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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   8 July [1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 8th

My dear Gray

Very many thanks for your book “How Plants behave”: it is a capital idea, capitally executed.— It has in many ways delighted me, & I am even more delighted to hear that you think of publishing in extenso on subject.2 Can you support your idea that tendrils become spiral after clasping an object, from the stimulus from contact running down them, in as much as they become spiral when they have clasped nothing?—3 I am now correcting proofs of my small book on Expression; & when this is done, I hope (health permitting & if summer not too late) to begin on Drosera.4

I am thinking of republishing all my quasi-botanical papers with 2 or 3 new ones in a volume.— I hope it may be in time for you.—5

I am astonished at Mrs. Gray’s spirit & audacity in going all the way to California, though to be sure this is not much after the Nile.—6 It makes my blood run cold to think of such expeditions. I forgot to thank for engraving of the ape-man, which I am glad to possess, though I am surprised it was thought worth painting & engraving.7

Your cousins the Brace’s are coming here the day after tomorrow to dine & sleep.8 By the way, you will remember that you wrote about Dr Packard. As soon as I saw in Nature that he was in London, I wrote to him to care of the Editor, but heard in answer that Dr P. had started for Paris, & whether he ever received my invitation to Down I know not.9

My dear Gray | Yours ever very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Asa Gray, 31 May 1872.
See letter from Asa Gray, 31 May 1872 and n. 1. In the preface to How plants behave (the second part of Botany for young people), Gray had written that he expected to treat the subject in a ‘different way, and probably with somewhat of scientific and historical fulness, in a new edition of a work intended for advanced students’ (A. Gray 1872a, p. viii). Gray presumably referred to his intended revisions to the fifth edition of his textbook Introduction to structural and systematic botany (A. Gray 1858a); the much expanded sixth edition (Structural botany) was published in 1879 (A. Gray 1879). CD’s annotated copy of A. Gray 1872a is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 347).
In his copy of A. Gray 1872a, p. 18, CD scored the sentence ‘If a stick be left in contact the coiling will be permanent; and a downward propagation of the same action is what throws the whole tendril into spiral coils’ and made a marginal note underneath, ‘No, because a tendril that has caught nothing coils’ (see Marginalia 1: 347).
CD recorded that he finished working on the proofs of Expression on 22 August and began work on Drosera on 23 August (‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
CD did not publish a collection of his earlier botanical papers.
Jane Loring Gray and Asa Gray travelled to California on the newly completed transcontinental railroad in late June 1872 and toured there for several weeks (Dupree 1959, pp. 345–7). In 1869, the Grays had taken a river cruise on the Nile for three months (ibid., pp. 337–8; J. L. Gray ed. 1893, 2: 572–86). See also Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Asa Gray and J. L. Gray, 8 and 9 May 1869.
See letter from Asa Gray, 11 June 1872, and plate on p. 290.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Charles Loring Brace and Letitia Brace were at Down on 11 July 1872.
Gray had written a letter of introduction for Alpheus Spring Packard Jr (see letter from Asa Gray, 7 March 1872 and n. 1). Packard’s presence at a meeting of the Entomological Society of London was reported in Nature, 11 April 1872, p. 475. CD’s letter was not received by Packard until he had arrived back in the United States (letter from A. S. Packard Jr, 1 August 1872).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dupree, Anderson Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Gray, Asa. 1879. Gray’s botanical text-book. Vol. I. Structural botany or organography on the basis of morphology. To which is added the principles of taxonomy and phytography, and a glossary of botanical terms. 6th edition. New York and Chicago: Ivison, Blakeman, and Company.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


Thanks for AG’s book, How plants behave [see 8363].

Is correcting proofs of Expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (107)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8402,” accessed on 26 February 2020,

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