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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   5 May [1864]1


May 5th.


I enclose for your perusal the first of my experimental papers.2 I will be glad to hear whether or not you think it sufficiently interesting to communicate to the Linn. Soc. I fear it will be rather dry: as you will find it simply consists of a detail of experiments.

In one point, however, you will find it I think more satisfactory than that which I communicated to the Bot. Soc. of Edinburgh, viz as respects condition of seeds.3 The making out the amount & relative number of good & bad seed was most troublesome & tedious work, but this is nothing if as I hope it will render my paper more interesting & complete.

The next paper I purpose sending you, is on the Passifloras Disemmas & Tacsonias.4

I expected from what Mr. Kippist5 said that the proofs of paper on Primulas6 would have been sent me ere this but I have not yet received it. I will therefore have the opportunity of noticing the case you mention about my equal-styled cowslip.7 I will also insert a note on the occurrence of equal-styled Primroses: with a notice of their fertility,8 as I have at present one or two self-fertilised pods on my plant.

I can now only feebly express my thankfulness for the continued interest you take in me. I do feel deeply obliged for your kindness in offering to assist me pecuniarily.9 If I had anything like definite prospects of getting some situation I would gladly avail myself of your kindness; but as it is I will not for the present.

My spirits sink in spite of me; as I have now been more than two months at home & have even less prospects of a situation than when I came.

I remain | Yours respectfully & obliged | J Scott

CD annotations

Bottom of letter: ‘Is Prim a primrose? or Oxlip.’10 pencil


The year is established by Scott’s reference to his having been more than two months at home, where he had been since leaving his position at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh; Scott left his post in March 1864 (see letter from John Scott, 10 March 1864).
Scott refers to the manuscript of ‘On the individual sterility and cross-impregnation of certain species of Oncidium’, which was read before the Linnean Society on 2 June 1864 (Scott 1864b). There is an annotated copy of Scott 1864b in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For Scott and CD’s earlier correspondence on these experiments, which Scott began in 1863, see Correspondence vol. 11, and this volume, letter from John Scott, 28 March 1864 and nn. 13–15. CD cited Scott 1864b in Variation 2: 133. See also Orchids 2d ed., p. 289.
Scott refers to his earlier paper on Oncidium (Scott 1863a), which referred only briefly to the condition of the seeds produced by his crossing experiments; there is an annotated copy of this paper in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. In Scott 1864b, p. 166, Scott provided a tabulation of the ‘estimated number of good seeds’ as a proportion of the total number of seeds produced by each of the crosses.
The reference is to the manuscript of ‘Notes on the sterility and hybridization of certain species of Passiflora, Disemma, and Tacsonia’, which was later published in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) (Scott 1864d). Scott sent the manuscript to CD in June (see first letter from John Scott, 10 June [1864] and n. 2). There is an annotated copy of Scott 1864d in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Scott refers to Richard Kippist, librarian of the Linnean Society (Gage and Stearn 1988).
The reference is to Scott 1864a, which was read at the Linnean Society on 4 February 1864 (see letters to John Scott, 6 February [1864] and 9 February [1864]). CD had read drafts of Scott 1864a before it was sent to the Linnean Society (see letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864] and nn. 2–5).
The letter to Scott in which this case was discussed has not been found. Scott began experimenting with an equal-styled (non-dimorphic) cowslip in May 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, 21 May [1863]); the plant is described in Scott 1864a, pp. 105–6. Scott may refer to information from CD drawing comparisons between the non-dimorphic cowslip and equal-styled individuals of Primula sinensis (see n. 8, below). CD discussed equal-styled varieties of P. sinensis, and Scott’s non-dimorphic cowslip, in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 414–18 and 426–30, and in Forms of flowers, pp. 218–23 and 234–8. For CD’s interest in Scott’s non-dimorphic cowslip, see also the memorandum from W. E. Darwin, [30 April 1864] and n. 2, the letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864] and n. 11, and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864].
In Scott 1864a, p. 107 n., in a footnote to his discussion of the non-dimorphic cowslip, Scott wrote: ‘Mr. Darwin informs me those individuals of the P. Sinensis which have stamens and styles of equal length are also more fertile with own pollen than a heteromorphic union!’ For CD’s recent work on Primula sinensis, see the letter from W. E. Darwin, [15 March 1864], the letter from H. E. Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [16 March 1864], and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 22 March [1864].
After Scott left his position at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in March, CD offered to assist him financially (see letter to John Scott, 9 April 1864). CD may have repeated his offer in a missing letter (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 April [1864]).
For CD’s work on the relationship between oxlips and other members of the Primulaceae, see, for example, the letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864] and nn. 15 and 16.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Encloses MS of his paper ["On individual sterility of Oncidium", J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 162–7].

His next will be on Passiflora, Disemma, and Tacsonia [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 197–206].

When he receives proofs of his Primula paper he will add CD’s case about equal-styled cowslip.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 105
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4485,” accessed on 13 May 2021,

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