RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1908. [Letters to John Scott, 1863-1876] In Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society, pp. 67-70.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe. RN1

NOTE: See Correspondence of Charles Darwin.


[page] 67

Down, Bromley,
Jan. 8th. [1863]
Dear Sir,—
What an indomitable worker you are and what a number of interesting experiments you are trying! I thank you for telling me about yourself; I felt respect for you before, and now this is sincerely increased.
With your tastes, the fall in your circumstances must have been severely felt; but you have acted like a real man in making the best of things, and most truly do I wish you success in all your endeavours. I daresay a foreign appointment will be best in every way, and will be sure to offer a field for new observations; but I cannot avoid being sorry for it. Only imagine how grand it would be to see an insect at work at a Gongora, &c.
Very sincere thanks for all your great trouble taken about the primulas, which I received this morning. I have put them in my green-house, which is warmed at night; whether this is wise I know not. Your remarks on Gongora have interested me much, and I never saw a fresh specimen before. The labellum beats that of acropera. Do the tips of the basal inturned horns secrete any fluid? In one specimen, to the mouth of the stigmatis cavity there adhered a large protuberant drop of very slightly viscid fluid, evidently in excess, but it supports your idea about acropera. I have put specimens in spirits, (for I am too busy now) and some day will look at ovates. I am quite confused about their genera. Can the plants be kept too dry and so cause stigma not to secrete enough? I can keep pod of acropera till whatever time I get one of other germs for comparison. I shall be quite nervous when I first look at seeds. I must write briefly.
[…] Never trouble yourself to answer my letters unless inclined to do so, and pray believe me with every good wish,—Dear Sir,
Yours sincerely,
Charles Darwin.
Have you not been put to some little expense about primulas? If so, I beg you to have kindness to inform me.
What say you to cross a primrose (heteromorphic) with pollen of wild cowslip and of a highly cultivated polyanthus, and see which in, say, ten pods of each, yielded most seed.
I am going immediately to build small hothouse, but whether my two rather ignorant men will succeed with the plants I know not.

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.,
April 9th, 1864.
My Dear Sir,—
I have been thinking a good deal lately about your plans. For the sake of science, in which alone I can judge, I regret extremely that you have left the botanic gardens. I hope you will let me hear as soon as you have decided at all what to do. I think it best to tell you, though I do so with sincere regret, that I have lately had some correspondence with Dr Hooker, and I can plainly see, though he wishes you well, that he will not be able to get you any foreign appointment. I can see that one great difficulty is, that as you have not worked under him he cannot personally say anything about you, and then he has men of his own to recommend. I fear it would be prudent in you not to trust at all to him, though if by any extraordinary chance he could aid you, he would do so. If my health had been better I would have proposed to you to have come here and have worked for a couple of years on scientific subjects, but at present, and probably for ever, this is impossible. And I doubt very much, even if you were inclined, whether this plan would have answered for you, as you would have got out of the usual routine. Permit me to say that if you require at present any pecuniary assistance I shall be happy to assist you, and you need have no scruple in accepting it, as I make this small offer on the grounds of science.
With every good wish for your future success in life, I remain, Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
Charles Darwin.
P.S.—I sent a spare copy of the "Reader" to you, as I thought you might like to see it. It need not be returned.

Down, Bromley, Kent,
May 20th. [1864]
Dear Sir,—
I must correct my former account; perhaps one flower varied, anyhow one of the red cowslips cannot be called long-styled. Yet the style is rather longer than in the common short styled cowslip. With respect to your primula paper, I dare say the Journal was full and that your paper has stood over, at least this happened once with me. I am extremely glad to hear that you experimented on the Verbascums. Although having almost unbounded faith in Gästner, yet I could hardly believe his statements; but now I shall, and shall be able to quote with unbounded satisfaction your confirmation. I think you might make the mark you propose, but I would do it with great caution, as the basis of the generalization is certainly scanty. I am extremely sorry you cannot hear of any suitable situation. Try and keep up your spirits. Pray do not thank me for merely offers of assistance which I heartily wish you would accept, for in that case you might write your papers in comfort and I should aid in doing good work for science.—
Believe me, Dear Sir,
Your sincere well-wisher,
Charles Darwin.

Down, Bromley, Kent,
May 21st. [1864]
Dear Sir,—
I received from my good friend Dr Hooker a letter of which the enclosed is an extract. You had better deliberately consider what he suggests and consult your friends. Remember that Dr H. knows India, and is acquainted with many men who are now in India, and who have been there. The suggestion comes entirely from him, and was not first made by me. Reflect well, for it is an important step for you, and I do not like to take the responsibility of giving advice. If you decide to try the plan and run such risk as there is of not getting employment, can you get a character for probity, sobriety and energy, from Professor Balfour, Mr Macnab, or any clergyman or magistrate of the district in which you reside. These would be of important service. I am a little doubtful whether your scientific attainments ought to be much insisted on, though they should be mentioned. The expense of some outfit for the voyage itself, and of giving you means to subsist for a short time in India, would be considerable, but how much I do not at all know: could you enquire from any gardener who has gone out to India? If your friends approve, have they the power to assist you. I would gladly pay half, and if your friends cannot assist you I am quite ready to pay the whole, for I am sure you would put me to no unnecessary expense. You will be wrong to feel any scruple in accepting this offer on my part, for I can afford it, and it will in every way give me satisfaction both as helping you and as forwarding science. You would have time, if you accept, to finish your papers during the voyage, and I would see to their publication.
With every wish for you to decide best for yourself,
I remain, yours very faithfully, Dear Sir,
Charles Darwin.

[page] 68

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.
During the last two years I have carried on an extensive correspondence with Mr John Scott on scientific subjects connected with horticulture, and I have read his published papers. From these opportunities I have been strongly impressed with Mr Scott's remarkable powers of observation, his accuracy, his indomitable perseverance, and his knowledge. During our correspondence I have been struck with his modesty, accompanied with a just reliance on his own judgment. I have had means of knowing that he is singularly disinterested in pecuniary matters, and I would in consequence trust to his probity to any extent.
Charles Darwin, F.R.S.
June 10th, 1864.

[page] 69

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.,
June 3rd, 1868
My Dear Sir,—
Your answers to my queries on expression are by far the best and fullest which I have received from any quarter. An observer who is excellent in one line is pretty sure to be so in another, if he will, as you have been so kind as to do, turn his attention to it. I have had one long answer from Mr Erskine, a judge in your up-country and it is extremely curious that the two points which surprise me most in his letter surprise me in yours, namely that a native, when indignant, apparently had no tendency to close his fists and square his elbows. I wrote to Mr E. to observe this point again, and I much wish that you would do so as well, with a man indignant, and not in a violent passion. Secondly Mr E. made some remarks (I cannot find his letter at the present moment) about a lateral shake of the head, either in affirmation or negation; will you observe this point again? An anxious or distressed girl, not in violent grief, offers the best chance of seeing the slightly oblique eyebrows, with the forehead transversely wrinkled only in the middle part.
I should be very grateful for any other observations, for many of your remarks shew that you are a first rate observer on this subject. Many thanks for handing my paper to Dr Anderson. You offer me help about pigeons; in Europe, but not in England, there are sub-breeds in which the males are differently coloured in a slight degree from the females. Will you enquire if any such sub-breeds exist in India? If so, I want to know at what period of life the particular colours of the male first appear. You could perhaps aid me on another connected point of great interest to me: there is a breed of fowls in India, in which the hens alone are sooty coloured, with black comb, wattles and bones. How is the plumage, comb, etc. of the cock coloured? But what I especially want to know is, whether the chickens of both sexes, when about two months' old, resemble each other, and whether they nearly resemble the adult male or adult female.
The seeds of your violets and Vandellia have just germinated. Has Leersia produced perfect flowers with you? I thank you very sincerely for all your kind assistance, and with every good wish remain,
Yours sincerely, Charles Darwin.

Down, Beckenham, Kent,
April 15. [1872]
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.
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? 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. 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. Pray do not trouble yourself to send the Lecosia, for as the wretch will not make perfect flowers, I care very little about it.
I very sincerely wish all success to your great work, of which you send me the contents; it must be a very arduous undertaking. Once again I cordially thank you for your letter and observations, which are of real value to me.
Yours very sincerely,
Ch. Darwin.

Down, Beckenham, Kent,
Aug. 12, 1872.
My Dear Sir,—
I received from Kew about a week ago some boxes with worm castings, no doubt sent by you; but I have found no memorandum enclosed. Some of these castings from South India are quite gigantic, and others seem very extraordinary; but I have not as yet looked at all of them. There is also a bottle with worms in spirits. As on so many former occasions, you have taken infinite pains to oblige me, and the materials seem wonderfully complete. But I am very anxious for some information with respect to these specimens; and I hope no letter has miscarried, for this would be a very great loss to me.
I have almost finished printing my volume on expression, which will not be published until November. I will then send you a copy, in which you will see how valuable your observations have been to me.
With very sincere thanks,—Believe me, Yours truly,
Ch. Darwin.
There is also a block of grey consolidated earth. Also a tin box with pellets like shot.

Down, Beckenham, Kent,
October 26, 1872.
My Dear Sir,—
I thank you very sincerely for your letter of September 25th, which is excellent, and, to use a homely phrase, is as full of information as an egg is of meat. It will be of much value to me, and you answer all my queries much more fully than I thought possible. I have written to Dr Hooker for Dr King's address, to enquire whether he has any notes; but I doubt whether he can tell me more than you have done. In the latter part of your letter you describe some gigantic castings, and state that they are so many inches in circumference, and then state that after heavy rain, they extended to many inches down the slope. I will assume, if I do not hear to the contrary, that they were nearly circular when you first measured them before the rain.
I thank you for telling me a little about your present position. It seems like a piece of jobbery that a medical man should always have the place of superintendent. I am glad to hear that you have been doing some anatomical work, and Dr Hooker alluded to some most elaborate drawings which you had sent home. I hope you will be cautious and not be tempted to work too hard. In about a week's time I hope to send you my little book on expression.
With hearty thanks for your kindness, believe me,
Yours sincerely,
Charles Darwin.
P.S.—Perhaps you are not aware that owing to the climate, and to your writing on thin paper, the ink on one side often renders the words on the other side quite illegible, though your handwriting is very distinct. None of us could decipher some very important words in your letter. I am sure that you will excuse my mentioning this to you, as your letters are so very valuable.

[page] 70

Down, Beckenham, Kent, December 15, 1876.

Dear Sir,—

I am going to republish my dimorphic papers with new matter, and with an abstract of all that has appeared. In an old letter of yours you tell me that you have seen only one form of Lagerstroemia, and that this was sterile with their own pollen in your gardens. Can you give me any further information? I suppose you have a collection of dried plants in the gardens, and if so would you kindly look at the dried specimens and see if you can make out whether two or three forms exist. They would be easily recognised by the length of the pistils and stamens and differ­ently coloured anthers. If you can find different forms, perhaps Dr King (if told the object) would allow you to send me a flower or two of each form, so that I might measure the size of the pollen grains. I hope that you have received a copy of a new book of mine despatched about a fortnight ago.

I remain, my dear sir,

Yours sincerely,

Ch. Darwin.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

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