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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [4 June 1864]1



Dear old D

I have been desperately pressed with work of late—&, as you know, take full licence to leave you in the lurch, without fear of consequences, in all such cases.

I return Scotts testimonials,2 which are quite satisfactory, & which he should keep   I shall forward their grist to Anderson, who I shall write privately to, & also give Scott a letter to, & who I hope will aid him materially.—3 I cannot help thinking that Scott ought to do admirably well in many good places in India, & will be get on— Thomson,4 who knows all that I know & has seen Balfour’s former letters, thinks so too.—5 Cleghorn, Superintendent of Forest department is coming home,6 but I shall write to his locum tenens, Dr Stewart,7 & Thomsn will do so too. I will also give him a letter to Grote at Calcutta,8 a great friend of mine who is high up in position & very fond of gardening. The great thing would be for him to get temporary employment however small, as soon as possible after landing; & wait for some good appt. turning up. in the Forest, Tea or Cinchona plantations: which must be before long. Scotts peculiar temper will be no obstacle to the Hindoos & Mussulmen working well under him, & there is no occasion to say any thing about it at all to my correspondent— in fact there is no call for me to say anything about positions for which I do not think him suited.9

God help me, I find your letter of 31st. says that silence shall mean I cannot send you Cardiospermum & Commelyna. 10 I believe you can have both— I will see to them at once & to Adlumia 11 & other creepers. The fact is, our new man finds his own hands full & a deal for us to do;—we are losing plants by hundreds from bad cultivation & shall be much worse before we can be better.12 The whole establishment nearly has been so utterly neglected horticulturally, all last winter that our hot-houses especially are all but denuded of rare new & interesting plants: & our young new & rare things are perishing by thousands from improper treatment— Of all the fine crop of Nepenthes I had raised a year or so ago (& sent you 2 young plants of)13 there is scarce one to be found young or old— The new man finds he must repot the plants in the whole garden, & teach the men how to do it too.— We are like a business that has just called in an accountant on the verge of bankruptcy, & are proportionally anxious & worried   It is this summer that is telling on the plants,—growth commences & there are no roots to meet demand; the bottoms of the pots full of mud from neglect bad soil & overwatering—the leaves loaded with vermin. Cinchona plants all killed but 3— not a Dendrobe in flower.14 Water lilies reduced to 2 species! Economic plants no-where. Per contra our new man seems a splendid & most judicious fellow—but how he will manage with some of the old foremen passes my finding out— I look forward to some rows for certain; meanwhile he is most prudent, & working with his own hands with a will.

Nepenthes certainly climbs by tips of leaves,15 I will try & get you a cutting struck.

I am going to Dublin at end of month to see see some new fashioned double roofed plant houses which I fancy are a great success— I shall probably send wife to Middleton Teesdale16 in July with Dr & Mrs Harvey17 & try & get down there a little myself as I have to go to see Backhouses nurseries18—but must be back by 21st.

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker

I hope Scott will come here before he sails, does he go overland   if not, I will send a Ward case19 by same ship.

CD annotations20

2.1 I return] after opening square bracket, pencil
2.3 I cannot help … India 2.4] double scored pencil; del pencil
2.5 Thomson] ‘Dr’ added before, pencil; ‘(recently Curator of Bot Garden of Calcutta)’ interl pencil
2.5 I know] ‘I’ over ‘I’ pencil
2.5 & has seen … letters 2.6] del pencil; ‘about Scott’ added above, pencil
2.7 Thomsn] del pencil; ‘Thomson’ added above, pencil
2.12 Scotts peculiar … there is 2.13] del pencil
2.12 Scotts peculiar … suited. 2.15] crossed pencil
2.15 for which … suited.] del pencil
3.17 Per contra … fellow— 2.18] double scored pencil
5.1 I am … month] ‘(Dandelion)’21 pencil; square brackets in original
7.1 I hope] ‘(P.S.’ added before, pencil; square bracket in original
7.2 ship.] before closing square bracket, pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to J. D. Hooker, 2 June [1864] and 10 June [1864]. The first Saturday after 2 June 1864 was 4 June.
John Scott had enclosed testimonials from John Hutton Balfour and James McNab in his letter to CD of 28 May [1864]; CD had sent them to Hooker in his letter of 30 May [1864]. For Balfour’s testimonial, see the enclosure to the letter from John Scott, 28 May [1864]. McNab’s testimonial has not been found; see, however, letter from John Scott, 28 May [1864].
The reference is to Thomas Anderson, superintendent of the Calcutta botanic garden. Hooker had offered to write to Anderson on Scott’s behalf in his letter of 19 May 1864. CD suggested that Scott should have a note to present to Anderson on his arrival in Calcutta (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 May [1864]).
The reference is to Thomas Thomson.
Balfour had given an assessment of Scott in his letter to Hooker of 5 April 1864 (see enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 April [1864]. Thomson had given a favourable account of Scott’s recent work on Primula (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 [March] 1864 and n. 6).
The reference is to Hugh Francis Clarke Cleghorn, who was conservator of forests in Madras. He was currently based in Punjab on a commission to advise the government of India on the general organisation of forest administration (see Stebbing 1922–6, 1: 301, 324). Following the death of his father in 1864, Cleghorn took leave of absence from his position to return to his family home in Scotland (Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 20 (1892–5): liv–lv). See letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 May 1864.
Hooker refers to John Lindsay Stewart, conservator of forests in Punjab (R. Desmond 1994).
The reference is to Arthur Grote, commissioner of the Board of Revenue in Calcutta (DIB).
CD and Hooker had discussed Scott’s character at length in April (see, for example, letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1864, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 April [1864]).
Hooker refers to John Smith (1821–88), newly appointed curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. See letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864 and n. 7, and [2 April 1864], n. 8.
Hooker refers to the orchid genus Dendrobium. CD had discussed the genus in Orchids, pp. 172–8. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 April 1864] and n. 8.
Hooker and his wife, Frances Harriet Hooker, occasionally took holidays in Middleton, Teesdale, in North Yorkshire (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 or 27 April 1864] and n. 18).
Hooker refers to William Henry Harvey and his wife, Elizabeth Lecky Harvey.
Hooker refers to the nursery run by James Backhouse and his son, James Backhouse, in York (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 or 27 April 1864] and n. 16).
The Wardian case, in which growing plants could be transported without watering through extremes of heat and cold, was invented by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (see Ward 1842 and L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 47 n. 3).
CD annotated this letter in order to send an extract to Scott. CD’s letter to Scott has not been found; however, see the letter from John Scott, 8 June 1864.
In his letter of 19 May 1864, Harvey had described flowers of a common dandelion that had ‘changed their form “generically” ’. In his letter of 10 June [1864], CD asked Hooker to look at the plant when he visited Harvey in Dublin.


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.

DIB: Dictionary of Indian biography. By C. E. Buckland. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. 1906.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Stebbing, E. P. 1922–6. The forests of India. 3 vols. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head.

Ward, Nathaniel Bagshaw. 1842. On the growth of plants in closely glazed cases. London: John Van Voorst.


JDH is writing letters for Scott, whose temper will be "no obstacle for Hindoos and Musselmen working under him".

New curator at Kew finds considerable neglect, with hundreds of plants dying.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 222–4
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4519,” accessed on 5 December 2022,

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