skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   7 March 1872

Botanic Garden, | Cambridge, Mass.

March 7, 1872

Dear Darwin

Mr. Packard, one of our best entomologists a most excellent & modest man, has asked to be introduced to you that he may pay his respects.1

I shy or refuse such applications generally—saying you can rarely see visitors, or callers.

But Packard is “fish to your net”—has his head crammed with facts bearing on derivation—is a disciple of the Hyatt-Cope school, that you may have heard of,—people who have got hold of what they call a law—tho’ I do not see that they contribute any vera causa at all.2

Packard has a bad palate, so can’t be a hard talker. But he speaks quite intelligibly, and is very sensible

If you will turn the world of science upside down, you must expect that people will wish to see you.

I am just getting rid of a troublesome state of throat, that has bothered me much, and is always liable to return.

Mrs. Gray,3 about as usual for health, joins in kind regards to you and yours. | Sincerely yours | A. Gray

The very sad news comes to-day that Mrs. Charles Norton4 died at Dresden—8 days after child-birth!


In the event, Alpheus Spring Packard Jr did not visit Down (see letter from A. S. Packard Jr, 1 August 1872).
Edward Drinker Cope and Alpheus Hyatt promoted a theory of evolution based on acceleration and retardation of development. CD mentioned their work in Origin 6th ed., p. 149; see also letter to Alpheus Hyatt, 10 October [1872] and nn. 3–5. Vera causa: a true cause that brings about an effect as a minimum independent agency (OED).
Jane Loring Gray.
Susan Ridley Sedgwick Norton was the wife of Charles Eliot Norton.


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


A. S. Packard would like to visit CD to pay his respects.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 165: 179
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8237,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20