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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   28 May [1864]1


28th. May.


I now beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st.2 which I would have done sooner; but I thought it better for me previously to to write Prof. Balfour & Mr. Mc.Nab as to their giving me testimonials.3 I accordingly took the liberty of enclosing your letter within my note to Mr. Mc.Nab so that he might be better able to judge as to testimonial required: I enclose what I have received from him;4 it grieves me to do so; as I know well that it is very different from that which he would readily have drawn out for me, had I accepted the situation offered me at Darjeeling by Prof. Balfour last autumn;5 and certainly the few months which I was with him afterwards ought not to have occasioned such depreciatory implications. In common justice at least, if he really considered me less attentive to my duties in the Gardens in the later months of my service, he ought only to have inserted a clause to that effect: instead of tacitly implying a continued carelessness to the practical deportment of my duties while under him. Fortunately he can lay nothing to my charge as to want of probity or sobriety, and I sincerely trust that the odium which he would convey as to want of energy in practical duties will not lower me in your estimation.

In my own mind—and I cannot help saying it to you—I think he does me an injustice: indeed I would very fainly return his note to him. I thought it better, however, to send it first to you, that you might clearly know his opinion of me before proceeding further in the following out of the suggestion of Dr. Hooker’s.6

I also enclose the testimonial which Prof. Balfour has favoured me with.7 I will not trouble you with sending any others at present; but I may state that I have very satisfactory recomendations from clergymen & gentlemen of my own neighbourhood.

I need scarcely say that I should like very much to be enabled to follow out the suggestion of Dr. Hookers, as I have no prospects whatever of anything turning up for me in this country. I must add however, that my relatives could do little in the way of assisting me with money; so that for the present I would have to rely on the kind and generous assistance you have proffered.8

I have wrote to a friend who has had to do with sending out gardeners to India as to cost of outfit & passage, & I will let you know the sum which he thinks would be necessary.

I will be glad to hear from you again soon: I can only feebly express my sincere thankfulness for the great kindness you are doing me, and the continued interest you take in my welfare

I have the honour to remain | Sir | Your obedt. servant | John Scott


26th May, 1864.

Mr John Scott was connected with the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh for some years, and I have much pleasure in certifying that he was zealously devoted to the prosecution of botany.9 He was diligent and sober, and enjoyed excellent opportunities of becoming practically acquainted with plants, both as regards their structure and physiology and their cultivation. He made some valuable observations and experiments, the results of which were published in the “Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal” and in the Transactions of the Botanical Society.10

J. H. Balfour, M.D., | Professor of Botany.


The year is established by the date of the enclosure.
Letter to John Scott, 21 May [1864].
In the letter to John Scott, 21 May [1864], CD had suggested that Scott obtain references from his former superiors at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, John Hutton Balfour and James McNab.
The letter to Scott from McNab has not been found.
Scott had been offered a position in a Cinchona plantation in Darjeeling, India, in May 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters from John Scott, 22 May 1863 and 26 May [1863], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [23–7 May 1863]). On the deterioration of Scott’s working relationship with McNab, see ibid., letters from John Scott, 22 May 1863 and [3 June 1863].
Joseph Dalton Hooker had suggested that Scott seek employment in India. See letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 May 1864.
See enclosure.
See letter to John Scott, 21 May [1864] and n. 5. Scott had refused all CD’s earlier offers of financial assistance (see letter from John Scott, 5 May [1864] and n. 9). Scott had an aunt and a sister in Scotland; his parents had died when he was a child (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, 6 January 1863, Transactions of the Botanical Society [of Edinburgh] 14 (1883): 160, and J. W. Kennedy 1908, p. 66).
Scott was foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, from 1859 to 1864 (Freeman 1978). For Balfour’s detailed assessment of Scott’s character and abilities, see the enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864. Scott began a correspondence with CD on his observations and experiments at the end of 1862 (see Correspondence vols. 10 and 11).
Scott’s publications in these journals included Scott 1862a–d, Scott 1863a and b, and Scott 1864c. Balfour was one of the vice-presidents of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh (Medical directory 1863), and had chaired several of the meetings at which Scott’s papers were presented.


Discusses the negative testimonial provided him by James McNab.

Sends testimonial from J. H. Balfour.

Would be glad if offered the sort of colonial opportunity Hooker suggests.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 107; Transactions of the Hawick Archæological Society (1908): 68
Physical description
4pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4513,” accessed on 27 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12