From Henry Barkly to William Hooker   14 June 1859

Melbourne

14th June 1859

My dear Sir William,

I was very glad to see your handwriting again, and to find you still taking undiminished interest in the progress of Australian Botany.

I still turn to Plants as a solace, though it is hardly a Country to excite such keen interest in their wonderful beauty and variety as the West Indies.

I am like you most anxious to see a complete Flora Austral[asica] published, and the delicate health of our friend Dr Mueller has lately added another motive for [pressing] forward the work. His lungs were I believe affected ere he sought this climate, and he has latterly been suffering from a stricture of the oesophagus which restricts him almost entirely to liquid food. I should be very glad therefore to see so eminent a botanist as Bentham engaged in the work, whilst Mueller cooperated with him from this side.

Since your letter reached me1 I have had a long conversation with the latter, and find this would quite accord with his views. I was glad of this, for he not long since invoked my aid to get the sanction of the Colonists to his going home with a view to publishing such a work, but besides that his health would not stand it, he has still much to do here.

No work could be complete without his [hearty] co-operation, for his Herbarium now comprises 6000 Australian Species, and not a few of the specimens are unique.

Such a man deserves his full share of credit in the undertaking, and though my opinion may not be worth much on such a subject, he seems to me to have a marvellous facility and almost unerring accuracy in examining plants and determining species, which would enable him to get through it more rapidly than anyone else.The only point where he would be likely to differ with Mr Bentham is in the reduction of species, which he carries to a greater extent than almost any other Botanist, but they seem to have got on very well together in their recent 'Contributions to the Knowledge of the Australian Acacias',2 and by pursuing the same plan of each affixing his initials, could where necessary agree to differ in a larger work.

Dr Mueller's name would have the additional advantage of ensuring the pecuniary contribution which the Government might propose to the legislature to grant, for he is looked on as the Botanist of Victoria par excellence, and it is for its Botany that money alone would be readily voted, for you must not expect Colonial views on such subjects to be very enlarged.

I have already spoken to my Ministry and I do not think there will be any difficulty in getting £1000 put in the Estimates for next year, which will be presented very shortly. Dr Mueller seems to think it will cost six or eight times that much to complete the work in the style of the Flora Tasmania but admits that it will depend much on the number of illustrations. He had proposed for the Flora of this Colony but one for each genus, selecting any new or remarkable plant for it, but plates executed here are very expensive, besides entailing almost all the labour on him personally, — whereas I suppose Mr Fitch would easily & cheaply manage the whole.

Dr Mueller's idea would be to publish about 200 Pages of Letter Press (in Quarto) a year, and would be quite ready to contribute his half of this, commencing at once. He promised to write at once to Mr Bentham on the subject.3

The scale and mode of publication must depend a good deal on the contributions which the other Colonies and the Mother Country will make. There has not yet been time for me to hear from Sir William Denison or Sir Richard Macdonnell, with both of whom I correspond constantly. The former I am almost assured has started on a voyage to Norfolk Island, but I will communicate with both on the subject.

Meanwhile you may depend upon Victoria bearing her share liberally. In fact though I never like predicting under a popular form of Government, I should be safe in asserting that the Colonists here would readily vote the whole sum at which Dr Mueller estimates the work, provided it be spread over five or six years. If any Publisher should undertake the [speculation] we should require a large number of copies for Gratuitous distribution, but I presume [nearly as] large [a sum] would have in this case to be guaranteed as if the Colonies take the risk.

I quite agree in your view that flourishing communities like these should liberally patronise such an undertaking.

I am very glad to see that Kew Gardens are continuing to make satisfactory progress, & trust that you may long be spared to look after their interests.

Remember me kindly to your [son]

& believe me

Very [truly yrs]

Henry Barkly

Letter not found.
B59.02.01.
Letter not found. See M to W. Hooker, 15 June 1859.

Please cite as “FVM-M59-06-14,” 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 29 June 2022, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/vonmueller/letters/M59-06-14