Correspondence of Asa Gray and G. W. Clinton
The Correspondence of
Asa Gray (1810-1888) and
George William Clinton (1807‑1885)
Vol 1. (22) [I 206]
"[Hestia" = [ulitmia], as the fruit will show.
[Thus] of the 23d mentioning the pretty Collinsia verna, puts me up to say, that I hope you will pick and send me all the ripe seed you can lay hold of. By Gardener's folly we have failed to secure it here, as we might, so I hope you may to some extent make up our short comings, if the plant abounds where you find it. And as to the Cyperaceae, the great hope of the [season] is that you will rediscover & make plenty of fine specimens of Scirpus Clintonii.
I am very sorry to hear you have been sick. Hope you're perfectly well again and rejoicing over the full end ‑ & the very wretched end ‑ of the rebellion.
Mrs. Gray sends her very best regards.
Ever yours cordially
Recd. June 3
[on the reverse side in apparently different handwriting:]
"Meeting of the Council at Dr. Gary's, May 27, 1865; Bes... The President
‑ Secretaries, Revd. D.
Gray appears to have used "post consumer" paper for some of his letters, as was the custom of the times, to vigorously pursue thrift. A voluminous correspondence made a heavy toll on the paper budget.
The end of the
rebellion is the Civil War. Of the many "messes" of the final year
of the war (1865), Gray could have been referring to the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth on
April 26. All throughout the month the Confederate forces were surrendering
and disbanding amid ongoing skirmishes. The next day the tragic explosion on
the Sultana occurred as it transported paroled Federal soldiers up the
Mississippi River from
It is with this
peace that those portions of Clinton's correspondence available today begins,
although there is evidence from his journal and other letters that
correspondence had been going on for decades earlier. These earlier letters
Clintonii, described by Gray in 1864, delighted Clinton who avidly sought
more of it from the type locality around
journal, as early as 1862 Clinton was sending field collections to Gray,
who was working on the Fifth edition of his manual and desired specimens from
a number of people who lived in the different regions of the country the
Manual covered. Detailed morphological, distributional knowledge, the
flowering and fruiting times of many American plants was not known nor their
general and local abundance recorded.
Gray appeared to be interested in Ribes, Sambucus, Equisetums, Cerastium, the bulbs of Erythronium albidum, some to plant in the gardens to which Gray referred in the letter above.
On August 11,
Gray wrote a
letter of introduction for the Reverend James Fowler, of Richibucto, Kent
Jan. 15. Went to the Episcopal Church in the morning, no work at Grays. Like a true [man], he has family prayer in the morning, & says grace.' Jan. 16. 'During my stay, Gray examined, partially, a small packet I brought him. I left with him a very small packet for Mr. Boott. Gray gave me T. & G.'s N. Amn. Flora in sheets, a number of his works, & a large number of specimens. Examined his paper, herbarium cases, mode of pressing & gluing on specimens, &c. One day he set his workwoman at work, that I might see the process of gluing.
On Monday, worked
principally with Gray. On Tuesday, with Mr. Wright, visited the
In an annotation
by Jane Loring Gray in her editorial treatment of the Letters of Asa Gray,
(The Riverside Press,
she wrote the following: [At Cambridge, Mass.] "The garden was laid out by Dr. Peck in 1801, and the house built for him was finished in 1810. Mr. Nuttall, the botanist and ornithologist, who boarded in it while giving instruction in botany, left some curious traces behind him. He was very shy of intercourse with his fellows, and having for his study the southeast room, and the one above for his bedroom, put in a trap-door in the floor of an upper connecting closet, and so by a ladder could pass between his rooms without the chance of being met in the passage or on the stairs. A flap hinged and buttoned in the door between the lower closet and the kitchen allowed his meals to be set in on a tray without the chance of his being seen. A window he cut down into an outer door, and with a small gate in the board fence surrounding the garden, of which he alone had the key, he could pass in and out safe from encountering any human being."
It may be that Nuttall's wonderful behavior was a favorite topic to be shared with Gray's guests. It seems odd for Nuttall to wish to escape human beings yet still be willing to "give instruction." The illegible word in Clinton's manuscript is unfortunate.
Vol. 1.(25) [I 203]
It will be time, when you receive this, to collect the Scirpus Clintonii, a great bit of it, some of it 10 days later, also. Collinsia verna I chiefly want seeds of, sent fresh when quite ripe.
I am arranging to have a bit of Carices sent you.
Recd. June 7, Wrote him 9th
The Carices were
to come from Edward Tuckerman to
On June 7th, Wednesday, Clinton went "Into the woods at Smoke's Creek, gathered Viola striata, a little, Poa sylvestris & Poa alsodes, Carex pubescens, and some (scarcely ripe) seed of Collinsia verna (mailed it to Gray) and some mosses." Some of the graminoids appear in Gray's next letter:
Vol. 1.(48) [I 178]
At length I have a moment or two, and I have carefully examined the Grasses in your letter, and I pronounce one to be alsodes and the other sylvestris, as you have named them. I rely on you for good herbarium specimens of both, at the end of the season.
Prunus virg[iniana] abnormal, is just as P. Americana delights to be, i.e. ovary puffed up, I never could trace it to any work of insects.
I dare say if you send me a suite of forms of Festuca nutans, I shall deposit them all in the herbarium ‑ ugly dog though he be.
Pray what was the trouble with your foot? I hope it is now quite right.
I rejoice in the seeds of Collinsia verna! Don't put yourself out in gathering more ‑ tho' more will be welcome.
Polygonatum: the big one is just P. giganteum as I take it.
I have cultivated it with it, in our poor soil is only 1 1/2 " high. The leaves are more clasping [ ] [ ] base than the smaller one, which we also have, but I have found no other difference.
It did come near giving us the slip, but we have five, [with?] some fruit drops. Many thanks for the nice supply.
I leave you to post some specimens to Engelmann, also, if you please, to [Cild...] and any of your correspondents. I gave it to Torrey, & to our friends abroad.
Carex, No. 1. "When I look at it, I think of C. granularis" also, and I can't think it anything else. Why should you.
No. 2. C. platyphylla ‑ fine. Goes to herbarium
C. oederi is apt to act so.
Very cordially yours,
Recd. June 20.
Vol. 1. 48. Asa Gray [June, 1865]
[Note I 177 torn from an envelope associated with No. 48]
Overlooked Carices no.
3. = platyphylla, var.
4. = pallescens
Look out! I find among your specimens S. plantifolius & S. clintonii. Must revise them by daylight. Look for some with long flat leaves & pointed scales!
Carex granularis Muhl. Meadow Sedge
Carex Oederi var.
pumila (Cos. & Germ.) Fern. = C. viridula Michx.,
the Green Sedge, is rare in western
Festuca nutans (of authors) = F. obtusa Biehler, Nodding Fescue (note how its common name reflects the earlier technical name) Poa alsodes, Gray.
Poa sylvestris, Gray.
Polygonatum giganteum A. Dietr.ex Otto & Dietr. = P. biflorum (Walt.) Ell.
Polygonatum is P. pubescens (Willd.) Pursh., one the
Great, the other the Small Solomon's‑seal; Prunus
Prunus virginiana l. Choke Cherry
made contact with Dr. George Engelman of St. Louis by a letter on March 15,
1862 (MO archives) a few months after the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences
was organized, and when Clinton was its president. He was invited to contact
Engelmann by his friend Robert Buchanan of Cincinatti, who furnished
"the names of a few gentlemen of the West whom he regards as able and
willing to aid us by correspondence and exchanges, and specifies yourself
among them." Engelmann was collaborating with Asa Gray in revising the
next edition of the Manual. He had worked earlier with Gray and John Torrey
on two railway reports sponsored by the
Vol. 1. (52) [I 173]
I have looked over the specimens, and find 3 of them S. planifolius ‑ I send back two of them.
The rest all S. Clintonii but the leaf is longer than the character allows ‑ sometimes little shorter than the culm.
You may know the planifolius by the cuspidate scales, let alone the leaf. Do the two grow mixed together? Pray do not find any intermediates. If there are any more, Nature, as she completes her selection will soon annihilate them, and you will be quite justified in helping her.
Look sharp among them before they quite pass by.
Recd. June 21 & ans. [ditto]
reference to Nature's selection in view of
planifolius Muhl. = S. verecundus Fern. Wood Club‑rush,
listed as rare and probably extirpated in western
Vol. 1. (63) [I 162]
How thoughtlessly cruel I have been to urge you to rush off for Collinsia etc. with such a lame foot. Through ignorance I did it. With all your happy contrivances and nice fixtures, I advise you to be careful, and send younger people to botanize, as I do.
I don't believe "Scirpus Clintonii is a goner" yet. You are so lucky as to find both; that's all. The long flat leaves and the pointed scales go uniformly together thus far. The onus probandi rests on the doubter. We will hold fast yet.
A few more such cases will go near to convert you to Darwinism.
Just look over your stock and see if you find any intermediates. Did you collect all in one place?
Onus probandi, as
may be guessed, means the burden of proof, or, literally, the burden of
proving. The onus lies with the person making a charge on whom
is the expectation of proof of assertion. Gray enjoyed ragging
28th June [same sheet]
Some things can be done, ‑ and you have done it. It is Scirpus caespitosus.
You have only to furnish me ‑ in due time ‑ in your annual contribution ‑ some fair specimens for the herbarium. Fear what you send in a wisp in letter are not comely in herbarium.
You are a rare Scirpus‑hunter!
Why don't you" [...] & call" Juniperus Virginiana
var. humilis" a
species? I should agree with you, ‑ now that Dr. Robbins has pointed
out to me a good character ‑ the recurved fruit ‑ and that it is
the J. Sabina of the
Well, I see by yours of the 26? that you
are securing your courage & will hold fast to
Carices. save the mark !
1. C. siccata, I suppose?
3. C. siccata?, too poor.
2. C. stellulata
4. C. teretiuscula, var. prairiea Dewey
A good haul.
Recd. June 30 & ansd.
Wormsk, Northern Bog Sedge, is rare in western
caespitosus L. Tufted Club‑rush is rare in western
Vol. 1. (71) [I 151]
Yesterday I went after Poa alsodes. He has gone up. Poa sylvestris ready, if not quite, do. [ditto].
The inclosed Poa has bothered me very much. I mean the slender, small & delicate form that grows in the woods, is common & pretty. The coarser one grows here & there in the openings, & on the edges of the woods in the banks of streams. I also inclose one specimen of the Poa compressa of our meadows. Now I believe they are all Poa compressa, but I want your say so as to the delicate woodland one.
G. W. Clinton
[lower corner, Prof. A. Gray]
[written by Gray on this letter and presumably returned: "Well, we won't mind calling them all P. compressa. A. G."]
July 6 [Gray's handwriting]
Juniperus Sabina, Linn. Europea.
Is in Hook., Fl. Bor. Am.
The weed, = Cynanchum nigrum L. an Asclepiad of
Recd. July 8
(L.) Pers., Black Swallowwort is reported as rare in western
Hooker, W. J.
Flora boreali-americana; or, the botany of the northern parts of
Vol. 1. (80) [I 141]
Look you, the paper containing your 4th July oration has not come! Did you really send it? Please send another copy, I can read it when on my travels soon, in railroad car, & so lose nothing for Botany, but gain ‑ we shall see what!
Seriously I wish to have a copy.
Your Mr. Day has sent me that Cynanchum nigrum. And I charge you to tell him what it is, and save me the writing of one letter.
Recd. July 12
David F. Day was a
fellow lawyer in the City of
A fruitless search has
been made at the Erie County Public Library for the published text of
Vol. 1.(103) [I 116 & I 117]
C[ambridge] 22d [July, 1865]
Have been absorbed in our public days, & especially in our great Commemoration of yesterday.
Have overlooked yours of the 10th. I think the leaf is one of Populus heterophylla.
I should try Engelmann in Characeae. He should manage them with, or without Prof. Braun's help.
I have half a mind to go for a day to
Recd. July 26
Sauquoit is a village
in the town of
Unlike the flat
petioles of the "trembling" Aspens (native species of Populus in
Another sheet gives the following botanical information [I 117]:
Ranunculus Flammula var. reptans ‑ small Eleocharis = the large state of E. palustris ‑ which I never got in such good fruit. I rely on you for some good specimens, in due time, i.e. next winter.
Scirpus Torreyi. I fail to see anything remarkable about the root, except that it dosen't appear to have running rootstalks, like pungens ‑ a good distinction. Specimens, of course, wanted for Hb. [Herbarium]
I have not seen their Tofieldia glutinosa of
After getting this, you should send your next to me at Sauquoit, Oneida Co., where I hope to be at the end of next week.
Dr. Grosvenor, here to-day, tells me the sad news that poor Bebb has lost his wife. Poor fellow.
Our commencement to-morrow. Soldier's commemoration Friday. Your oration received, read, & approved ‑ thorough good tone.
is rare in western
Professor Braun seems
to refer to Alexander Heinrich Braun (1805‑1877). He was director of the
botanical garden at the
Isoetes melanopoda was
described by Gay and Durieu, I. macrospora and I. muricata by Durieu, I.
There are four letters
by G. W. Grosvenor in the
Michael Schuck Bebb (1833‑1895) was a friend and correspondent of Gray, Clinton and Grosvenor, among others.
Professor James Hadley
V3: 3:78 [M 152]
My dear Sir:
In answer to your
inquiries, I would state that I never found, and do not know that any one
else ever found Opuntia vulgaris at
Very truly yours,
Vol. 1.(116) [I 98]
Sauquoit, 8 August, 1865
Your letter, forwarded, reached me at Cooperstown, where we spent
the Sunday very pleasantly ‑ had been on a tour to Mud & Summit
Lake, foot of Schulyer's Lake [Otsego Co.] , &c. (Paine along), and then
as far East as Cherry Valley [Otsego Co.] ‑ for general delectation and
for the recuperaton of Mrs. Gray.
Returned him last evening, and we must go home early next week ‑
sooner than was intended, on account of illness of Mrs. Gray's father ‑
he is convalescent, indeed, but she wishes to be with him. So, again, my
endeavors to see again
As to your Grass, I am at a loss ‑ recollect no such Calamagrostis with no hairs, except on this rudiment. We will keep it quiet till I get your annual parcel with a good specimen of this among the rest. And then at home (Deo favente) and among my books & specimens, I will see what I can make of him.
Mrs. Gray has read the oration in the neat pamphlet form and pronounced it very interesting "Read sensible things in it, particularly well put," etc.
Recd. Aug. 9. Answered
Deo favente: with God's favor.
The Reverend John A.
Paine, Jr., first of
Vol. 1.(130) [I 83]
My dear Gray:
I have but a moment. The inclosed sent to me by Dr. Clarke of
Day before yesterday, in
G. W. Clinton
[lower left] Prof. Gray
[on reverse, the reply from Gray:]
Exactly: this is the Graphephorum: Dr. Clarke should find out where he got it, & get much more. We are home nearly a week ‑ had a nice holiday.
Have you replicate specimens to spare of Ulmus racemosa, fls. & fruit. Mature leaves you can get now. If so, send me one in your next parcel. No hurry.
Graphephorum, in Gray's Fifth edition, is in the Gramineae: G. melicoides, Beauv. (p. 624); in the Sixth edition it is G. melicoideum Desv.
melicoides (Michx.) Desv. = Trisetum melicoides (Michx.) Vas, presently a
rare species in
Naias major, All. of Gray's Fifth edition has "
Dr. Daniel Clarke, of
Vol. 1.(146) [I 66]
Better than you ask in yours of the 4th instant, I will send you a real autograph of my dear old Sir Wm. Hooker.
I have not yet heard direct from
I knew you get only the foliage now of Ulmus racemosa. Flowers next spring. Fruit in early summer.
Naming Isoetes is no easy thing now. But I am glad you found one. Send specimens to Dr. Engelmann
Mrs. Gray has not got on very well this summer ‑ not as stout as was wished. But she is now improving.
I have got A. Fendler here to help me & feel happy. But I have not got settled yet to real work ‑ am eaten up by administrative matters, &c. ‑ Mrs. Gray sends best regards.
P.S. When about ponds, please rake out of the water all the ripe fruits of Nymphaea you meet with. Pull them open ‑ from various localities ‑ and send me a good quantity of any you find with the seed not enclosed in a membranous bag (arillus) or with only a cup‑shaped one at the base of the seed.
Reason for request, I will give hereafter ‑ or you can ask Paine.
Mrs. Gray sends best regards.
Recd. Sept. 12, wrote him 16th.
Sir William Jackson
Hooker was appointed directer of the
THE DIARY OF SIR JOSEPH DALTON HOOKER (Unpublished journal, copyright, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Chicago to Niagara Falls, Sept. 19, 1877)
"In 1877, Drs.
Joseph Dalton Hooker and Asa Gray were returning east after conducting an
expedition to study the flora of western
Eckel, P. M. 1990.
Botanical Evaluation of the Goat Island Complex,
Augustus Fendler (1813‑1888)
was a free‑lance, bachelor plant collector, one of the best plant
collectors of the ninteenth century. He came to the
Fruit of the genus Naias is "a little seed‑like nutlet, enclosed in a loose and separable membranous epicarp," (Gray's sixth edition, 1889). This note is the introductory reference to an exchange between Gray, Engelmann and John Paine, Jr., the latter a protege of Gray's, that would ultimately put an end to Paine's nascent career.
Autographs, examples of the handwriting of famous people, was of great interest to Clinton at this point, as were cabinet and cartes‑de‑visite (i.e. calling card, 2 1/4" x 3 3/4") photographs, which had become the rage during the Civil War.
Vol. 1.(198) [I 8]
How I have neglected you!
I still do want a nut of Polymnia canadensis. Make it compact & wrap up in a bit of India‑rubber cloth tight ‑ or in a bit of rag ‑ cover with paper, tie up & send by mail, 2 cts per 4 oz
Thomas C. Peters,
Ask after Rev. Mr. R. D. Nevins of
Paine's Potentilla ‑ from the
I am very sorry the aril won't hold in Nymphaea Next summer these things must be looked into for the flowers &c.
Thanks for Isoetes
Let the people who study this genus settle them.
Send Aster azureus in your annual Xmas parcel.
Recd. Oct. 12. Oct. 19 wrote to Mr. Peters.
Gray's reply is a
Clinton's concern with
southern botanists also had to do with an interest in developing botanical
specimens, but also specimens from other areas of natural history, from
southern regions, not only the southern United States, but south into Mexico
andSouth America. Perhaps this was due in part to the German community making
a robust contribution to science in the city of
"Thomas C. Peters,
In the biography of
Ravenel by Haygood (1987), reference is made to a strange reserve by
Ravenel's colleague in mycology, Moses Curtis, toward the issue of the first
fascicle of Ravenel's Fungi Caroliniani Exsiccati (1852). Curtis had
initially been a coauthor of the issue of this work, but later abandoned
coauthorship, protesting too many demands on his time and energy. When
Ravenel distributed this fascicle, Curtis was strangely cool in his
acceptance, citing the dread typographical error critique, so powerful in
affecting the career of a botanist - seemingly moreso than a botanist's errors
in scientific judgement. The other old put-down was the identification of
errors in Latin, or use of English words, when the Latin equivalent might be
expected. Asa Gray, who was offered a complimentary copy of the exsiccat,
declined it. When the review of the exsiccat was prepared by Gray, Curtis
made extra special care to see, by recommendation to Gray, that Ravenel was a
disappointment and Gray followed suit. Somehow Curtis communicated to Gray
that it was Curtis who was the main scientific contributor to the exsiccat
and so Gray wrote in his review (Asa Gray, "[Notice of] Fungi
Caroliniani Exsiccati. Fungi of
It is possible that Gray formed the unfortunate opinion that Ravenel was bogus and the opinion never left him.
Rev. Mr. R. D. Nevins
Both Polymnia canadensis
and Aster azureus derive from
Vol. 2. (24) [D 180]
Polymnia nuts came promptly by mail, and would have done so all the same, had you packed a little moss around them ‑ and that would have been safer ‑ keeping the nutlets from drying. But I trust they will live over winter.
If not, we will try again in the spring.
Your pigeon-hole shall not be pigeoned.
Yes, Lesquereux is, indeed, a most worthy man.
Glad you take to mosses.
Recd. Oct. 27
The Swiss immigrant
Leo Lesquereux (1806‑1889) of
Vol. 2. (51) [D 181]
Oh, yes. The Polymnia No. 2, came in beautiful order and was at once planted. I did not mean to tax you again, for the first will doubtless grow ‑ only to [tax?] you for next time. Moss ‑ especially Sphagnum ‑ (and you are well up in mosses now) ‑ will keep the life in anything.
I am at work, when I get a chance ‑ in describing new species
Saturday, I was up to 55 years old! Pretty old!
I grieve to hear that Dr. Lindley died Nov. 1 at 66.
Recd. Nov. 22
John Lindley (1799‑1865) was a distinguished British botanist and a prolific writer. Outside of his major works, others include An Outline of the First Principles of Horticulture (1832), An Outline of the Structure and Physiology of Plants (1832), A Natural System of Botany (1836), The Fossil Flora of Great Britain (with William Hutton, 1831‑1837), Flora Medica (1838), Theory of Horticulture (1840), The Vegetable Kingdom (1846), Folia Orchidacea (1852), Descriptive Botany (1858).
Lindley's treatment of
descriptive botanical terminology was the model used by Asa Gray in his
botanical publications, especially those for students, as well as by J. D.
Hooker and his colleague George Bentham in the Genera Plantarum, following
Lindley's Introduction to Botany, ed 3 (1839) and his 1847 Elements of
Botany ... and a Glossary of technical
Perhaps the Composites of California and Nevada are: Contributions to North American botany published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Science 1846‑1888: since this letter was in November, it may be assumed that his interest resulted in Proceedings numbers, see Ewan, American Midland Naturalist 22:218‑222 of 1938 (Stafleu 1967) .
Vol. 2. (112) [D 117]
My good old friend
I receive and duly ponder your exhortation ‑ entreaty, and imploration, of the 15th inst.
It is all right what you say, and it is time to be thinking about the doing over of Manual. But as it may fairly be expected to be the last time I shall do this job, it is best not to be too quick about it.
1. I doubt if the publishers are ready for it yet. The Text Book has equally to be done over.
2. I want 2 & 3 parts of DC. Prodromus, now [...ing], to come out first, ‑ and Hooker and Bentham's Gen. Plantarum to get further on. ‑ And so forth. Also, never do to‑day what you can postpone till tomorrow. But I admit the book is getting shabby & antiquated.
My great hope ‑ my end and aim ‑ is also to do a Synoptic Flora United States in one stout, compact volume ‑ all my endeavors look toward this. But "who is sufficient for these things", and for being College Professor, Director of a Botanic Garden, Curator of an herbarium, consulting botanist to all America I am, and correspondent in general, besides?
Well, you will soon be at
Meanwhile my wife and I send you our hearty good wishes for Xmas and New Year season.
Ever Yours cordially
Recd Dec. 23
This must refer to preparations for Edition 5, issued in 1867, to which George Engelmann contributed several genera, as did J. W. Robbins, C. F. Austin and D. C. Eaton. In this volume the mosses and hepatics would be excluded. the Edition 6 of 1890 would be revised by Sereno Watson and John M. Coulter with contributions by M. S. Bebb, L. H. Bailey, who did the genus Carex ‑ rather suprising when one associates the Rosaceae with his name. Also D. C. Eaton and hepatics by L. M. Underwood. The mosses, however, were omitted.
The Prodromus, a
massive, 17 volume collaborative effort by European botanists, the whole
edited by the two Swiss botanists de Candolle, began with the first volume in
1856, and edited by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778‑1841). The
succeeding volumes were edited by Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyramus de Candolle
(1806‑1893) both Swiss, as were Leo Lesquereux and Louis Agassiz. Gray
was awaiting the second part of volume 7, issued in mid July of 1868. The
eighth volume would not come out until late 1873 (Stafleu 1967). This was
rather like the
Gray was also awaiting publication of part 3 of the first volume of the Genera plantarum that would be issued in September 1867. There would be four additional volumes after the 1867 volume.
Gray's last ambition (he died in 1888) was to produce the Synoptical Flora of North America (1878‑1897). Two volumes were produced, the first volume with apparently three parts. Volume 2, part 1 was issued in May of 1878 by Asa Gray, the second part of volume 1 in 1884. The first and second parts of volume 1 were issued in 1895 and 1897, co‑authored by S. Watson and B. L. Robinson. Sereno Watson was to prepare the sixth revision of Gray's Manual as well (Stafleu 1967).