To William Thiselton-Dyer   21 February 1890




Two days ago, dear Mr Dyer,2 I wrote to you a private letter hurriedly in reply to your last one,3 touching my present relation to Mr Bailey. Before the subject passes from my memory, I like to make a few additional remarks. There is nothing to hinder Mr Bailey to continue communicating with me, if he likes to do so.

I have made an object of life, to elaborate the flora of Australia. I have set on it and on kindred pursuits all I had, which I could not have done, had I establisheda domestic home. The researches on vascular plants ought in my lifetime to be kept together here; but he not only wishes to create an imperium in imperio,4 but seemingly also an institution in opposition, and his tactics are calculated to weaken my establishment and I have nothing else in the whole world.

I am still willing to do anything for him in reason. But there seems to be more than one person jealous of me in Brisbane. I went so far formerly, to allow him to share in authorities for plants,5 when he not even had fixed the genus! He over-rates much his knowledge, which will ever remain very defective from many causes. The causa belli on his part seems to be, that I did not recognize all his plants as new, and that I did not insert the last lot in the Census.6 I had to omit my own supplemen[t] with many additional species including Monochoria vaginalis.7 But I was ovewhelmed with extrawork for the Austral. Assoc,8 quite irrespective of writing the adress9 and the essay on Sir W. MacGregors plants10 and I had not any money left to extend the print, being obliged on that ground to leave out even the preface, nor had I time to go into new calculations for the Census after additions, which I should have been obliged to take merely from his prints, to be in time, without vericifacation[.] from subsequently received specimens11 I corrected his "veni ficum" into veneni ficum;12 I gave him some names as late as November 13 of plants which he could not make out even for orders (e.g. Hyptiandra Bidwilli,14 — for all of this he has not a word of thanks!15

I sent him also lately a goodish parcel of New Guinea plants, the essay on Sir Will Macgregors plants [&c], which he does not think worth even of acknowledging as received!

As regards the Garden here, I trust, you will bear in remembrance, that £150,000 (Not £50000) have been spent on it since I left, quite irrespective of lately an enormous sum for water supply, and some few years ago large extras for buildings earthworks &c, while I in latest years was almost starved out. The obligations, which I all along had, to distribute vast numbers of trees &c, have since I left devolved on a special institution, the State Nursery of plants at Mt Macedon for which there is an ample vote quite irrespective of the bot. Garden.16 How far science and industries have benefitted from such lavish expenditure here, you can judge for yourself independently.

I am now trying to push culture into the Australian Alps, the whole as yet unsettled, though comprising an area nearly half as large as Switzerland!17

Regardfully yours


Ferd. von Mueller


Phytography is in my Department a mere byework; rural and industrial obligations take up in a young colony the maintime of a Department like mine.

Do not think me small-minded; but I must protect the interests of a public Department, and have thus explained this at length, as the question was raised by yourself, and as you evidently were under wrong impressions. I do not wish, to enter further on any explanations of this subject; so kindly allow the matter to drop now.

He ventured, what I could have done long ago, to decribe a Bambusacea without flowers or fruit.18 Such plants I do not feel justified to record.19



Hyptiandra Bidwilli

Monochoria vaginalis

Date stamped on ff 309 and 311 : Royal Gardens Kew 3.Apr. 90, and annotated by Thiselton-Dyer on f 309 : And 13.7. 90. (letter not found).
See M to W. Thiselton-Dyer, 19 February 1890.
Letter not found.
empire within an empire.
For example, Bauhinia gilesii in B82.07.04, p. 151, and Elaeocarpus bancroftii in B86.06.02, p. 142; see also below.
I had to … vaginalis written in central margin of f. 310, front, with intended position marked by asterisks.
M was President of the second congress of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Melbourne in January 1890.
B89.13.11. quite irrespective … plants, is written in left hand margin of f. 301, back, with intended position indicated by asterisks .
from … specimens interlined.
M is correcting Bailey’s Latin; the article by Bailey that uses it has not been found.
i.e. too late to be included in B89.13.12.
In Bailey (1890), p. 8, Hyptiandra bidwillii var. grandiuscula is named under the joint authority of 'Bail. and F.v.M.'
Bailey (1889), p. 35 has the footnote: 'The few plants marked with an asterisk, I obtained but poor specimens of, but Baron Mueller has kindly assisted me in their determination. The descriptions in all cases, however, are my own.'
for which … Garden written in right margin of f. 311, front .
M alluded to the Alps, where 'pasture- and orchard-plots will soon be the homes of many new highlanders', in his opening address to the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in January 1890 (B90.13.01, pp. 20-21); he was eventually asked to prepare a briefing note for the Government; see M to A. McLean, 10 December 1890.
Bambusa Moreheadiana, Bailey (1889), p. 71. Bailey in his notes to the description wrote 'Baron von Mueller … 1886, drew attention to a Queensland species of Bambusa , but the specimens and collector's notes he thought insufficient to name the species; and even now, not having seen the inflorescence, by some it may be deemed too early to have given it a specific distinction, but the uncertainty of the flowering of plants of this genus, and that the stems are being put to many useful purposes is, I consider, sufficient excuse.' See M to M. Holtze, 12 December 1886, and B86.12.01, where M mentions receiving from 'Mr. Pentzke' specimens of a probable bamboo, without fruit or flowers, from the Daintree River area.
The final paragraph is written on the left and right margins of f. 309, front, i.e. alongside the first paragraph of the letter.

Please cite as “FVM-90-02-21,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 19 January 2022,