Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
Botanist on the Amazon"] (S668: 1908)
The district in which these villages lie is somewhat elevated, being from 300 to 400 feet above the sea, broken into hill and dale, with abundance of woods and a few small streams. Being situated on the Middle Oolite beds, while the Upper Oolite and Lias are within a few miles to the north and south of it, there is a considerable variety of soils--clayey sand and calcareous rocks of various degrees of hardness--highly favourable to a varied and interesting vegetation; and it still offers to the visitor a charming example of English rural scenery. It is an ideal home for a botanist and student of nature, and it was here that Richard Spruce acquired that deep love of flowers, and especially of the lowliest plants--the Mosses and Hepaticæ--which was the joy of his early manhood and the consolation of his declining years.
Spruce's father (also named Richard) was the highly-respected schoolmaster at Ganthorpe, and afterwards at Welburn, both schools being partially endowed by the Howard family. Mr. G. Stabler, who was for some time at his school, informs me that he was a very good mathematician, but less advanced in the classics, and that he was a wonderfully fine penman, a characteristic in which his son resembled him, as his remarkably clear and uniform handwriting, even under the most adverse conditions, [[p. xxii]] sufficiently shows. His mother was one of the Etty family, a relative of the great painter, who was born at York.
Spruce appears to have been educated wholly by his father. He was an only child, but his mother died while he was young, and when he was about fourteen his father married again, and had a family of eight daughters, only two of whom survived their half-brother. This circumstance rendered him unable to do anything for his son but help him to follow his own profession, with which object Spruce took lessons in Latin and Greek from an old schoolmaster named Langdale, who had been educated for the priesthood and whose scholarship was of a high order. His influence may be seen in some of Spruce's letters to Mr. Borrer and Mr. Bentham, when he has occasion to discuss questions of Latin construction, being always able to give reasons or quote authorities in support of his own views.
Although he disclaimed any linguistic ability or love of philology, he evidently had a considerable natural aptitude for languages, since he not only taught himself to read and write French fairly well, but in after years was able to acquire the Portuguese and Spanish languages with great facility, so as to be able to write them grammatically as well as to speak them; and also to acquire some colloquial skill in three different Indian languages--the Lingoa Geral, Barré, and Quichua--which, in one case, was probably the means of saving his life.
He appears to have remained at home, studying and assisting his father, till he was of age, about which time he became tutor in a school at Haxby, four miles north of York, and a year or two later (at the end of 1839) obtained the post of mathematical master at the Collegiate School at York, which he retained till the school itself was given up, at midsummer of 1844. At this time he was quite undecided as to his future, and made some efforts to get another position of the same kind. One such opportunity occurred, with a fairly liberal salary, but he found it would involve residence in the school, with supervision of the boys out of school hours, so as to leave him little or no leisure; and as this was very distasteful to him, besides involving too much mental strain for his very delicate health, he gave up the idea. In fact, during the whole time he had been at York he had had repeated illnesses, especially in the winter. His lungs were affected, and he believed that he should not have lived another year if he had continued at school-work, the confinement and mental worries of which were very prejudicial to his constitution. In the next winter he wrote that he "was wearing a perpetual blister and found much benefit from it." In the following year [[p. xxiii]] he had a serious attack of congestion of the brain; and in 1848 he had another illness from gall-stones, causing, he declared, "the most excruciating pain it is possible to conceive," and which left him very weak for a long time. These serious illnesses, together with great liability to severe colds and constantly recurring winter cough, indicate the great delicacy of his organisation, and render more remarkable the amount of labour and privation he afterwards endured.
The breaking up of the York Collegiate School was the turning-point in Spruce's life, resulting in his becoming a botanist and botanical explorer of the first rank. We must therefore go back a few years to relate what is known of his early life as a student of plants.
Mr. G. Stabler, who was also a native of Ganthorpe, tells us that, when quite a child, Spruce "showed much aptitude for learning, and at an early age developed a great love of nature. Amongst his favourite amusements was the making lists of plants, and he had also a great liking for astronomy." In 1834, when sixteen years old, he had drawn up a neatly written list of all the plants he had found around Ganthorpe. It is arranged alphabetically and contains 403 species, the gathering and naming of which must certainly have occupied some years. Three years later he had drawn up a "List of the Flora of the Malton District," the MSS. of which is in the possession of his executor, Mr. Slater, and this contains 485 species of flowering plants. Several of Spruce's localities for the rarer plants are given in Baines's Flora of Yorkshire, published in 1840.
By this time it is evident that he had not merely collected plants but had studied them carefully, as shown by the fact that in 1841 he discovered, and identified as a new British plant, the very rare sedge Carex paradoxa. He had also now begun the study of mosses, since in the same year he found a moss new to Britain, Leskea pulvinata, previously known only from Lapland. Among his early friends or correspondents were Ibbotson, Baines of York, and Slater of Malton, while he himself tells us (in a letter to Mr. Borrer) that Sam Gibson was his first adviser in the study of mosses. This Gibson was a whitesmith or "tinman" at Hebden Bridge, about six miles west of Halifax, and was one of a considerable number of North-country working-men botanists of the early nineteenth century. Spruce probably visited him during his first residence near York, when he would have the necessary leisure during his vacations, since Gibson speaks of him as his "friend" in 1841, and Spruce told Mr. Slater that he had seen Gibson in his workshop with Hooker's British Flora on [[p. xxiv]] the bench by his side, and that it was in parts so begrimed and blackened as to be almost illegible.
During his first year at the Collegiate School, however, he gave himself to the study of mathematics with so much ardour as for a time to neglect botany; but Mr. Stabler tells us that in one of his summer vacations he found, on Slingsby Moor, a few miles north of his home, "one of the uncinate Hypna in splendid fruit. His love of plants, from which he had been weaned for a short time by his mathematical studies, returned with such force that he vowed on the spot that henceforth the study of plants should be the great object of his life." I think we can fix the date of this incident by the first entry in a little "List of Botanical Excursions," which is: "1841, June 19. Slingsby Moor and Terrington Carr." Similar entries are made during the remainder of his residence in England, his visits to Ireland and the Pyrenees, as well as throughout his South American travels; while the remainder of his life was equally devoted to "the study of plants."
The Phytologist was started in 1841 as a monthly magazine for British Botany especially, and Spruce contributed to it in the first and succeeding years accounts of his botanical excursions and notes on rare plants; and it was probably his critical remarks on Carices, Mosses, and Hepaticæ that led to a correspondence with Dr. Thomas Taylor, one of the joint authors of the Muscologia Britannica, with Mr. William Wilson of Warrington, and with Mr. Borrer of Henfield. With all these eminent botanists he soon became intimate, and each in turn invited him to visit them. In the summer vacation of 1842 he stayed three weeks at Dunkerron, near Killarney, with Dr. Taylor, and visited a few other places, but the weather was bad, he had a severe cold, and he spent most of his time in the study of British and exotic mosses in his host's rich herbarium.
Early in September of the same year, Mr. William Borrer, one of the most acute and enthusiastic British botanists, called upon him at York, and Spruce took him to Clifton Ings, on the banks of the Ouse, a locality for Leskea pulvinata and other rare mosses. In the following September (1843) Mr. Borrer again visited him, and they went together to Castle Howard to examine some of Spruce's favourite haunts in search of rare plants. From the date of their second meeting a correspondence began which continued at short intervals till within a few months of Spruce's departure on his South American expedition. After Mr. Borrer's death in 1862, a parcel of mosses, together with a packet of Spruce's letters, were given to Mr. W. Mitten, and the latter [[p. xxv]] have thus come into my hands, as Mr. Mitten's executor. The series appears to be complete from August 25, 1843, to August 5, 1848--66 in all. This last letter, like the great majority of the series, is about details in the structure and classification of Mosses and Hepaticæ, but a postscript states that, as he is soon coming to London to superintend the sale by auction of the late Dr. Taylor's herbarium, he hopes to meet Mr. Borrer. The letters are, however, full of interest, and enable me both to give a connected sketch of his occupations after giving up scholastic work, and also, by suitable extracts, to give some idea of his character and opinions.
More than thirty years later, when describing a new genus of Amazonian Hepaticæ in the Journal of Botany, and noticing that a British species (Odontochisma [[sic]] Sphagni) grows with it though not on a Sphagnum, he gives us in a footnote the following very interesting bit of nature-study combined with archæology, which is so characteristic that I will here quote it nearly entire, especially as it refers to one of his excursions with Mr. Borrer. He writes:--
"On our own moors I have far oftener seen Odontoschisma Sphagni growing on Leucobryum glaucum than on Sphagna. Now that the steam-plough is fast obliterating the small remnant of moors in the Vale of York, it is worth while recording something about the Leucobryum, as seen on Strensall Moor, five to six miles north of York. There it forms immense rounded hassocks, some of which in my youth were as much as three feet high; and although the ground whereon they grew is now drained and ploughed out, I am told that on another part of the moor there are still left a few hassocks about two feet high. When the late Mr. Wilson first saw them, thirty years ago, he took them at a distance for sheep; as he approached them he changed his mind for haycocks; but when he actually came up and saw what they were he was astonished, and declared he had never seen such gigantic moss-tufts elsewhere. During seven consecutive years that I saw them frequently, I could observe no sensible increase in height. The very slight annual outgrowth of the marginal branches is comparable to the outermost twigs of an old tree, and is almost or quite counterbalanced by the soft, imperfectly elastic mass incessantly decaying and settling down at the base; so that these tufts of Leucobryum may well be almost as secular as our Oaks or Elms; and some of them might even be coming into existence, if not so far back as when the warders of Bootham Bar and Monk Bar (the northern entrances to York) used to hear the wolves howling beneath their feet on the bleak winter nights, at [[p. xxvi]] least whilst the 'last wolf' was still prowling in the Forest of Galtres.
"Strensall Moor, Stockton Forest, Langwith Moor, etc., are all relics of the Forest of Galtres, an ancient royal demesne of the Saxon kings, in which roamed the stag, bear, wolf, and wild boar. A perambulation made in the ninth year of Edward II found it to extend from the walls of York northwards nearly twenty miles, viz. to Isurium (Aldburgh), and eastwards to the river Derwent. Several hamlets had sprung up on it, and a few solitary granges--moated round to protect the inmates from wolves, biped and quadruped. (One of these moated granges was still the only habitation on Langwith Moor in 1842, when I showed Mr. Borrer Jung. Francisci in fruit growing close by.) Camden calls it 'Calaterium Nemus, vulgo The Forest of Galtres . . . arboribus alicubi opacum, alicubi uliginosa planitie madescens.' In his time it stretched northwards only to Craike Castle and the source of the river Foss: 'Fossa, amnis piger . . . originem habet ultra Castellum Huttonicum, terminatque fines Calaterii nemoris,' etc. (Brit. fol. 1607, p. 588). What remains of it now is only here and there a fragmentary 'uliginosa planities'--still rich in Sphagna, bog Hypna, and numerous other Mosses and Jungermanniæ--to say nothing of nobler plants--and in the drier parts adorned with wide beds of Cetraria islandica and Cenomyce rangiferina, associated with Dicranum spurium, Bartramia arcuata, Racomitrium lanuginosum (often fertile), and other tall Mosses.
"Tradition reports--but adds no date to the supposed fact--that the last wolf in England was killed on the borders of the Forest of Galtres, at Stittenham, two miles from where I am writing, by one of the Gowers, of which noble family Stittenham was (and still is) an ancient possession. The crest of the Gowers is 'a wolf passant argent,' etc., and over the family vault in the neighbouring church of Sheriff Hutton are suspended the funereal trophies of a Gower, viz. a casque, gauntlets, etc., and a pennon, now faded, but said to have been blazoned with the representation of a combat between a man and a wolf. Whether, however, the badge was assumed from that heroic action, or the tradition was founded on the badge, let the heralds decide.2
"I conclude this note by earnestly beseeching our local botanists to lose no time in exploring the moors that still remain untouched by cultivation in the Vale of York and elsewhere. On the wide plain between the Ouse and the foot of the wolds there [[p. xxvii]] are still left several patches of moor which have never been thoroughly examined for Cryptogamia. On one of these--Barmby Moor--I found the rare Scalia Hookeri, Lyell, in fruit on November 5, 1842, and I suppose I and Mr. Curnow are the only living botanists who have gathered it in Britain; but Gottsche finds it near Hamburg, and Lindberg at Helsingfors. In 1856 I gathered a second species, Scalia andina, MSS.--thrice the size of its European congener--in the Eastern Andes of Peru."
In his letter to Mr. Borrer of August 25, 1843, Spruce apologises for not having written before about some flowering plants Mr. Borrer had sent him several months earlier, and then adds: "But my attention was then, and continues to be, so entirely engrossed by the Musci and Hepaticæ, that I could not expect to gather anything for you that you would consider at all interesting. As my wish is to study the plants I collect, and not merely to amass an extensive collection, my small amount of leisure obliges me to confine my botanical pursuits within very narrow limits." In the next letter (September 9, 1843), written after Mr. Borrer's second visit, when they gathered mosses together around Castle Howard, he determined one of their gatherings to be Bryum intermedium, Brid., a moss which had previously been confounded with other species, but which he had named from the very accurate descriptions in the work on European Mosses by Bruch and Schimper then in course of publication. He here shows his critical faculty and confidence in his own results by adding, "With B. turbinatum, to which Hooker and Taylor united it, it has nothing to do!" By this time he had so impressed his friend with his extensive knowledge and the accuracy of his judgment, that Mr. Borrer sent him many of his doubtful Mosses and Hepaticæ to determine, and though Spruce disclaimed being "an authority" (as Mr. Borrer had termed him), he was always ready to give his opinion when he had sufficient materials on which to form one.
In March 1844 he wrote to Mr. Borrer in regard to certain species of Bryum: "Mr. Wilson was formerly of opinion that we should never be able to distinguish Br. cæspititium from these species by the eye, but I find now not the slightest difficulty in doing this--in fact, we appear to have had no eyes for seeing the Brya till operated upon by Bruch and Schimper!" And at the end of this letter he says: "I shall certainly not 'declare off' from receiving your doubtful mosses (unarranged). I love to combat with difficulties, knowing that the solution of every 'crux' brings me nearer to a finished botanist."
His paper on the Musci and Hepaticæ of Teesdale, the result [[p. xxviii]] of a three weeks' excursion in the preceding summer, showed him to be one of the most lynx-eyed discoverers of rare species, as well as an accurate discriminator of them. In Baines's Flora of Yorkshire (1840) only four mosses were recorded from Teesdale, though no doubt many more had been collected. Spruce at once raised the number to 167 mosses and 41 hepaticæ, of which six mosses and one Jungermannia were new to Britain. In April 1845 he published in the London Journal of Botany descriptions of twenty-three new British mosses, of which about half were discovered by himself and the remainder by Mr. Borrer and other botanists.
In the same year he published, in the Phytologist, his "List of the Musci and Hepaticæ of Yorkshire," in which he recorded no less than 48 mosses new to the English Flora and 33 others new to that of Yorkshire.
By the liberality of Mr. Borrer, and by exchanges with other botanists, he had now obtained specimens of nearly every known British moss; and he had also been in correspondence with Bruch and some other Continental botanists, and had received from them a large number of European species, which were of great value to him for comparison. As it was his practice to make a careful microscopical study of all the species he possessed, and as his whole spare time for the three years 1842-44 was devoted to this work, we can accept his statement to Mr. Stabler, that before he went to the Pyrenees he was so thoroughly familiar with them that he could give from memory the distinctive characters of almost every species.
In the latter part of 1844, when he had to leave the York school, his future was very unsettled. A plant agency in London and the curatorship of some Colonial botanical garden were successively discussed with Mr. Borrer and Sir William Hooker, and rejected as either unsuitable or uncertain of attainment. The latter gentleman then suggested his going as a plant-collector to Spain, that being a rich and comparatively little known part of Europe; but on inquiry the country was found to be in so disturbed a state that travelling would be dangerous, and collections difficult to preserve and to transport safely to England. The matter was decided by the suggestion of the Pyrenees, which Mr. George Bentham had visited a few years before, and where it was thought that a really good collector, such as Spruce had proved himself to be, could easily pay his expenses by the sale of sets of dried plants well preserved and accurately named. This expedition was decided on in December 1844, chiefly, as Spruce told Mr. Borrer, because it would gratify "his irresistible inclination to study his [[p. xxix]] beloved mosses." From some passages in his letters it is evident that Mr. Borrer advanced him a sum of money to be repaid by the first set of his Pyrenean collections. He had intended to leave in April, but at the beginning of that month scarlet fever attacked Welburn, and three of his little half-sisters out of four who were attacked, died of it.
He was able to leave, however, at the end of April, and after spending a few days in the neighbourhood of Bordeaux, he reached Pau early in May, and devoted his whole time and energies till the following March in collecting and studying the beautiful flowers and unexpectedly interesting mosses of the Pyrenees. All his previous inquiries had led him to believe that mosses were few in number and of common species; and the French collections he examined before reaching the mountains showed this to be the case. In a letter to Mr. Borrer dated October 29, after he had been four months in the mountains, he writes: "As the result of my wanderings I have now to show most of the rarest flowers of the Pyrenees, a great many of which have been gathered at heights of from 9000 to 10,000 feet, and even upwards, and cannot, in fact, be obtained without climbing thus high; while my Cryptogamic récolte may now fairly be called immense. . . . The rotten trunks of trees furnish quite a garden of Jungermanniæ throughout the Pyrenees. . . . The two best stations for Cryptogams I have found to be Cauterets and Bagnères de Luchon; at the former place I stayed three and at the latter above five weeks. I can easily conceive why so few mosses have been gathered in the Pyrenees; for the flowers are so numerous, so varied, and so beautiful, that no person who was not, like myself, quite entêté of Bryology would deign to pick up a humble moss! In a guide-book to the environs of Luchon, of some scientific pretensions and containing some two or three chapters on Botany, it is even said 'la famille des Mousses n'existe pas dans les Pyrénées'! Yet of all places in the Pyrenees, the valleys, lakes, and cascades in the vicinity of Luchon are the most prolific in mosses. Above the region of forests mosses become very scarce; the rocks are too exposed to the heat of the Pyrenean sun to permit them to flourish. It is in the immense forests of beech, elm, etc., that I have made my richest harvest." And towards the end of the same letter he writes: "From what I have said you will begin to see that I am satisfied with my expedition. It is true I have traversed many a weary mile and found very little in the way of mosses, but this must always be the case with a first explorer, and on the whole I am well content with my success. Whether or not my collection [[p. xxx]] be considered a rich one by others, I do not think many more mosses remain to be found in the Pyrenees; some there are undoubtedly, for there are many localities I had not time to examine, but it will perhaps be difficult to find a person who will search for them so carefully and patiently as I have done."
In a later letter to Mr. Borrer (dated January 5, 1846), after four pages about mosses and the difficulty and cost of sending home his large boxes full of plants, he adds a postscript, which, as an echo of a now almost forgotten mania, it may be interesting to quote. "P.S.--I am afraid I shall find no one but yourself when I return to England who will deign to look at Pyrenean plants--you appear to be all going mad about Railways. I get hold sometimes of a Times or Morning Chronicle, with Supplement on Supplement of Railway advertisements, and I turn over page after page until I am quite in despair of arriving at any news. And when at last I come to something that looks readable, I still find it to consist almost entirely of accounts of Railway meetings, etc. You appear also to have undergone such strange metamorphoses! pour exemple, when I read 'the Railway King is determined to have a narrow gauge into Cornwall,' it is scarcely credible that his said majesty is no other than my old acquaintance George Hudson, quondam Linen-draper of York! Alack! alack! what will this world come to!!"
He returned to England in April 1846, and at once made his long promised visit to Mr. W. Borrer at Henfield, Sussex. They explored together all the best collecting grounds in the district, after which Mr. Borrer took him to Tunbridge Wells and St. Leonard's Forest; and, after a three weeks' delightful excursion, accompanied him to London, where Spruce had to make some arrangements as to the disposal of his Pyrenean collections. He had obtained in considerable quantities between 300 and 400 species of the choicer alpine plants, and these all had to be named, arranged into sets, and sent to the various purchasers in Great Britain and the Continent, a work which fully occupied him for the remainder of the year.
In his favourite groups the Mosses and Hepaticæ he had done for the Pyrenees what he had previously done for Teesdale--shown them to be exceptionally rich in these plants. A list published by Léon Dufour in 1848 contained only 156 mosses and 13 hepaticæ, though of course many more may have been gathered by botanical collectors from other parts of Europe. Spruce at once raised the number to 386 mosses and 92 hepaticæ. My friend Mr. M. B. Slater informs me, from an examination of the [[p. xxxi]] latest work on the Mosses of France, that 17 of the species discovered by Spruce were absolutely new to science, and that 73 more had never previously been gathered in the Pyrenees. Of the Hepaticæ he described four species as altogether new, while a still larger proportion than of the mosses were new to the Pyrenees, and of these a considerable number were only known elsewhere in our own islands, which are the richest part of Europe in this group.
After the flowering plants had been distributed, he began his elaborate work--The Musci and Hepaticæ of the Pyrenees, which occupied all his spare time during the next two years, and was only published after his departure for South America. It occupies 114 pages of the Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, and besides giving the names of all the species carefully identified, describes fully all that were new or doubtful, and gives particulars of the local and geographical distribution of each. He had already given a more general account of his whole excursion in two letters to Sir William Hooker, which were published in the London Journal of Botany for 1846, under the title Notes on the Botany of the Pyrenees. These are very interesting reading for every lover of plants, besides giving an excellent idea of Pyrenean scenery and inhabitants. During this visit to France he made the acquaintance of several botanists, and from them and from Bruch, with whom he had been corresponding for some years, he received such a quantity of mosses that he was able to inform Mr. Borrer in 1846 that his European mosses were nearly complete, and he was thus enabled, by comparison with authentic specimens, to name all the known species in his Pyrenean collections.
His thorough knowledge of the British species and his habits of carefully verifying every point in the descriptions of his predecessors, enabled him to detect errors which had been long overlooked. Mr. Borrer had sent him a copy of Bridel's later description of Hypnum catenulatum, on which Spruce remarks: "I find his description to be concocted of Hooker and Taylor's, Schwaegrichen's, and his own in Muscol. Recent., combining the errors of all three! I have before heard of this trick of Bridel's, and also of his drawing up descriptions from figures alone." And in a succeeding letter (October 20, 1846), he writes about some moss which had got mixed up with other species, and after tracing out the sources of the confusion between several eminent botanists, he adds: "Here is a pretty mess--there seems to have been a contest between Schwaegrichen, Bruch, e.a., which of them could most excel in getting the wrong [[p. xxxii]] sow by the ear." A few months later he writes that he finds even Bruch and Schimper to be "not infallible!" And again, that Sir W. Hooker had been "exceedingly indignant that I should have presumed to demur against Mr. Wilson's judgment." But it is pleasant to know that he remained on terms of friendship with both for the rest of their lives.
In the first letter to Mr. Borrer from the Pyrenees, Spruce tells him how wonderfully his health had been improved by the continual outdoor work and mountain air. When he first arrived a walk of three miles fatigued him dreadfully, but after two or three months he was able to walk 25 or 30 miles over rough mountain roads without any discomfort, and he also appears to have gone through the winter at Bagnères de Bigorre, always collecting mosses on fine days, without any serious attacks of his usual ailments.
When he had got back to his home in Yorkshire and settled to work at his mosses, he naturally became very anxious as to his future, and more than ever disinclined to go back to teaching or to any kind of work that involved confinement to the house, which he felt sure would be fatal to him in a few years. On June 4, 1846, he writes to Mr. Borrer: "I yearn to be independent, and I hope the next time I go out it will be to settle in some comfortable office; but I must be contented to wait until an opening occurs, and in the meantime what my hand has found to do I will do with all my heart, for my heart is in it."
The correspondence with Mr. Borrer came to an end in 1848. It consists of five letters written during this year, mostly about mosses and private affairs. His father was very ill in the early part, and Spruce had for two months to do his school work. Then, in June, Spruce himself had a severe liver-attack, with gall-stones (already mentioned), from which he did not completely recover till August. In a letter written in July he says "I have engaged to go up to London in the early part of September, to superintend the sale of Dr. Taylor's herbarium and books, which his son is going to send thither." And in the last letter (dated August 5), which is mainly about the determination of difficult mosses, he says: "When I come up to London to superintend the sale of Dr. Taylor's herbarium I will endeavour to bring with me all the books I still have of yours. Perhaps I may have the pleasure of seeing you then."
From this time letters to his botanical correspondents are wanting, but this is easily explained. When in London in September he must have had ample opportunities of consulting [[p. xxxiii]] his chief friends, Mr. Borrer and Sir William Hooker, and was no doubt also introduced to Mr. George Bentham, and through their advice and encouragement determined to undertake the botanical exploration of the Amazon valley. It is probable, also, that he heard from some of our entomological friends at the British Museum how successful Bates and myself had already been, and how highly we spoke of the climate and the people, showing that there were no real difficulties in the way of a naturalist collector.
His decision having been taken, his whole time must have been fully occupied till the date of sailing for Pará on June 7, 1849. Letters from Sir W. Hooker in October and November 1848 show that this journey was under discussion, and that by December it was finally decided upon. A letter to Mr. G. Stabler shows that Spruce came to Kew in April 1849, and spent about two months there. During this time Mr. Bentham agreed to receive all his botanical collections, name the already described species, sort them into sets under their several genera, and send them to the various subscribers in Great Britain, as well as in different parts of Europe. He also undertook to describe the more interesting new species and genera, and to collect the subscriptions and keep all accounts, in return for which invaluable services he was to receive the first (complete) set of the plants collected.
Later letters show that only eleven subscribers were obtained at first; but that after the early collections arrived and were reported on by Sir W. Hooker in the Journal of Botany, and by so great a botanist as Mr. Bentham, subscribers were at once found for twenty sets, which, a few years later, when the great novelty of the collections and their admirable condition as specimens became more widely known, increased to over thirty.
As will be seen by some of the letters printed in these volumes, Spruce highly appreciated the great service Mr. Bentham rendered him in thus undertaking the laborious duties of a botanical agent; and that he fully expressed his gratitude for it, as well as for the numerous letters Mr. Bentham wrote to him on botanical subjects connected with his work, which were his chief solace and encouragement during his long and often solitary wanderings.
June 1864 to December 1893
The opening paragraphs of this biography, together with the first pages of Chapter XXIII. of the present work, sufficiently indicate where this section of Spruce's life was spent; while the first six and the last six chapters constitute a portion of the literary tasks which occupied him during the first four or five years after his return to England. This was the period during which his health was somewhat improved and he could take short walks (to the extent of half a mile or so) amid the rural scenes endeared to him by the memories of early youth. But during the last twenty years of his life he rarely went far outside his small cottage, alternating only from chair to couch, with an occasional walk round the room, or in the very small patch of garden.
What was especially trying to him was, that for months or even for years together, he was unable to sit up at a table to write or to use a microscope, and could never do so for more than a few minutes at a time with intervals of rest on a couch. There seems little doubt that this extreme prostration might have been much alleviated, perhaps even cured, had the precise cause of it been discovered as soon as he arrived home. Yet although, by Mr. Hanbury's advice, he consulted Dr. Leared, the most eminent specialist of that time on diseases of the digestive organs, both he and other physicians who attended Spruce at Hurstpierpoint and in London appear to have entirely misunderstood his case, and paid little attention to his own account of his sufferings and his localisation of their origin.
But, four years after his return to England, Dr. Hartley of Malton found that almost all Spruce's distressing symptoms were due to a stricture of the rectum, which none of his other doctors had discovered or even suspected. He says, in a letter to Mr. Hanbury: "I have always signalised the seat of the pain to my previous physicians, but none of them--not even Dr. Leared--ever thought of passing a bougie into the rectum. They found it so much easier to hide their ignorance under the accusation of hypochondria, and to prescribe brandy-and-water every three hours." Under very simple treatment--enemas and gentle opiates--he so far recovered as to be able to work at the microscope for short periods, and even to walk half a mile in [[p. xxxv]] fine weather. But through neglect the disease had become incurable, and the consequent weakness and continuous discomfort lasted during the remainder of his life.
His condition before Dr. Hartley's discovery is shown by the following extract from a letter to Mr. Stabler (in 1867): "I can hardly write in any other way than reclining in my easy-chair with a large book across my knees by way of a table, and consequently I rarely write anything but what is absolutely necessary." And in October 1869: "I have made two attempts to complete my monograph of the South American Plagiochilæ, but the sitting up to the microscope has brought on bleeding of the intestines to such an extent that I fear I must renounce the task altogether, to my deep regret. I have not looked through the microscope for many weeks."
Yet during the succeeding seven years, with only slightly improved health, he did much botanical work. The most important was a paper on the Palms of the Amazon valley and of equatorial South America, for the purpose of which Dr. Hooker sent him all the Herbarium specimens at Kew, those in the Museum being too bulky to render their removal advisable. The result was a paper in the Journal of the Linnean Society, occupying 118 closely-printed pages, containing a very interesting account of the geographical distribution of the species, and a new classification of the genera, founded mainly on characters of the spathe, the fruits, and the leaves, as examined by himself during his fourteen years' wanderings. He enumerates and characterises 118 species, of which more than half are fully described as new and for the most part discovered by himself, the characters having been carefully noted from the living plants. Dr. J. B. Balfour, Keeper of the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens, speaks of this essay as a "classical one"; while Sir Joseph Hooker informs me that it is "full of suggestions, some of which have been taken up by later authors."
But his greatest work, and that which has established his reputation among the botanists of the world, is his massive volume of nearly 600 closely-printed pages, on the Hepaticæ of the Amazon and the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. This appeared in 1885, as a volume of the Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. It contains very full descriptions of more than 700 species and varieties, distributed in 43 genera and a large number of new sub-genera, all precisely characterised and defined. Of these 700 species nearly 500 were collected by himself (the number in the first four sets distributed being 493), and of these more than 400 were quite new to the science of botany.
[[p. xxxvi]] The whole of Spruce's Mosses--a group only second in his estimation to the Hepatics--were placed in the hands of Mr. William Mitten of Hurstpierpoint, for classification, description of new species, and distribution; and were all included in this botanist's great work on South American Mosses, published by the Linnean Society in 1867. In a volume of 632 pages, 1710 species of mosses are described from the whole of the continent of South America. Of these 580 species were collected by Spruce, 254 of them being entirely new. For these figures and those of the Hepaticæ I am indebted to Mr. Matthew B. Sclater [[sic]] (Spruce's sole executor), who has taken the trouble to extract all the necessary items from the two bulky volumes referred to.
Spruce's work on the Hepaticæ brought him a large correspondence from every part of the world, and for the remainder of his life he was sufficiently occupied with this, with the determination of specimens sent him, and with a few special papers, among which were the description of a new hepatic from Killarney, in the Journal of Botany in 1887; and one of 18 pages in the Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club, on a collection made in the Andes of Bolivia.
Turning now to the less exclusively botanical subjects, a few extracts from letters to his more intimate friends will serve to illustrate Spruce's habits and interests during the period of his secluded Yorkshire life.
In June 1869 he wrote to Mr. Stabler with a characteristic joke on his own infirmities: "One day last week a dentist relieved me of four teeth, and I belong now to the genus Gymnostomum; but by the time you come over I hope to have developed a complete double peristome."
In May 1871 he writes: "It has been very 'hard times' with me all this year; nevertheless, I lately plucked up courage to disinter my microscope--after it had lain away out of sight full eighteen months, and I have gone thoroughly over all my South American Plagiochilas, have described all the forms, and have made up my mind as far as possible about the species. The result has been to make me more Darwinian than ever. I feel certain that if we had all the forms now in existence, and that have ever existed, of such genera as Rubus, Asplenium, Bryum, and Plagiochila, we should be unable to define a single species--the attempt to do so would only be trying to separate what Nature never put asunder--but we should see distinctly how certain peculiarities had originated and become (temporarily) fixed by inheritance; and we could trace the unbroken pedigree of every form."
About this time Spruce had instructed his former landlord at Ambato, Manuel Santander, how to collect orchids and butterflies for Mr. James Backhouse of York. These collections were not very successful, and when they came to an end he received the following characteristic letter, which, as it gives a few facts about Baños which Spruce himself had omitted to state, and also in its concluding paragraph shows what an impression Spruce had made on these kind-hearted people, I will give here. Other letters equally enthusiastic are given in Chap. XXIII. of the present work.
Extracts from Letter from Manuel Santander, September 1870
"On the 13th we went to the village of Baños to inquire for the guide Juan. . . . We went to see the hot springs, which are truly prodigies of nature, seeing that at only 12 feet from them is a well of the coldest water. The proximity of the steaming springs made us perspire abundantly, and it is impossible to bear one's hand in them . . .
"All your old friends salute you and are well. Don Pedro Mantilla tells you that we have now a coach road to go and eat pears and peaches at Lligna, and I say to you--'Come to your Ambato to lay your bones along with ours.' There is now a coach road from Quito all the way to Riobamba. The coach comes from Quito in one day, and you might now travel without agitating yourself much. Oh if we had you at our side we should be happy!"
When Lindberg, the Swedish botanist, was about to visit him, Spruce writes to Mr. Stabler:
"July 1, 1872.--I shall be very glad indeed that you come whilst Lindberg is here, for I am still in such indifferent health that, without your aid and Mr. Slater's, I fear I shall be able to entertain him very poorly indeed." . . .
"On the 4th inst. I was agreeably surprised by a visit from three Bryologists, Messrs Slater, Anderson, and Braithwaite. I have also lately had other botanists here, especially Inchbald and Giles Munby--the latter resided fifteen years in North Africa and has written a Flora of Algeria. I knew him in York nearly thirty years ago."
In March 1873 he writes to the same friend: "I have only [[p. xxxviii]] just resumed microscopic work again, for in the very cold weather I had to give it up. But I have gone completely through all my South American Hepaticæ, and have selected and classified type-specimens for ulterior analysis. In Lejeunea alone--in its widest sense, that is, including Phragmicoma, etc.--I have no fewer than 460 'forms.' I have also gone over all my old European herbarium and have brushed away the excreta of destructive insects, so that (except to myself) the signs of their ravages are now scarcely apparent."
Again in October 1873: "I hammer away, as well as I can, at Lejeuneas and their relatives. It serves to beguile pain; whether it will ever be completed, time will show."
More than a year later, in December 1874, he writes: "My work is now limited to chewing the cud of partially digested observations made during the past summer"--indicating under what difficulties and painful conditions he continued to labour at the great work (and enjoyment) of his life--the minute and exhaustive study of the Hepaticæ. It was about this time that his long correspondence with Mr. Daniel Hanbury was brought to a close by the lamented death of his friend. The following extracts from some of Spruce's latest letters to him are of general interest:--
Richard Spruce to Daniel Hanbury
"Welburn, Feb. 10, 1873."
[In reply, apparently, to some depreciatory remarks upon his favourite Hepatics, Spruce writes as follows:--]
"The Hepaticæ are by no means a 'little family.' They are so abundant and beautiful in the tropics, and in the Southern Hemisphere generally, that I think no botanist could resist the temptation to gather them. In equatorial plains, one set creeps over the living leaves of bushes and ferns, and clothes them with a delicate tracery of silvery-green, golden, or red-brown; and another set, along with mosses, invests the fallen trunks of old trees. In the Andes they sometimes hang from the branches of trees in masses that you could not embrace with your arms. I have some species with a stem half a yard long, and others so minute that six of them grow and fruit on a single leaflet of an Acrostichum. Then, as to number and variety, I suppose that the working up of my South American Hepaticæ may entail equal labour to that of monographing the world's Rubiaceæ. In the largest genus, Lejeunea, I have not merely thousands of specimens, but thousands of papers covered with specimens; and [[p. xxxix]] all these must be analysed under the microscope, without which one cannot accurately discern any of their features.
"I like to look on plants as sentient beings, which live and enjoy their lives--which beautify the earth during life, and after death may adorn my herbarium. When they are beaten to pulp or powder in the apothecary's mortar they lose most of their interest for me. It is true that the Hepaticæ have hardly as yet yielded any substance to man capable of stupefying him, or of forcing his stomach to empty its contents, nor are they good for food; but if man cannot torture them to his uses or abuses, they are infinitely useful where God has placed them, as I hope to live to show; and they are, at the least, useful to, and beautiful in, themselves--surely the primary motive for every individual existence."
He then goes on to show that these little plants are not always without sensible properties. Some possess colouring matters, and yield a yellow or brown dye; others give out fragrant odours, and some a pungent taste comparable to that of camphor or pepper. But such species are as yet few in number.
In a previous letter he had described how he had had to make up for lost time, as during his travels he had no leisure to study the plants which he collected in detail. "I have therefore had first to 'fetch up' those who have had the start of me; and now, after working constantly at Hepaticæ, and thinking of little else for eighteen months, I begin to feel I know something about them. I have now worked up all the more difficult genera except one, and the Hon. Mrs. Howard offers to be at the expense of a few illustrative figures, so that if I am spared to complete the task I hope to have done something likely to be permanent. All this study has been carried on, accompanied by quite as much pain and cramping as of yore; but to be occupied on sensible objects dulls the feeling of pain much more than purely mental occupation.
"Since I came to Welburn I have also reduced all my meteorological and hypsometrical observations, and 'done' the native languages and ethnography, besides a few minor matters--all, however, chiefly written in pencil, and often hieroglyphically, and they want putting in order and writing out au net."
The following passage from a succeeding letter shows curiously his love for all living things:--"Neither these nor any other Mosses or Hepatics are ever likely to become of much direct importance to man--at least I hope not, for if they should, unfortunately, then the little birds and the beetles would be put [[p. xl]] to their pins for shelter and bedding." This is the last letter of any general or botanical interest.
Mr. Hanbury died of typhoid fever, March 24, 1875. Spruce's last letter to him in the collection of the Pharm. Soc. is May 26, 1874.
The next letter (to Mr. Stabler, May 9, 1875) gives Spruce's own account of his great loss:--"It has been a time of trouble and suffering. First I had the great grief of losing one of my oldest and best friends, Daniel Hanbury, from what seemed at first only a slight attack of typhoid, but whose fatal progress could not be arrested. I have lost in him a town correspondent who was always ready to execute any little commission--the expense of which he has often generously borne himself--and to look up for me the latest information on any subject. Add to this his uniformly kind and genial disposition, and you will see that such a friend cannot easily be replaced. I enclose two notes for your perusal from his venerable father, who is eighty years old. Then I fell ill myself, with bronchitis accompanied by intermittent fever--every alternate day twelve hours' fever--and was some weeks before I shook it off. Lastly, within these few days there is something the matter with my right eye, which has prevented my using the microscope, and I am fearful I may be going to lose the sight of that eye."
The only records of the last fifteen years of Spruce's life which are available are in the continuous series of letters to his life-long friend Mr. G. Stabler, who, both as schoolmaster, invalid, and botanist, was in complete sympathy with him. This gentleman--now afflicted with complete blindness--has kindly furnished me with copious extracts from these letters, from which I will now give such selected passages as seem of general or personal interest. They are largely occupied with his ever-varying degrees of capacity for study, with the progress of his great work on the Hepaticæ, and succeeding papers on the same group, with often amusing records of his various botanical and other visitors, among whom were several foreign botanists, his valued friend Sir Clements Markham, the late Duke of Argyll, the Duchess of Argyll, Lady Lanerton, and Lady Taunton. With the Duke he had two hours' talk, not only on natural history, for he says: "Besides these subjects, we chatted on many others, from the undulatory theory of light to Spanish and Russian politics; and my guest was just as frank and simple as our valued friend Matthew Slater."
Of one of his more distinguished visitors he writes (Oct. 1878): "I had a visit yesterday from Lord Northbrook, a [[p. xli]] former Governor-General of India, and I did not hesitate to put him through his catechism on Indian matters; but I cannot here detail his views and opinions: they were very different from those of Lords Lytton and Beaconsfield."
In Nov. 1875 he writes: "I have just been writing five long letters for M. André to take to South America. He starts on the 7th, and goes direct to Loja and the Equatorial Andes." M. André is the well-known French botanist and enthusiastic traveller and plant-collector.
The following note is of interest:--"I am sorry to hear of Lindberg's sufferings in the head and eyes. I had the same thing myself for months in South America, and from a similar cause. I had had some smoking-caps made of black satin, lined with red silk. The red dye came out and stained my forehead, but it was long ere I found out that it was really causing the atrocious pains which almost drove me crazy. Perhaps I swore about it in Spanish quite as emphatically as Lindberg does in English."
The following extract from a letter of April 23, 1886, shows how well he could introduce that rather rare thing, an appropriate yet unhackneyed quotation:--" I was very sorry to hear of poor Bishop Hannington's death--botanical bishops are so rare! We once had one, however--Dr. Goodenough, Bishop of Carlisle, whose monograph of British Carices is still a classic. Though so sound a botanist (and divine, I presume), he was a dreary preacher. Once on a time he had had to preach to the peers, and Peter Pindar wrote of him:
After Spruce's work on the Hepaticæ was published, he was occupied from 1889 to 1892 in the very tedious but to him interesting task of sorting out his immense collection of South American Hepaticæ into sets of species for distribution, writing labels for names, etc., the whole of which was completed and twenty-five sets sent off before the end of the year. The first four sets contained 493 species each, and the first eleven over 400, while the last five were reduced to about 200 or 300, showing the rarity of many of these delicate little plants, which were often found only once, and then perhaps in minute patches, either mixed with or growing upon other species.
The following extracts from his two last letters (the second written within two months of his death) show that his interest in botany continued to the last.
On October 27, 1892, he wrote to Mr. Stabler: "Last [[p. xlii]] month I completed my seventy-fifth year, and am become almost a fixture. Only my eyes do not fail me. In the winter of 1889 I had a paralytic attack, accompanied by almost complete incapacity for two entire months. Since then I have only been able to write very little, and I have been occupied principally in revising my collections and in preparing the exsiccata of them. I have a few last words to say on the Hepatics, but I do not know if I shall have the courage to complete them."
And on Oct. 13, 1893, as follows:--"Slater and I have discovered two lady botanists in our own neighbourhood--or rather they have discovered us. Mrs. Tindall's husband is brother of the proprietor of Kirby Misperton, but their home is in the south. Miss Lister, her cousin, is a clever botanical artist. Her home is in Dorset. They are very quiet, unassuming ladies--fine scholars (I envied them their familiarity with German)--and have both a fair knowledge of British flowers and mosses, but are comparatively new to Hepaticæ."
Shortly after writing the above he had a severe attack of influenza, which caused his death on the 28th of December, at the age of seventy-six years and three months.
Richard Spruce's life was spent in continuous labour for science and humanity--as a teacher, an explorer of nature, and more directly by his successful work in the introduction of the valuable red bark into India. Although his labours for this last object, extending over two years, were largely contributory to his permanent loss of health, his friends had the greatest difficulty in obtaining for him, first the small Government pension of £50 a year in 1865, and in 1877, through the long-continued and earnest representations of Mr. (now Sir Clements) Markham, a further pension of £50 from the Indian Government. Having lost the greater part of his savings through the failure of a mercantile house of the highest standing in Guayaquil, his means on his return to England were exceedingly scanty, so that he had to spend the last twenty years of his life in a small cottage sitting-room about 12 feet square, with a bedroom of equally limited proportions. Here he was carefully looked after and nursed by a kind housekeeper and a little girl attendant, who were also his friends and companions; and in this humble dwelling he received visits from his numerous friends, and, amid all his pains and infirmities, was cheerful and contented. He was well acquainted with general literature, including the old travellers and poets--Shakespeare and Chaucer being always among his small collection of books. He was a musician and a [[p. xliii]] chess-player, and was especially fond of a joke, even at his own expense. And, in the words of his life-long friend, Mr. George Stabler, "he was always courteous and gentlemanly in his bearing, and ever affectionate, kind, and sympathising as a friend."
As a friend and admirer for more than forty years, I may be allowed to give here my own estimate of him from a short obituary notice I wrote for Nature (February 1, 1894):--
Richard Spruce was tall and dark, with fine features of a somewhat southern type, courteous and dignified in manner, but with a fund of quiet humour which rendered him a most delightful companion. He possessed in a marked degree the faculty of order, which manifested itself in the unvarying neatness of his dress, his beautifully regular handwriting, and the orderly arrangement of all his surroundings. Whether in a native hut on the Rio Negro or in his little cottage in Yorkshire, his writing-materials, his books, his microscope, his dried plants, his stores of food and clothing--all had their proper places, where his hand could be laid upon them in a moment. It was this habit of order, together with his passion for thoroughness in all he undertook, that made him so admirable a collector. He was full of anecdote, and even when suffering from his complicated and painful illnesses, an hour would rarely pass without some humorous remark or pleasant recollection of old times. He was a man who, however depressing were his conditions or surroundings, made the best of his life. He was a Liberal in politics as in religion, a true lover of work and workers of whatever class or country; and nothing more excited his indignant wrath than to hear of the petty but often cruel persecutions to which the labouring classes were (and still are) so often subjected. He was an enthusiastic lover of nature in all its varied manifestations, from the grandeur of the virgin forest or the glories of the sunset on the snowy peaks of the Andes, to the minutest details of the humblest moss or hepatic. In all his words and ways he was a true gentleman, and to possess his personal friendship was a privilege and a pleasure.
He was buried at Terrington (the parish in which he was born, Ganthorpe being only a hamlet) beside his father and mother, in accordance with his own directions to his executor, Mr. Matthew B. Slater of Malton.
It now only remains to give some indication of his scientific labours as judged by his fellow-botanists.
His great characteristic was the thoroughness of his work. As a British botanist he quickly made his mark, and very soon [[p. xliv]] became an authority on our indigenous Flora, especially as regards his favourite groups the Mosses and Hepatics. A little later, when he went to the Pyrenees, he made such beautiful collections of the rarest alpine plants, and so many discoveries among the hitherto little known mosses, as to prove his capacity both as collector and painstaking student of a new flora. I cannot help thinking that it was this thoroughness of Spruce's work in everything that he undertook that so greatly impressed Mr. Bentham (who had himself collected in the Pyrenees and published a catalogue of its plants) as to cause him to undertake the enormous labour and responsibility of acting as his agent in the naming and distribution of his South American plants, a labour which, notwithstanding his other botanical work, including the Flora of Hongkong and the Handbook of the British Flora, which were being written and published at the same time, he continued to the very last, that is, during the twelve years that Spruce was able to send home collections.
No sooner did his early consignments from the neighbourhood of Pará reach England than the expectations of his friends were fully justified; and Mr. Bentham wrote to him: "The specimens are excellent, and being so well packed, they have arrived in admirable order. . . . It is one of the best tropical collections as to quality of specimens that I have seen." Sir William Hooker wrote to the same effect, and this high quality was maintained throughout his whole expedition, except in those cases where delays or exposure to damp or floods when they had passed out of Spruce's hands caused more or less injury.
Sir Joseph Hooker writes me on this point, as regards some of the later collections: "I can remember the arrival of one consignment to Bentham at Kew, and marvelling at the extraordinary fine condition of the specimens, their completeness for description, and the great fulness and value of the information regarding them inscribed on the tickets."
Professor Daniel Oliver, who assisted Mr. Bentham in the work of distributing the specimens, also writes me on these particulars: "Mr. Spruce's specimens were most carefully collected, dried, and packed, extraordinarily so considering the difficulties of all kinds with which he had to contend; and what was of special value, they were accompanied by beautifully legible labels giving precisely the information as to locality, habitat, habit, etc., required to supplement the dried specimens. I may add, the duties of a trained collector could not have been better done. The collections were specially rich in arborescent species, the obtaining of which must often have been of considerable difficulty."
[[p. xlv]] No praise can be higher than this from two botanists who have for many years had the charge of the largest collections of plants in the world.
His botanical knowledge, his accuracy, and his judgment in the classification and description of the plants which he specially studied, have also been recognised by the most competent judges.
In the very condensed record of the works of eminent botanists and botanical collectors, given in the last volume of the great Flora Braziliensis, he is said to have "most accurately examined and published" the Pyrenean Mosses and Hepaticæ; while of the volume on the Hepaticæ of the Amazon and Andes it is said that he "most sagaciously elaborated and described" the whole of the known species.
On Spruce's return to England, the veteran botanist Von Martius invited him to undertake the elaboration of one of the Natural Orders for his great work on the Flora of Brazil, showing that he must already have had the highest opinion of his competence as a botanist. This Spruce was obliged to decline on account of his ill-health; but several letters passed between them on botanical subjects, showing on the part of Martius the highest appreciation and even enthusiastic friendship. In 1866 he writes to him as "My dear Spruce," and concludes with this amusingly pathetic appeal: "Por la misericordia de Dêos, I beg you to exhilarate me by an answer. Your very attached friend and admirer--Martius." In 1867 he signs himself "For ever your affectionate devoted friend"; and in August 1868, very shortly before his death, "Your affectionate and admiring friend."
Of the general results of Spruce's botanical exploration and study in South America, the late Mr. George Bentham, who knew more of his work than anyone else, thus wrote: "His researches into the vegetation of the interior of South America have been the most important we have had since the days of Humboldt, not merely for the number of species which he has collected (amounting to upwards of 7000), but also for the number of new generic forms with which he has enriched science; for his investigation into the economic uses of the plants of the countries he visited; for several doubtful questions of origin as to interesting genera and species which his discoveries have cleared up; and for the number and scientific value of his observations made on the spot, attached to the specimens preserved, all which specimens have been transmitted [[p. xlvi]] to this country, and complete sets deposited in the Botanical Herbarium at Kew."3
Mr. John Miers, a great authority on South American plants, wrote two very long letters to Spruce in 1874, full of botanical details, and accepting many of Spruce's suggestions and his corrections of the statements of other botanists, etc.
In an obituary notice by Dr. Isaac Bayley Balfour, the writer speaks of his essay upon the Palms of the Amazon as being "classical," and that his work upon the Hepaticæ of the Amazon and Andes "is now generally recognised as the most important book upon the group that has appeared in recent years"; and he adds that, "though ostensibly descriptive and systematic, his writings are weighty in the discrimination of characters and in the adjustment of boundaries; but over and above this they have the charm of deserving to be read between the lines, for they abound with interjected suggestions, often most pregnant. For instance, the question of the evolution of the leafage of the Hepaticæ; and its relation to that of the higher plants may be raised in a footnote; the water supply and the biological [[p. xlvii]] relationships of the group may be incidents of the description of the finding of a new species, and so forth."
Another botanist, Mr. Antony Gepp of the British Museum, in an article "In Memory of Richard Spruce" in The Journal of Botany (February 1894), writes as follows:--"His Hepaticæ of the Amazon and the Andes is the most logical and scientific classification of the group that has been evolved, and is based entirely upon broad and constant characters that had previously been overlooked or underrated . . .
"Mr. Spruce delighted to lead his readers on from the immediate subject to kindred matters, illustrating his arguments with copious instances, analogies, and original observations. Thus, after describing the new Irish hepatic Lejeunea Holtii, he proceeds to contrast the comparative wealth of Lejeuneæ found at Killarney (13 species) with the three known to occur in the rest of Europe; and so passes on to a general consideration of the phenomena of distribution and the part played by animals as carriers of seeds and spores, quoting an anecdote told him by an Indian of the Rio Negro of the revels held by the beasts of the forest upon a clearing, immediately after it had been deserted by its owners."
And lastly, the distinguished veteran botanist Sir Joseph D. Hooker writes me the following brief but very high appreciation:
"No doubt his (Spruce's) monumental work on the Hepaticæ is his crowning one, and will ever live."
3. Mr. Stabler could not tell me where he found this statement by Mr. Bentham given in his "Obituary Notice of Richard Spruce" in Proceedings of Botanical Society of Edinburgh (Feb. 1894). Dr. B. Daydon Jackson kindly searched all the Presidential Addresses to the Linnean Society, as well as the articles referring to Spruce in the Journal of Botany, without finding it. I then applied to Mr. A. Gepp of the Natural History Museum (who had written an obituary notice of Spruce), and he informs me that his colleague, Mr. James Britten, has found it in a seven-page pamphlet, without author's or printer's name, headed--Statement of the Results of Mr. Richard Spruce's Travels in the Valley of the Amazon, and in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador.
Then follows a description, year by year, of Spruce's work, concluding with a "Note by Mr. Bentham, President of the Linnean Society, on Mr. Spruce's Services to Botany"--which, after referring to his work in Great Britain and the Pyrenees, concludes with the passage quoted above.
This pamphlet bears the MS. inscription:
"J. J. Bennett, Esq., with Mr. Clements R. Markham's compliments, June 10, 1864."
As this was only a fortnight after Spruce's return to England, the statement appears to have been one of the documents used by his friend Mr. (now Sir) Clements Markham, for the purpose of obtaining for him the small Civil List Pension of £50, which was granted him the following year, as stated by Mr. Stabler.
These circumstances may account for the fact that Mr. Bentham has published no general estimate of Spruce's work in any of his papers describing portions of his collections, or elsewhere, and renders it more important that the above statement should be preserved here. [[on p. xlvi]]