skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   8 April 1864


April 8/64

My dear Darwin

I am extremely puzzled how to advise about Scott.1 As a rule in such cases the “least said the soonest mended,” I wish to Heavens I had asked Balfour before—2 you must not on any account let him know of our having had any communication with Balfour. he would put B. down as his enemy at once & there might be the devil to pay.— You cannot conceive what trouble men of Scotts temperament give us. One is now threatening us with an action for not giving him a good enough character, on this very ground of sulky pig-headed celtic disposition. A capital young gardener he is too—clever, well informed, & an excellent worker— the wretch has cost me hours of time & thought, advice & warning—all to no purpose   he is very grateful to me personally & has not given me a word of offence, nor anything but thanks for my efforts to reform him—but I have not moved him one inch to better courses, & his conduct has been disgraceful. & after kicking up a precious row, he leaves us with a threat.—3 Then again pray consider (what we often have to) if you do take & employ him for 2 years, what is he to do after that?4—when he will have lost much of his utilitarian gardening skill. I hope the poor fellow is not married.5

Do pray take care, of all classes of men Gardeners are the most troublesome I ever had dealings with—what with their superficial knowlged, tempers, the conflict of science & practice in their brains, conceit & tyrannical conduct to those under them— they do require very careful treatment.6

My dear friend this is a wretched letter to send you.— I will not cease to think if anything could possibly turn up for Scott— The only thing I can think of is a Nursery Garden of his own, but then he would never make it pay!

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker.

Rolleston wrote the Review of Schleiden7

CD annotations8

Top of letter: ‘Leersia | Chief Baron | Nepenthes? | Scott | Health’ pencil


Hooker refers to John Scott and to CD’s query in his letter of 7 April [1864].
Hooker had asked John Hutton Balfour, Scott’s recent employer, about Scott’s suitability for a foreign appointment (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [4 April 1864]). Hooker enclosed Balfour’s reply with his letter of 6 April 1864.
The gardener at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has not been identified.
John Scott never married (see J. W. Kennedy 1908).
For the working conditions and educational opportunities offered to gardeners at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the nineteenth century, see R. Desmond and Hepper 1993, pp. 6–11. For William Jackson Hooker’s and J. D. Hooker’s difficult relationship with their curator, John Smith (1798–1888), see R. Desmond 1965 and R. Desmond 1994, pp. 221, 430, and 439.
George Rolleston was the author of a review of Schleiden 1863a and 1863b ([Rolleston] 1864; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864 and n. 4).
CD’s annotation is a reminder for his reply to Hooker. In his letter of 13 April [1864], he asked Hooker about cultivating Leersia, thanked him for the enquiry from the Chief Baron, Jonathan Frederick Pollock, and also discussed his own health and the future of John Scott. He did not raise a query about Nepenthes until his letter of 31 [May 1864] (see also letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 22, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864]).


Desmond, Ray. 1965. John Smith, Kew’s first curator. Kew Guild Journal 8: 576–87.

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.

[Rolleston, George.] 1864. Schleiden’s essays. [Review of Schleiden 1863a and 1863b.] Natural History Review n.s. 4: 187–99.


Men of Scott’s Celtic temperament are very troublesome. Tries to dissuade CD from hiring him as a scientific gardener.

George Rolleston, not Spencer, wrote review of Schleiden [Nat. Hist. Rev. (1864): 187–99].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 206–7
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4457,” accessed on 15 December 2019,

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