Page 65 of 79
Linnæus is here exhibited under the influence of[Pg 328] fear, with much flattery and humiliation soliciting the forbearance of a powerful rival; but the report which had reached him was false, and Haller hastened to dispel from the mind of the young botanist the apprehensions under which he laboured. The correspondence thus commenced continued with great regularity, the letters of Linnæus manifesting entire confidence in Haller; who, however, from a feeling of envy, or, as he alleges, in his own defence, thought proper to publish what had obviously been intended to remain private. The publication of these epistles, as we have seen, was productive of great distress to their author; and more especially of the following one, which gives an account of his earlier years. The Swiss professor concludes one of his notes in the following generous terms:—"Farewell, my dear Linnæus! may you enjoy your health and your botanical pursuits, with every advantage for the prosecution of your labours! My studies and engagements, of a different kind, draw me unavoidably aside; but my inclination always leads me to the charms of Flora. To botany I wish to devote my leisure and my old age; and my fortune to the collecting of drawings, plants, and books. May you, from whom Flora expects more than from any other mortal, make the most of your advantages, and one day or other return to a more genial climate! If at any time my native country should invite me, or I can ever, as I hope, return to it, I have fixed upon you, if the situation be worth your having, to inherit my garden and my honours, such as they are. I have spoken on this subject to those in whose hands all these concerns are placed. As soon as I hear from you, I will tell you all the news I can,[Pg 329] for I shall be happy to resume our agreeable correspondence."
The following is Linnæus's answer:—
"Stockholm, Sept. 12th, finished the 15th, 1739.
"Your letter, of which the value to me is beyond estimation, though dated Nov. 14, 1738, did not reach me till the 12th of August of the present year, when I received it from the minister of the German church at this place. Of the cause of its delay I am ignorant.
"A thousand times have I invoked the honoured shade of Hermann! How well did he deserve the compliment of having all the fountains in the royal gardens play on his arrival, if we consider his liberal conduct towards Tournefort! Hermann had previously offered to resign the botanical professorship (at Leyden) in his favour, intending himself to seek some other situation during Tournefort's life. But what shall I say of you, who have conceived so strong an affection for a stranger, as to invite him to accept your professorial appointment, your honours, and your garden! A man could scarcely do this for his brother, or a father for an only son. I can only say, in one word, I have had a numerous acquaintance among my fellow-creatures, and many have been kindly attached to me; but no one has ever made me so bountiful an offer as yourself. I would express my thanks, if possible, but cannot find words for the purpose. Your memory shall be engraved on my heart whilst I live, and shall be cherished by those who come after me.
"I cannot give an answer; but as you have placed yourself in the light of a father, and me of a[Pg 330] son, I will lay before you a sort of history of my life, down to the present time.
"In the year 1730, I taught botany in the garden at Upsal. Our common friend, Dr Rosen, returned thither the same year. I, then a student of medicine, was Professor Rudbeck's deputy in botany, as Rosen was in anatomy; he being likewise the adjunctus or coadjutor in medicine. In 1732, I went to Lapland, and returned; after which, I read lectures on botany and metallurgy for a whole year. I then quitted Upsal, and, as Providence ordained, went into Dalecarlia. Having accomplished my journey, I returned to Fahlun, the principal town of that province. Here I lectured on mineralogy, and followed the practice of physic. I stayed a month at Fahlun, where I was received with universal kindness. A physician named Moræus resided there, who was esteemed rich by the common people. Indeed he was one of the richest persons in that very poor country. With regard to learning, he might undoubtedly claim the first rank among the medical men of Sweden. I have heard him say, a thousand times, that there was no line of life less eligible than the practice of physic. Nevertheless, he was much attached to me. I found myself frequently a welcome visiter under his roof. He had a handsome daughter, besides a younger one, the former of whom was courted, but in vain, by a gentleman of rank and title. I was struck when I first saw her, and felt my heart assailed by new sensations and anxieties. I loved her, and she at length, won by my attentions, listened to my proposals, and returned my passion. I became an accepted lover. I addressed myself to[Pg 331] her father, avowing, not without much confusion, my total want of fortune. He was favourable on some accounts, but had many objections. He approved of me, but not of my circumstances; and desired that things might remain as they were for three years, after which he would tell me his determination. Having arranged my affairs, and made the necessary preparations for a journey, I quitted my native country with thirty-six gold ducats in my pocket. I immediately took my medical degree (at Harderwyk in Holland), but was not in circumstances to return home with much comfort. I remained, as you know, in Holland. In the mean time, my most intimate friend B—— regularly forwarded the letters of my mistress by the post. She continued faithful. In the course of last year, 1738, which I passed at Dr Van Royen's with the approbation of the young lady, though it was the fourth year of my absence, and her father had required but three, B—— thought he had himself made considerable progress in her favour. By my recommendation he was made a professor; and he took upon him to persuade my betrothed that I should never return to my own country. He courted her assiduously, and was very near obtaining her, had it not been for another friend, who laid open his treachery. He has since paid dearly for his conduct, by innumerable misfortunes.
"At last I came back, but still destitute of a maintenance. The young lady was partial to me, and not to him. I settled at Stockholm, the laughing-stock of every body on account of my botany. No one cared how many sleepless nights and toilsome hours I had passed, as all, with one voice, declared[Pg 332] that Siegesbeck had annihilated me. There was nobody who would put even a servant under my care. I was obliged to live as I could, in virtuous poverty. By very slow degrees I began to acquire some practice. But now my adverse fate took a sudden turn, and after so long a succession of cloudy prospects the sun broke out upon me. I emerged from my obscurity, obtained access to the great, and every unfavourable presage vanished. No invalid could now recover without my assistance. I began to get money, and was busy in attendance on the sick, from four in the morning till late in the evening; nor were my nights uninterrupted by the calls of my patients. Aha! said I, Esculapius is the giver of all good things; Flora bestows nothing upon me but Siegesbecks! I took my leave of Flora; condemned my too-numerous observations a thousand times over to eternal oblivion; and swore never to give any answer to Siegesbeck.
"Soon afterwards, I was appointed first physician to the navy. The magistracy immediately conferred upon me the regius professorship, that I might teach botany in the seat of government at Stockholm, with the addition of an annual stipend. Then my fondness for plants revived. I was also enabled to present myself to the bride to whom I had been for five years engaged, and was honourably received as her husband. My father-in-law, rather fond of his money, proved not very liberal to me; but I can do without it, and those who come after me will enjoy it.
"Just now, both the medical professorships are likely to become vacant. Professors Rudbeck and Roberg, both advanced in age, are about offering[Pg 333] their resignation. If this takes place, probably Mr Rosen may succeed Roberg, and I may obtain Rudbeck's appointment. But if I do not, I am content to live and die at Stockholm; nor shall I oppose the pretensions of any competitor. If, therefore, I should not obtain the botanical professorship at Upsal, and you, at the end of three months, should invite me, I would come, if I may bring my little wife with me. Otherwise, if there be any chance of my ever seeing you at Hamburg, for that reason alone I would go thither, though I live here at a great distance. My regard for you makes me wish to know you personally, to see and talk to you, before I die. Farewell! may you long continue to be the load-star of our science!"