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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   14 April [1864]1


April 14th.


I really cannot thank you as I would wish to do for your kind letter of the 9 ult.2 It is most gratifying to me, to know that my little contributions have induced you to write me, in such a kindly manner.3 It is especially consolatory in my present circumstances; feeling as I do so chagrined with the cold, discouraging requitment of my services at the Bot. Gard.4 Indeed, it so perplexes me with respect to my future plans, that I am utterly unable to concentrate my mind as I would like to do in the working out of my experiments: though entirely disengaged from other duties, I have as yet merely completed the drawing up of my tables.5 I daresay you will can fancy—from the way in which I was engaged with experiments &c. formerly—that time hangs somewhat wearily in my hands. While in the Bot. Gard. I had a prospective pleasure of gradually acquiring positions which would enable me more and more to follow out and acquire a knowledge of science, and thus raise myself above the mere mechanical drudgery of gardening. The relinquishment of these hopes & the idea that I may yet have to betake myself to the latter greviously disquiets me: inducing indeed, an inward dread of life’s future.

I would have liked for reasons you assigne to have remained longer in the Bot. Gard. but from what I have previously mentioned & likewise from an incumbent necessity of being a burden on my few remaining relatives so long as I remained there, I was somewhat reluctantly compelled to leave. Having done so I am now at a loss what step to take next. My relatives naturally think—from what they have seen of other young men—that If I had exerted myself properly while in the Bot. Gard. I might have got a situation as Gard. to some of our nobility.6 For sometime back, however, I have wished to avoid entering into engagements as such; as I would rather be in a position where I would have greater facilities for following out my old pursuits

If my abilities had been at all sufficient, I should have liked to have supported myself for the present by contributing to some of our scientific journals; and I could thus have had more time to have seen whether or not anything likely to suit my tastes would turn up.

Such a plan as that which you have so kindly suggested—had your health been better—would above all others been that which I would have had most pleasure in following out;7 if my abilities had been at all sufficient for the work you had in view.

I can see perfectly the difficulties in the way to Dr Hooker’s recommending me.8 Two or three years ago Mr. Page (author of the Geological Text Books &c.)9 offered to do what he could to get me into Kew, but I did not care about leaving Edinburgh at the time. I do not now regret it however as it has afforded me the opportunity of following out experiments which I might never have had at Kew. In the event of any opening occuring now at Kew, do you think Dr. Hooker would give me an opportunity to work under him? Thanks for copy of Reader.10

Yours most respectfully & obliged | J. Scott


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Scott, 9 April 1864.
Scott had been carrying out numerous experiments in consultation with CD (see, for example, letters from John Scott, 19 March 1864. He had also recently published and planned to publish a number of papers that he had discussed with CD, including Scott 1863a, 1864a, 1864b, 1864c, and 1864d (see letters from John Scott, 19 March 1864 and nn. 4, 5, and 9, and 28 March 1864 and nn. 13–15, and 17).
Scott had recently left his position as foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (see letters from John Scott, 10 March 1864 and 28 March 1864).
Scott may have been working on the table that was later published in Scott 1864b, p. 166; he sent this paper to CD with his letter of 5 May [1864]. Scott may also be referring to the table published in Scott 1864d, p. 204; see also enclosure to letter from John Scott, 10 June [1864].
The relatives Scott refers to may be an aunt and a sister mentioned in Kennedy 1908, p. 66. The career path of gardeners who began work at a botanic garden and then moved on to employment as gardeners to the gentry is described in R. Desmond and Hepper 1993, pp. 5–7.
CD had mentioned that he wished he could offer Scott a position at Down House to work on scientific subjects (see letter to John Scott, 9 April 1864 and n. 4).
Scott refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker, see letter to John Scott, 9 April 1864.
David Page was an Edinburgh geologist and educator who wrote a number of text-books, including Page 1854 and Page 1856; both were published in several editions (DNB, NUC).


Thanks for CD’s consoling letter. His mind cannot concentrate after losing his position, and he feels "an inward dread of life’s future". Would have been glad to work for CD. Understands why Hooker cannot recommend him.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 104
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4463,” accessed on 27 June 2017,

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