On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae/Preface


A celebrated engineer has told us, that it gave him much more trouble, to write his account of the Eddystone Lighthouse, than to execute the building itself; and the author of the present work, though on a very different subject, has found himself in a similar predicament.

To cultivate the plants lately at Clapham, belonging to the Natural Order of Proteēæ, with some degree of success, of which the following pages afford the best testimony, was rendered easy, not so much by any personal experience, nor by that constant attention to them, which from habit soon became involuntary; as by the encouragement of a master, who, treading closely in the botanical steps of our most gracious King, spared no expense really necessary to their welfare, and left the hands of his servant unshackled. To describe minutely in words all the particulars of this management, he found a much more difficult task; and to have ascertained so many Generic and Specific differences, would have been quite impossible, if fortunately his labours, like those of the late Mr. Aiton respecting the Hortus Kewensis, had not been thought worthy the assistance of men more learned than himself.

That the work will be candidly received, he presumes to flatter himself, from the circumstance of a great portion of it, having been unanimously voted to be printed by the Council of the Horticultural Society but the latter part having excited some jealousy in a quarter, which it is now unnecessary to mention, the author's pacific sentiments did not allow him to hesitate one instant, about withdrawing the whole. With no other patronage therefore than its intrinsic merit, if it has merit, this his first literary production ventures forth; though from his master's liberality, which made the collection at Clapham resemble a public botanic garden, rather than that of a private individual, he might bring a host of witnesses, to the good effects of the management now recommended.

As geographers give memoirs of any original maps they publish, so the author wishes to state a few particulars, respecting the arrangement here adopted: this, a more intimate knowledge of several plants belonging to the Order not yet in our gardens, has enabled him, he conceives, to improve in the Synopsis and Characteres Generum prefixed. Firmly believing in the golden axiom of Linne, that Genera are truly natural, now forming vast groups exceedingly inconvenient, but not to be separated; now so circumscribed in their limits, that in some Orders almost every individual constitutes a Genus; their affinities in this, have been suggested to his mind, from a similarity, 1st in their Sexes: 2dly in their Pericarpiums and Seeds: 3dly in the structure of their Petals: 4thly in their Nectaries: 5thly in their Inflorescence: 6thly in their Habit: regarding the characters afforded by these different parts, of importance, precisely in the order above enumerated. In the disposition of the Species also, the various parts of the Fructification have invariably been consulted, in preference to the Foliage; but, cæteris paribus, all those with similar leaves have been placed together.

Perhaps few works have greater claims to originality than the present, not a single line being copied from any other. For the names only of the different Genera, their various authors are quoted, except those of R. A. Salisbury, Esq. whose manuscripts have been found so useful in every sheet. Petrophile is here terminated in e instead of a, not so much from its being consonant to the Greek idiom, as because that termination takes away all ambiguity between phila and phylla. A similar liberty has been taken with Adenanthos, by altering the o into e. Barbarous names, it is to be regretted, in defiance of Linne's canon, are still retained by the highest botanical authority living, Jussieu. Thinking them inadmissible, one letter in Roupala, u,has been left out, chance then allotting to it, not only a classical, but very appropriate Greek derivation.

Some new specific names have been proposed, when the old ones were manifestly absurd, or positively false: but these are few, and the Synonym being always added, no offence, it is hoped, will be given to any one, on this head. To avoid swelling the work to an unnecessary bulk, the Synonyms are printed in one paragraph; and for the convenience of those who are not acquainted with the Latin language, a literal translation of both the Generic and Specific Characters, has never been omitted.

King's Road, Chelsea, 1 August, 1809.