HEWETT WATSON Autograph Letter Signed.
Hewett Cottrell Watson. British botanist, phrenologist and evolutionary theorist. Collaborator with Charles Darwin.
ALS. 3pp. Thames Ditton. January 6th 1849. To the botanist C[harles] C[ardale] Babington.
"I see you quote Grau et Godn. Flora de France, 1. 145," in the Botanical(?) Gazette. Will you be kind enough to give me some information about it? How do you complete the abbreviation 'Grau' with a name? (Godn doubtless means Gordon). Is the work complete? And what is the price and number of volumes? Is it a general Flora of France or of some part? I find Duby's volume rather too much behind now. I want a later Flora of France but was unaware that such a thing had been recently published. It is not included in Pritzel's Thesaurus. Do you subscribe to Bourgeau's Collectings? They are first rate specimens as to drying and completing and liberal in ...(?). But in 1847-8 he unwisely kept mainly to the South of France. This year he goes to Corsica. Henfrey has started very fairly. But the ugly white back of the Gazette and their poor paper gives it a paltry, penny-magazine sort of look, which will be a disadvantage. I concur with you that the Flora of the British Isles should include those of Jersey and its neighbours. I told Dr Bromfield so by letter and he replied by a sort of challenge to show sufficient reasons therefor in print. I am yours very faithfully, Hewett Watson."
8vo. 18.5 x 11 cms (7.5 x 4.5 inches). Very slight mounting trace to foot of blank verso. Near fine.
Hewett Watson was a private and often isolated individual but an acknowledged leading expert on plant biology and particularly in the field of British botany. In 1842 he had travelled to the Azores as ship's botanist on the Styx under Captain Vidal and in 1844 became editor of the London Catalogue of British Plants. He became interested in evolutionary theory and in 1836 he had published a paper on the two hemispheres of the human brain in which he speculated on human development or evolution. He began to collect evidence and defend the concept of species transmutation and corresponded with Charles Darwin at Downe, which was relatively close to Watson's home at Thames Ditton. In the 'Origin of Species' Darwin pays glowing tribute to Hewett Watson who had been an invaluable source of scientific information. Watson's correspondent, Cardale Babington, was a noted British botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society. He had been a contemporary and friend of Darwin at Cambridge and was given the chair of botany at Cambridge University in 1861. Autograph letters of Hewett Watson are rather scarce