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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   25 May 1868

Cambridge [Massachusetts]

25 May, 1868

My Dear Darwin,

I want to write you a long letter—but the time is not to be had now. Many thanks for yours of May 8.1

My notice of your book in Nation was not intended to have any thing in it, except for the groundlings—was only to make the book known and understood—a light affair2

My preface was written at publisher’s request simply because yours had not come. The fellows put in both. The ed. is not very nicely printed.3

Judging from the Newspaper notices I think the book is taking famously. That Agricult newspaper is taken by the 100,000 in the country—4 As to close of my article, to match close of your book—you see plainly I was put on the defence by your reference to an old hazardous remark of mine. I found your stone-house argument unanswerable in substance (for the notion of design must after all rest mostly on faith, and on accumulation of adaptations, &c): so all I could do was to find a vulnerable spot in the shaping of it, fire my little shot, and run away in the smoke.5

Of course I understand your argument perfectly, & feel the weight of it.

We were intensely amused at the Edinburgh man, who suggests that I could easily smash you into little pieces!6 I wish he may live to see it done!

I am half dead with drudgery—half of it at least for other people—see no relief, but to break up, and run over, with wife who needs the change, to your side of the water for a good long while.7

Yours ever, | A. Gray


See letter to Asa Gray, 8 May [1868] and n. 2. Gray’s review in Nation is [A. Gray] 1868.
Gray refers to his preface to the US edition of Variation, published by Orange Judd & Co.
Asa and Jane Loring Gray visited England from mid-September until mid-November 1868 (see letter from Asa Gray, 17 September 1868, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 November 1868). They visited Down from 24 to 30 October 1868 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


[Gray, Asa.] 1868. [Review of Variation.] Nation 6 (19 March 1868): 234–6.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD’s book taking on famously. AG’s review in Nation [see 5921] and preface to American edition.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 164
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6206,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16