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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Scott   15 April [1872]1

Down, Beckenham, Kent,

April 15.

My Dear Sir,—

I thank you sincerely for your letter of March 22nd. Almost every word in it is of value to me, and you have proved yourself, as on so many other occasions, the most obliging of observers. I have heard from Dr Asa Gray that the worms do plenty of work in the U. States, so that now I think I may opinion that they work in much the same way in all parts of the world.2

I will specify a few of the points in which I should be very glad for further information. As before asked, do the very heavy rains fairly wash down the castings?3 I should be especially glad to hear if you can find any castings on a slope, whether they are washed in any perceptible degree from the slope by very heavy rain. Do the castings ever disintegrate into dust, at the commencement of the dry season, so that the casting could be blown away by the wind?

How deep down do you generally find worms? You have given me some information on this head.4 Do your worms draw leaves or little sticks into the mouths of their burrows, or pile pebbles over the mouths, as our worms are continually doing? It is astonishing to me that the worms can exist in the flooded rice fields. I did receive your paper on the sandalwood parasites, and read it with much interest.5 Pray do not trouble yourself to send the Lecosia, for as the wretch will not make perfect flowers, I care very little about it.6

I very sincerely wish all success to your great work, of which you send me the contents; it must be a very arduous undertaking.7 Once again I cordially thank you for your letter and observations, which are of real value to me.

Yours very sincerely, | Ch. Darwin.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from John Scott, 22 March 1872.
CD had asked whether heavy tropical rain washed away fresh worm castings, but Scott had been unable to supply the information as his observations were carried out during the dry season (see letter to John Scott, 15 January 1872, and letter from John Scott, 22 March 1872).
Scott’s letter of 22 March 1872 is incomplete. The section that mentions his paper on members of the parasitic plant family Loranthaceae (Scott 1870–4, pt 2) has not been found. Both the Loranthaceae and the Santalaceae (sandalwood) belong to the order Santalales. CD’s annotated copy of an offprint of this paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In his letter to Scott of 3 June 1868 (Correspondence vol. 16), CD had asked whether Leersia grown in Calcutta produced perfect flowers (in CD’s definition, perfect flowers are flowers of hermaphrodite plants that are perfectly expanded at the time of flowering; see Forms of flowers, pp. 3–4). Scott mentioned Leersia in his letter of 22 March 1872, but the letter is incomplete and most of that section of the letter has not been found. The transcription, ‘Lecosia’, in the printed source is evidently in error.
The section of Scott’s letter of 22 March 1872 containing information about the work Scott was planning is now missing. The work itself has not been identified.


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.

Scott, John. 1870–4. Notes on horticulture in Bengal. 1. Gerniaceace–the cranes-bill order. 2. Loranthacæ–the mistleto order, their germination and mode of attachment. 3. Orchidaceae–the orchid order. Journal of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India 2 (1870): 241–57, 257–96; 3 (1874): 1–82.


JS’s valuable observations on worms in India along with Asa Gray’s in the United States confirm CD’s opinion that worms work in the same way all over the world. Requests further information on the subject.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Scott
Sent from
Source of text
Transactions of the Hawick Archæological Society (1908): 69

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8287F,” accessed on 10 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20