24th April 1807: Name or no name?

Much has been made in many accounts of Ellen’s life and botanical achievements of her reluctance to have her name mentioned as the finder of plants. From the research I have done and the letters to her brothers that surfaced in 2012, I think that Ellen’s reluctance and therefore assumed modesty about being named is over-stated.

This post is one of a series in which I am making available the letters (or extracts from them) written by Ellen and James Townsend Mackay in 1807 about Ellen’s study of botany, and Ellen’s letters to her brothers about her botanizing. They are being posted here on the date they were written.

The letters provide a fascinating account of Ellen’s botanizing and details of life at the time, and will also provide material to reassess her modesty and reluntance about having her name published.

On 24th April 1807, 210 years ago today, James Mackay, botanist of Trinity College Dublin writes to Dawson Turner, botanist specialising in seaweed, based in Yarmouth, England:

Miss Hutchins is as yet rather averse to her name being mentioned in any publication as the finder of any plant – so that in case you should describe any of the discoveries you can say they were found by a lady near Bantry – but I hope to be able to prevail with her to allow her name to be mentioned.

Mackay to Dawson Turner 24th April 1807