From John Scott 16 May 1
I am glad to find by your note of the 8th.2 that you are interested with my paper and have thought it worth communicating to the Linn. Soc.3 The knowledge that the importance of such subject is not as yet generally recognised does not at all dishearten me: were I again in a position for following out such I would avail myself of it with increased interest.
I am surprised to hear that your seedlings of non-dimorphic cowslip present similar characteristics. I had thought from the extreme rarity of such forms, that inheritance would be an exceptional occurrence. It will be a most interesting note for my paper on Primulas.4 I have not yet had proofs. I thought the “Journal” had been issued quarterly!5
The seeds sent of the red Primrose are the produce of long-styled homomorphic unions.6
From the inveterate sterility (i.e. so far as my experience goes) of unions between the red & common yellow primroses, I had an idea that the former would truly reproduce itself from seed: prove at least a perfectly established variety. I am surprised to find that this is not the case: but that seedlings revert to wild form.7 The fact, however, of reversion gives an increased value to my observations on sterility of crosses. I unfortunately cannot—as I would have liked—continue experiments for this season at least, as I have not a single red primrose in our garden, & I had no thought when I came of being here so long, otherwise I would have brought some from Edinburgh with me.8
It occurs to me from difference in results of crosses between white and yellow; and yellow and red primroses and from similar though less marked relations being manifested between the differently coloured varieties of Verbascums (e.g. V. phœniceum yield more seed with the variety roseum than with album, and so with the reciprocal crosses of these) that the sterility thereby induced is definitely related and finds an exponent in colour nomenclature.9 Thus we may suppose that a greater change must take place in the minute anatomy of a purple flower to give the impression of whiteness than that of redness (as in above Verbascum cases—and so in red, yellow, and white primroses) and that consequently the degree of sterility of unions between differently coloured varieties of a species may be inversely proportionate to their colour affinities.
Might I remark on this in giving Verbascum experiments??10
The smallness of flowers sent of equal-styled primrose was due to their being produced in a close-room. Those flowers borne upon the plant when I found it in the neighbouring woods were much larger. I have carefully examined it however, & have no doubts as to its being other than pure primrose.
I can only again express my sincere thanks for your continued offers to assist me:11 would that my hopes were at all sufficient to permit of my availing myself of your generosity; but it is otherwise & I can only look into life’s future with a strange presentiment— — I have not one here to whom I can look for assistance in the getting a situation.
I remain | Sir | Yours respectfully & obliged | J. Scott.
Thanks for communicating Oncidium sterility paper [see 4485] to Linnean Society.
Surprised that CD’s seedlings of non-dimorphic cowslip breed true.
Surprised also that the red primrose he sent reverts to wild form. He had reasoned from red’s infertility with yellow that it was an established variety. Tries to correlate inheritance of colour and sterility between varieties.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4498,” accessed on 28 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4498