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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   11 March [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

March 11th

My dear Gray

It is really astonishing that Agassiz shd. use such an argument as that of the Trees. I have sent the memorandum to Nature; but I believe that they receive so many articles that they can find room for only a small portion of them.2

I worked last summer hard at Drosera, but could not finish till I got fresh plants, & consequently took up the effect of crossing & self-fertilising plants & am got so interested that Drosera must go to the dogs till I finish with this & get it published; but then I will resume my beloved Drosera & I heartily apologise for having sent the precious little things even for a moment to the dogs.3

I hope you are well & hearty & I do not doubt are working like a Trojan. My wife takes me on Friday as an abject prisoner to London for a month & I do hate stopping work.—4

I am just like the retired tallow-chandler5

Ever yours | Ch. Darwin

Many thanks for the Dubuque Address, which I received before, & read with the greatest interest.6


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Asa Gray, 25 February 1873.
For Gray’s rejection of Louis Agassiz’s argument that dwarf trees growing at high altitude contradicted the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, see the letter from Asa Gray, 25 February 1873 and enclosure; the enclosure was published anonymously in Nature, 27 March 1873, p. 404.
CD resumed work on Drosera (the sundew) in August 1872 (Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix II). Gray had encouraged his interest and supplied him with specimens (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from Asa Gray, 3 August 1871 and n. 9); Insectivorous plants was published in 1875 and Cross and self fertilisation in 1876.
The Darwins were in London from 15 March until 10 April 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
The story of a rich tallow chandler who after a few weeks of retirement asked his successor for permission to go to the factory on ‘melting days’, the most unpleasant part of making tallow candles, originated with Samuel Johnson (Boswell 1791).
Gray had sent CD a copy of his 1872 presidential address to the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Dubuque, Iowa (A. Gray 1872b; see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Asa Gray, 6 October 1872 and nn. 8 and 9). CD’s annotated copy of a published version is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.


Boswell, James. 1791. The life of Samuel Johnson. 2 vols. London: Charles Dilly.

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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Astonished by Agassiz’s argument; has sent AG’s memorandum to Nature [see 8786].

Is working on cross- and self-fertilising plants and has temporarily stopped work on Drosera.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (106)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8806,” accessed on 5 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21