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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   10 April 1865


10th. April 1865.


I duly received your letter along with the copies of my papers1—for all the trouble about which I can only express my great indebtedness.2 I am quite ashamed at the time I have allowed to elapse in acknowledging the receipt of the above along with your own paper on the Lythrums3—which I have read with great interest— How completely the sexual phenomena of the Lythrums casts into the shade those of the Primula, &c, which we have of late regarded as so remarkable!4

I have also to acknowledge receipt of Dr. Cruger’s paper on Orchids. I see Dr. Cruger attributes the sterility of the male Catasetum to a deficiency in the conducting tissue.5 My experiments results on the Gongoras & Acroperas illustrates this view, inasmuch as I have found a gradual decrease in the amount of fertility according to the amount I cut from the column in inserting the pollen-masses.6 This is further illustrated by the fact that in those cases in which the capsule did not set when I had cut largely from the column—I invariably found that a sufficiency of pollen-tubes were developed, showing us that the power of stimulating the full developement of the ovules does not, at least in every case reside innately, & independently in the pollen.

I should have liked if Dr. Cruger had entered more fully into the fertilisation of Gongora   He has said nothing as to the contraction of the stigmatic cavity! I have not as yet had an opportunity of examining many of the species—but all that I have seen, exhibit the same contracted characteristics—and of course it would have been utterly impossible for an insect—I am inclined to think—to insert the pollinia— Fertilisation in these could only have been effected in the manner described by Dr. Cruger by a large developement of the viscous matter around the mouth of the stigma as I formerly supposed.7

I should like much to have time & opportunities to re-commence experiments on the above. At present I have neither being kept very busy indeed with the Cinchonas8   Whether or not I remain here much longer I really cannot say. I rather think that I will go down to the Calcutta Botanic Gardens, as Curator, Dr. Anderson having offered it me, & appears desirous that I should take it for a short time.9 I expected that I would have known definitely ere this whether I should go or not, Dr. Anderson having promised to pay us a visit here in the latter end of March.

I trust my other letters and paper on Verbascums have come duly to hand,10 as I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you since the date of their arrival. I have to express my best thanks for your remarks upon composition.11 I can assure you, I well know the need of improving myself—but alas! for my powers. I am most completely awanting in the powers of expression, so that my highest source of happiness, affords me the greatest pain.

I was sorry to hear of the old bye law which prevents my election as an Associate of the Linnean Society.12 I should have indeed liked much to have had that honour conferred upon me. But now of course it can’t be helped. I am much pleased to find that Prof. A. Gray has noticed my paper—13 I expected that he would have something to say on the N.A. Hottonia inflata.14

I am sorry to see by your last letter that your health was still weak. I sincerely trust that you are now as spring advances beginning to enjoy a greater share of this first of all comforts. I will be glad if I have a letter from you soon, & find that I can possibly be of any service to you here, should it be that I have to go to Calcutta. In case this should be, when you are pleased to write me again, will you kindly address to the care of Dr. Anderson as formerly.

And now with many thanks—which I as yet can alone offer—for all your kindness to me.15

I remain | Sir | Your obliged & obed Serv | J. Scott.

CD annotations16

End of letter: ‘Situation good | I am glad to hear that you had work so soon | Climbing Paper17 | Hookers | Leersia18 | Lagestroemia’19 pencil


The letter to Scott has not been found, but was written before CD wrote a letter to Scott on 11 March 1865 that is also missing (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865). Scott probably refers to copies of his papers in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) (Scott 1864a and 1864c).
Scott had sought CD’s advice before preparing the manuscript of Scott 1864c (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 19 March 1864 and n. 21). He also sent the completed manuscripts of Scott 1864a and 1864c to CD for comments (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from John Scott, 28 March 1864, 5 May [1864], and first letter of 10 June [1864]). CD communicated both papers to the Linnean Society in June 1864.
Scott is comparing CD’s work on the trimorphic Lythrum with CD’s work on the structure and functions of the reproductive organs in the dimorphic Primula, ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, which had stimulated Scott’s study of this genus (Scott 1864b). For Scott and CD’s discussions of the Primulaceae, see Correspondence vols. 10–12.
CD first told Scott of Hermann Crüger’s work and of the manuscript of Crüger 1864 in February or March 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 19 March 1864 and n. 20). For Crüger’s discussion of the sterility of the male Catasetum, see Crüger 1864, pp. 127–8. Conducting tissue is the portion of the style through which the pollen tubes pass from the stigma to the ovules.
For Scott’s experimental manipulations of Gongora and Acropera, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from John Scott, 11 November 1862, Correspondence vol. 11, letters from John Scott, [after 12] April [1863] and 21 May [1863], and Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 19 March 1864 and n. 16. CD cited Scott’s observations on the pollination of these orchid genera in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 153 (Collected papers 2: 150), and Orchids 2d ed., pp. 168–70.
Crüger discussed the possible insect pollination of Gongora in Crüger 1864, pp. 130–1. CD and Scott had wondered how the stigmatic chamber of Gongora and Acropera flowers, which was very narrow, could allow for insect pollination; Scott had succeeded in pollinating Gongora atropurpurea only by manually applying pollinia and viscous material to the stigmatic chamber (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 19 March 1864 and nn. 12–16, and Orchids 2d ed., pp. 167–71).
Scott had taken a position at Rungbee, a Cinchona plantation near Darjeeling, India, in December 1864 (see letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865 and n. 7).
Thomas Anderson was superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [17 February 1865] and n. 14.
See letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865. The letters from John Scott of 21 December 1864 and 4 January 1865 have not been found. CD received Scott’s manuscript on Verbascum, which was sent on 4 January 1865 (see letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865, letter from J. D. Hooker, [10 March 1865], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 [March 1865]). CD’s reply to Scott, written on 11 March 1865, has not been found (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865).
CD had previously advised Scott on his writing style, and may also have commented on the style of Scott 1864a and Scott 1864c in the letter to which this is a reply, which is missing (see n. 1, above, Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 11 December [1862], and Correspondence vol. 11, letters to John Scott, 31 May [1863] and 1 and 3 August [1863]).
In February 1864 George Bentham had suggested that Scott be put forward for election as an associate of the Linnean Society; however, a bylaw of the society limited the election of associates to those resident in the ‘British Dominions’ (1861 Charter and Byelaws of the Linnean Society of London, Library of the Linnean Society). The proposal was made following the reading and warm reception of Scott’s paper on the Primulaceae (Scott 1864b) at the Linnean Society on 4 February 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864, [before 9 February 1864], and 26[–8] October 1864, and letter to John Scott, 9 February [1864] and n. 9).
Scott refers to Asa Gray’s review of Scott 1864b entitled ‘Dioico-dimorphism in the primrose family’ (A. Gray 1865a); the review appeared in the January issue of the American Journal of Science and Arts. CD had encouraged Gray to write the review, and sent him a copy of Scott 1864b together with an abstract of its contents (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to Asa Gray, 13 September [1864], and letter from Asa Gray, 3 October 1864).
Scott began his paper on Primula with a discussion of the dimorphic species of the allied genus Hottonia, including observations on the North American species H. inflata (see Scott 1864b, pp. 78–9). Gray did not comment on these observations in his review, and mentioned the genus Hottonia only briefly (A. Gray 1865a, p. 101).
For CD’s support of Scott, financial and otherwise, see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to John Scott, 10 June 1864, n. 1, and this volume, letter from John Scott, 20 January 1865 and nn. 3, 4, and 6.
CD’s annotations appear to be notes for a letter to Scott that has not been found.
CD probably intended to send Scott a copy of ‘Climbing plants’, an abstract of which was read before the Linnean Society on 2 February 1865; offprints of the paper were available from 12 June 1865 (see Freeman 1977, p. 117).
In a missing letter to Scott (see n. 16, above), CD probably discussed his observations on the cleistogamic flowers of Leersia oryzoides (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865). In Forms of flowers, p. 335, CD noted that he had sent seeds from the cleistogamic flowers to Scott, who ‘cultivated the plants in various ways, but they never produced perfect flowers’.
CD had acquired a Lagerstroemia, a heterostyled member of the Lythraceae, from Hooker in 1863, and evidently wanted to learn more of Indian species (see letter from John Scott, 21 July 1865 and nn. 15 and 16).


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Crüger, Hermann. 1864. A few notes on the fecundation of orchids and their morphology. [Read 3 March 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 127–35.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


Comments on CD’s Lythrum paper [Collected papers 2: 106–31]

and on H. Crüger’s orchid paper [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 127–35].

May take position at Calcutta Botanic Garden.

Regrets he cannot be elected to Linnean Society.

Pleased Asa Gray has commented on JS’s paper.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 115
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4810,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

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