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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 April 1864


April 20/64.

Dear old Darwin

I am afraid Scott is a man who cannot well be helped; I see from this last letter,1 which I am glad to have seen though sorry enough that it should be so, that he is quite unfitted for making his way in the world— he is one of those men whom love of knowledge makes to forget that man is not born for self alone; or rather that the only way of serving self effectually is to do it by proxy, & make yourself a useful self-supporting member of Society— The man frankly says, I am fit for nothing but what “won’t pay”—this is the world’s fault, not mine— A love of science however pure may be practically as selfish a love as any vice— Scott should have been born to 1000 a year & no ties, domestic social or territorial,—in short should not be called upon to take his part in the “struggle for life”— I have known many such,—most amongst artists,—next most amongst scientific young men. No one such ever succeeded even in science, & depend on it after 10 years Scott would be as used up as a man of Science as he is now as a man of mental energy.— Tyndall Faraday, Huxley, Graham, Lindley,2 &c all began by establishing themselves as useful self supporting members of Society, &, that accomplished, they gradually shook off the disagreeable work, as they took on science.— Scott has not established himself as a useful member of Society—knows it, owns it, & blames the world for it. Now my dear Darwin, you may depend on it, that such men are no more able to cut a figure in Science than in life—useful drudges for a time they may be & are— gradually, the feeling grows that their drudgery is other men’s fame & bread & they become “pestilent fellows”— Scotts peculiar temper, his failures, his unwitting self condemnation in acknowledging the latter, show him to be a victim of this stamp; & make his future inconceivably difficult.— he has all the elements of morbid growth, few of healthy development. What would be his position had he relations to support, or a wife & family—or ill health— as it is he must be trodden down in the stern struggle except he rises superior to his present mood & past life, & may thank God that he does not see wife & children trodden down too

My dear old friend my heart sinks sometimes, & I could cry like a child, when appeals for charity come to me from cases to which I must apply your theory in all its force, & come to the conclusion that in giving I am hastening the fall.3 It is not too late to rouse this man to better principles & practice:—to encourage him in his present ideas, would be wrong & I would not help him to them if I could. Mrs Darwin is perfectly right, better give him £100, or £500 than have him at Down—4 What would he be fit for after the 3 years with you? Are you prepared to provide for himself & perhaps his belongings in your will? The chances are 1000 to one that he would turn upon you before 6 months under the idea of injustice or some crotchet that his morbid temper would suggest. And even if not so, at the end of 3 years he would truly say, I have unfitted myself for any thing else by working for Mr Darwin, he is the gainer, I the victim of his success. His relatives are perfectly right. he could (in the present most marvellously flourishing state of Gardening) have easily got a Nobleman’s or gentleman’s place where he might have spent half his time in experimenting5—had he been the right sort of man for a gardener’s place—but this it appears he has not become—

To be practical—we have but two ways of entering Kew,— 1) as young gardener at 12/ a week, & find yourself, 2) as Foreman with wages of 25/–40/ a week.6 As a rule, when we can, we make our foremen out of our young Gardeners; & at present we have no prospect of a foreman’s place being vacant, & intend to reduce the number of them as soon as our new curator comes,7 but whether as Gardener or Foreman, a man’s whole day must be given up to his duties as such— We have far more than we can do in propagating for correspondence, & exchange, & keeping up the public value of the Garden & scientific value of the Museum as an instructional organ to the million.8 We have further to keep up its character & use, as a place for popular resort; & by so doing we encourage the Govt. to give us large grants for such science as Oliver & I cultivate by means of the Herbarium.9 Such pursuits as Scotts are properly conducted at a Horticultural Garden, & appertain to scientific horticulture—which could only be carried out here under the direction of such a man as Lindley, who combines scientific knowledge with practical horticulture— All my little attempts at it have failed, & my father is wise in not encouraging them—10 We cannot do Every-thing. I would not venture to take any charge or responsibility over a man like Scott pursuing such experiments here— I should be glad enough to see them carried out, if the Curator undertakes to direct them in such a manner as never to call for my interference:—beyond that I cannot go.

The upshot of all this is, that I would implore you to put Scotts position & its impracticabity plainly before him, & urge him to a nobler course than that to which he is rapidly tending— I see nothing but ruin before him if he persists—& do not, my friend, exaggerate the importance of his labors in relation to his duty as a man. This latter he forgets— he tells you plainly that he has lost sight of it. The impediments to his pursuits have hitherto been more of his stimulus to pursue them than he knows of; remove these & 10:1 the love of the pursuit will go— At the best to what do such pursuits lead   are they sufficient Duty of man?— with him they are man’s whole Duty— In one point of view he cannot exaggerate their value, in others he may, to his ruin.

Cruger of Trinidad is dead!11 That would have been the place for Scott—had his disposition been suitable; but we could not conscientiously recommend a man, who is not conciliating in disposition & who calls gardening proper “mechanical drudgery”— As it is, Crugers neglect of the duties of his post have brought some disgrace on the establishment, & lost to Govt opportunities of bettering the Island—12

I am so glad that Jenner has done you good— I shall certainly vote for him for FRS. this year.13 Are you interested in any one else?

I will try & get Leersia for you.—but Oliver has pointed out a locality near enough London to which you may perhaps send your man.14 “on muddy margin of Mole, Close to foot-bridge—midway between East Moulsey Church & Ember Mill where it will likely soon be extirpated” H C. Watson 1860—

Abundant in Mole close by “Brockham bridge & other spots above & below this locality. A. W. Bennett.

Brewer Fl. Surrey 27215

Ever yrs affec | J D Hooker

Bennett’s of Brockham near Boxhill would direct your man to the place   write to him16

CD annotations

5.1 Cruger … year 6.2] crossed pencil


CD enclosed the letter from John Scott, 14 April [1864], with the letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 [April 1864].
John Tyndall, Michael Faraday, Thomas Henry Huxley, Robert Graham, and John Lindley. Robert Graham, regius professor of botany at Edinburgh University until 1845, had been a close friend of Hooker’s, and of his father’s (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 11 n.).
For some of Hooker’s earlier applications of natural selection to human societies, and particularly to the English aristocracy, see Correspondence vol. 10, letters from J. D. Hooker, [23 March 1862], [15 and] 20 November [1862], 26 November 1862, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [2]9 June 1863 and n. 7.
Emma Darwin had discouraged CD from employing Scott at Down House (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 [April 1864]).
See letter from John Scott, 14 April [1864] and n. 6.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [1 April 1864], n. 6.
John Smith (1821–88) was to be the new curator (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 March 1864 and n. 4).
On the public value and the instructional value of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the nineteenth century, see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 228–38. A museum of economic botany at Kew opened to the public in 1848; a new museum building opened in 1857 (see R. Desmond 1995, pp. 191–3). See also Turrill 1959, pp. 47–114.
Hooker refers to Daniel Oliver, assistant in the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. For information on the herbarium at Kew, see Desmond 1995, pp. 199–205.
Hooker’s father, William Jackson Hooker, was director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Hooker refers to Hermann Crüger, director of the Botanic Garden, Trinidad.
See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [20 February 1864] and n. 5.
William Jenner had been treating CD since March 1864 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1864] and n. 5). At a meeting of the council of the Royal Society on 14 April 1864, the selection of candidates for fellowship had been discussed; on 21 April 1864 a list including William Jenner’s name was selected by ballot to be recommended for election at the annual meeting on 2 June 1864. As a council member, Hooker attended the meetings on 14 and 21 April. See Royal Society, Council minutes, 14 April 1864, 21 April 1864. Jenner was elected a fellow in 1864 (Record of the Royal Society of London, Appendix VI).
CD was keen to examine Leersia flowers; his interest in the aquatic cut-grass had been stimulated by Oliver’s article on dimorphic flowers (see [Oliver] 1864a, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1864] and nn. 8–10)
Both quotations are from James Alexander Brewer’s Flora of Surrey (Brewer 1863, p. 272). The first part of the description for Leersia oryzoides is attributed to Hewett Cottrell Watson: ‘On the muddy margin of the river Mole, almost close to the foot-bridge over that river, about midway between East Moulsey Church and Ember Mill, where it will likely be extirpated through changes in progress in 1860–62’. The second part of the description is attributed to Alfred William Bennett: ‘Abundant in the river Mole, close by Brockham Bridge, and in several other spots in the Mole both above and below this locality’. See also Watson’s description of the plant on page 144 of the third volume (published in 1852) of Watson 1847–59.
William Bennett, of Brockham Lodge in the village of Brockham Green, was the father of Alfred William Bennett, who discovered Leersia near the village (see n. 14, above, and letter from William Bennett, 29 April 1864).


Again refuses to help Scott as "unfitted" to make his way in the world. Scott is unwilling to take his part in the "struggle for life", unlike Tyndall, Faraday, Huxley, and Lindley, who established themselves. Scott’s work is not science, but "scientific horticulture".

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 208–13
Physical description
12pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4469,” accessed on 24 January 2017,