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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Scott   16 June [1863]1

Botanic Gardens [Edinburgh]

June 16th.


I feel quite ashamed with the trouble I am giving you.2 I can only acknowledge my deep obligations, and express my cordial thanks.

I am glad to say that my Orchid paper is now in the press:3 daily expecting the proofs. I will send you a copy when published: may I send one for Dr Hooker also? I would like to do so, now since you have done me the honour of forwarding abstract.4 If you think I might do this, I will enclose a copy with yours, instead of sending it addressed to Dr Hooker.

It gratifies me very highly, to know that you and Dr Hooker are a little interested with my paper.5 It is somewhat differently estimated here. But I care little for this; as I know well that its tendencies are a sufficient explanation. I have all along thought as you say Dr. Hooker thinks in respect to effects of its being known that I was favourable to your views of species.6 I am quite sure it is a blemish in the eyes of my Edinburgh friends; nevertheless, it has not prevented me speaking the convictions of my mind. I regret that I have committed myself on this point in Orchid paper, since receiving your judicious caution on my introducing theory:7 I see now that it will cause my observations to be doubted by many. This did not occur to me: I will remember and be guided by it in any future contributions which I may have occasion to make.

Thanks for Dr. Hooker’s kind promise.8 I will be glad indeed, to accept anything which he thinks likely to suit me. I am sorry that I have had so little experience as a cultivator.9 I have somewhat neglected this, from a wish that I have long had to go abroad for a few years: and that on this account it would be of little importance. Dr. Hooker’s suggestion makes me regret this: as nothing could afford me greater pleasure if I remain in this country than in a garden which contained a fine collection of Orchids.

I will indeed be glad if you can spare time to look over & correct my paper on Primulas.10 It will be a pleasure for me to re-write it in accordance with your criticisms.

I will attend to experiments on peloric flowers.11 I am only sure—of having plants—as yet of Gloxinias, & Antirrhinums; I suppose we have plants also of the peloric Geraniums but they are not yet in flower.

The few plants we have of P. Scotica, and farinosa. are now coming into flower. The former species is unfortunately so weak, that I fear my experiments upon it will be of little value.12 I am busy with P. Sikkimensis at present, we had only the long-styled form in the Gardens here, but lately a friend has given me the use of a short-styled plant. I will thus be enabled to try the results of homomorphic & heteromorphic unions.13

I have been examining the structure of a few others of the genera of the Primulaceæ. Would it be worth while noticing their structure in paper?14 I believe certain of the species of Gregoriæ—vitaliana for example—will be found to present similar sexual relations to the dimorphic Primulas. It presents both forms naturally: in our gardens I have seen as yet only the one form which produces little or no seed. I will yet perform a few careful experiments upon it.15 Perhaps you can enlighten me on the genus Cortusa. I have examined a number of specimens of C. Matthioli from various parts: all present what one might regard as the long-styled form. Plants in the Gardens present this form also, and produce nice capsules containing good seed. I cannot as yet say as to proportion of good to bad; not having experimented upon the plants: the seeds produced being the result of natural fertilisation. It will be curious indeed perplexing in its bearing—should it prove perfectly fertile in this state??— one form only existing.16 The allied genus Androsace has stamens & styles equal, as far as my examinations go.

Sir | Yours respectfully & obliged | J. Scott.

CD annotations

2.2 for Dr Hooker] underl red crayon
6.2 Gloxinias,] underl red crayon
6.2 Antirrhinums] underl red crayon
8.3 Gregoriæ] underl red crayon


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Scott, 11 June [1863].
In his letter to CD of 22 May 1863, Scott requested advice about a position offered to him at a Cinchona nursery in India, and also solicited his aid in finding a better colonial appointment; CD had consulted Joseph Dalton Hooker (see letter to John Scott, 23 May [1863]). CD had also offered to communicate one of Scott’s papers to the Linnean Society, advised Scott on his writing style, and sent Hooker an abstract of one of Scott’s papers (see letters to John Scott, 25 and 28 May [1863] and 31 May [1863], and letter to John Scott, 11 June [1863]).
Scott 1863a. See letter from John Scott, [3 June 1863] and n. 14.
Scott was foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (R. Desmond 1994).
In his letter to Scott of 6 June [1863], CD offered to read and comment on the manuscript of Scott 1864a.
The results of Scott’s experiments on Primula farinosa and P. scotica are given in Scott 1864a, pp. 114–17 and pp. 117–19, respectively. Scott had sent CD specimens of P. scotica and P. farinosa at the beginning of the year (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from John Scott, 17 December [1862], and this volume, letter from John Scott, 6 January 1863).
The results of Scott’s experiments on Primula sikkimensis are given in Scott 1864a, pp. 110–11.
Scott 1864a, pp. 78–86, discussed the structure of the reproductive organs in several genera of Primulaceae, including Hottonia, Gregoria, Cortusa, Dodecatheon, and Soldanella.
Scott gave the results from his experiments on Gregoria vitaliana in Scott 1864a, pp. 83–4.
Scott’s experiments on Cortusa matthioli are described in Scott 1864a, p. 84.


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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.


Orchid paper in press.

Asks CD to correct MS of his Primula paper [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 78–126].

Letter details

Letter no.
John Scott
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens
Source of text
DAR 177: 94
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4213,” accessed on 28 November 2021,

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