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Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 28 December 1770 n.s.
Dated Decbr 28. 1770. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in English.

Dear Sir,

I rec’d your kind favour of the 24 of Nov[em]b[er] yesterday. I now send you the Characters in English[a][a] : MS. 1 in English [added above
the line
of the Illicium & Gordonia, as presented to the Royal Society last month. I have not time to translate or contract them, that I will leave to you.

ILLICIUM Floridanum. Starry Aniseed tree from Florida. Polyand[ri]a Polygyn[i]a next to the Magnolia.

Calyx. The Perianthium, or flower cup, consists commonly of 6 little concave membranaceous leaves, that soon fall off; the outward 3 are of an oblong oval form, but the inner three are narrower, and not unlike petals.

N.B. The Calyx seems sometimes to have but 3 little leaves, so that the others may probably be changed into petals.

Corolla. The Flower consists of many Petals (26 or 27), which are lanceolate; they are of three sizes; the outward 9 are long (about an Inch), concave, obtuse, & spreading open (patentia); the next 9 are shorter and narrower; the innermost 9 are still shorter, and narrower, and very sharp pointed.

N.B. D[octo]r Linnaeus (from Kaempfer) supposes the inner leaves to be nectaria; but they are true petals, and give the blossom the appearance of a double flower.

Stamina. The Filaments are many (about 30), very short and flat, plac’d close over one another (imbricatim), surrounding the germina, or Embryo seed vessel. These support as many Antherae or Summits, which are erect, oblong, obtuse, and emarginated; they have a cell on each side, full of farina of a globular form when magnified.

Pistillum or Female Organ. The Germina or Embryo seed vessels are 20 or more in number, plac’d in a circular order above the receptacle of the Flower; they are erect, compressed, and endin in so many sharp pointed styles, bending outwards at the top. The Stigmata, or openings on the top of the styles, are downy, and plac’d lengthways along the upper part of each style, as in the Magnolia.

Pericarpium. The seed vessel consists of 12, but much oftener of 13 little pods or Capsules, that come to perfection. These are of a compressd oval shape, and of a hard, leather like substance, with two valves to each, containing one seed, and are disposd edgeways in a circular order, like so many rays of a Star.

Semina. The seeds are smooth & shining, of an oval shape, a little compressd, and appear obliquely truncated at the base.

I am sorry I cannot oblige you in changing the name of Gordonia to Lasianthus, as it has been presented to the Royal Society, and my worthy friend J[ame]s Gordon has accepted this compliment from me: but I shall retain the trivial name of Lasianthus. For my part I do not know a great proficient in the knowledge of plants, particularly their Culture, nor so warm a friend of yours; for he always toasts your health, as the King of Botany, by the name of My Lord Linnaeus, and that before he drinks the Kings health. His son has your books in his hands oftener than the Bible, and is now assisting a person here in translating your Genera into English. Notwithstanding the Efforts of D[octo]r Hill, and his fine plates in his grand work calld the Vegetable System. Your Vegetable System will bear many Editions when this magnificent work will scarcely be known: for my part I know very little of it, and do not think it worth purchasing. The R[oyal] Society, & the Society of Arts & Manufactures, will never admit him among them; he has been often refus’d at both. I know he is patronizd by some great people, which I think does them no credit. The Botanical people of my acquaintance say the Figures are bad, & do not admire the work. What you read in the news papers about Tea growing in Carolina is void of truth, as much as the Rhus that bears the true China[b][b] : MS. 1 China [added above the
Varnish, though you have let it continue in your Species. Poor Miller, through his Obstinacy and Impertinence to the Society of Apothecarys, is turnd out of the Botanical Garden of Chelsea. I am sorry for it, as he is now 79 years of Age; they will allow him his Stipend, but have chosen another Gardiner. His variety was so raisd by his Voluminous publications, that he considerd no man to know any thing but himself; though Gordon, Aiton, & Lee have been long infinitely superior to him in the nicer & more delicate part of Gardening. Our Booksellers,[c][c] : MS. 1 Booksellers <are meer
they have made fortunes by their impositions of new Editions of Millers Voluminous Dictionary, the whole or useful parts[d][d] : MS. 1 or ... parts [added above
the line
of which might have been comprehended in a book of the Size of your Genera Plantarum.

I suppose you know Ehret is dead! We have nobody to supply his place in point of Elegance. We have a young man, one Taylor, who draws all the rare plants of Kew Garden for Lord Bute; he does it tolerably well; I shall imploy him very soon. Besides, there is a valuable work now carrying on upon your System by M[iste]r John Miller, a German Painter & Engraver, under the direction of D[octo]r Gowan Knight, of the British Museum. This will make your System of Botany familiar to the Ladies, being in English as well as Latin. The figures are well drawn, & very systematically dissected & describd. I have desird that he may send to your Ambassador for you[e][e] : MS. 1 for you [added above the
the 2 first numbers, to know your opinion of it; and if you approve, you may get him subscriptions.

I cannot say much of Hudson. I wish you had publish’d a Flora Anglica, like your Flora Suecica; it would have sold very well here. The English names might have been taken from Lee’s last Edition of his Botany.

I shall certainly speak to M[iste]r Aiton about sending you what he has that is new. He has a most profound respect for you, & follows your System, & no other.

D[octo]r Kuhn is one of those American Chiefs that despise us Englishmen. I sent him some seeds of the Rheum palmatum by a friend, and he had not the decency to thank me; but his German pride will do him no service; for, thank God, we shall now humble those American Revolters. He is, to my knowledge, infinitely obligd to you; without your care in cultivating his mind he would have been a mere Savage.

I have rec’d no Tea Seeds last year, but hope for some next Summer. I will speak to Aiton for a leaf of the true Tea for you. We protect it in Winter under a glass frame, as we do the Illicium; but hope both will stand our Winter, when we have sufficient to try the experiment.

Near to the Stewartia.

[Gordonia] Lasianthus. Anglice, Loblolly Bay.

Monodelphia Polyandria.

[Calyx. The P]erianthium, or flowercup, consists of 5 concave roundish downy stiff leaves, hairy on their margins, embracing the Germen very strongly at the base, and permanent. Obs. About the Stalk, under the flower cup, are four bracteae, or floral leaves, plac’d at unequal distances, of an oblong form, concave and roundish at top, and truncated at bottom, where each seems to embrace a part of the Stalk. These cover the flower, and its proper calyx or flowercup, in its younger state, but as it grows up and expands, they begin to appear more distant from each other, and soon decay; otherwise thay have the appearance of an exterior flowercup.

Corolla. The flower consists of 5 large, fleshy, concave, inverted oval petals, united at the narrow part of the base, forming as it were one petal. In the inside of this narrow part, or joyning, is a funnelshaped fleshy substance, like a Nectarium, which is united to, and appears to be, a part of the Petals: this surrounds the Germen, or embryo seed vessel. The upper or broad part of this Nectarium is wav’d in such a manner, that the rising of each wave answers to the middle of each Petal.

Stamina. The Filaments are numerous and linear, or rather awlshaped; they are inserted all round, on the top, or margin, of this wav’d part or Nectarium (not separated in parcels, & united only in different Phalanges, as in the Polyadelphia, but equally distant from each other and connected together at the bottom, by this nectarium or fleshy substance). The Antherae, or Summits, that contain the male dust, are of an oval form, & erect; they have a cell on each side, full of dust, of a globular shape when magnified, different from the Farina of the Malvaceous tribe, which are full of points.

Pistillum. The Germen, or Embryo seed vessel, is oval, and acuminated at the top, where the Style begins. The Style is very short, and has five prominent ridges, as if 5 Styles were united together; the tops of these apparent Styles[f][f] : MS. 1 Styles [added above the
end in 5 acute Stigmata, or openings of the Style, disposd horizontally in a radiated form, a little contorted towards the points. On the upper part of each of these Styles is a longitudinal furrow or cavity, coverd with down, and ending with each of them in a point, being the true Stigma.

Pericarpium. The Capsule is eggshaped, and acuminated at the top; it is woody, and splits open at top into five valves, with 5 Cells or Loculaments.

Semina. The Seeds are kidney shaped, and wingd obliquely on one side. There are 2 Seeds in each cell, which adhere to a membranaceous receptacle (one on each side), that proceeds from the Columella</u< in the center.

I have now no more room than to wish you most heartily the Compliments of the Season, and to assure you that I propose soon to set about my Zoophytes.

I am, D[ea]r Sir, most truly Yours,
John Ellis

N.B. I have got Specimens of the Theobroma Cacao & Guazuma, preservd in Spirits. I intend to send them to you. I am surprisd at Tournefort and Plumier; how little they know of this genus! Their figures magnified are most elegantly contrivd, very different from dried Specimens.

Q[uestion]. In what part of Sweden, or the North, do Woodcocks breed? I mean in Num[bers], because they by accident breed here? – Has it ever been observd that they carry off their Young in their [beaks?]

Q[uestion]. Whether the Turdus Iliacus, or Redwingd Thrush, sings well in Sweden? [They come in flocks] in Winter, but have no song here.

Q[uestion]. What is the Title of the Third part of your Fundamenta Botanica?


Not yet available


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 156-157). [1] [2] [3]


1. A selection (1821), vol. 1, p. 252-259   p.252  p.253  p.254  p.255  p.256  p.257  p.258  p.259.
2. The Letters and Papers of Sir John Hill (1982), p. 164-165 .


MS. 1 in English [added above the line]
MS. 1 China [added above the line]
MS. 1 Booksellers <are meer thieves>
MS. 1 or ... parts [added above the line]
MS. 1 for you [added above the line]
MS. 1 Styles [added above the line]