To John Balfour   22 February 1874





I look forward with very much delight and interest to the arrival of the "Challenger", dear Prof Balfour, and still more so now, since I know that you have a young hopeful son1 on Board.

Rest assured, that as far as I am still able, I shall show the distinguished visitors every attention, altho’ my Department is broke up, my garden mainly made an adjunct to the new Gov. Palais, ([...]2) and the administration given with Office buildings &c and almost all the votes to a young cousin of the Minister of the Department, an inexperienced Nurseryman of Sydney,3 devoid of all scientific knowledge. The only votes, remaining beyond my modest salary, are £300 for one clerk and museum material &c, and £100 for the new volume of the Flora4 as a subsidy to Mr Bentham, for which sum we get a number of copies of the volume for the scientific [...]5 of this colony. I have even to bear the here heavy expenses for Office rent, Books, instruments, messenger, &c &c out of my own Salary & was obliged to sell after 26 years hard work in Australia and after sacrificing the happiness of a domestic life for that work, the rest of my private property to keep the remaining portion of my undeservedly ruined Department going.6 No one could have done more for my service, within the slender means granted, and under the disadvantages of barren silurian clay-slate & poor gravelly soil and perfectly inadequate water supply, when also it is taken into consideration that in this very expensive country the heavy outlays for about a dozen buildings, miles of iron fences, miles of drains and gutters, steam engine for water supply &c had to be incurred My laboratory was also withdrawn from me 3 month ago, altho’ for some months previously still some work went on there on my own expense and for my Departmental service only. Speaking of my laboratory work, I would ask you whether any of your chemical or technologic friends could ascertain, if the series of new oils, separated from Eucalyptus tar under my Direction in my laboratory, has been brought at the London Exhibition under due notice. I imagine that these new oils, all of different [solvent] qualities, different specific gravity, &c will prove of still greater technologic & commercial importance than the volatile oil of the leaves, though the latter is now exported by the tons, a fact that could not be foreseen when I placed this oil before the French Exhibition in 1855 and into the London Exhibition of 1862.7

I have often wondered that Darwin, as an intimate friend of Hooker, and as the nearest neighbour of the principal proprietor of the Argus, (Edw. Wilson) never tried or never was able to disarm the low hostility of two or three ignorant men, who conspired as employees of that paper for years, to suppress my work and to ruin my position, which was gradually affected by reduction of my votes, intrusion on my Directorship, and final departmental starvation. I can even now hardly believe, that the 3 proprietors of the Argus,8 all 3 in London, are utterly indifferent to the work honor and fate of a scientific man, who exerts himself on behalf of the resources of the country, which enriched them so extraordinar[ily,] so long as they can draw 2000£ or more annually out of their journal. I come to the conclusion, that I have not received the same enlightened support in my "struggle for existence", as Hooker so generously & valiantly received.9 Compare his votes and his freedom of action with mine.

I owe you still my best thanks for your kind allusion to my palaeontologic notes in your valuable recent schoolbook.10

Always with deep veneration your

Ferd. von Mueller


I admire the youthful vigour and enthusiasm which at your venerable age to11 retain for science. Let me hope that you will live am[idst] scientific engagements to an Humboldtian age.12

Andrew Balfour. See notes to M to G, Bentham, 21 March 1874.
Three to five words obscured by binding strip.
William Guilfoyle.
Bentham (1863-78).
Text obscured by binding strip.
M had previously sold or donated land that he held in SA; see for example, land transfer documents in this edition as 62-06-28 and 65-10-11. He had also purchased land at Tanunda, SA in 1863; see 63-07-07. Transactions since M lost the Directorship of the Gardens have not been traced.
Exposition internationale, Paris, 1855, and International Exhibition, London, 1862, respectively.
Edward Wilson, Lachlan McKinnon and Allan Spowers.
See Macleod (1974) for an account of Hooker’s difficulties at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
M is mentioned in Balfour’s specifically palaentological book (Balfour 1872a) in the list of works on ‘Fossil Botany’ that ‘may be consulted’: ‘Mueller and Smyth, on Some Vegetable Fossils from Victoria, Geol. Mag., vii. 390' (B70.14.03). Publication of the full paper of which this is an abstract was 'deferred' (B70.14.01), but it does not seem to have been published later.
I admire ... for science in left margin , p 3;Let me ... age in right margin, p. 3.

Please cite as “FVM-74-02-22,” 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 28 November 2022,