To William Thiselton-Dyer   10 January 1884

Clifton Spring,1 10/1/84


This day, dear Mr Dyer, I received you kind letter of the 26 Nov,2 while staying on a sheltered place at the coast, trying to get my terrible cough subdued by the moist oceanic air; but altho’ my general strenght has somewhat increased, I find but little improvement in my pulmonary state, altho’ I have been now 4 weeks here.

I at once write out a few timely notes on behalf of the 3 candidates of the R.S.3 as so thoughtfully suggested by Professor Foster,4 and feel obliged to you, that you will kindly take the notes to that distinguished Gentleman. If all three were elected, it would do away with jealousies, as each represents a different colony. Australia has become gradually so important, that the R.S. might well give prominence at the next election in its choice to Australia, especially as only as yet one F.R.S. is in N.S.W.5 and none in S.A.6

I am grieved to hear of the continued debilitated state of Mr Bentham; but as his mind seems to be still quite bright, and as no organic disease seems to have developed, I still hope that he will be spared us for years, though he could not possibly tax his strenght again in the manner, he has done til late. Well can he afford, to look on serenely and watch calmly the progress of phytographic science, with which he will be connected for all times through out the world!

He wrote me a touching parting letter,7 as he thought it to be, by last mail, to which I at once replied.8

My own spirit is broke through illness of alarming severity; so I had no courage to write to him before; and even should providence grant me recovery, I am not sure, whether any litterary sendings of mine would give him pleasure. On this I should much like to be advised by you. Pray, thank Sir Joseph, that he conveyed my message of sympathy to Mr Bentham.9

I shall leave the coast in a week, and go to some dense forest, where the winds will not be so harsh, and where the Eucalyptus-air may also act beneficially on my bronchiae and the lung-alveoles. I have here finished the 10th Decade of the Eucalyptography10 the concluding one, so the Registers, Indices [&c] will be [given] with [it]11 along with daily correspondence, which in my Department is most extensive professionally and quite fatigueing, especially in my present weakness. And now, after Amsterdam and Calcutta has been done, I am again to take a share in the work for the English Exhibition,12 and that with perfectly inadequate resources, while at the Garden large sums are lavishingly and unproductively wasted. As regards the showy catalogue,13 Kew has set us a good example to spend no money in that direction. Good labelling does all that it14 really needed, and I anticipate that not half a dozen copies of this costly issue will be bona fide utilized here, and beyond it is a useless and unreliable compilation!

I do not allow these sorts of boastful productions to enter my rooms; but when a person declares the Bromus sterilis the name only got through the seedsman in the Garden trained by me to be a splendid fodder grass and to be a native of N. America in an official Report to a Minister of the Crown,15 you will see, that no plants in the catalogue can be trusted, except what I labelled in the Garden. As a matter of course with true “cheek” this time - I suppose - it is again studiously suppressed, who got the plants mainly together from 1852 til 1873 and provided for their accommodation

I was delighted, that through my efforts you had [strongly] Ottelia ovalifolia16 and Monochoria cyanea at Kew. As neither have been figured and both are pretty, I hope Sir Joseph will give them as my likely horticultural “swan song” a place in the Magazine”.17

Regardfully your

Ferd. von Mueller


Could you cause to be written down a list of the Austr. plants, published since the volumes of the Flora18 appeared, about 900 species, of which are no specimens in the Kew Museum; I would make then an effort to furnish the species, whenever the specimens are not unique.19


Monochoria cyanea

Ottelia ovalifolia

Letter not found.
Notes not found. See M to R. Tate, 10 January 1884.
Michael Foster, Secretary of the Royal Society of London, 1881–1903.
Archibald Liversidge.
The three candidates for election to the Royal Society of London in 1884 to whom M is presumably referring and for whom he had signed the nomination certificate were Ralph Tate, Julian Tenison Woods and Paul MacGillivray. None of the three was ever elected. Unknown to M, however, there was another Australian-based candidate in the field that year, the professor of mathematics at the University of Adelaide, Horace Lamb, whose candidature was organized entirely in England and who was elected that year at the first attempt. See Home (2003).
G. Bentham to M, November 1883.
M to G. Bentham, 31 December 1883.
M to J. Hooker, 3 December 1883.
the concluding … with it is a marginal note with intended position indicated by asterisks .
International Exhibition, Crystal Palace, London, 1884?
Guilfoyle (1883).
See M to G. Berry, 24 October 1883.
Ottelia underlined in blue pencil. See notes to M to J. Hooker, 29 June 1882.
Magazine underlined in blue pencil.Neither species was illustrated in the Botanical magazine.
Bentham (1863-78).

There is a vertical red line on the right and a vertical blue line on the left of could you cause … effort.

On 19 March 1883 W. Thiselton-Dyer asked Daniel Oliver, ‘What do you say about the passage marked in red ’.Oliver replied ‘This is too good a chance to neglect. I shall have it seen to but it will take some time.’ In a postscript Oliver added ‘We have had so few from F.M. ([excepting] [illegible word] fragments) since the “Fl Austral” that practically all his new things are wanted here’. J. Hooker added an illegible comment on 23 March (Kew Memorandum slip, f. 78).

Oliver supplied a list ‘taken from the “Fragmenta” & other papers & checked by [ two illegible words] ’. Oliver went on ‘Possibly F V Muller may in going through the list [enquire] [what] & [which] [part]specimens have been sent recently—but which have not yet reached the Herbar. & consequently not been ticked’. Thiselton-Dyer has annotated the memo: ‘sent 5/4/84’ (Undated Kew Memorandum slip, f. 79).

The list has not been found, but M supplied at least some of the specimens Kew desired; see M to J. Hooker, 1 June 1884, but also M to W. Thiselton-Dyer, 9 October 1883.

Please cite as “FVM-84-01-10a,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 20 September 2021,