Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

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In France, the correspondents of Linnæus were Messrs Angerville, Barrere, De Bomare, Duchesne, Carrere, Chardon, Cusson, Guan, Guettard, the two Jussieus, Le Monnier, Maynard, F. de Sauvages, and the Abbé de Sauvages.

Antoine de Jussieu, Professor of Botany at Paris, to Linnæus at Hartecamp.

"Paris, July 1, 1736.

"Sir,—I received with much pleasure your work on the Musa, which I immediately read through with avidity, and no less satisfaction; not only because of the singularity of the plant itself, but for the sake of your remarks. I never suspected that this plant, which I had seen bearing flowers and fruit in Spain, could produce any in Holland, as we have never had an instance of the kind in the royal garden at Paris, where it has not even flowered. None of the other works mentioned as having been published by you have ever reached me, and I shall be greatly obliged by your ordering them to be sent hither at my expense. I long very much to see your Hortus Cliffortianus and Flora Lapponica; especially the latter, as the king has recently sent[Pg 355] some of our academicians towards the most northern parts of Europe, to whom, in their search after plants in those countries, your book would be a guide, instructing them what seeds or dried specimens to send us. If, therefore, you are likely soon to complete this work, I request the favour of two copies, which shall be paid for with the above-mentioned publications. If you know of any thing issuing from our Parisian press likely to be worthy of your notice, nothing will give me more pleasure than to procure it for you. Be pleased, sir, to accept the respects of my brother and myself."

The writer of the above letter was elder brother to the author of the following, who was also Regius Professor of Botany at Paris, and the reputed inventor of what is called the Natural System of Plants, which was subsequently improved by his nephew, Antoine de Jussieu.

Bernard de Jussieu to Linnæus.

"Paris, Feb. 15, 1742.

"My dearest Friend,—I received your welcome letter, and have several times been desirous of answering it, but have as often been hindered by various affairs. Pardon my past neglect, though I have permitted some opportunities of testifying my regard for you to pass by. I have been occupied in various journeys. All last autumn I was wandering on the seacoast of Normandy. I have met with many novelties, among which you will be surprised to find some additions to the animal kingdom. I mean, however, before I make my discoveries public, to examine into the matter more fully.[Pg 356]

"I have heard with the most sincere pleasure of your being appointed professor of botany at Upsal. You may now devote yourself entirely to the service of Flora, and lay open more completely the path you have pointed out, so as at length to bring to perfection a natural method of classification, which is what all lovers of botany wish and expect. I know of nothing new here except an essay on the natural history of Cayenne, and a catalogue of officinal plants. These little works will be conveyed to you by the surgeon of Count de Tessin, when he returns home. I shall also add a fasciculus of medical questions, of the faculty of Paris. I have not yet received what you last sent me; but I return you many thanks for your repeated kindness. I beg leave to offer you, as a testimony of my gratitude, a few exotic seeds. May God preserve you long in safety! Believe me your most devoted,

Bernard de Jussieu."

We have nothing of much interest to offer from this quarter, as Buffon, who was the most popular naturalist of his time, showed himself the rival of the Swede and a despiser of all classifications; although, as Lord Monboddo says, "those who have merely made themselves acquainted with the first rudiments of philosophy, cannot possibly be ignorant, that a distribution into genera and species is the foundation of all human knowledge; and that to be acquainted with an individual, as they term it, or one single thing, is neither art nor science."

From the long list of correspondents which Linnæus had in Germany and other parts of the Continent, we shall only mention Professor Gesner at Tubingen; Hebenstreit and Ludwig at Leipsic;[Pg 357] Hermann and Jacquin at Vienna; Gieseke at Hamburg; Murray at Gottingen; Brunnich, Fabricius, and Muller, in Denmark; Gmelin, Ammann, and G. Muller, in Russia; Allemand, Burmann, Gorter, Cliffort, and Van Royen, in Holland; John Gesner and Scheuchzer, in Switzerland. We do not, however, find it necessary to insert any of the letters of these celebrated individuals; but shall conclude with part of a communication to the younger Linnæus, from Don Joseph Celestine Mutis, professor of philosophy, mathematics, and natural history, at the University of Santa Fé de Bogota, in New Grenada.

"From the Mines of Ybagua, Sept. 12, 1778.

"This letter, which I have many a time, in the joy of my heart, had it in contemplation to write to you, my worthy friend, I find myself now scarcely able to begin, on account of the grief with which yours just received has overwhelmed me. As I opened this letter, enclosed in one from a beloved brother of mine who lives at Cadiz, I did not at once discover from whom it came, the superscription being in an unknown hand; but I feared it might bring me an account of the precious life of my valued friend the Chevalier Von Linné being either in danger, or perhaps extinct. When I had read it, I perceived but too certainly the truth of what had been announced in the public papers, that this great man, your illustrious father, was no more. To cultivate his faithful friendship has for many years been my chief ambition, in spite of the wide distance between your polar region and the equator. I wanted resolution to open, soon afterwards, a[Pg 358] packet from M. Gahn, whose handwriting I recognised in the direction, lest I might perhaps find a letter, the last, and now posthumous, pledge of his friendship, flattering me with hopes which I had already abandoned. Allow me, therefore, my dear sir, to recall to your mind those recollections which, however sad, we ought not to forget. If it were possible for you to overcome the feelings of nature, I cannot satisfy the claims of friendship without lamenting, with you, our common loss.

"Let me inform you, therefore, that, so long ago as the year 1761, when I ventured to introduce myself to this great man by a trifling communication, as I had not enjoyed any intercourse with him before my departure from Europe, I was first favoured, in this my distant abode, with one of those letters, so highly valued by the most learned men in Europe. In this, according to his usual custom, your distinguished father endeavoured, in the most attractive style, to stimulate my youthful ardour more and more for the study of nature. From that period I rejoiced to devote myself to his service, and our correspondence was kept up for eighteen years, as regularly as the great distance between us, the negligence of those in whom we confided, and my occasional extensive journeys would admit. By some unavoidable accidents, indeed, many of my letters never reached him; and I have also, too late, discovered that many of his had been lost. Meanwhile, our communications were confidential and exclusive, not extended on my part to any other persons, whether my countrymen or not; for I devoted all my discoveries and all my labours to his immortal genius alone. A little while ago, when I[Pg 359] still supposed him living (as I saw the illustrious name of Von Linné among the members of the Royal Academy of Paris, in a list at the end of the Connoissance des Tems), I was particularly happy to obtain the complete fructification of that most elegant tree which yields the Peruvian balsam, in order that I might satisfy his curiosity, so often expressed, on the subject of the genus of this tree, either by describing it among my new genera, or by transmitting any observations for his use. But when I had just overcome the difficulties which had so long deprived me of this acquisition, and was anticipating the pleasure my excellent friend would receive from the communication, the world was deprived of him. You have lost an affectionate parent, and I a most highly-esteemed patron. I trust that you, my honoured friend, will, with his blood, inherit his exalted genius, his ardent love of science, his kind liberality to his friends, and all the other valuable endowments of his mind. On my part, I shall show my gratitude to his memory by teaching and extolling the name of Linnæus, as the supreme prince of naturalists, even here under the equator, where the sciences are already flourishing, and advancing by the most rapid steps; and where, I am disposed to believe, the muses may, perhaps, in future ages, fix their seat. If my opinion be of any weight as a naturalist, I must declare that I can find no name, in the whole history of this department of knowledge, worthy to be compared with the illustrious Swede. Of this at least I am certain, that the merits of Newton in philosophy and mathematics are equalled in botany, and all the principles of natural history, by the immortal Von[Pg 360] Linné. These great men stand equal and unrivalled, in my judgment, as the most faithful interpreters of Nature's works. I trust, sir, you will not take amiss this testimony of mine in favour of your distinguished parent; for, as you are closely allied to him in blood, I feel myself scarcely less intimately attached, by the particular friendship with which he was so good as to favour me. His memory will ever be cherished by me, as that of a beloved preceptor, and I shall value, as long as I live, every pledge of his regard...."

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