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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [23–7 May 1863]1

Dr. D.

I have written on enclosed my notions about Scotts plan which, if you think proper you can send to him.2 I must add one or two lines in explanation

1) as to the plan, it is offered by a private company, & Cinchona is at present a pure untried speculation.3

2) Balfour is rather notorious for making bad appointments,4 & I do not doubt that Anderson is in a fix—5 he is not authorized to offer enough to get a good man from England, & so he goes to Scotland—whence men are to be had cheaper—

3) I do not like Scotts quarrelling with McNab, of whom I never heard complaints as a bad master—6 but I do know from sad experience that nothing is more difficult than to give good men good opportunities for improving themselves in their own way in public establishments.— Of all men in the world Gardeners (especially intelligent ones) are the most troublesome to deal with— give one the smallest advantage, or let it be seen that you think more of him than the others, & the “struggle for life” begins,—give them an inch for their own experiments, & they take an ell, & all sorts of jealousies spring up.

McNab at Edinburgh has to get his fair days work out of his men for fair days wages & lectures & experimenting are terrible excuses for all sorts of very unexpected & inexpedient delinquencies— As to a head propagator being away an hour daily, & that a fixed hour, I do not doubt it is most inexpedient—considering the enormous temptations to pilfer in that department: & that if one attends the lectures why should not all—& all their successors too.7

Then too much depends on the personal tact &c of the experimenter & his chief; experiments kill plants, as well as promote science!: in fact there are 2000 ways in which it interferes grievously with a public establishment except it is conducted under the personal superintendence of the head of the gardens.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 May [1863], and the letter to John Scott, 25 and 28 May [1863]. Since letters were collected from the Post Office at Down daily at 1:30 P.M., and an evening delivery to the Post Office at Kew at 7:30 P.M. was despatched immediately after arrival, it was possible for a letter from CD to be delivered to Hooker on the same day (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862, Post Office London directory 1863).
Attempts by the British to transfer Peruvian Cinchona for cultivation in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) began in 1860, the first plants arriving in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India in January 1861 (Markham 1880, pp. iii and 316). The establishment of plantations for Cinchona in Darjeeling between 1862 and 1864 is discussed in Markham 1880, pp. 389–90. See also n. 5, below.
Thomas Anderson was superintendent of the Calcutta botanic gardens (R. Desmond 1994). The new Cinchona plantations in Darjeeling were established under Anderson’s direction; the first plants arrived there in June 1862 (Markham 1880, pp. 389–90; Report on Cinchona cultivation in British Sikkim).
James McNab was the curator, and Scott the foreman of the propagating department, of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. On Scott’s dispute with McNab, see the letter from John Scott, 22 May 1863.
Scott wished to attend a series of botanical lectures (see letter from John Scott, 22 May 1863 and n. 3).


Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Markham, Clements Robert. 1880. Peruvian bark. A popular account of the introduction of chinchona cultivation into British India. London: John Murray.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Report on Cinchona cultivation in British Sikkim: First annual report on Cinchona cultivation in British Sikkim, from 1st April 1862 to 30th April 1863. By Thomas Anderson. [British parliamentary papers, Session 1866, 53: 638–41.]


Encloses his notions [missing] on John Scott’s offer; some points in explanation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 141–2
Physical description
AL 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4134,” accessed on 20 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11