Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

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In the preface to this work, which he dedicated to the king and queen, we find the following passage, which will enable the reader to form an estimate of[Pg 264] that kind of forbearance which he showed towards his critics:—"I have never sent back upon my enemies the shafts which they have hurled at me. The grins of the malicious, the ironies and attacks of the envious, I have quietly borne. They have always been the reward of the labours of great men; but nothing of all this can hurt a hair of my head. Why should I not tolerate the wretches, when I have been loaded with the praises of the most celebrated botanists, before whom they must bend in the dust. My age, my profession, and my character, prevent me from waging war with my opponents. I will employ the few years I have to live in making useful observations. In natural history, errors cannot be defended nor truths concealed. I appeal to posterity." The decision of posterity, however, may be as unjust as that of our contemporaries, and the former is in all cases of less importance to us than the latter, for it can in no degree benefit the author who relies upon it. And to show that Linnæus severely felt the censure of his opponents, we have only to refer to his private memoirs. His treatment of them seems to have been the effect of pride more than of magnanimity, although it appeared to belong to the latter. Rousseau, who greatly admired it, was heard to exclaim, "Would that I had imitated the Upsal professor! I should have gained some days of happiness and years of peace."

About this time also was published his description of the museum of Count Tessin, already alluded to, under the name of Musæum Tessinianum. Lœfling sent him plants from Spain, and similar accessions poured in from other quarters; but he[Pg 265] occasionally experienced a return of his complaints, which were relieved by the plentiful use of wild strawberries. His account of the king's museum appeared the following year.

Besides his ordinary occupations of lecturing and accompanying his pupils on their excursions into the country, he sent forth successively improved editions of several of his works, which he endeavoured to bring up to the level of his expanding knowledge. The Stockholm Academy having offered a prize, consisting of two gold medals, for the best essay on the means of improving Lapland, he composed a treatise on the subject, which received the approbation of that learned body. Although no regular cultivation could be applied to so dreary a region, he showed that considerable improvements might be made by introducing plants which grow in the mountainous districts of similar latitudes, and especially by planting trees suited to the climate. In 1759, the Imperial Academy of Sciences at Petersburg announced a premium for the best work on the confirmation or refutation of the doctrine of sexes in the vegetable kingdom. He wrote on this topic also, in which he established the fact by new and irrefragable arguments, and the reward was of course adjudged to him. The motto which he affixed to this tract was indicative of his prevailing passion: "Famam extendere factis."

The celebrity of his name now attracted pupils from many parts of Europe; obtained him admission into most of the distinguished learned societies; and rendered him an object of attraction to travellers. In 1762, he was elected a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Paris,—a circumstance of[Pg 266] which he was not a little proud. "It was," says he, "the greatest honour that could be conferred on a man of science, and hitherto no Swede had enjoyed it. The number of foreign members is limited to eight. The following are the names of the persons who were then invested with that dignity:—Morgagni, Bernouilli, Euler, Macclesfield, Poleni, Haller, Van Swieten, and Linnæus."

The botanic garden at Upsal received accessions corresponding to the increasing fame of its restorer, and was enriched by specimens or seeds transmitted from many remote regions; from Kamtschatka and Siberia, by Demidoff and Gmelin; from China, by several of his pupils; from Egypt, Palestine, Java, and the Cape of Good Hope, by Thunberg, Sparrmann, and others; from Canada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, by Kalm and Gronovius; from Jamaica, by Dr Browne; and from South America, by Miller. A great quantity of African seeds came into his possession in the following singular manner:—Donati, a young Italian naturalist, had been sent to Egypt and the Levant, at the expense of the King of Sardinia. At Alexandria he fell in love with a young lady, the daughter of a Frenchman, and in order to forward his suit, allowed her brother to accompany him on his travels. The intended relative, however, robbed him of all his money and collections, and carried them to France. Not finding himself safe there, he embarked again for Constantinople; but being still unable to turn his stolen seeds to any account, he sent them to Linnæus, whose name he had often heard mentioned by Donati. Among the rare exotics which he procured was the tea-plant,[Pg 267] which his friend Ekeberg brought from China in 1763, and which had not been previously seen in Europe.

In 1758, he purchased for 80,000 dollars (above £2330 sterling) two estates, situated at the distance of about three miles from Upsal, to which he retired during the vacations, and where he spent the last ten years of his life. On an eminence, near the mansion at Hammarby, he erected a museum, in which he deposited all his collections. It was of an oblong form, and had a magnificent prospect over an extensive plain sprinkled with villages, the city of Upsal and the river Sala appearing at a distance, and the lofty mountains of Dalecarlia lining the horizon. Here he occasionally gave lessons to foreigners, and improved his various works.

These private instructions seem to have been a source of great emolument to him. They were confined chiefly to strangers, who used to lodge in the neighbouring villages of Honby and Edeby, and to whom he pronounced his lectures, not in the grave and solemn habit of a professor, but as a companion, frequently wearing his dressing-gown and a red fur cap, with a tobacco-pipe in his mouth. Lord Baltimore, governor of Maryland, having gone from Stockholm for the purpose of seeing him, was entertained with a discourse on natural history; for which he presented him with a splendid gold snuff-box, 100 ducats, and a superb piece of silver plate.

A pleasing picture of his manners and amusements is given by his pupil Fabricius, although, in one circumstance at least, his example may not be considered[Pg 268] as commendable: "We were three, Kuhn, Zoega, and I, all foreigners. In summer we followed him into the country. In winter we lived facing his house, and he came to us almost every day in his short red robe-de-chambre, with a green fur cap on his head, and a pipe in his hand. He came for half an hour, but stopped a whole one, and many times two. His conversation on these occasions was extremely sprightly and pleasant. It consisted either of anecdotes relative to the learned in his profession with whom he got acquainted in foreign countries, or in clearing up our doubts, or giving us other kinds of instruction. He used to laugh then most heartily, and displayed a serenity and an openness of countenance, which proved how much his soul was susceptible of amity and good fellowship.

"Our life was much happier when we resided in the country. Our habitation was about half a quarter of a league distant from his house at Hammarby, in a farm-house, where we kept our own furniture and other requisites for housekeeping. He rose very early in summer, and mostly about four o'clock. At six he came to us, because his house was then building, breakfasted with us, and gave lectures upon the natural orders of plants as long as he pleased, and generally till about ten o'clock. We then wandered about till twelve upon the adjacent rocks, the productions of which afforded us plenty of entertainment. In the afternoon we repaired to his garden, and in the evening we usually played at the Swedish game of trisset in company with his wife.

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