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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   1 June [1869]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

June 1st

My dear Gray

I was uncommonly glad to get your letter of May 8th. & it was extremely good in Mrs. Gray to write to me so nice a note.2 Very many thanks to her & to you for the answers about Expression. I well know how extremely difficult it is to observe. One of her answers about the “grief muscles” in a negro is of especial value, as I have failed on this head with all the more distinct races of man, & began even to doubt whether it could be general.3 The case of the shrugging the shoulders will also be useful, & that about the head not being shaken laterally for negation, is very disagreeable & surprising.4

Very many thanks for all your kind expressions about my accident: my horse fell & partly rolled over me. Paget thought I shd require three months to recover, but I was nearly well in 3 weeks.5 I have, however, had more pain lately & not been very brisk. My good & dear wife, in consequence, is going to take me, nolens volens, on the 10th to a house, which we have hired in N. Wales for 6 or 7 weeks.6

We all heartily wish you could have given a better account of Mrs. Gray’s strength. It is very disheartening that the voyage shd. have driven away so much of the good effects of your grand trip up the Nile.—7

I have little to say about my own doings. My regular work has been much interrupted by preparing a new Edit. of the everlasting old Origin, which consumed 8 weeks, & by preparing notes for a French Edit. of my Orchis book. In these notes I give references to all papers on subject, with very brief abstracts; so that I have had to quote you incessantly. I think I shall also publish these notes in English.8 By the way I tried to get Orange Judd & Co to publish the new Edit. of the Origin; but the Appletons were too strong for me. They say courtesy prevents them: fear of their pockets, I presume, is nearer the truth. What an evil this stereotyping scientific works is.—9 I ought to tell you that they sent me £50 for the “Variation under Domestication”, which I think very handsome & which I owe to you.—10

I have not heard from Hooker, but I see in Gard. Chronicle, that when elected as President for next Congress, he was received with great applause.—11 We have seen hardly a soul for a long time except the Huxleys, & two detachments of Nortons.12 I then verified a grand generalisation, which I once propounded to you, that all persons from the U. States are perfectly charming.

Farewell, my dear Gray, I often think with pleasure of your visit here.13 Give from all of us our kindest remembrances to Mrs. Gray & believe me | Ever yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | You know how many odd points I want observed: look whether the beards of Germans, when differing in tint from Hair of head, are of a lighter or redder tint? Does Beard & Hair often differ in tint?14


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Asa and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869.
Letter from Asa and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869.
See letter from Asa and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869 and n. 10. On ‘grief muscles’, see the letter to James Crichton-Browne, 22 May 1869 and n. 9.
See letter from Asa and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869 and nn. 9 and 12.
James Paget treated CD after his accident; see the letter from Asa Gray and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869.
The Darwins left on 10 June 1869 for Caerdeon, Barmouth, and returned on 31 July (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
See letter from Asa and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869.
CD finished the fifth edition of Origin on 10 February 1869 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). For the French edition of Orchids, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 March [1869] and n. 5, and the letter from Louis Rérolle, 10 May 1869. For CD’s quotations from Gray in his English publication of his orchid notes, see ‘Fertilization of orchids’ and Orchids 2d ed.
See letter from Orange Judd & co., 21 April 1869 and n. 3.
On the American edition of Variation and the publisher’s payment to CD, see hte letter from Orange Judd & Co., 21 April 1869.
On Joseph Dalton Hooker’s election as a president of the second congress of the Russian International Horticultural Exhibition, see the Gardener’s Chronicle, 29 May 1869, p. 582.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the Huxleys visited on 25 May 1869. The family of Charles Eliot Norton had rented a house in nearby Keston in 1868 (Correspondence vol. 16); they were now staying in London (J. Turner 1999, pp. 222–6). Charles’s wife, Susan Ridley Norton, visited on 27 March, with a ‘Miss Norton’ visiting the preceding day (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)); the Nortons were travelling with two of Charles’s sisters, as well as Susan’s sister (J. Turner 1999, p. 222). The Nortons also visited on 13 May 1869 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Asa and Jane Loring Gray visited the Darwins from 24 to 30 October 1868 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
For CD’s interest in different tints of hair and beards, see Descent 2: 379–80. CD’s notes on the topic are in DAR 85: 42. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, [before 7 May 1869].


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

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.

Turner, James. 1999. The liberal education of Charles Eliot Norton. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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


Thanks for answers about expression.

Is going to N. Wales to recover after his riding accident.

New edition of Origin.

French edition of Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (86a)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6767,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17