From Joseph Hooker1    24 May 1861

Hitcham Ipswich

May 24th /61

Dear Dr Mueller

I three days ago received your kind letter enclosing the curious vacciniaceous-looking plant,2 which is a most interesting discovery for Australia — also the last part of the Fragmenta3 — I think I told you that your Myrtaceous looking thing is the common Indian Memecylon, or something extremely like it4 — I wrote you the other day5 with a copy of Bentham's letter about the Australian Flora,6 & my father & he & I are all much concerned to find that we are now again at cross-purposes with you upon that subject7 — I need not I hope assure you that in regard to the authorship of that work, our only desire is to see that it is done by whoever is, whether by position or attainments, the best qualified to do it well — now putting attainments out of the question it must surely be evident to you, that to work out the Australian Flora without reference to the collections of Brown, Fraser, Cunningham, Drummond & the Paris Herbarium, would be a proceeding that no Botanist could approve & from which indeed, I should have thought, that most Botanists who regarded the interest of science & the right of collections as paramount would have shrunk. Indeed we all congratulated ourselves that you had entertained the same opinion of Benthams fitness that is universal in Europe, & we certainly so understood your letters to himself to my father & to me in which you joined us in thinking that it was a matter of congratulation to Botany, that a man who is of all others the most skilfull, & accurate in descriptive Botany, should undertake a task that called for so eminent a display of these qualifications.8 There has, I am sure, been no desire or wish in this country to disparage your labors — either as traveller or Botanist, indeed we have fought hard enough for you in every way: but we are not going to lose sight of justice to your predecessors, whose claims you naturally think so lightly of in comparison with your own, because in your isolated position you cannot avail yourself of them, or feel or know the opinion that is formed of them in this country. It would I am well aware be of little use to point out to you the difficulty of the efficient construction of so gigantic a Flora as that of Australia, how much tact it requires to seize prominent characters & to make the diagnosis both brief diagnostic & accurate, in doing which Bentham has had 40 years experience & you none — nor how much advice & counsel the wisest & best Botanists amongst us take of one another in all these matters, before arranging a plan that is to include 8000 species so arranged and described as to be really useful & not troublesome, — all this I assure you requires work of a very different character from what you have been accustomed to & a head for systematic methodology that you have never felt called upon to exercise. I will tell you candidly that excellence in these matters requires deep, long study & thought — without which Bentham himself would never have attained even mediocrity. For my own part I feel myself wholly unfit to cope with him & should not attempt any extensive Flora that he would do, — under any circumstances. Nor do I see how you could do the work with care within a reasonable period. — Bentham who has nothing (or little) else to do, works all day long at Kew, & even with Floras the most familiar to him he rarely describes more than 5 species a day including all arrangements comparisons of genera &c &c &c — & he calculates that the Australian Flora would take him 7 or 8 years at least to do it so as that his work should last & the book be a standard for all time. With your multifarious duties & such a work as the Victoria Flora in hand you would I am sure find it impossible to do the Australian well Candidly then let me assure you as a friend that in the opinion of your best friends here circumstances are against your undertaking the Australian Flora far more than against mine even & I had for many years set my heart upon it too but I have abandoned it long ago in favor of Bentham; because I have no time to do it justice & because it would be a public calamity if it were taken out of his hands.

I hope you receive through Pamplin the collections of Indian plants, the last including grasses will go soon & I hope give you pleasure — I should have acknowledged your draft for the Royal Soc which I will take care to pay as soon as due.9

Ever sincerely yr

Jos D Hooker



MS black-edged.
No relevant letter to J. Hooker has been found. A specimen of Wittsteinia vacciniacea may have been enclosed with M to W. Hooker, 24 January 1861 (in this edition as 61-01-24a), which was accompanied by B61.02.01 in which the discovery of the species is mentioned.
No relevant letter from J. Hooker has been found. Hooker is referring to the specimen sent as a 'myr[cioid] plant' with M to W. Hooker, 24 November 1860, that M himself re-identified as a 'Memecylon seemingly identical with an Indian species' in M to W. Hooker, 25 April 1861.
Letter not found.
G. Bentham to W. Hooker, 6 May 1861, in this edition as M61-05-06.
See M to W. Hooker, 24 March 1861 and G. Bentham to M, 22 May 1861.
See, for example, M to W. Hooker, 20 April 1860.
Membership fees in anticipation of M's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Please cite as “FVM-61-05-24,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 26 October 2021,