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Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 19 August 1768 n.s.
Dated Augt. 19. 1768. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in English.

Dear Sir,

Not hearing from you since I wrote to you last, which was 15 March, I have concluded that you must have been prevented by Sickness.

I take this[a][a] : MS. 1 this [added above the
opportunity of Capt[ain] Trobenius, to send you a Specimen of a Siren from Doctor Garden, and likewise some proof plates of what I intend for my second Volume, as well those that are already printed in our Philosophical Transactions, as those that are intirely new, and have not yet been given to any body; depending on you, my Dear Friend, that no copies my be taken of them, but to remain with you for your own information. I have not as yet finishd the description of them, but shall now soon begin to arrange what I intend on the Subject; and am only detain’d by 5 plates more, which I must get executed, as I have several Mollusca, Corals, and particularly some Gorgonias and Alcyoniums, which I have received from our West Indies, preserv’d in spirits, with all their Suckers, or Tentacula, extended as when alive. But it is impossible to describe to you how difficult it is to get drawings and engravings well executed, and finishd in any reasonable time, besides the extravagant expenses that attend them.

I must now inform you, that Joseph Banks, Esq[uire] a Gentleman of £. 6000 per annum Estate, has prevailed on your Pupil, D[octo]r Solander, to accompany him in the Ship that carries the English Astronomers to the new discover’d country in the South sea, Lat. about 20° S[outh], and Long. between 130° & 150° W[est] from London, where they are to collect all the natural curiosities of the Place, and, after the Astronomers have finish’d their Observations on the transit of Venus, they are to proceed under the direction of M[iste]r Banks, by order of the Lords of the Admiralty, on further discoveries of the great Southern Continent, and from thence proceed to England by the Cape of good Hope. They are to leave Plymouth about this time, and from thence proceed to the Island of Madeira; from thence to Rio Janeiro, afterwards to the Falkland Islands and the entrance of the Straits of Magellan; from thence round Cape Horn, & so to George’s Land. No people ever went to Sea better fitted out for the purpose of Natural History, nor more elegantly. They have got a fine Library of Natural History; they have all sorts of machines for catching & preserving Insects; all kind of nets, trawls, drags, & hooks for coral fishing; they have even a curious contrivance of a telescope by which, put into the water, you can see the bottom to a great depth, where it is clear. They have many cases of bottles with ground Stoppers, of several sizes, to preserve animals in Spirits. They have the several sorts of Salts to surround the seeds; and wax, both bees wax and that of the Myrica; besides, there are many people whose sole business is to attend them for this very purpose. They have two painters and draughtsmen, several volunteers who have a tolerable notion of natural history; in short, Solander assurd me this Expedition would cost M[iste]r Banks ten thousand pounds. All this is owing to you and your Writings.

About 3 days ago I took my leave of Solander, when he assur’d me he would write to you and to all his family, & acquaint them with the particulars of this expedition. I must observe to you, that his places are secur’d to him, and he has promises from persons in power of much better preferment on his return.

Every body here parted from him with reluctance; for no man was ever more belov’d, and in so grest esteem with the public from his affable & polite behaviour.

The reason he was not introduc’d to the King was owing to Doctor Hill’s being so great a favourite with Lord Bute; for if Solander’s merit had been known to the King, D[octo]r Hill must have sunk in the opinion of all persons that attend the Court, as much as he is fallen in the opinion of all lovers of botany and natural history, on acc[oun]t of the little credit that is to be given to what he advances; for tho’ he certainly has great abilities, the want of that fairness & exactness makes the world suspect him & his writings are a mere drug. M[iste]r Fitzhugh, Factor to the East India Company for many years in China, who has been in the tea country, is just arriv’d, and has brought a Tea tree home alive. As he is very curious and intelligent, I askd him particularly about the species of tea, Green and Bohea. He declares it is but one and the same plant, and that if you take the green tea and transplant it into the country where Bohea is made, it will produce Bohea tea; and so to the contrary. That it has but 6 petals, and that you must have been imposd on by D[octo]r Hill. D[octo]r Solander & I examin’d him minutely about it but a week ago. He knows the Captain that brought over your Tea trees very well; and confesses that the sowing the seeds in the earth, as they are going to leave the coast, is the only way. M[iste]r Fitzhugh’s tea plants came up from seed, and, when at St. Helena, were destroyed by Rats. The tree he has brought over is an old one; it is under the care of J[ames] Gordon. I hear there is another Tea tree just arrived in fine order.

I am in hopes of specimens of the Illicium anisatum very soon, and seeds in January. The specimen I lately rec’d has 30 Stamina, and 13 Pistilla; about 27 petals, and 4 parts in the perianthium. The Flower is of a red colour. There are no nectaria. It seems to come next to the Dillenia. I have lately had several fair seed-vessels of the Ellisia, and I find that there are 4 Seeds in each, 2 above the other two. The calyx or perianthium is monophyllum, quinque-partitum. The seeds when magnified are not muricated, but like the seeds of Papaver, only black. I have lately rec’d a Boletus from the Moskito shore, whose upper and smooth Surface is of a fine Sky blue colour, the under part, where the pores are, of a fine yellow. It seems to be a parasitical one; but the stalk, by which it adhered to the tree, grows to the middle of the upper or blue part. The figure of it is as underneath

[illustration saying: The upper or blue part] [illustration saying: This is the under part and full of minutes pores]

I have likewise rec’d from the North part of S[outh] Carolina a new kind of Fungus. I shewd it to Solander, and he had never seen any thing like it; it seems to approach the Phallus I compard it with Michelius’s figures, p. 83, but it wants the Pileus.

I have given a little Schetch of it underneath. [illustration]

The inside, when it is dissected, is like a honeycomb. The person who gave it to me collected it, and says when it was fresh it was of the richest scarlet colour he ever saw, but that the smell was intolerably fetid. I should be glad to know whether it is worth making a drawing of it.

If you have made any new experiments on animal and vegetable infusions, pray let me know. I am determind to go through M[iste]r Needhams, and have now some mutton gravy sealed up like his in a bottle. I intend to examine it in a fortnight. I have seen something surprising on a dead fly, that was drown’d in water where some flowers were. I begin to think that there are several zoophytes in fresh water, that appear to grow when animal & vegetable substances are putrefying. I will do justice to these Experiments; for truth is all I want to pursue. The zoophyte I mean is that which is represented in the Ph[ilosophical] Transact[ion]s Vol. 45, No. 490. Tab. 5.

[illustrations saying; the hole at top; the surface of fall of minute Papilla which open horizontally as thus. These holes are all cavities like honeycomb and correspond with the paillae on the surface of the cavity.]

The one that I have figured is highly magnified, and when the minute globules came out at the top, they seemed to be alive and float about. After a time this kind extended itself into small ramifications, like roots, and then died away.

But I have no more room now, but wish to hear from you, and that you may get what I send you safe & to assure you of my best wishes for your health & long life, Dear Sir,

Your most obligd Friend,
John Ellis.

I shall now endeavour to get some of the Ustilago to try that experiment fairly.

Poor Collinson, our friend, is dead.

My Lord Hillsborough has sent me some specimens of wild nutmeg, with small fruit on them; they are the same that is taken notice of in the Herb[arium] Amboinense to grow at Surinam. I have wrote to Tobago to get specimens of the flowers, to fix the genus.

The Right Honorable
Charles Von Linné
at Upsal
Post p[ai]d


Not yet available


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 147-148). [1] [2] [3]


1. A selection (1821), vol. 1, p. 229-235   p.229  p.230  p.231  p.232  p.233  p.234  p.235.
2. The Letters and Papers of Sir John Hill (1982), p. 151 .


MS. 1 this [added above the line]