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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Scott   21 May [1864]1

Down, Bromley, Kent,

May 21st.

Dear Sir,—

I received from my good friend Dr Hooker a letter of which the enclosed is an extract.2 You had better deliberately consider what he suggests and consult your friends. Remember that Dr H. knows India, and is acquainted with many men who are now in India, and who have been there.3 The suggestion comes entirely from him, and was not first made by me. Reflect well, for it is an important step for you, and I do not like to take the responsibility of giving advice. If you decide to try the plan and run such risk as there is of not getting employment, can you get a character for probity, sobriety and energy, from Professor Balfour, Mr Macnab,4 or any clergyman or magistrate of the district in which you reside. These would be of important service. I am a little doubtful whether your scientific attainments ought to be much insisted on, though they should be mentioned. The expense of some outfit for the voyage itself, and of giving you means to subsist for a short time in India, would be considerable, but how much I do not at all know: could you enquire from any gardener who has gone out to India? If your friends approve, have they the power to assist you. I would gladly pay half, and if your friends cannot assist you I am quite ready to pay the whole, for I am sure you would put me to no unnecessary expense.5 You will be wrong to feel any scruple in accepting this offer on my part, for I can afford it, and it will in every way give me satisfaction both as helping you and as forwarding science. You would have time, if you accept, to finish your papers during the voyage, and I would see to their publication.6

With every wish for you to decide best for yourself, | I remain, yours very faithfully, Dear Sir, | Charles Darwin.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 May 1864, and the letter from John Scott, 28 May [1864].
The enclosure has not been found, but it was evidently an abstract of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s letter to CD of 19 May 1864, in which he had offered to assist Scott to find employment in India.
Hooker had travelled in the Himalayas from 1847 to 1850 (DNB, DSB; see also J. D. Hooker 1854, and R. Desmond 1999). Additionally, as assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Hooker had numerous contacts with individuals employed in colonial botanic gardens and plantations (see Brockway 1979).
CD refers to John Hutton Balfour and James McNab, who were Scott’s superiors at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, where he had worked as foreman of the propagating department until his resignation in March (see letter from John Scott, 10 March 1864). For an indication of the references that Scott obtained from Balfour and McNab, see the letter from John Scott, 28 May [1864]. Without Scott’s knowledge, Balfour had already supplied information on Scott’s character and abilities to Hooker (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864 and enclosure).
CD gave Scott £25 to purchase items for his journey to India in June (see second letter from John Scott, 10 June [1864]); this was the first of three gifts that CD made to Scott (see also letter from John Scott, 2 August 1864, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [16 August 1864], n. 2).
CD refers to Scott’s planned papers on Passiflora, Disemma, and Tacsonia, and on Verbascum (see letters from John Scott, 5 May [1864] and 16 May [1864]). Scott completed the first of these papers (Scott 1864d) before his departure, and worked on his Verbascum paper on the voyage (see Correspondence vol. 13, letters from John Scott, 20 January 1865 and 21 July 1865). Scott’s Verbascum paper was eventually published as Scott 1867.


Brockway, Lucile H. 1979. Science and colonial expansion. The role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. New York: Academic Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Desmond, Ray. 1999. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, traveller and plant collector. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Scott, John. 1867. On the reproductive functional relations of several species and varieties of Verbasca. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 36 (pt 2): 145–74.


Encloses an extract from a letter received from [J. D.] Hooker which suggests a job opportunity in India. Advises careful reflection about the risks and the need for a character recommendation. Would like to support the costs of the voyage and initial living expenses.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Scott
Sent from
Source of text
Transactions of the Hawick Archæological Society (1908): 67–8

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4505F,” accessed on 14 July 2024,

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