-Search for letters
-Search in texts






Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 16 January 1770 n.s.
Dated January. 16. 1770. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in English.

Dear Sir,

I rec’d your favour of the 8th of Novemb[e]r, and wrote you a letter about the same time, which I hope you have rec’d before this: it inclos’d some fresh seeds of the Illicium anisatum. About a month before that time I forwarded a letter to you, which came into my hands from D[octo]r Solander, from Rio Janeiro. I hope we shall have the pleasure to see him next summer, return’d with the spoils of the new discovered world. I have not heard from Doctor Garden this year past, but expect to hear from him every day, as I have some curious seeds sent from W[est] Florida, through his hands. When I write to him, shall be sure to present your kind respects.

You enquire after the Tea plant which I raisd from seed. It grows very well, being about 7 Inches high, & has had a side branch which is cut off and planted, and will become another plant. It is under the care of M[iste]r William Aiton, Botanic Gardiner to her Royal Highness the Princess Dowager of Wales. He keeps it at present in a green house, where the Camphor tree, Oranges, and Myrtles stand in the Winter, though I do not doubt but it would stand the Frost of this Climate. It is a deciduous plant? I suspect it is, as the leaves begin to fall. We have now a great many plants of Tea, near 100,[a][a] : MS. 1 near 100 [added above
the line
in England. Of[b][b] : MS. 1 Of [added above the
some the seeds were sown at St. Helena; many brought over in Wax, in the manner which I have directed for the Oak Acorns in the Philosophical Transactions, besides many raisd from Cuttings. I believe we have got a Camellia from China as well as the King of France.

The Illicium anisatum of Florida is a new species; the number of the radii of the seed vessel is almost constantly 13. The Petals of the Flower are red, whereas Kaemfer say the Japanese is yellow. The smell of the Eastern Seed vessels is like aniseed; ours are much more fragrant, and the leaves of the Florida tree are more lanceolate. I shall give an exact figure of this Plant very soon, with as good a description of it as I can; M[iste]r Ehret has promised to make me a drawing ot it.

You desire to know whether I have seen any of the Mollusca that shine in the dark. I have seen a sort like a Nereis, but I never particularly examin’d them, nor the Sea Water; as I took it for granted, that, according to Vianelli & Baster, the luminous quality of the Sea was owing to minute[c][c] : MS. 1 minute [added above the
Insects; but this last month a memoir of M[iste]r Canton’s, F[ellow] R[oyal] S[ociety], was read on that Subject, wherein he proves from Experiments, that putrid fish, in fresh[d][d] : MS. 1 fresh [added above the
water made as Salt as the Sea Water, and kept in a vessel, will in 24 hours give a luminous appearance to the water. It will do the same in Sea Water, but not in fresh water, where no salt has been put. I have now a Whiting, which I put into river water made as salt as the sea; and in 24 hours the water[e][e] : MS. 1 the water [added above
the line
was very luminous when stirr’d; the fish was bright & shining, but the water, though luminous, like milk or white paper, did not sparkle or shine like the fish. I shall try more experiments on the subject. I have viewed a drop taken off the luminous bright part of the fish, and found, when it was put on a slip of glass, it did not shine; and when it was put into the microscope, it appeard full of globules of a very bright clear oil. In[f][f] : MS. 1 In [added above the
the drop or small portion that I placed on the same slip of glass, which was taken from the water stirr’d up, I could perceive but very few of these bright oily globules. In both there were many minute animalcula moving to and fro, as in the infusion of flesh. At present it appears that this oyl gives the Phosphorial light. I must own, I do not think the appearance of the water, like what I have seen at sea; for to me the sea appear’d as bright as the putrid fish does now. I intend to try chalk, coral,[g][g] : MS. 1 coral [added above the
pounded shells, & such like, in fresh water and putrid fish; for as it is said that fresh water will not become luminous with putrid fish,[h][h] : MS. 1 with ... fish [added
above the line
it must be owing then to the Salt. I first suppos’d it might be owing to animalcules preying on the fish, that occasion’d this light; but as yet, these that we see are too small, and yet the light very strong on the fish, there is a brightness in the oyl, when magnified, that surpasses any other oyl that I have ever seen. Other Salts likewise should be tried in fresh water with putrid fish.

The sea[i][i] : MS. 1 sea [added above the
fish is at first quite fresh, when the experiments are begun. You have frequent opportunities of trying these Experiments. I am persuaded you will have great pleasure in them, and that you will find out something new.

I am now going to try experiments on Turnip Seed, which when sown in Summer, and a dry season follows, are destroyd by a kind of Curculio or Scarabaeus. From some late observations that I have made on seeds kept close & warm, these insects, which are in them, must be the same that destroy their seed lobe leaves, after they come up out of the earth, when the season is very dry, and not others that are accidentally in the earth. This is a matter of great consequence to this country where by means of Turnips, we can afford to keep so many more sheep: and therefore it would be a great discovery to be able to destroy them in the seed, without hurting the vegetation of the Plant. I propose to fumigate the seeds (when soakd in liquor) with Sulphur, before they are sown. I recommend it to you to try what will destroy these animals with impairing vegetation. There is a large Cargo of the Dionaea Muscipula come to M[iste]r James Gordon the Nursery man near Mile End. I have seen some of the leaves, or that part which supports the lobes, serrated; this is a variety. The anatomy of the leaves, with their lobes, would be curious; to find out how the lobes close with so much force as to kill large flies.

My best wishes for your helth & long life, for the general good of Mankind.

I am, D[ea]r Sir, your much obligd and Obed[ient] humble Servant,
John Ellis

Grays Inn London
January 16. 1770.

To Charles Von Linné
Knight of the Polar Star
at Upsala
Post p[ai]d


Not yet available


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 152-153). [1] [2] [3]


1. A selection (1821), vol. 1, p. 244-248   p.244  p.245  p.246  p.247  p.248.


MS. 1 near 100 [added above the line]
MS. 1 Of [added above the line]
MS. 1 minute [added above the line]
MS. 1 fresh [added above the line]
MS. 1 the water [added above the line]
MS. 1 In [added above the line]
MS. 1 coral [added above the line]
MS. 1 with ... fish [added above the line]
MS. 1 sea [added above the line]