To Henry Barkly1    8 October 1871



Dr Sonder wrote me by last mail & thinks that Mr Dyer of Dublin will be the Collaborator in the work on S African plants2 but he says that no proper reciprocity is offered him for on the one hand he is expected to supply his collection on loan while on the other hand he cannot enjoy the loan of the British Collections and he has not the leisure to travel to Kew to work there — I however hope that still some satisfactory arrangement will be entered into to see the work resumed. If Professor MacOwen could entirely give up his time for a few years to this work the difficulty could be overcome — for he could work part of the time in Hamburg & partly in Kew. And partly in Dublin,3 no inconvenience being caused anywhere.

MS is an extract filed with the letters from Barkly to J. Hooker bound in this volume. The extract is written on the same folio as an extract from P. McOwan to Barkly, 28 January 1872, declining to continue the Flora of South Africa. Both extracts are in the same hand, apparently Lady Barkly's. The folio is an enclosure to Barkly to J. Hooker, 13 February 1872 (f. 175).

That is, following William Harvey's death, to take his place in the continuation of Harvey & Sonder (1859-65). Mueller had earlier written to Barkly asserting that it was 'national jealousy' that denied Sonder the authorship, telling him that Sonder had completed work on the Ericineae and had started on the Corolliflorae, (letter not found, see H. Barkly to J. Hooker, May 1871, f. 170). However, Hooker was adamant that Sonder was the person neither for the task nor as a collaborator:

As to Mueller's proposal to employ Sonder, it is out of the question. I know the honest fellow well — he was a constant drag on the work - his portions are often miserably ill done, and poor Harvey had not only to revise all his descriptions, but to translate them into English! Add to this that 5 years elapsed after Harvey's death before I could get back the materials (Heaths) that Sonder had borrowed from the Herbarium at Kew (J. Hooker to H. Barkly, 24 June 1871; RBG Kew, archives, Letters from Joseph Hooker vol., Ada-Bar, ff. 185-8. The letter is a typescript copy of unknown provenance.)

Hooker also developed concerns about Thiselton-Dyer's capacity to complete the project:

Dyer is very unwell and looks wretchedly, and I am in despair about the Cape Flora—he has made great preparations, but if he cannot stick to the work I must ask you to let me make some other arrangement. I have talked to him most seriously about it now many times. I do not like to worry a man so earnest, so good, so competent and so thoroughly right-minded, but he miscalculates his powers, I quite see. (J. Hooker to H. Barkly, 5 August 1874, RBG Kew, archives, Letters from Joseph Hooker vol. 1, Ada-Bar, ff. 233-4; the letter is a typescript copy of unknown provenance).

There was a gap of 30 years before the next part, vol. 6, of Flora Capensis appeared, edited by W. Thiselton-Dyer, published in 1896-97. Vol. 4 was published between 1904 and 1909, with the Ericaceae enumerated anew by a number of botanists . Thiseton-Dyer explained the delay as caused by 'the pressure of official duties in which I almost immediately found myself immersed' and by 'the rapid expansion of British South Africa [which] led to a continuous influx to Kew of new material'. Thus 'during the last twenty years the time of one member of the Kew staff has been almost exclusively occupied with the determination of South African plants' (Thiselton-Dyer (1896-1925), vol. 6, pp. v-vi.

That is, work on Sonder's collections in Hamburg and Harvey's in Dublin. MacOwen declined the task; see note 1 above.

Please cite as “FVM-71-10-08b,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 25 September 2021,