From George Bentham   22 May 1861

Kew May 22 1861

My dear Sir

Since writing to you via Southampton the other day1 I have seen your letter to Sir William Hooker2 in which you seem to think that the Australian Flora ought to be left entirely to you. I am perfectly aware of the indefatigable zeal and industry you have shown in the investigation of the vegetable productions of Australia, of the high scientific ability you have shown in the varied and numerous botanical papers you have published — and that could you come over to this country for the purpose no one could nearly so well as yourself prepare the general Flora that is so much wanted. Yet at the same time I feel also that to be satisfactory to the Botanical World it must be done in this country — for nowhere else can the old species published — the collections of Brown, Cunningham and others be verified — and nowhere else can the tropical Australian Flora especially be properly elucidated by a comparison with that of tropical Asia and Oceania. And this I always considered to be the view you took of it yourself when in your letters to myself as well as to the Hookers you kindly expressed yourself so well pleased that the preparation of the Flora should be entrusted to me.3 It appears to me that it would far more contribute to the advancement of the science itself as well as to the maintenance and furtherance of the high botanical reputation which you already possess, if you were to devote yourself to the completion of such works, as the splendid Flora of Victoria which you have commenced4 and which cannot be done without the knowledge of the living plants and other advantages which you have — and if you were likewise to continue giving to the world the descriptions of the numerous additions you have made to the botanical treasury of Australia — whilst if you were to give up all these for the purpose of condensing the whole Flora of your continent into a few 8vo volumes you would find it both a thankless and a hopeless task to accomplish without those aids which our herbaria afford. As for myself I cannot but feel that my position has given me peculiar facilities for the task, and since it was proposed to me to undertake it three years ago I have been in many ways preparing myself for it and I feel fully confident that if my health and faculties do not become impaired by age I shall easily get through a volume a year as I have offerred to do. And I think that such a work got up in this country in which your contributions would be fully noticed, joined with the publication of your Flora of Victoria and other works will spread far more widely the reputation you have so well earned than were you to devote your time to the work of compilation which would be so much retarded by the necessity of frequent references to Europe where it would be very difficult to find persons competent to compare your specimens and solve your doubts except amongst those who have too many other occupations to devote themselves to the task.

Having said this much I leave the decision to other hands. The offer to undertake the task having been made to me and accepted by me I feel loth to give it up — but as I said in my former letter, years are now coming on and either I must at once commence it or give it up entirely.

Ever yours very sincerely

George Bentham.

G. Bentham to M, 16 May 1861.
M to W. Hooker, 24 March 1861.
See M to W. Hooker, 20 April 1860; M to G. Bentham, 24 July 1860; and M to J. Hooker, 24 August 1860.

Please cite as “FVM-61-05-22,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 15 July 2024,