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.