Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Salisbury, Richard Anthony

SALISBURY, RICHARD ANTHONY (1761–1829), botanist, only son of Richard Markham, cloth merchant, of Leeds, was born in 1761 at Leeds. His mother was descended from Jonathan Laycock of Shaw Hill, who married Mary Lyte, sister of Henry Lyte [q. v.], the translator of Dodoens's ‘Herbal.’ Salisbury, as he afterwards called himself, seems to have been educated at the university of Edinburgh, where he became intimate with James Edward (afterwards Sir James Edward) Smith [q. v.], and probably studied botany under Professor John Hope (1725–1786). In 1780, according to his own account, he became acquainted with an elderly lady, Miss Anna Salisbury, a connection of his maternal grandmother, Hester Salisbury, and in 1785 she gave him ten thousand pounds in three per cents to enable him to pursue his studies in botany and gardening, on condition of his assuming the sole surname of Salisbury (cf. Banks, Correspondence, vol. x.). Salisbury lived first on one of his father's estates, at Chapel Allerton, near Leeds, where he had a fine garden. About 1802 he purchased Ridgeway House, Mill Hill, Middlesex, formerly the residence of Peter Collinson [q. v.], and now occupied by a large public school. Smith spent a fortnight with him at his new home in 1802. The two botanists were supporters of opposing views of classification, Salisbury using the natural, Smith the Linnæan system. The latter seems to have resented his friend's outspoken criticisms. A furious quarrel ensued, in the course of which Smith, in letters to his friends, assailed Salisbury's private life with much acerbity. As a result ‘there was a tacit understanding on the part of the botanical leaders of the period, including Brown, Banks, and Smith, that Salisbury's botanical work and names should, as far as possible, be ignored’ (Journal of Botany, 1886, p. 297).

Salisbury added annotations to the ‘Plantarum Guianæ Icones’ (1805–7) of Edward Rudge [q. v.], and described the plants in ‘Paradisus Londinensis’ (1806–9), the drawings in which were by William Hooker. The cost of publishing the latter work Salisbury partly defrayed. There, in March 1808, he described the genus Hookera, which he named after his friend William Hooker, the artist. In the May following, Smith, with a view to depriving Salisbury of the credit of the description, issued a description of another genus, naming it Hookeria, after his ‘young friend, Mr. William Jackson Hooker, of Norwich’ (afterwards Sir William) [q. v.] Three years later Smith gave Salisbury's genus Hookera the new name of Brodiæa after his wealthy ‘friend and patron,’ James Brodie of Brodie House, Elgin. Salisbury's morals, as a man of letters, do not entitle him to much sympathy. On 17 Jan. 1809 Robert Brown (1773–1858) [q. v.] read a paper at the Linnean Society on the Proteaceæ, but this was not published till 1810. Meanwhile Salisbury, who was present at the reading of Brown's paper, published a work on the same group of plants under the nominal authorship of Joseph Knight, gardener to an enthusiastic collector, George Hibbert, M.P. The work contains several descriptions borrowed memoriter, but without acknowledgment, from Brown's paper. Bishop Goodenough of Carlisle, writing on the subject of the plagiarism to Smith, 26 Dec. 1809, says: ‘I think Salisbury is got just where Catiline was when Cicero attacked him, viz. to that point of shameful doing when no good man could be found to defend him’ (Memoir of Sir J. E. Smith, i. 588).

In 1809 Salisbury was appointed the first honorary secretary of the Horticultural Society of London. Next year the accounts were found in the utmost confusion, and he was succeeded by Joseph Sabine (1770–1837) [q. v.] About the same time he moved from Mill Hill to Queen Street, Edgware Road, where in a garden, not more than thirty feet square, he cultivated several hundred rare plants in pots. Despite his personal defects, Salisbury was a most accomplished and painstaking botanist, examining every plant he could; describing, dissecting, drawing, and preserving it with the utmost care. One of the chief foreign introductions which we owe to him was the Corsican pine, which he procured for Kew from the south of Europe in 1814. Though apparently engaged upon a ‘Genera Plantarum’ arranged according to the natural system, he published little or nothing after 1818. Having made the acquaintance of Alphonse de Candolle in Banks's library, he offered to bequeath his library and fortune to him, if he would act as his literary executor and take the name of Salisbury. This offer being declined, it was transferred about 1819 with like result to John Edward Gray (1800–1875). After this Salisbury made the acquaintance of Matthew Burchell, a Fulham florist, and made his son William John Burchell (1782?–1863) [q. v.], afterwards well known as a traveller, his heir. Salisbury died of paralysis in 1829. On Burchell's death, in 1863, his herbarium went to Kew; but Salisbury's manuscripts were given by Miss Burchell to Dr. J. E. Gray, who published the completed portion of the ‘Genera Plantarum,’ and presented six volumes of drawings and notes to the botanical department of the British Museum.

Salisbury married, in 1796, Caroline Stainforth, and they had one daughter, Eleanor, who married a Major Brice of Bath. Salisbury's marriage proved unhappy, owing partly to disputes with his wife's relatives as to her dowry; and in order to deprive his wife of property that he claimed to have settled on her he declared himself a bankrupt, and had recourse to other legal shifts of doubtful honesty. There is a pencil portrait of the botanist at Kew, executed by Burchell in 1817, and his name was given by Smith to the maidenhair tree of China and Japan, which was previously named Ginkgo.

Besides papers in the Linnean ‘Transactions,’ vols. i–xii. (1791–1818), the ‘Annals of Botany,’ vols. i. ii. (1805–6), and the Horticultural Society's ‘Transactions,’ vols. i. ii. (1812–17), Salisbury was the author of: 1. ‘Icones Stirpium rariorum,’ London, 1781, fol., five coloured plates with descriptions, dedicated to Banks. 2. ‘Prodromus Stirpium in horto ad Chapel Allerton,’ London, 1796, 8vo, arranged in natural orders and dedicated to José Correa de Serra. 3. ‘Dissertatio botanica de Erica,’ reprinted from that of J. B. Struve, Featherstone, 1800, 4to. 4. ‘Genera of Plants,’ London, 1866, 8vo, edited by J. E. Gray.

[Banks's manuscript Correspondence, vol. x.; Preface to the Genera of Plants; Journal of Botany, 1886.]

G. S. B.