sure if we do go to war, it will be with the utmost reluctance by all classes, ministers of government & all.— Time will show, & it is no use writing or thinking about it.—
I called the other day on Dr. Boott & was pleased to find him pretty well & cheerful;7 I see, by the way, he takes quite an English opinion of American affairs, though an American in heart. Buckle might write a chapter on opinion being entirely dependent on Longitude!8
Hearty thanks for facts on dimorphism in Borragineæ.9 What a riddle is the Mertensia: I presume that it would be impossible to get seeds.— It is very kind of you to try & send me the living plant of Houstonia. You may rely on it, I will send you a copy of my Primula paper as soon as I can get one; but I believe it will not be printed till April 1st. & therefore after my Orchid Book.10 I care more for your & Hooker’s opinion than for that of all the rest of world, & for Lyell’s on geological points. Bentham & Hooker thought well of my paper when read; but no one can judge of evidence by merely hearing a paper.11 The only thing which has interested me of late is the making out that Catasetum tridentatum is male, Monacanthus viridis female, & Myanthus barbatus the hermaphrodite, of the same species: this is clear, & accounts for all 3 forms appearing sometimes on same plant: they differ as much as or more than a peacock & pean-hen.—12
Bentham has given me list of species of Oxalis dimorphous like Primula & some Menthas are so he says—but I am not sure that he distinguishes such cases as Thymus.—13 I have not yet had time to examine Amsinckia, which you sent me dried.—
If you can remember it, tell me when you write, how Dana is.—14
Lyell is going to publish, what will be an interesting little Book on the Geological History of man, & I believe he will touch on permanence of Species.—15
With respect to Design, I feel more inclined to show a white flag than to fire my usual long-range shot. I like to try & ask you a puzzling question, but when you return the compliment, I have great doubts whether it is a fair way of arguing. If anything is designed, certainly Man must be; one’s “inner consciousness” (though a false guide) tells one so; yet I cannot admit that man’s rudimentary mammæ; bladder drained as if he went on all four legs; & pug-nose were designed. If I was to say that I believed this, I should believe it in same incredible manner as the orthodox believe the Trinity in Unity.— You say that you are in a haze; I am in thick mud;—the orthodox would say in fetid abominable mud. I believe I am in much the same frame of mind as an old Gorilla would be in if set to learn the first book of Euclid. The old Gorilla would say it was of no manner of use; & I am much of the same mind; yet I cannot keep out of the question.
My dear Gray I have written a deal of nonsense. | Yours most cordially | C. Darwin
Discusses the worsening relations between their two countries and the possibility of war.
Expects Orchids and his Primula paper [Collected papers 2: 45–63] to be out soon.
Thanks AG for some facts on dimorphism.
George Bentham has given him a list of Oxalis and Mentha species that are dimorphic like Primula.
Is in a "thick mud" regarding design in nature.