Darwin worked from a position of considerable wealth and social privilege. He also sought knowledge about plants and animals from persons of very different social station, such as gardeners, artisans, and tradesmen. Darwin’s correspondence with the poultry expert William Bernard Tegetmeier and the Scottish gardener John Scott, illustrate how the rigid Victorian boundaries of class could be bridged to a considerable degree by letter writing, while at the same time differences of status were maintained through forms of address and acknowledgement.
Darwin and W. B. Tegetmeier
Letter 1751 — Darwin, C. R. to Tegetmeier, W. B., 31 Aug 
Darwin thanks W. B. Tegetmeier for his offer to supply carcasses of good poultry breeds. He encloses a list [missing] of birds in which he is interested.
Letter 1788 — Darwin, C. R. to Tegetmeier, W. B., [2 Dec 1855]
Darwin raises queries resulting from their meeting and asks a few more favours. Darwin says: “All fish come to my net in regard to variation.” Darwin also notes that he is acquiring pigeons and poultry and he would be particularly grateful for any of the rarer breeds that Tegetmeier could supply.
Letter 3139 — Tegetmeier, W. B. to Darwin, C. R., 4 May 
Tegetmeier sends some replies to Darwin’s queries and data on pigeon flights between Bordeaux and Verviers. He found little use for Brent’s papers. Huxley has asked him to publish in his journal.
The debate about John Scott
Letter 3800 — Scott, John to Darwin, C. R., [11 Nov 1862]
Scottish gardener John Scott notes that Darwin is mistaken in considering Acropera unisexual, with only male flowers [Orchids, pp. 203–10]. Scott has successfully fertilised two A. loddigesii flowers. One is ripening. Dissection of the other shows the pollen accomplishes fertilisation without contacting any stigmatic surface. Abortive ovules found in flowers did not become fertilised when pollinated. Scott suggests Acropera has both unisexual male and hermaphrodite flowers.
Letter 3805 — Darwin, C. R. to Scott, John, 12 Nov 
Darwin thanks Scott for bringing this (see 3800) to his attention and discusses whether or not “male” Acropera bear fruit. Scott’s interpretation of Acropera pollination is ingenious. Pollen-tubes of some cleistogamous flowers germinate in the anthers.
Letter 4463 — Scott, John to Darwin, C. R., 14 Apr 
Scott thanks Darwin for his consoling letter. His mind cannot concentrate after losing his position, and he feels “an inward dread of life’s future”. He would have been glad to work for Darwin and understands why Hooker cannot recommend him.
Letter 4468 — Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D., 19 [Apr 1864]
Darwin makes another plea to his friend Kew botanist J. D. Hooker to take Scott on at Kew. Darwin notes that Emma begs him not to employ him at Down. He has just received a long article on the Origin from D. J. Brown, an Edinburgh baker and geologist [see 4464].
Letter 4469 — Hooker, J. D. to Darwin, C. R., 20 Apr 1864
Hooker again refuses to help Scott, citing him as “unfitted” to make his way in the world. Scott is unwilling to take his part in the “struggle for life”, in contrast with Tyndall, Faraday, Huxley, and Lindley, who have established themselves. Scott’s work is not science, but “scientific horticulture”.
Letter 4471 — Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D., 25 Apr 
Darwin thinks his friend Kew botanist J. D. Hooker takes a hard view of Scott’s character, but will not argue further. He turns the conversation to Leersia and his work on homomorphic and heteromorphic crosses in Primula.
Letter 4611 — Darwin, C. R. to Gray, Asa, 13 Sept 
Darwin sends abstract of John Scott’s paper [see 4332] and passes on favourable remarks about Scott. Darwin notes he has finished Climbing plants and is resuming work on Variation. He has received the review of Herbert Spencer but cannot believe Gray wrote it unless he has muddled his brains with metaphysics.