Imatges de pÓgina

to any part of America where I am, I wish that you & my Ld Mulgrave could contrive to have them lent to me, if the persons to whom they are entrusted happen to be of your acquaintance; for my watch made by Cumming goes so ill, that it cannot be trusted even for very short intervals. I make the Latitude of this place 41°.281⁄2' N. & the Longitude seems to be about 70° W. of Greenwich, but I cannot depend upon the observation upon which the Longitude is calculated. There is an animal upon this Island called a Rabbit, I believe because its flesh is white, for in the external appearance it more resembles a hare, and it agrees with Linnæus's specific characters of the hare, cauda abbreviata, auriculis apice nigris. However its taste, & another striking circumstance, that it burroughs in the ground, evidently distinguish it from that species. In external appearance also it is not so like the European hare as to be mistaken for it, though for want of a specimen to compare I cannot point out the differences; but I think the tail is a great deal shorter, the ears broader, & flatter in the middle & not quite so long, the toes more stunted, & I believe only four on either foot. Probably you know the species, but it certainly is not inserted in the Systema Naturæ. We have not penetrated far enough into the country for me to resolve any of the queries with which you favoured me. Remember me most affectionately to Ld Mulgrave & Dr Solander. Be so kind as to send me, if you can possibly find an opportunity, the Nautical Ephemeris for this year & for 1778 if it be published.

I am, dear Sir,

Your most affect. Friend,

MAY 3, 1777


From the beginning of your Favour of last December I am very much afraid that several of my Letters have not reached you. This makes the sixth which I shall have sent: two before we came to New York & three since. The only one which I have received from you is dated the 29th of December 1776; but the curious information it contains raises its value above whole packets on common subjects. An electrical sense, a new organ for discerning the properties of bodies, & that like sight & hearing, without immediate contact, is a discovery of the first importance for enlarging our ideas with respect to the faculties of animals. Nor will the Indian Hedysarum & the observations suggested by it, tend much less to improve our notions of vegetable life, by putting in a clearer point of view that irritability upon which their economy principally depends.

Captain Vandeput, when he sailed for England last January, kindly undertook the care of conveying to you the few plants which I had collected to the southward. Though I was conscious that they could be of no use to you, yet the temptation of showing that I had wished to comply with your instructions was too great to be resisted. If you had patience to look over them you would see a fragment of the racemus of a Palm just budded; it was taken, in the month of July, Cabbage-Tree of the Carolinas, & seemed to my unskilful eye different from that

of the Chamaerops humilis. Since the severity of the winter has been abated, I have procured a few specimens of birds, chiefly of the genus Anas, which do not seem distinctly described by Linnæus, though I suppose they are to be found in most collections as North gives a long list of names of species which he could not reduce to those of the Systema Naturæ. I cannot help showing with respect to this Gentleman's Catalogue, that the English names seem to have been mostly coined at home, even for the commonest & best known birds; for instance, the Alauda Magna of Linnæus, instead of being called a Crescent, is known all over the country by the name of Meadow Lark; and the Turdus migratorius, which Mr. Forster confounds with our field-fare, is as familiar to every child in America under the name of Robin, as the little bird its namesake is in England.

The winter here is not esteemed so pleasant as upon the Continent, the clear settled frost of the latter being ill exchanged for the variable & raw, though less cold weather of this Island. I never saw the Thermometer below +6 of Fahrenheit's scale, but as the was at this point a little after sunrise, it had, probably, been two or three degrees lower that morning, the 18th of January. The Barometer seems to me not to sink so low as in similar situations in England; I live about 100 yards above the level of the sea, & have very seldom seen the quicksilver down to 291⁄2 inches in the course of the winter. Only one Aurora borealis has been remarked, which was on the 4th of April in the evening, and not very luminous.

I do not expect to remain much longer here, as Dr. Morris has signified to me his intention of calling upon me soon to assist him with the main army. I hope my health, which is now pretty well recovered, will stand the fatigues of the summer, that I may contribute my mite toward promoting the great cause in which every Englishman is so deeply interested.

MAY 3, 1777

I am, dear Sir,

Your most obliged & affect. Friend


La Percy goes home in this Packet: he is a much better informed man, even on scientific subjects, than is commonly imagined, & I think that independently of his rank you would be pleased with his acquaintance. I forgot to mention that your Cousin Cap Banks is here, & not in a very good state of health; he was so ill in the winter, that Dr Nooth attended him a long time.

Jos. BANKS Esq.

JULY 15 1777


As Lord Mulgrave mentions in his last Letter that you had sent me Capt" Cook's account of his Voyage, I think it necessary to inform you that I have not yet received it. The last of Letter of yours which came to me was dated the 29th of December 1776; my last to you was sent by the Packet in which Lord Percy sailed for England. I am not a little surprised at finding the climate here so extremely temperate; on the 13th of this month the Thermometer rose no higher than 58. I

have not seen it more than three or four times above 72°, & that no longer than two or three hours: the common temperature is between 60 and 70, with a fine refreshing breeze most part of the day. But at no greater distance than the North end of this Island the weather is sensibly hotter and more sultry.

Our accounts from the Westward are not very favourable, at least with regard to the lateness of the Campaign; for it appears that at the end of last month Sir William Howe had evacuated the Jersies, & embarked his Army on board Transports lying in the Narrows below New York. We have this account from the Rebels, who imagine that he is going to fall upon the New England Provinces. The Rebels have evacuated the old French Lines at Ticonderoga, and retired to Mount Independence, a pretty strong Post about half a mile distant; but we imagine that want would soon oblige them to leave it, was no attack to be made.

In the night between the 10th & 11th of this month the Rebels unfortunately surprised Gen. Prescott who commanded here, & Mr Barrington his Aid-de-Camp, & carried them off prisoners to Providence. The General has fixed his Quarters about half way between the camp which covers this town, & that at the North end of the Island, for the convenience of both: he was about half a mile from the western coast of this Island, which he thought sufficiently protected by the ships stationed near it: & indeed it astonishes every body how five boats with 40 men could pass pretty near three ships of war guarding a coast, & land within cannon shot of one of them, without being discovered. The Gen. & Mr Barrington are to be sent to Lebanon, where Gov. Trumbull resides, about 40 miles to the westward in Connecticut. I shall join the main army as soon as possible, having received orders some time ago to that purpose

[blocks in formation]

At New York, in my way from Rhode-Island to join the Army, I received most of the Letters which you had been so kind as to send me, some of them dated a year before; together with the parcels, which all came safe. The last Letter is dated the 7th of May 1777 mentioning the things which Captain Swanton undertook to bring; when I left New York he was not arrived: but I have learned since that he got them safe to New York. General Paterson also is arrived, & I suppose has brought Cook's Voyage: but we have no communication with the Army, consequently can know nothing. To us who have been detained aboard the ships, be assured, my dear Friend, that the present expedition has proved little inferior to that of South Carolina for want & distress of every kind; God grant that it may not be equally prejudicial to the public cause, but the present appearances are by no means favourable. (Oct. 27) However this Letter is not likely to be sent away till more decisive events have occurred. The loss of the Augusta, attended with the shocking circumstance of so many brave men, wounded in the service of

their country, being blown up in her, makes a deep impression on my spirits, previously sunk by a relapse into that febrile state which reduced me so low last I left Rhode-Island in the highest glow of health, and am now, to my own feelings, a most miserable wretch. The discovery comes too late, but the experience of these expeditions has amply convinced me of my total unfitness for the office I so warmly solicited. But what principally affects me, though I have still hopes that it may not be true, is a shocking report propagated here with great confidence, that Lord Mulgrave is lost in the Ardent. I have written to him part of a letter, which I will enclose under a cover to you if I have not learned anything more certain with respect to the Ardent when the Packet sails from hence. Should it be true that we have met with so fatal a loss, take the trouble of reading the letter yourself, lest it should contain any thing that you might be sorry not to know.

At leaving Rhode-Island, the latter end of July, I put aboard the Brigantine Betsey, a Navy Victualer commanded by Mr. Callaway, twelve Kegs filled with Birds & Fishes, which I had collected in that Island & preserved in Rum. Upon my appointment to the employment which brought me hither, Mr. Barrington desired that I would collect what things fell in my way for the use of his friend Mr Lever. After considering as maturely as I could what would best answer every body's purpose, I thought that desiring you & Mr. Barrington to accept the collection jointly between you, would be the properest step. Mr. Lever wants any thing that he happens not to have in his Museum, whether it tends to illustrate Science or not; on the contrary nothing can be an object to you but what will conduce to the improvement of natural History as a branch of Philosophy. Having no assistance but Linnaeus's System, you very well know that I cannot judge with certainty whether any of the animals are new, or worthy your examination; but as I have some hopes that two or three of them are so, it would be a pity to let them perish without a proper specific description in the appropriate language of the Science. I described most of them, whilst recent, in English rudely, adding the names by which they were known at Rhode Island, & whatever other particulars I could learn; all which would be a considerable addition to my description you might make, but as it stands at present is perfectly unintelligible, nor does the present appearance of affairs afford me the least prospect of being able to put it into more regular form. Most of the animals are sewed up in linen which I believe will be found a most excellent method of preserving them: they have likewise numbers which refer to the descriptions, & are counted thus. A string is tied to some part of the animal with its two ends of a length suited to the number to be expressed: every single knot on either or both of these ends stands for a unit; every double knot, that is, two single knots close together, stands for 10; and a loop at one end of the string means 100. Thus if the number was 68, you would one end of the string 12 knots, in pairs close together with alternate spaces; that is, 6 double knots; & on the other end 8 single knots; if I had wanted to express 168 I should have tied one end of the string into a loop. All my apprehensions are, lest the coolness which has subsisted between you & Mr. B. should make this division unpleasant; but if it be possible, wave that on the present occasion out of your friendship to me; if it be not possible, the last resource

is, that you will each be so kind as to take six kegs apiece: At the same time consider, that at least 19 out of 20 of the things sent must be mere trumpery, fit only to be thrown upon the dunghill; for I took all that offered. In one of the Kegs are a few fish collected at South-Carolina; which are distinguished by shot tied to them in a small bag, the number of shot referring to a number under which they are described. I spent the greatest part of the month of August at NewYork, where Sir H. Clinton told me that you had mentioned me to him, & shewed me the most marked civility & attention. The beginning of September I arrived at the Head of Chesapeak Bay, but all communication with the army was then cut off, & has remained so to the shipping ever since. All the circumstances that occurred to me in these different voyages, I have related minutely in my letter to L. Mulgrave, which you will certainly see one way or the other, I hope to God from himself. I am now aboard a miserable Transport crowded with sick, who are dying every day of various disorders but all complicated with scurvy, & incapable of relief; Dr. Morris is in the same situation, except that he has a good ship, an East-Indiaman: whereas the true method of making us useful would be, to bring us as near as possible to the army, where we might give assistance to healthy men suddenly taken sick. We lie off Newcastle in the River Delaware, very ill supplied with every kind of refreshment; but the men of war fare betRhode-Island is just an English country, covered with the same herbage & consequently one of the worst places in the world for collecting plants: however there is a rocky Island near it, where I got a few species, & had great hopes of finding something curious in the course of the summer; but unfortunately it was found necessary to send the people sick of the small-pox thither, which cut off all communication at once. But my opportunities of collecting Birds & Fishes were much better at Rhode-Island than they can be in other parts of America; there I was not so much left in the crowd as I must be every where else; & different circumstances had thrown me into a fair train; on this account I regretted being ordered from thence; & now regret it a thousand times more since I find my health so sensibly impaired. There is one circumstance with respect to the publication of the last voyage round the world which I do not comprehend: your letter says that Foster had given up writing his account of it, but I now find that he has printed it, & even before Capt Cook: Perhaps the prefaces will explain this matter; but it savours strongly of his usual inconsistency.

[blocks in formation]

My situation in the

I have just received your Letter of the 3d of September. army has hitherto been such, that no Letters have reached me but after long delays. Captain Swanton sent me the parcel with Forsters Voyage from New York: Gen.

« AnteriorContinua »