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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   20 January 1865


Jany. 20th. 1865.


I trust my letter of the 21st. December—the date of my arrival in Calcutta1—& also details of Experiments on Verbascum—registered on the 4th. Jany. have come duly to hand.2 I will be anxious to hear what you think of the latter; when you have got time to look it over. I hope that I have not made any such mistakes in my calculations as that which you have drawn my attention to in Primula paper.3 I do not know how it has escaped my notice— it was very stupid of me to have overlooked it. I will indeed be sorry to hear that you have been at much trouble with those which you have now so kindly taken in hand to correct for me.... . . I thank you most kindly for the high opinion you express with regard to my Primula paper. It of itself more than sufficiently repays me for all the time & labour spent in experimentation. I only hope that my Verbascums, may similarly interest you—for they also are the results of much time & labour.

I only received the copies of Primula paper, which you had so kindly forwarded. Those sent are quite sufficient to supply I think all whom I should like to present a copy to. Please accept my best thanks for the honour you have done me in sending copies of it to so many eminent authors.4 I have also to thank you for copy of Edin. Courant, showing me that Prof. Balfour has not entirely forgot me.5

Truly indeed does he say that you have advanced my prospects in life—for without your kind & helping hand my future looked dark & ominous in the extreme. I only trust that I may now soon be in a position where I may repay to you the pecuniary portion of my debt—& also by assiduous application try to prove myself not entirely an unworthy recipient of your many kindnesses.6

I think I mentioned in a P.S. to letter of the 21st. that on making a passing call at Dr. Anderson’s on my way up to Calcutta, he immediately gave me a place in the Cinchona Department.7 He also told me that in accepting it, I did not not need to consider it as permanently settled that I should remain in it, for the present


The letter from John Scott has not been found. He had left his position at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in March 1864 and, on the advice of CD and Joseph Dalton Hooker, decided to seek employment in India (see Correspondence vol. 12). He departed for Calcutta on 28 August 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 30 August 1864, and this volume, letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 January 1865]).
Scott sent CD a draft of a paper on Verbascum that he had prepared while sailing to India; CD passed the manuscript on to Hooker for comments, and it was eventually returned to Scott (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1865], letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 [March 1865], and letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865). After a suggestion from CD in 1862, Scott began work on Verbascum to test the experiments on hybrid sterility performed by Karl Friedrich von Gärtner (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 19 November [1862], and letter from John Scott, 17 December [1862], and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, 21 September [1863]). In his letter of 16 May [1864] (Correspondence vol. 12), Scott remarked: ‘the degree of sterility of unions between differently coloured varieties may be inversely proportionate to their colour affinities’. Scott published his results on Verbascum in Scott 1867. An annotated copy of Scott 1867 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD cited some of Scott’s findings in Variation 2: 100–7, Origin 5th and 6th eds. (see Peckham ed. 1959, p. 465), and Cross and self fertilisation, p. 330.
CD had commented on a draft of Scott 1864b in September 1863, praising it as an ‘excellent memoir’ and suggesting some alterations (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to John Scott, 7 November [1863]). CD received a revised version of the paper from Scott in January 1864, together with a set of queries regarding further corrections, but asked Scott to let him send the paper to the Linnean Society for publication without further alterations (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 7 January [1864], and letter from Emma Darwin to John Scott, 9 January 1864). Scott’s paper contained calculations of the comparative fertility of different forms of Primulaceae species when self-pollinated or crossed with other forms (see Scott 1864b, pp. 103, 106). The letter in which CD noted the mistakes in Scott’s calculations has not been found. An annotated copy of the paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. A second annotated copy is in the collection of unbound journals, Darwin Library–CUL. On Scott’s Verbascum calculations, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1865] and n. 6.
CD’s letter informing Scott that he had sent copies of his Primula paper, Scott 1864b, to others has not been found. CD had sent a copy of Scott 1864b, together with his own notes, summarising the main points of the paper, to Asa Gray (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864]). Gray wrote a review of the paper in the January 1865 issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts, pp. 101–4. CD also urged Hooker several times to read the paper (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, [20–]22 February [1864] and n. 6). He eventually sent Hooker a summary of the paper’s main points, suggesting that he encourage Daniel Oliver to review it (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 September [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1864). He sent the paper, with references to its important points, to Oliver after Oliver agreed to review it (letter to Daniel Oliver, 17 September [1864]). Oliver’s brief notice of the paper appeared in the Natural History Review for October 1864, p. 640. CD also sent a copy to Benjamin Dann Walsh (letter from B. D. Walsh, 29 May 1865).
The item from the Edinburgh Evening Courant has not been identified. John Hutton Balfour was regius keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Scott’s relations with his superiors at the Garden were apparently strained after he failed to accept an appointment in Darjeeling offered to him by Balfour in May 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, [3 June 1863], and Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 28 May 1864). CD and Hooker had suspected that Balfour was prejudiced against Scott because of Scott’s support for CD’s theory of transmutation (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 June 1863, and Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 April [1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864). Balfour had supplied Hooker with a character reference for Scott that praised his botanical abilities and diligence, while noting his sullen temper and neglect of more practical duties (see Correspondence vol. 12, enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, 6 April 1864). See also letter from John Scott, 28 May [1864] and the enclosed reference from Balfour.
On learning that Scott had resigned his position at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, CD had offered him financial support (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to John Scott, 9 April 1864). Scott initially declined (see ibid., letter from John Scott, 5 May [1864]); however, when it became clear that his own resources were inadequate for a passage to India, Scott accepted CD’s offer, promising to repay the sum once he had settled into a position abroad (see ibid., letters from John Scott, 28 May [1864] and 8 June 1864). CD made three separate payments to Scott, totalling £115, in each case noting the entry in his account book as a ‘gift’ under the heading ‘science’ (CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS)). CD also briefly considered employing Scott at Down (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 April [1864]). He repeatedly praised Scott’s abilities as an observer to Hooker (see, for example, ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 [May 1864]), and Hooker, through his contacts in India, eventually helped in obtaining a position for Scott (see n. 7, below).
Hooker had written to Thomas Anderson, superintendent of the Botanic Garden at Calcutta, to enquire about employment for Scott (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from J. D. Hooker, [4 June 1864] and [19 September 1864]). Scott was given a position at Rungbee, a newly established Cinchona plantation several miles south-east of Darjeeling (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 January 1865], Cinchona cultivation in British Sikkim (British parliamentary papers, Session 1866, 53: 645–51), and Markham 1880, pp. 389–90).


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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

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

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

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.

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


Comments on his Primula paper [see 4213].

Describes his situation in Calcutta.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 114
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4751,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13