Monthly Archives: June 2017

25th June 1807: a beautiful present of sea plants

This is one of a series of posts of letters written by Ellen to her brothers and botanists in 1807. If this whets your appetite and you are interested in following the story, you might want to start at the beginning of the year and read the letters in date order.

Ellen wrote to her brother Sam on this day 210 years ago, and as usual she mentions the health of her Mother, how her disabled brother Tom is faring, and something about the Taylor family who are both neighbours and cousins. The news this time is about the arrival of a gift of plants.

The formality of the age means that Ellen refers to her sister-in-law Matilda as Mrs Hutchins. Matilda is married to Ellen’s brother Arthur and they are returning from Harrogate in Yorkshire, England, having been there to ‘take the waters’ for Arthur’s health.

Ballylickey June 25th 1807

My dear Sam

Tom is just as usual. He goes out in his gig often and some times goes out boating. His legs are very stiff. I don’t think he improves at all in walking. He makes few attempts and those with difficulty. My Mother is pretty well.

I have got a beautiful present of sea plants from a Mr Turner at Yarmouth. Some of the new plants I found were sent him. He was so pleased with them that he sent me some of the rarest kinds found in England and some foreign ones with some plates [drawings] and descriptions published by himself of Fuci and of Lichens.

You have not told me if you have asked Manny what answer he had to make to my letter. If he has given you any pray tell me.

How is Tom Taylor? All his friends at Inchilogh are very well. Mrs T able to come down stairs every day. She and Phyllis always enquiry after you very much. I hope you will soon enter college. You seem to wish it so much.

Mrs Hutchins says Arthur is wonderfully recovered since he went to Harrogate . I never saw so miserable looking a creature as he was before. He was like death stalking about.

All here write in love to you.

Yours affectionately

E Hutchins

Sea Plants: a large and difficult branch of botany

210 years ago today, Ellen wrote to her youngest brother, Sam.  The following portions of the letter deal with her botanising, her attempts to get a copy of Lewis Dillwyn’s book British Conferva, a gift of plants on its way to her, and her cousin Thomas Taylor, also a botanist.

Ballylickey June 18th 1807

My dear Sam

Thank you for enquiring about Dillwyn for me. I am impatient now to get it. Tom Taylor tells you wrong when he says I am a great botanist for indeed I am far from it. I have I believe made pretty good progress for the time I have been learning. My powers of observation are small and I have had too few books to do much. All the fine works on botany are expensive and my Mother cannot afford to give me books.

In the sea plants, a large and difficult branch I have done most. I have made a great many discoveries of new ones no less than 7 already and some that are not yet determined. Mr Turner, a great botanist in England, has sent me some rare sea plants. They are received in Cork. He is now composing a great work on all known Fuci. I have a work of his on the British species. There is I believe a fine Botanic Garden at Cambridge and the professor is a very excellent botanist.

Tell T. Taylor that all his friends at Inch. are very well. That Mrs T. is downstairs every day. She has been out visiting and we expect her to visit us. Alfred is in the country for one week and Joseph is sent for to Fermoy. I have little to tell you that could amuse. Little Tommy and Margaret are here and in much better health and temper than at home.

Yours affectionately


Her reference to Cambridge is because Sam was expected to be going there as a student to study Law. Little Tommy and Margaret are her nephew and niece who live at Ardnagashel, very close to Ballylickey.

1st June 1807: Ellen to Sam

Ellen’s letter to her youngest brother, Sam, written 210 years ago today – 1st June 1807

Ballylickey June 1st 1807

My dear Sam

Tom has got your letter. Arthur is gone to Dublin. We cannot tell exactly when he will return. ….. 

You have got my letter by T. Taylor before this. I hope soon to get an answer. You don’t say how or where Manny is and as of late he never writes to Tom. We have no other way of hearing of him but when you write. I suppose you will soon enter college.

My Mother is pretty well she says she would write to you some times but that it is very painful to her to stoop she is so weak.

Arthurs children are here. The little girl is a sweet tempered funny little thing. She is not at all petted but Tommy is the most troublesome obstinate ill tempered child I ever saw. His Mother pets him so, that his temper is quite ruined. ….. 

Will you tell T. Taylor that all his friends at Inchilogh are very well. Mrs Taylor is downstairs every day to breakfast.

Tom is just as usual.

I am very well, quite strong. I walk, I botanize a good deal, to that I attribute my having health or strength, for living as I do without any person to take a walk with me, if I had not Botany to interest me, I should have no inducement to take exercise.

I hope that you have made enquiry about Dillwyn’s work for me. I am very anxious to have it. It will contain plates and descriptions of new plants found by me. I have discovered a great many marine plants, great beauties too.

My Mother and Tom desire their love
Yours affectionately
E Hutchins