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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to John Scott   19 November [1863]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Nov 19.

Dear Sir

My husband wishes me to write & thank you for your letter2   He has not been so well as he was & cannot answer it himself & for the same reason he begs you will not send the specimen.3 He quite agrees “about reversion & it was that made him ask you about the parental form”—4

The discovery about crossing Cryptogams must be very interesting5

With Mr Darwin’s kind regards I am | yours very truly | E. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Scott, 7 November [1863] (see n. 4, below).
The letter from Scott has not been found.
The letter mentioning the specimen has not been found, but Scott may have again referred to a ripe capsule of Linum monogynum (see letter from John Scott, 21 September [1863]). He eventually sent seeds of this species to CD in January 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, [13 January 1864]).
After reading the manuscript of Scott’s Primula paper (Scott 1864a), CD asked him to conjecture in the summary what he thought the ancestral form of the genus was (see letter to John Scott, 7 November [1863]). Scott’s reply has not been found; however, in the last two sentences of Scott 1864a (p. 126), Scott referred to his experiments with a non-dimorphic form of the cowslip, P. veris (ibid., pp. 105–8), that he believed had gradually derived from the more common dimorphic forms. He took this as evidence that the original progenitor had been a non-dimorphic form that had also gradually given rise to ‘dimorphically characterized race’. The non-dimorphic form thus presented a case of reversion. CD noted Scott’s conclusion in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, p. 435, where he also referred to his own discussion of reversion in Variation (2: 28–61). He had completed a draft of the chapter on reversion and two others on inheritance on 1 April 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
The letter in which Scott sent this information has not been found. Scott had been working on the sexuality of cryptogams; his observations were later published as Scott 1864c (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 12 [February 1864]). In Scott 1864c, p. 195, Scott described the growth of a plant that he believed was a successful cross between two species of the clubmoss, Selaginella.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

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


CD agrees about reversion.

The discovery of crossing in cryptogams is very interesting.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
John Scott
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: B31
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4343,” accessed on 27 November 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11