To John Scott 11 December 1
Down Bromley Kent
I have read your paper with much interest.2 You ask for remarks on matter, which is alone really important, shall you think me impertinent (I am sure I do not mean to be so) if I hazard a remark on style, which is of more importance than some think? In my opinion (whether or no worth much) your paper would have been much better if written more simply & less elaborated,—more like your letters. It is a golden rule always to use, if possible, a short old Saxon word. Such a sentence as “so purely dependent is the incipient plant on the specific morphological tendency”3—does not sound to my ears like good mother English—it wants translating.—
Here & there you might, I think, have condensed some sentences: I go on plan of thinking every single word which can be omitted without actual loss of sense as a decided gain.— Now perhaps you will think me a muddling intruder; Anyhow it is the advice of an old hackneyed writer who sincerely wishes you well.—
Your remarks on the two sexes counteracting variability in product of the one is new to me.4 But I cannot avoid thinking that there is something unknown & deeper in seminal generation. Reflect on the long succession of embryological changes in every animal. Does a bud ever produce cotyledons or embryonic leaves? I have been much interested by your remarks on inheritance at corresponding ages; I hope you will, as you say, continue to attend to this.5 Is it true that female plants always produce female by parthenogenesis?6 If you can answer this I shd. be glad; it bears on my Primula work: I thought on subject but gave up investigating what had been observed, because female Bee by parthenogenesis produces males alone. Your paper has told me much that in my ignorance was quite new to me.—
Thanks about P. Scotica. If any important criticisms are made on Primula to Bot. Soc. I shd. be glad to hear them.7 If you think fit, you may state that I repeated the crossing experiments on P. Sinensis & Cowslip with the same result this Spring as last year—indeed with rather more marked difference in fertility of the two crosses.8 In fact had I then proved Linum case I would not have wasted time in repetition.— I am determined I will at once publish on Linum.—9
We seem predestined to work on same subjects: for 3 or 4 summers I have worked hard at Drosera & Dionæa & have almost a volume of materials, which I suppose some day I shall publish; ie if ever I have time to work my materials into shape.10 Irritability of plants has been a hobby-horse to me. I suspect it will turn out that irritability of same nature, only intensified in Dionæa &c. is very common with plants.—11 If your paper on Drosera is published, I shd. be grateful for a copy.—12 Two German papers have been written on subject, but I now forget where; & there is good French paper on Structure, which I daresay you know13 I was right to be cautious in supposing you in error about Siphocampylus (no flowers were enclosed):14 I hope that you will make out whether the pistil presents two definite lengths; I shall be astounded if it does.—
I do not fully understand your objections to N. Selection;15 if I do, I presume they would apply with full force to, for instance, Birds. Reflect on modification of Arab-Turk Horse with our English Race-Horse.—16
I have had satisfaction to tell my publisher to send my Journal & Origin to your address.—17
I suspect with your fertile mind, you would find it far better to experiment on your own choice; but if on reflection you would like to try some which interest me, I shd. be truly delighted, & in this case would write in some detail.18 If you have means, to repeat Gärtners experiments on vars. of Verbascum or on Maize (see Origin) such experiments would be preeminently important.—19 I could never get vars. of Verbascum.20 I could suggest experiments on Potatoes analogous with case of Passiflora; even this case of Passiflora,, often as it has been repeated, might be with advantage repeated.21
I have worked like a slave (having counted about 9000 seeds) on Melastomas on meaning of the two sets of very different stamens, & as yet have been shamefully beaten, & I now cry for aid.—22
I could suggest what I believe very good scheme (at least Dr. Hooker thought so) for systematic degeneration of culinary plants & so find out their origin; but this would be laborious & work of years.—23
I am tired, so pray believe me, yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin
P.S. I have been thinking that if you do not complete your beginning on the non-dimorphic Primula, I should like extremely to do so & would of course fully acknowledge your work.24 What I shd. do would be to fertilise a dozen or score of flowers with own pollen & another score of flowers with pollen of others, the most different, & count the seed of each capsule.—
Now could you aid me (unless you resolve to do the work yourself) & procure me from any Edinburgh nursery-garden a dozen plants (or fewer, if so many could not be got) & dozen of any of the other non-dimorphic species. They could be sent in pots in box addressed. “C. Darwin care of Down Postman, Bromley Kent” & I could pay by P.O.— They give or lend me all plants at Kew; but they are very weak in Primulas. I am sick of ordering plants at London nurseries; I so often get wrong thing. Could you aid me in this?—
Criticises style of JS’s fern paper [Edinburgh New Philos. J. 2d ser. 16 (1862): 209–27].
JS’s remark on "the two sexes counteracting variability in the product of the one" is new to CD.
Does the female [fern?] plant always produce female by parthenogenesis?
They seem to work on same subjects; CD has much material on Drosera.
Does not understand JS’s objections to natural selection.
Offers to suggest experiments.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3853,” accessed on 30 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3853