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THE IMPERIAL MAGAZINE.

MAY, 1834.

MEMOIR OF WILLIAM JACKSON HOOKER, LL.D. F.R.A. AND L.S. &c.

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF BOTANY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW.

(With a Portrait.) The science of botany, to which Dr. HOOKER has almost exclusively devoted himself, is a study, in the prosecution of which this country has been at all times so distinguished, as to stand, at least, upon a level with any other in Europe ; excepting only during the short period of the life of the immortal Linnæus, when such a stream of light was poured upon Sweden as may justly be said to have eclipsed all other nations. But Linnæus was one of those master-minds, which nature seldom produces; which are not the fruit of a generation or a century; and which, strange to say, commonly stand alone, unpreceded and unfollowed, at least by those who may be supposed to have led the way, or who may be worthy to tread in their footsteps. Such was Homer, among poets; and, among painters, Raphael; and such, also, in natural history, was the great Swede. Before his time, the name of the English Ray might well be compared to that of the French Tournefort ; and, with these, no third could be found to compete. The death of Linnæus was truly a new era for botany in England : from that period, it may be confidently affirmed, that she has been without an equal. For this pre-eminence we are mainly indebted to the late Sir James Smith. A young man, equally unknown to fortune and to fame, he did not hesitate relinquishing his prospects in the medical profession, entirely to devote himself to his ruling passion for natural history, and to import into his native country, at an expense to him overwhelming, the herbarium and the library of Linnæus ; thus constituting himself his heir and representative. These characters, too, he well supported throughout the course of a laborious life; and the respect, and the regard, and the honours he deserved, have been unanimously bestowed upon him by the learned, as well in his own as in other countries. To him we owe the existence of our Linnæan Society, by far the most distinguished body of that description in Europe ; to him we likewise owe the being able to boast incomparably the best Flora that ever was published ; and to him, in conjunction with the late Mr. Sowerby, we still further owe, what has, perhaps, been above all things, efficacious towards the extension of botanical science in Britain, the work entitled “ English Botany;" a work which, during the twenty-four years occupied in its publication, afforded every young botanist an opportunity of bringing forward the fruit of his researches, certain that they would neither be lost to the world, nor fail to contribute to his own legitimate

2D. SERIES, NO. 41.-Vol. IV.

2 D

185.-VOL. XVI.

fame. It were easy to enumerate a long list of those who, originally indebted to " English Botany". for distinction, have, in their turn, conferred lasting obligations on science; and, in this list, Dr. Hooker would find his place : but, as the greater part of these are still happily living, to speak of them might be invidious. Such is, unfortunately, no longer the case with the more early friends and contemporaries of Sir James Smith, of whom the whole, or nearly so, have, like him, paid the debt of nature. But, though Hudson, Curtis, Lightfoot, Withering, Sibthorpe, Dickson, and many others, and, above all, the illustrious Banks, then just returned from his voyage round the globe, at the time when Linnæus was taken from the world, are now no longer among us, their names will not fail to live in the annals of their favourite science; and for them, conjointly with the

possessor of the Linnæan Herbarium, has lately been raised a beautiful and a lasting monument, in the Sketch of the Biography of Sir James Smith, published by his amiable, intelligent, and affectionate widow.

Dr. Hooker is a native of Norwich, where he was born on the 6th of July, 1785, and where he received his education at the Grammar School, under the care of the Rev. Dr. Forster well known as the successful opponent of Gilbert Wakefield in a contest for classical honours at Cambridge. His father was originally of Exeter, in which city the family has been long established, and boasts a kindred descent with one of the wisest and best men that Britain ever produced, the author of " Ecclesiastical Polity.” His baptismal names he inherits from another relative, Mr. William Jackson, of Canterbury, a young man most honourably recorded in “ · Nichol's Literary Anecdotes,” (viii. p. 279,) and, upon his death, Dr. Hooker succeeded to his property. From early youth, Dr. Hooker has had the most decided taste for the study of natural history in all its branches ; and, to cultivate this with the greater success, he fixed himself for some years with a distinguished agriculturist, the late Mr. Robert Paul, of Starston ; during his residence with whom, he principally applied himself to ornithology and entomology, and was admitted to the personal friendship, as well as to the correspondence, of Mr. Kirby, Mr. Spence, and Mr. Haworth.

This exclusive devotion to botany took place shortly after he returned from Starston to Norwich, and is principally ascribable to his intimacy with the family of Mr. Dawson Turner, the eldest of whose daughters he married in the month of June, 1815; and by her, who is still living, be has five children. Six years previously to his marriage, Dr. Hooker had, at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks, with whose warm and steady friendship he was for many years honoured, undertaken a voyage to Iceland, with a view of exploring its natural productions. The voyage was made in the company of a London merchant of the name of Phelps, who had embarked a large capital in a project for importing tallow from that island. During the three months of their residence in the country, Dr. Hooker had an opportunity of visiting the extraordinary boiling springs known by the name of the Geysers, as well as the principal volcanoes and the other most striking phenomena of that interesting island. Nothing could be apparently more fortunate than this tour;

“ Sed scilicet ultima semper,

Expectanda dies homini ;” and the last day of the expedition was truly disastrous to Dr. Hooker. He had already set sail homeward with an ample store of drawings and memoranda, as well as of the natural productions of the island, and the

man.

vessel had just lost sight of land, when she was discovered to be on fire, and all he had collected fell a prey to the flames. What aggravated the misfortune was, that it was not the effect of chance, but was caused designedly by some Danes, whom they had brought prisoners from the island, and who, in this desperate attempt at revenge, were utterly regardless of their own safety, which nothing could have secured but the accidental circumstance of another vessel heaving in sight, in a sea where scarcely three vessels are to be seen in a year. In consequence of this accident, Dr. Hooker returned to Iceland ; and the following extract from a letter, written almost immediately afterwards, well paints the circumstance and the

“ Last Friday we embarked in the Margaret and Ann, for England, with the Orion prize under our convoy. The latter vessel sailed so ill, that we almost immediately lost sight of her, and expected to see her no more. Providentially for us, she, during the Saturday night, took a different but more dangerous course among some rocks, and thus hove in sight the next morning just before we discovered our ship to be on fire. On this discovery, we fastened down the hatchways, and endeavoured to make for the first land ; but it was soon found necessary to abandon the ship; and, by means of our own boats and those of the Orion, we happily reached this latter vessel in safety. In about two hours, our charming vessel, with her cargo of oil, tallow, tar, and wool, altogether worth £25,000, exhibited one of the most magnificent spectacles ever beheld. She very shortly burned down to her copper bottom, which floated about like a great cauldron, blazing prodigiously, till we lost sight of her, making for Reikevig, which we reached on Tuesday. Nothing could be saved but what was lying in the cabin. All my packages of plants, which I had collected with so much toil, and all my minerals, drawings, and journals, as well as my Danish and Icelandic works, in short, every thing I had, except an Icelandic dress, and the clothes now on my back, perished in the flames. When I read what I have written, I feel inclined to wish I had not told you so much, lest you should think I make myself unhappy about the circumstance; but I assure you I feel so rejoiced at being alive with all the crew, after so narrow an escape, that I think little of what I have lost. I bave had the satisfaction of seeing the Geysers in the greatest perfection, and also of seeing the other most interesting objects in Iceland, and I am comparatively regardless of what I have suffered.” So little, indeed, was Dr. Hooker's spirit or zeal broken by this misfortune, that he even made arrangements the following year to accompany the late Earl of Guilford to Ceylon ; but he was dissuaded from exposing his life to the dangers which so ardent a naturalist would hardly have failed to encounter in the torrid

Thus turned aside from the favourite bent of his mind, he fixed himself in business at Halesworth in Suffolk ; and he continued there till he accepted the Professorship of Botany in Glasgow, in the spring of 1820, since which time he has resided in that city. The only journeys

he has undertaken subsequently to his visit to Iceland, were to France, with Mr. Turner's family, in 1814; to Switzerland and Italy, in the latter part of the same year ; to Ireland, immediately after his marriage ; and to Holland, in 1819. His publications, which are very numerous, have all been confined to the subject of botany, with the exception of the Journal of his Tour in Iceland, which, notwithstanding the loss of his papers, he was induced to give to the press, under the modest title of “ Recollections.But he would on no account consent to print it for other than private distribution, till the concurring testimony of his friends induced him to preprepare a second and enlarged edition for public sale.

As a professor,

zone.

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