STUDIES OF WAYSIDE FLOWERS,
WHILE THE AIR WAS YET PURE
_AMONG THE ALPS, AND IN THE SCOTLAND AND
ENGLAND WHICH MY FATHER KNEW_.
JOHN RUSKIN, LL.D.,
HONORARY STUDENT OF CHRISTCHURCH, AND HONORARY FELLOW OF CORPUS
CHRISTI COLLEGE, OXFORD.
* * * * *
1. Although I have not been able in the preceding volume to complete, in
any wise as I desired, the account of the several parts and actions of
plants in general, I will not delay any longer our entrance on the
examination of particular kinds, though here and there I must interrupt
such special study by recurring to general principles, or points of wider
interest. But the scope of such larger inquiry will be best seen, and the
use of it best felt, by entering now on specific study.
I begin with the Violet, because the arrangement of the group to which it
belongs--Cytherides--is more arbitrary than that of the rest, and calls for
some immediate explanation.
2. I fear that my readers may expect me to write something very pretty for
them about violets: but my time for writing prettily is long past; and it
requires some watching over myself, I find, to keep me even from writing
querulously. For while, the older I grow, very thankfully I recognize more
and more the number of pleasures granted to human eyes in this fair world,
I recognize also an increasing sensitiveness in my temper to anything that
interferes with them; and a grievous readiness to find fault--always of
course submissively, but very articulately--with whatever Nature seems to
me not to have managed to the best of her power;--as, for extreme instance,
her late arrangements of frost this spring, destroying all the beauty of
the wood sorrels; nor am I less inclined, looking to her as the greatest of
sculptors and painters, to ask, every time I see a narcissus, why it should
be wrapped up in brown paper; and every time I see a violet, what it wants
with a spur?
3. What _any_ flower wants with a spur, is indeed the simplest and hitherto
to me unanswerablest form of the question; nevertheless, when blossoms grow
in spires, and are crowded together, and have to grow partly downwards, in
order to win their share of light and breeze, one can see some reason for
the effort of the petals to expand upwards and backwards also. But that a
violet, who has her little stalk to herself, and might grow straight up, if
she pleased, should be pleased to do nothing of the sort, but quite
gratuitously bend her stalk down at the top, and fasten herself to it by
her waist, as it were,--this is so much more like a girl of the period's
fancy than a violet's, that I never gather one separately but with renewed
astonishment at it.
4. One reason indeed there is, which I never thought of until this moment!
a piece of stupidity which I can only pardon myself in, because, as it has
chanced, I have studied violets most in gardens, not in their wild
haunts,--partly thinking their Athenian honour was as a garden flower; and
partly being always fed away from them, among the hills, by flowers which I
could see nowhere else. With all excuse I can furbish up, however, it is
shameful that the truth of the matter never struck me before, or at least
this bit of the truth--as follows.
5. The Greeks, and Milton, alike speak of violets as growing in meadows (or
dales). But the Greeks did so because they could not fancy any delight
except in meadows; and Milton, because he wanted a rhyme to
nightingale--and, after all, was London bred. But Viola's beloved knew
where violets grew in Illyria,--and grow everywhere else also, when they
can,--on a _bank_, facing the south.
Just as distinctly as the daisy and buttercup are _meadow_ flowers, the
violet is a _bank_ flower, and would fain grow always on a steep slope,
towards the sun. And it is so poised on its stem that it shows, when
growing on a slope, the full space and opening of its flower,--not at all,
in any strain of modesty, hiding _itself_, though it may easily be, by
grass or mossy stone, 'half hidden,'--but, to the full, showing itself, and
intending to be lovely and luminous, as fragrant, to the uttermost of its
Nor merely in its oblique setting on the stalk, but in the reversion of its
two upper petals, the flower shows this purpose of being fully seen. (For a
flower that _does_ hide itself, take a lily of the valley, or the bell of a
grape hyacinth, or a cyclamen.) But respecting this matter of
petal-reversion, we must now farther state two or three general principles.
6. A perfect or pure flower, as a rose, oxalis, or campanula, is always
composed of an unbroken whorl, or corolla, in the form of a disk, cup,
bell, or, if it draw together again at the lips, a narrow-necked vase. This
cup, bell, or vase, is divided into similar petals, (or segments, which are
petals carefully joined,) varying in number from three to eight, and
enclosed by a calyx whose sepals are symmetrical also.
An imperfect, or, as I am inclined rather to call it, an 'injured' flower,
is one in which some of the petals have inferior office and position, and
are either degraded, for the benefit of others, or expanded and honoured at
the cost of others.
Of this process, the first and simplest condition is the reversal of the
upper petals and elongation of the lower ones, in blossoms set on the side
of a clustered stalk. When the change is simply and directly dependent on
their position in the cluster, as in Aurora Regina, modifying every bell
just in proportion as it declines from the perfected central one, some of
the loveliest groups of form are produced which can be seen in any inferior
organism: but when the irregularity becomes fixed, and the flower is always
to the same extent distorted, whatever its position in the cluster, the
plant is to be rightly thought of as reduced to a lower rank in creation.
7. It is to be observed, also, that these inferior forms of flower have
always the appearance of being produced by some kind of mischief--blight,
bite, or ill-breeding; they never suggest the idea of improving themselves,
now, into anything better; one is only afraid of their tearing or puffing
themselves into something worse. Nay, even the quite natural and simple
conditions of inferior vegetable do not in the least suggest, to the
unbitten or unblighted human intellect, the notion of development into
anything other than their like: one does not expect a mushroom to translate
itself into a pineapple, nor a betony to moralize itself into a lily, nor a
snapdragon to soften himself into a lilac.
8. It is very possible, indeed, that the recent phrenzy for the
investigation of digestive and reproductive operations in plants may by
this time have furnished the microscopic malice of botanists with
providentially disgusting reasons, or demoniacally nasty necessities, for
every possible spur, spike, jag, sting, rent, blotch, flaw, freckle, filth,
or venom, which can be detected in the construction, or distilled from the
dissolution, of vegetable organism. But with these obscene processes and
prurient apparitions the gentle and happy scholar of flowers has nothing
whatever to do. I am amazed and saddened, more than I can care to say, by
finding how much that is abominable may be discovered by an ill-taught
curiosity, in the purest things that earth is allowed to produce for
us;--perhaps if we were less reprobate in our own ways, the grass which is
our type might conduct itself better, even though _it_ has no hope but of
being cast into the oven; in the meantime, healthy human eyes and thoughts
are to be set on the lovely laws of its growth and habitation, and not on
the mean mysteries of its birth.
9. I relieve, therefore, our presently inquiring souls from any farther
care as to the reason for a violet's spur,--or for the extremely ugly
arrangements of its stamens and style, invisible unless by vexatious and
vicious peeping. You are to think of a violet only in its green leaves, and
purple or golden petals;--you are to know the varieties of form in both,
proper to common species; and in what kind of places they all most fondly
live, and most deeply glow.
"And the recreation of the minde which is taken heereby cannot be but verie
good and honest, for they admonish and stir up a man to that which is
comely and honest. For flowers, through their beautie, varietie of colour,
and exquisite forme, do bring to a liberall and gentle manly minde the
remembrance of honestie, comeliness, and all kinds of vertues. For it would
be an unseemely and filthie thing, as a certain wise man saith, for him
that doth looke upon and handle faire and beautiful things, and who
frequenteth and is conversant in faire and beautiful places, to have his
mind not faire, but filthie and deformed."
10. Thus Gerarde, in the close of his introductory notice of the
violet,--speaking of things, (honesty, comeliness, and the like,) scarcely
now recognized as desirable in the realm of England; but having previously
observed that violets are useful for the making of garlands for the head,
and posies to smell to;--in which last function I observe they are still
pleasing to the British public: and I found the children here, only the
other day, munching a confection of candied violet leaves. What pleasure
the flower can still give us, uncandied, and unbound, but in its own place
and life, I will try to trace through some of its constant laws.
11. And first, let us be clear that the native colour of the violet _is_
violet; and that the white and yellow kinds, though pretty in their place
and way, are not to be thought of in generally meditating the flower's
quality or power. A white violet is to black ones what a black man is to
white ones; and the yellow varieties are, I believe, properly pansies, and
belong also to wild districts for the most part; but the true violet, which
I have just now called 'black,' with Gerarde, "the blacke or purple violet,
hath a great prerogative above others," and all the nobler species of the
pansy itself are of full purple, inclining, however, in the ordinary wild
violet to blue. In the 'Laws of Fesole,' chap, vii., Sec.Sec. 20, 21, I have made
this dark pansy the representative of purple pure; the viola odorata, of
the link between that full purple and blue; and the heath-blossom of the
link between that full purple and red. The reader will do well, as much as
may be possible to him, to associate his study of botany, as indeed all
other studies of visible things, with that of painting: but he must
remember that he cannot know what violet colour really is, unless he watch
the flower in its _early_ growth. It becomes dim in age, and dark when it
is gathered--at least, when it is tied in bunches;--but I am under the
impression that the colour actually deadens also,--at all events, no other
single flower of the same quiet colour lights up the ground near it as a
violet will. The bright hounds-tongue looks merely like a spot of bright
paint; but a young violet glows like painted glass.
12. Which, when you have once well noticed, the two lines of Milton and
Shakspeare which seem opposed, will both become clear to you. The said
lines are dragged from hand to hand along their pages of pilfered
quotations by the hack botanists,--who probably never saw _them_, nor
anything else, _in_ Shakspeare or Milton in their lives,--till even in
reading them where they rightly come, you can scarcely recover their fresh
meaning: but none of the botanists ever think of asking why Perdita calls
the violet 'dim,' and Milton 'glowing.'
Perdita, indeed, calls it dim, at that moment, in thinking of her own love,
and the hidden passion of it, unspeakable; nor is Milton without some
purpose of using it as an emblem of love, mourning,--but, in both cases,
the subdued and quiet hue of the flower as an actual tint of colour, and
the strange force and life of it as a part of light, are felt to their
And observe, also, that both, of the poets contrast the violet, in its
softness, with the intense marking of the pansy. Milton makes the
"the pansy, freaked with jet,
The glowing violet."
Shakspeare shows yet stronger sense of the difference, in the "purple with
Love's wound" of the pansy, while the violet is sweet with Love's hidden
life, and sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes.
Whereupon, we may perhaps consider with ourselves a little, what the
difference _is_ between a violet and a pansy?
13. Is, I say, and was, and is to come,--in spite of florists, who try to
make pansies round, instead of pentagonal; and of the wise classifying
people, who say that violets and pansies are the same thing--and that
neither of them are of much interest! As, for instance, Dr. Lindley in his
"Violets--sweet Violets, and Pansies, or Heartsease, represent a small
family, with the structure of which you should be familiar; more, however,
for the sake of its singularity than for its extent or importance, for the
family is a very small one, and there are but few species belonging to it
in which much interest is taken. As the parts of the Heartsease are larger
than those of the Violet, let us select the former in preference for the
subject of our study." Whereupon we plunge instantly into the usual account
of things with horns and tails. "The stamens are five in number--two of
them, which are in front of the others, are hidden within the horn of the
front petal," etc., etc., etc. (Note in passing, by the '_horn of the
front_' petal he means the '_spur of the bottom_' one, which indeed does
stand in front of the rest,--but if therefore _it_ is to be called the
_front_ petal--which is the back one?) You may find in the next paragraph
description of a "singular conformation," and the interesting conclusion
that "no one has yet discovered for what purpose this singular conformation
was provided." But you will not, in the entire article, find the least
attempt to tell you the difference between a violet and a pansy!--except in
one statement--and _that_ false! "The sweet violet will have no rival among
flowers, if we merely seek for delicate fragrance; but her sister, the
heartsease, who is destitute of all sweetness, far surpasses her in rich
dresses and _gaudy_!!! colours." The heartsease is not without sweetness.
There are sweet pansies scented, and dog pansies unscented--as there are
sweet violets scented, and dog violets unscented. What is the real
14. I turn to another scientific gentleman--_more_ scientific in form
indeed, Mr. Grindon,--and find, for another interesting phenomenon in the
violet, that it sometimes produces flowers without any petals! and in the
pansy, that "the flowers turn towards the sun, and when many are open at
once, present a droll appearance, looking like a number of faces all on the
'qui vive.'" But nothing of the difference between them, except something
about 'stipules,' of which "it is important to observe that the leaves
should be taken from the middle of the stem--those above and below being
I observe, however, that Mr. Grindon _has_ arranged his violets under the
letter A, and his pansies under the letter B, and that something may be
really made out of him, with an hour or two's work. I am content, however,
at present, with his simplifying assurance that of violet and pansy
together, "six species grow wild in Britain--or, as some believe, only
four--while the analysts run the number up to fifteen."
15. Next I try Loudon's Cyclopaedia, which, through all its 700 pages, is
equally silent on the business; and next, Mr. Baxter's 'British Flowering
Plants,' in the index of which I find neither Pansy nor Heartsease, and
only the 'Calathian' Violet, (where on earth is Calathia?) which proves, on
turning it up, to be a Gentian.
16. At last, I take my Figuier, (but what should I do if I only knew
English?) and find this much of clue to the matter:--
"Qu'est ce que c'est que la Pensee? Cette jolie plante appartient aussi ou
genre Viola, mais a un section de ce genre. En effet, dans les Pensees, les
petales superieurs et lateraux sont diriges en haut, l'inferieur seul est
dirige en bas: et de plus, le stigmate est urceole, globuleux."
And farther, this general description of the whole violet tribe, which I
translate, that we may have its full value:--
"The violet is a plant without a stem (tige),--(see vol. i., p.
154,)--whose height does not surpass one or two decimetres. Its leaves,
radical, or carried on stolons, (vol. i., p. 158,) are sharp, or oval,
crenulate, or heart-shape. Its stipules are oval-acuminate, or lanceolate.
Its flowers, of sweet scent, of a dark violet or a reddish blue, are
carried each on a slender peduncle, which bends down at the summit. Such
is, for the botanist, the Violet, of which the poets would give assuredly
17. Perhaps; or even the painters! or even an ordinary unbotanical human
creature! I must set about my business, at any rate, in my own way, now, as
I best can, looking first at things themselves, and then putting this and
that together, out of these botanical persons, which they can't put
together out of themselves. And first, I go down into my kitchen garden,
where the path to the lake has a border of pansies on both sides all the
way down, with clusters of narcissus behind them. And pulling up a handful
of pansies by the roots, I find them "without stems," indeed, if a stem
means a wooden thing; but I should say, for a low-growing flower, quiet
lankily and disagreeably stalky! And, thinking over what I remember about
wild pansies, I find an impression on my mind of their being rather more
stalky, always, than is quite graceful; and, for all their fine flowers,
having rather a weedy and littery look, and getting into places where they
have no business. See, again, vol. i., chap. vi., Sec. 5.
18. And now, going up into my flower and fruit garden, I find (June 2nd,
1881, half-past six, morning.) among the wild saxifrages, which are allowed
to grow wherever they like, and the rock strawberries, and Francescas,
which are coaxed to grow wherever there is a bit of rough ground for them,
a bunch or two of pale pansies, or violets, I don't know well which, by the
flower; but the entire company of them has a ragged, jagged, unpurpose-like
look; extremely,--I should say,--demoralizing to all the little plants in
their neighbourhood: and on gathering a flower, I find it is a nasty big
thing, all of a feeble blue, and with two things like horns, or thorns,
sticking out where its ears would be, if the pansy's frequently monkey face
were underneath them. Which I find to be two of the leaves of its calyx
'out of place,' and, at all events, for their part, therefore, weedy, and
19. I perceive, farther, that this disorderly flower is lifted on a lanky,
awkward, springless, and yet stiff flower-stalk; which is not round, as a
flower-stalk ought to be, (vol. i., p. 155,) but obstinately square, and
fluted, with projecting edges, like a pillar run thin out of an
iron-foundry for a cheap railway station. I perceive also that it has set
on it, just before turning down to carry the flower, two little jaggy and
indefinable leaves,--their colour a little more violet than the blossom.
These, and such undeveloping leaves, wherever they occur, are called
'bracts' by botanists, a good word, from the Latin 'bractea,' meaning a
piece of metal plate, so thin as to crackle. They seem always a little
stiff, like bad parchment,--born to come to nothing--a sort of
infinitesimal fairy-lawyer's deed. They ought to have been in my index at
p. 255, under the head of leaves, and are frequent in flower
structure,--never, as far as one can see, of the smallest use. They are
constant, however, in the flower-stalk of the whole violet tribe.
20. I perceive, farther, that this lanky flower-stalk, bending a little in
a crabbed, broken way, like an obstinate person tired, pushes itself up out
of a still more stubborn, nondescript, hollow angular, dogseared gas-pipe
of a stalk, with a section something like this,
but no bigger than
with a quantity of ill-made and ill-hemmed leaves on it, of no describable
leaf-cloth or texture,--not cressic, (though the thing does altogether look
a good deal like a quite uneatable old watercress); not salvian, for
there's no look of warmth or comfort in them; not cauline, for there's no
juice in them; not dryad, for there's no strength in them, nor apparent
use: they seem only there, as far as I can make out, to spoil the flower,
and take the good out of my garden bed. Nobody in the world could draw
them, they are so mixed up together, and crumpled and hacked about, as if
some ill-natured child had snipped them with blunt scissors, and an
ill-natured cow chewed them a little afterwards and left them, proved for
too tough or too bitter.
21. Having now sufficiently observed, it seems to me, this incongruous
plant, I proceed to ask myself, over it, M. Figuier's question, 'Qu'est-ce
c'est qu'un Pensee?' Is this a violet--or a pansy--or a bad imitation of
Whereupon I try if it has any scent: and to my much surprise, find it has a
full and soft one--which I suppose is what my gardener keeps it for!
According to Dr. Lindley, then, it must be a violet! But according to M.
Figuier,--let me see, do its middle petals bend up, or down?
I think I'll go and ask the gardener what _he_ calls it.
22. My gardener, on appeal to him, tells me it is the 'Viola Cornuta,' but
that he does not know himself if it is violet or pansy. I take my Loudon
again, and find there were fifty-three species of violets, known in his
days, of which, as it chances, Cornuta is exactly the last.
'Horned violet': I said the green things were _like_ horns!--but what is
one to say of, or to do to, scientific people, who first call the spur of
the violet's petal, horn, and then its calyx points, horns, and never
define a 'horn' all the while!
Viola Cornuta, however, let it be; for the name does mean _some_thing, and
is not false Latin. But whether violet or pansy, I must look farther to
23. I take the Flora Danica, in which I at least am sure of finding
whatever is done at all, done as well as honesty and care can; and look
what species of violets it gives.
Nine, in the first ten volumes of it; four in their modern sequel (that I
know of,--I have had no time to examine the last issues). Namely, in
alphabetical order, with their present Latin, or tentative Latin, names;
and in plain English, the senses intended by the hapless scientific people,
in such their tentative Latin:--
(1) Viola Arvensis. Field (Violet) No. 1748
(2) " Biflora. Two-flowered 46
(3) " Canina. Dog 1453
(3b) " Canina. Var. Multicaulus 2646
(many-stemmed), a very
singular sort of violet--if it
were so! Its real difference
from our dog-violet is in
being pale blue, and having a
(4) " Hirta. Hairy 618
(5) " Mirabilis. Marvellous 1045
(6) " Montana. Mountain 1329
(7) " Odorata. Odorous 309
(8) " Palustris. Marshy 83
(9) " Tricolor. Three-coloured 623
(9B) " Tricolor. Var. Arenaria, Sandy 2647
(10) " Elatior. Taller 68
(11) " Epipsila. (Heaven knows what: it is 2405
Greek, not Latin, and looks as
if it meant something between
a bishop and a short letter e)
I next run down this list, noting what names we can keep, and what we
can't; and what aren't worth keeping, if we could: passing over the
varieties, however, for the present, wholly.
(1) Arvensis. Field-violet. Good.
(2) Biflora. A good epithet, but in false Latin. It is to be our Viola
aurea, golden pansy.
(3) Canina. Dog. Not pretty, but intelligible, and by common use now
classical. Must stay.
(4) Hirta. Late Latin slang for hirsuta, and always used of nasty places or
nasty people; it shall not stay. The species shall be our Viola
Seclusa,--Monk's violet--meaning the kind of monk who leads a rough life
like Elijah's, or the Baptist's, or Esau's--in another kind. This violet is
one of the loveliest that grows.
(5) Mirabilis. Stays so; marvellous enough, truly: not more so than all
violets; but I am very glad to hear of scientific people capable of
(6) Montana. Stays so.
(7) Odorata. Not distinctive;--nearly classical, however. It is to be our
Viola Regina, else I should not have altered it.
(8) Palustris. Stays so.
(9) Tricolor. True, but intolerable. The flower is the queen of the true
pansies: to be our Viola Psyche.
(10) Elatior. Only a variety of our already accepted Cornuta.
(11) The last is, I believe, also only a variety of Palustris. Its leaves,
I am informed in the text, are either "pubescent-reticulate-venose-
subreniform," or "lato-cordate-repando-crenate;" and its stipules are
"ovate-acuminate-fimbrio-denticulate." I do not wish to pursue the inquiry
24. These ten species will include, noting here and there a local variety,
all the forms which are familiar to us in Northern Europe, except only
two;--these, as it singularly chances, being the Viola Alpium, noblest of
all the wild pansies in the world, so far as I have seen or heard of
them,--of which, consequently, I find no picture, nor notice, in any
botanical work whatsoever; and the other, the rock-violet of our own
We have therefore, ourselves, finally then, twelve following species to
study. I give them now all in their accepted names and proper order,--the
reasons for occasional difference between the Latin and English name will
be presently given.
(1) Viola Regina. Queen violet.
(2) " Psyche. Ophelia's pansy.
(3) " Alpium. Freneli's pansy.
(4) " Aurea. Golden violet.
(5) " Montana. Mountain Violet.
(6) " Mirabilis. Marvellous violet.
(7) " Arvensis. Field violet.
(8) " Palustris. Marsh violet.
(9) " Seclusa. Monk's violet.
(10) " Canina. Dog violet.
(11) " Cornuta. Cow violet.
(12) " Rupestris. Crag violet.
25. We will try, presently, what is to be found out of useful, or pretty,
concerning all these twelve violets; but must first find out how we are to
know which are violets indeed, and which, pansies.
Yesterday, after finishing my list, I went out again to examine Viola
Cornuta a little closer, and pulled up a full grip of it by the roots, and
put it in water in a wash-hand basin, which it filled like a truss of green
Pulling out two or three separate plants, I find each to consist mainly of
a jointed stalk of a kind I have not yet described,--roughly, some two feet
long altogether; (accurately, one 1 ft. 101/2 in.; another, 1 ft. 10 in.;
another, 1 ft. 9 in.--but all these measures taken without straightening,
and therefore about an inch short of the truth), and divided into seven or
eight lengths by clumsy joints where the mangled leafage is knotted on it;
but broken a little out of the way at each joint, like a rheumatic elbow
that won't come straight, or bend farther; and--which is the most curious
point of all in it--it is thickest in the middle, like a viper, and gets
quite thin to the root and thin towards the flower; also the lengths
between the joints are longest in the middle: here I give them in inches,
from the root upwards, in a stalk taken at random.
1st (nearest root) 03/4
1 ft. 93/4 in.
But the thickness of the joints and length of terminal flower stalk bring
the total to two feet and about an inch over. I dare not pull it straight,
or should break it, but it overlaps my two-foot rule considerably, and
there are two inches besides of root, which are merely underground stem,
very thin and wretched, as the rest of it is merely root above ground, very
thick and bloated. (I begin actually to be a little awed at it, as I should
be by a green snake--only the snake would be prettier.) The flowers also, I
perceive, have not their two horns regularly set _in_, but the five spiky
calyx-ends stick out between the petals--sometimes three, sometimes four,
it may be all five up and down--and produce variously fanged or forked
effects, feebly ophidian or diabolic. On the whole, a plant entirely
mismanaging itself,--reprehensible and awkward, with taints of worse than
awkwardness; and clearly, no true 'species,' but only a link. And it
really is, as you will find presently, a link in two directions; it is half
violet, half pansy, a 'cur' among the Dogs, and a thoughtless thing among
the thoughtful. And being so, it is also a link between the entire violet
tribe and the Runners--pease, strawberries, and the like, whose glory is in
their speed; but a violet has no business whatever to run anywhere, being
appointed to stay where it was born, in extremely contented (if not
secluded) places. "Half-hidden from the eye?"--no; but desiring attention,
or extension, or corpulence, or connection with anybody else's family,
[Illustration: FIG. II.]
26. And if, at the time you read this, you can run out and gather a _true_
violet, and its leaf, you will find that the flower grows from the very
ground, out of a cluster of heart-shaped leaves, becoming here a little
rounder, there a little sharper, but on the whole heart-shaped, and that is
the proper and essential form of the violet leaf. You will find also that
the flower has five petals; and being held down by the bent stalk, two of
them bend back and up, as if resisting it; two expand at the sides; and
one, the principal, grows downwards, with its attached spur behind. So that
the front view of the flower must be _some_ modification of this typical
arrangement, Fig. M, (for middle form). Now the statement above quoted from
Figuier, Sec. 16, means, if he had been able to express himself, that the two
lateral petals in the violet are directed downwards, Fig. II. A, and in the
pansy upwards, Fig. II. C. And that, in the main, is true, and to be fixed
well and clearly in your mind. But in the real orders, one flower passes
into the other through all kinds of intermediate positions of petal, and
the plurality of species are of the middle type. Fig. II. B.
27. Next, if you will gather a real pansy _leaf_, you will find it--not
heart-shape in the least, but sharp oval or spear-shape, with two deep
cloven lateral flakes at its springing from the stalk, which, in ordinary
aspect, give the plant the haggled and draggled look I have been vilifying
it for. These, and such as these, "leaflets at the base of other leaves"
(Balfour's Glossary), are called by botanists 'stipules.' I have not
allowed the word yet, and am doubtful of allowing it, because it entirely
confuses the student's sense of the Latin 'stipula' (see above, vol. i.,
chap. viii., Sec. 27) doubly and trebly important in its connection with
'stipulor,' not noticed in that paragraph, but readable in your large
Johnson; we shall have more to say of it when we come to 'straw' itself.
28. In the meantime, one _may_ think of these things as stipulations for
leaves, not fulfilled, or 'stumps' or 'sumphs' of leaves! But I think I can
do better for them. We have already got the idea of _crested_ leaves, (see
vol. i., plate); now, on each side of a knight's crest, from earliest
Etruscan times down to those of the Scalas, the fashion of armour held,
among the nations who wished to make themselves terrible in aspect, of
putting cut plates or 'bracts' of metal, like dragons' wings, on each side
of the crest. I believe the custom never became Norman or English; it is
essentially Greek, Etruscan, or Italian,--the Norman and Dane always
wearing a practical cone (see the coins of Canute), and the Frank or
English knights the severely plain beavered helmet; the Black Prince's at
Canterbury, and Henry V.'s at Westminster, are kept hitherto by the great
fates for us to see. But the Southern knights constantly wore these lateral
dragon's wings; and if I can find their special name, it may perhaps be
substituted with advantage for 'stipule'; but I have not wit enough by me
just now to invent a term.
29. Whatever we call them, the things themselves are, throughout all the
species of violets, developed in the running and weedy varieties, and much
subdued in the beautiful ones; and generally the pansies have them, large,
with spear-shaped central leaves; and the violets small, with heart-shaped
leaves, for more effective decoration of the ground. I now note the
characters of each species in their above given order.
30. I. VIOLA REGINA. Queen Violet. Sweet Violet. 'Viola Odorata,' L., Flora
Danica, and Sowerby. The latter draws it with golden centre and white base
of lower petal; the Flora Danica, all purple. It is sometimes altogether
white. It is seen most perfectly for setting off its colour, in group with
primrose,--and most luxuriantly, so far as I know, in hollows of the Savoy
limestones, associated with the pervenche, which embroiders and illumines
them all over. I believe it is the earliest of its race, sometimes called
'Martia,' March violet. In Greece and South Italy even a flower of the
"The Spring is come, the violet's _gone_,
The first-born child of the early sun.
With us, she is but a winter's flower;
The snow on the hills cannot blast her bower,
And she lifts up her dewy eye of blue
To the youngest sky of the selfsame hue.
And when the Spring comes, with her host
Of flowers, that flower beloved the most
Shrinks from the crowd that may confuse
Her heavenly odour, and virgin hues.
Pluck the others, but still remember
Their herald out of dim December,--
_The morning star_ of all the flowers,
The pledge of daylight's lengthened hours,
Nor, midst the roses, e'er forget
The virgin, virgin violet."
3. It is the queen, not only of the violet tribe, but of all low-growing
flowers, in sweetness of scent--variously applicable and serviceable in
domestic economy:--the scent of the lily of the valley seems less capable
of preservation or use.
But, respecting these perpetual beneficences and benignities of the sacred,
as opposed to the malignant, herbs, whose poisonous power is for the most
part restrained in them, during their life, to their juices or dust, and
not allowed sensibly to pollute the air, I should like the scholar to
re-read pp. 251, 252 of vol. i., and then to consider with himself what a
grotesquely warped and gnarled thing the modern scientific mind is, which
fiercely busies itself in venomous chemistries that blast every leaf from
the forests ten miles round; and yet cannot tell us, nor even think of
telling us, nor does even one of its pupils think of asking it all the
while, how a violet throws off her perfume!--far less, whether it might not
be more wholesome to 'treat' the air which men are to breathe in masses, by
administration of vale-lilies and violets, instead of charcoal and sulphur!
The closing sentence of the first volume just now referred
to--p.254--should also be re-read; it was the sum of a chapter I had in
hand at that time on the Substances and Essences of Plants--which never got
finished;--and in trying to put it into small space, it has become obscure:
the terms "logically inexplicable" meaning that no words or process of
comparison will define scents, nor do any traceable modes of sequence or
relation connect them; each is an independent power, and gives a separate
impression to the senses. Above all, there is no logic of pleasure, nor any
assignable reason for the difference, between loathsome and delightful
scent, which makes the fungus foul and the vervain sacred: but one
practical conclusion I (who am in all final ways the most prosaic and
practical of human creatures) do very solemnly beg my readers to meditate;
namely, that although not recognized by actual offensiveness of scent,
there is no space of neglected land which is not in some way modifying the
atmosphere of _all the world_,--it may be, beneficently, as heath and
pine,--it may be, malignantly, as Pontine marsh or Brazilian jungle; but,
in one way or another, for good and evil constantly, by day and night, the
various powers of life and death in the plants of the desert are poured
into the air, as vials of continual angels: and that no words, no thoughts
can measure, nor imagination follow, the possible change for good which
energetic and tender care of the wild herbs of the field and trees of the
wood might bring, in time, to the bodily pleasure and mental power of Man.
32. II. VIOLA PSYCHE. Ophelia's Pansy.
The wild heart's-ease of Europe; its proper colour an exquisitely clear
purple in the upper petals, gradated into deep blue in the lower ones; the
centre, gold. Not larger than a violet, but perfectly formed, and firmly
set in all its petals. Able to live in the driest ground; beautiful in the
coast sand-hills of Cumberland, following the wild geranium and burnet
rose: and distinguished thus by its power of life, in waste and dry places,
from the violet, which needs kindly earth and shelter.
Quite one of the most lovely things that Heaven has made, and only degraded
and distorted by any human interference; the swollen varieties of it
produced by cultivation being all gross in outline and coarse in colour by
It is badly drawn even in the 'Flora Danica,' No. 623, considered there
apparently as a species escaped from gardens; the description of it being
"Viola tricolor hortensis repens, flore purpureo et coeruleo, C.B.P., 199."
(I don't know what C.B.P. means.) "Passim, juxta villas."
"Viola tricolor, caule triquetro diffuso, foliis oblongis incisis, stipulis
pinnatifidis," Linn. Systema Naturae, 185.
33. "Near the country farms"--does the Danish botanist mean?--the more
luxuriant weedy character probably acquired by it only in such
neighbourhood; and, I suppose, various confusion and degeneration possible
to it beyond other plants when once it leaves its wild home. It is given by
Sibthorpe from the Trojan Olympus, with an exquisitely delicate leaf; the
flower described as "triste et pallide violaceus," but coloured in his
plate full purple; and as he does not say whether he went up Olympus to
gather it himself, or only saw it brought down by the assistant whose
lovely drawings are yet at Oxford, I take leave to doubt his epithets. That
this should be the only Violet described in a 'Flora Graeca' extending to
ten folio volumes, is a fact in modern scientific history which I must
leave the Professor of Botany and the Dean of Christ Church to explain.
34. The English varieties seem often to be yellow in the lower petals, (see
Sowerby's plate, 1287 of the old edition), crossed, I imagine, with Viola
Aurea, (but see under Viola Rupestris, No. 12); the names, also, varying
between tricolor and bicolor--with no note anywhere of the three colours,
or two colours, intended!
The old English names are many.--'Love in idleness,'--making Lysander, as
Titania, much wandering in mind, and for a time mere 'Kits run the street'
(or run the wood?)--"Call me to you" (Gerarde, ch. 299, Sowerby, No. 178),
with 'Herb Trinity,' from its three colours, blue, purple, and gold,
variously blended in different countries? 'Three faces under a hood'
describes the English variety only. Said to be the ancestress of all the
florists' pansies, but this I much doubt, the next following species being
far nearer the forms most chiefly sought for.
35. III. VIOLA ALPINA. 'Freneli's Pansy'--my own name for it, from
Gotthelf's Freneli, in 'Ulric the Farmer'; the entirely pure and noble type
of the Bernese maid, wife, and mother.
The pansy of the Wengern Alp in specialty, and of the higher, but still
rich, Alpine pastures. Full dark-purple; at least an inch across the
expanded petals; I believe, the 'Mater Violarum' of Gerarde; and true black
violet of Virgil, remaining in Italian 'Viola Mammola' (Gerarde, ch. 298).
36. IV. VIOLA AUREA. Golden Violet. Biflora usually; but its brilliant
yellow is a much more definite characteristic; and needs insisting on,
because there is a 'Viola lutea' which is not yellow at all; named so by
the garden florists. My Viola aurea is the Rock-violet of the Alps; one of
the bravest, brightest, and dearest of little flowers. The following notes
upon it, with its summer companions, a little corrected from my diary of
1877, will enough characterize it.
"_June 7th._--The cultivated meadows now grow only dandelions--in frightful
quantity too; but, for wild ones, primula, bell gentian, golden pansy, and
anemone,--Primula farinosa in mass, the pansy pointing and vivifying in a
petulant sweet way, and the bell gentian here and there deepening all,--as
if indeed the sound of a deep bell among lighter music.
"Counted in order, I find the effectively constant flowers are eight;
"1. The golden anemone, with richly cut large leaf; primrose colour, and in
masses like primrose, studded through them with bell gentian, and dark
"2. The dark purple orchis, with bell gentian in equal quantity, say six of
each in square yard, broken by sparklings of the white orchis and the white
grass-flower; the richest piece of colour I ever saw, touched with gold by
"3 and 4. These will be white orchis and the grass flower.
"5. Geum--everywhere, in deep, but pure, gold, like pieces of Greek mosaic.
"6. Soldanella, in the lower meadows, delicate, but not here in masses.
"7. Primula Alpina, divine in the rock clefts, and on the ledges changing
the grey to purple,--set in the dripping caves with
"8. Viola (pertinax--pert); I want a Latin word for various
studies--failures all--to express its saucy little stuck-up way, and
exquisitely trim peltate leaf. I never saw such a lovely perspective line
as the pure front leaf profile. Impossible also to get the least of the
spirit of its lovely dark brown fibre markings. Intensely golden these dark
fibres, just browning the petal a little between them."
And again in the defile of Gondo, I find "Viola (saxatilis?) name yet
wanted;--in the most delicate studding of its round leaves, like a small
fern more than violet, and bright sparkle of small flowers in the dark
dripping hollows. Assuredly delights in shade and distilling moisture of
I found afterwards a much larger yellow pansy on the Yorkshire high
limestones; with vigorously black crowfoot marking on the lateral petals.
37. V. VIOLA MONTANA. Mountain Violet.
Flora Danica, 1329. Linnaeus, No. 13, "Caulibus erectis, foliis
cordato-lanceolatis, floribus serioribus apetalis," _i.e._, on erect stems,
with leaves long heart-shape, and its later flowers without petals--not a
word said of its earlier flowers which have got those unimportant
appendages! In the plate of the Flora it is a very perfect transitional
form between violet and pansy, with beautifully firm and well-curved
leaves, but the colour of blossom very pale. "In subalpinis Norvegiae
passim," all that we are told of it, means I suppose, in the lower Alpine
pastures of Norway; in the Flora Suecica, p. 306, habitat in Lapponica,
38. VI. VIOLA MIRABILIS. Flora Danica, 1045. A small and exquisitely formed
flower in the balanced cinquefoil intermediate between violet and pansy,
but with large and superbly curved and pointed leaves. It is a mountain
violet, but belonging rather to the mountain woods than meadows. "In
sylvaticis in Toten, Norvegiae."
Loudon, 3056, "Broad-leaved: Germany."
Linnaeus, Flora Suecica, 789, says that the flowers of it which have perfect
corolla and full scent often bear no seed, but that the later 'cauline'
blossoms, without petals, are fertile. "Caulini vero apetali fertiles sunt,
et seriores. Habitat passim Upsaliae."
I find this, and a plurality of other species, indicated by Linnaeus as
having triangular stalks, "caule triquetro," meaning, I suppose, the kind
sketched in Figure 1 above.
39. VII. VIOLA ARVENSIS. Field Violet. Flora Danica, 1748. A coarse running
weed; nearly like Viola Cornuta, but feebly lilac and yellow in colour. In
dry fields, and with corn.
Flora Suecica, 791; under titles of Viola 'tricolor' and 'bicolor
arvensis,' and Herba Trinitatis. Habitat ubique in _sterilibus_ arvis:
"Planta vix datur in qua evidentius perspicitur generationis opus, quam in
hujus cavo apertoque stigmate."
It is quite undeterminable, among present botanical instructors, how far
this plant is only a rampant and over-indulged condition of the true pansy
(Viola Psyche); but my own scholars are to remember that the true pansy is
full purple and blue with golden centre; and that the disorderly field
varieties of it, if indeed not scientifically distinguishable, are entirely
separate from the wild flower by their scattered form and faded or altered
colour. I follow the Flora Danica in giving them as a distinct species.
40. VIII. VIOLA PALUSTRIS. Marsh Violet. Flora Danica, 83. As there drawn,
the most finished and delicate in form of all the violet tribe; warm white,
streaked with red; and as pure in outline as an oxalis, both in flower and
leaf: it is like a violet imitating oxalis and anagallis.
In the Flora Suecica, the petal-markings are said to be black; in 'Viola
lactea' a connected species, (Sowerby, 45,) purple. Sowerby's plate of it
under the name 'palustris' is pale purple veined with darker; and the spur
is said to be 'honey-bearing,' which is the first mention I find of honey
in the violet. The habitat given, sandy and turfy heaths. It is said to
grow plentifully near Croydon.
Probably, therefore, a violet belonging to the chalk, on which nearly all
herbs that grow wild--from the grass to the bluebell--are singularly sweet
and pure. I hope some of my botanical scholars will take up this question
of the effect of different rocks on vegetation, not so much in bearing
different species of plants, as different characters of each species.
41. IX. VIOLA SECLUSA. Monk's Violet. "Hirta," Flora Danica, 618, "In
fruticetis raro." A true wood violet, full but dim in purple. Sowerby, 894,
makes it paler. The leaves very pure and severe in the Danish one;--longer
in the English. "Clothed on both sides with short, dense, hoary hairs."
Also belongs to chalk or limestone only (Sowerby).
X. VIOLA CANINA. Dog Violet. I have taken it for analysis in my two plates,
because its grace of form is too much despised, and we owe much more of the
beauty of spring to it, in English mountain ground, than to the Regina.
XI. VIOLA CORNUTA. Cow Violet. Enough described already.
XII. VIOLA RUPESTRIS. Crag Violet. On the high limestone moors of
Yorkshire, perhaps only an English form of Viola Aurea, but so much larger,
and so different in habit--growing on dry breezy downs, instead of in
dripping caves--that I allow it, for the present, separate name and
42. 'For the present,' I say all this work in 'Proserpina' being merely
tentative, much to be modified by future students, and therefore quite
different from that of 'Deucalion,' which is authoritative as far as it
reaches, and will stand out like a quartz dyke, as the sandy speculations
of modern gossiping geologists get washed away.
But in the meantime, I must again solemnly warn my girl-readers against all
study of floral genesis and digestion. How far flowers invite, or require,
flies to interfere in their family affairs--which of them are
carnivorous--and what forms of pestilence or infection are most favourable
to some vegetable and animal growths,--let them leave the people to settle
who like, as Toinette says of the Doctor in the 'Malade Imaginaire'--"y
mettre le nez." I observe a paper in the last 'Contemporary Review,'
announcing for a discovery patent to all mankind that the colours of
flowers were made "to attract insects"! They will next hear that the
rose was made for the canker, and the body of man for the worm.
43. What the colours of flowers, or of birds, or of precious stones, or of
the sea and air, and the blue mountains, and the evening and the morning,
and the clouds of Heaven, were given for--they only know who can see them
and can feel, and who pray that the sight and the love of them may be
prolonged, where cheeks will not fade, nor sunsets die.
44. And now, to close, let me give you some fuller account of the reasons
for the naming of the order to which the violet belongs, 'Cytherides.'
You see that the Uranides, are, as far as I could so gather them, of the
pure blue of the sky; but the Cytherides of altered blue;--the first,
Viola, typically purple; the second, Veronica, pale blue with a peculiar
light; the third, Giulietta, deep blue, passing strangely into a subdued
green before and after the full life of the flower.
All these three flowers have great strangenesses in them, and weaknesses;
the Veronica most wonderful in its connection with the poisonous tribe of
the foxgloves; the Giulietta, alone among flowers in the action of the
shielding leaves; and the Viola, grotesque and inexplicable in its hidden
structure, but the most sacred of all flowers to earthly and daily Love,
both in its scent and glow.
Now, therefore, let us look completely for the meaning of the two leading
"Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes,
Or Cytherea's breath."
45. Since, in my present writings, I hope to bring into one focus the
pieces of study fragmentarily given during past life, I may refer my
readers to the first chapter of the 'Queen of the Air' for the explanation
of the way in which all great myths are founded, partly on physical, partly
on moral fact,--so that it is not possible for persons who neither know the
aspect of nature, nor the constitution of the human soul, to understand a
word of them. Naming the Greek gods, therefore, you have first to think of
the physical power they represent. When Horace calls Vulcan 'Avidus,' he
thinks of him as the power of Fire; when he speaks of Jupiter's red right
hand, he thinks of him as the power of rain with lightning; and when Homer
speaks of Juno's dark eyes, you have to remember that she is the softer
form of the rain power, and to think of the fringes of the rain-cloud
across the light of the horizon. Gradually the idea becomes personal and
human in the "Dove's eyes within thy locks," and "Dove's eyes by the
river of waters" of the Song of Solomon.
46. "Or Cytherea's breath,"--the two thoughts of softest glance, and
softest kiss, being thus together associated with the flower: but note
especially that the Island of Cythera was dedicated to Venus because it was
the chief, if not the only Greek island, in which the purple fishery of
Tyre was established; and in our own minds should be marked not only as the
most southern fragment of true Greece, but the virtual continuation of the
chain of mountains which separate the Spartan from the Argive territories,
and are the natural home of the brightest Spartan and Argive beauty which
is symbolized in Helen.
47. And, lastly, in accepting for the order this name of Cytherides, you
are to remember the names of Viola and Giulietta, its two limiting
families, as those of Shakspeare's two most loving maids--the two who love
simply, and to the death: as distinguished from the greater natures in whom
earthly Love has its due part, and no more; and farther still from the
greatest, in whom the earthly love is quiescent, or subdued, beneath the
thoughts of duty and immortality.
It may be well quickly to mark for you the levels of loving temper in
Shakspeare's maids and wives, from the greatest to the least.
48. 1. Isabel. All earthly love, and the possibilities of it, held in
absolute subjection to the laws of God, and the judgments of His will. She
is Shakspeare's only 'Saint.' Queen Catherine, whom you might next think
of, is only an ordinary woman of trained religious temper:--her maid of
honour gives Wolsey a more Christian epitaph.
2. Cordelia. The earthly love consisting in diffused compassion of the
universal spirit; not in any conquering, personally fixed, feeling.
"Mine enemy's dog,
Though he had bit me, should have stood that night
Against my fire."
These lines are spoken in her hour of openest direct expression; and are
Shakspeare clearly does not mean her to have been supremely beautiful in
person; it is only her true lover who calls her 'fair' and 'fairest'--and
even that, I believe, partly in courtesy, after having the instant before
offered her to his subordinate duke; and it is only _his_ scorn of her
which makes France fully care for her.
"Gods, Gods, 'tis strange that from their cold neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect!"
Had she been entirely beautiful, he would have honoured her as a lover
should, even before he saw her despised; nor would she ever have been so
despised--or by her father, misunderstood. Shakspeare himself does not
pretend to know where her girl-heart was,--but I should like to hear how a
great actress would say the "Peace be with Burgundy!"
3. Portia. The maidenly passion now becoming great, and chiefly divine in
its humility, is still held absolutely subordinate to duty; no thought of
disobedience to her dead father's intention is entertained for an instant,
though the temptation is marked as passing, for that instant, before her
crystal strength. Instantly, in her own peace, she thinks chiefly of her
lover's;--she is a perfect Christian wife in a moment, coming to her
husband with the gift of perfect Peace,--
"Never shall you lie by Portia's side
With an unquiet soul."
She is highest in intellect of all Shakspeare's women, and this is the root
of her modesty; her 'unlettered girl' is like Newton's simile of the child
on the sea-shore. Her perfect wit and stern judgment are never disturbed
for an instant by her happiness: and the final key to her character is
given in her silent and slow return from Venice, where she stops at every
wayside shrine to pray.
4. Hermione. Fortitude and Justice personified, with unwearying affection.
She is Penelope, tried by her husband's fault as well as error.
5. Virgilia. Perfect type of wife and mother, but without definiteness of
character, nor quite strength of intellect enough entirely to hold her
husband's heart. Else, she had saved him: he would have left Rome in his
wrath--but not her. Therefore, it is his mother only who bends him: but she
6. Imogen. The ideal of grace and gentleness; but weak; enduring too
mildly, and forgiving too easily. But the piece is rather a pantomime than
play, and it is impossible to judge of the feelings of St. Columba, when
she must leave the stage in half a minute after mistaking the headless
clown for headless Arlecchino.
7. Desdemona, Ophelia, Rosalind. They are under different conditions from
all the rest, in having entirely heroic and faultless persons to love. I
can't class them, therefore,--fate is too strong, and leaves them no free
8. Perdita, Miranda. Rather mythic visions of maiden beauty than mere
9. Viola and Juliet. Love the ruling power in the entire character: wholly
virginal and pure, but quite earthly, and recognizing no other life than
his own. Viola is, however, far the noblest. Juliet will die unless Romeo
loves _her_: "If he be wed, the grave is like to be my wedding bed;" but
Viola is ready to die for the happiness of the man who does _not_ love her;
faithfully doing his messages to her rival, whom she examines strictly for
his sake. It is not in envy that she says, "Excellently done,--if God did
all." The key to her character is given in the least selfish of all lover's
songs, the one to which the Duke bids her listen:
"Mark it, Cesario,--it is old and plain,
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
And the free maids, that _weave their thread with bones_,
Do use to chaunt it."
(They, the unconscious Fates, weaving the fair vanity of life with death);
and the burden of it is--
"My part of Death, no one so true
Did share it."
Therefore she says, in the great first scene, "Was not _this_ love indeed?"
and in the less heeded closing one, her heart then happy with the knitters
in the _sun_,
"And all those sayings will I over-swear,
And all those swearings keep as true in soul
As doth that orbed continent the Fire
That severs day from night."
Or, at least, did once sever day from night,--and perhaps does still in
Illyria. Old England must seek new images for her loves from gas and
electric sparks,--not to say furnace fire.
I am obliged, by press of other work, to set down these notes in cruel
shortness: and many a reader may be disposed to question utterly the
standard by which the measurement is made. It will not be found, on
reference to my other books, that they encourage young ladies to go into
convents; or undervalue the dignity of wives and mothers. But, as surely as
the sun _does_ sever day from night, it will be found always that the
noblest and loveliest women are dutiful and religious by continual nature;
and their passions are trained to obey them; like their dogs. Homer,
indeed, loves Helen with all his heart, and restores her, after all her
naughtiness, to the queenship of her household; but he never thinks of her
as Penelope's equal, or Iphigenia's. Practically, in daily life, one often
sees married women as good as saints; but rarely, I think, unless they have
a good deal to bear from their husbands. Sometimes also, no doubt, the
husbands have some trouble in managing St. Cecilia or St. Elizabeth; of
which questions I shall be obliged to speak more seriously in another
place: content, at present, if English maids know better, by Proserpina's
help, what Shakspeare meant by the dim, and Milton by the glowing, violet.
* * * * *
(Written in early June, 1881.)
1. On the rocks of my little stream, where it runs, or leaps, through the
moorland, the common Pinguicula is now in its perfectest beauty; and it is
one of the offshoots of the violet tribe which I have to place in the minor
collateral groups of Viola very soon, and must not put off looking at it
till next year.
There are three varieties given in Sowerby: 1. Vulgaris, 2.
Greater-flowered, and 3. Lusitanica, white, for the most part, pink, or
'carnea,' sometimes: but the proper colour of the family is violet, and the
perfect form of the plant is the 'vulgar' one. The larger-flowered variety
is feebler in colour, and ruder in form: the white Spanish one, however, is
very lovely, as far as I can judge from Sowerby's (_old_ Sowerby's) pretty
The 'frequent' one (I shall usually thus translate 'vulgaris'), is not by
any means so 'frequent' as the Queen violet, being a true wild-country, and
mostly Alpine, plant; and there is also a real 'Pinguicula Alpina,' which
we have not in England, who might be the Regina, if the group were large
enough to be reigned over: but it is better not to affect Royalty among
these confused, intermediate, or dependent families.
2. In all the varieties of Pinguicula, each blossom has one stalk only,
growing from the _ground_ and you may pull all the leaves away from the
base of it, and keep the flower only, with its bunch of short fibrous
roots, half an inch long; looking as if bitten at the ends. Two flowers,
characteristically,--three and four very often,--spring from the same root,
in places where it grows luxuriantly; and luxuriant growth means that
clusters of some twenty or thirty stars may be seen on the surface of a
square yard of boggy ground, quite to its mind; but its real glory is in
harder life, in the crannies of well-wetted rock.
3. What I have called 'stars' are irregular clusters of approximately, or
tentatively, five aloeine ground leaves, of very pale green,--they may be
six or seven, or more, but always run into a rudely pentagonal arrangement,
essentially first trine, with two succeeding above. Taken as a whole the
_plant_ is really a main link between violets and Droseras; but the
_flower_ has much more violet than Drosera in the make of it,--spurred, and
_five-petaled_, and held down by the top of its bending stalk as a
violet is; only its upper two petals are not reverted--the calyx, of a dark
soppy green, holding them down, with its three front sepals set exactly
like a strong trident, its two backward sepals clasping the spur. There are
often six sepals, four to the front, but the normal number is five. Tearing
away the calyx, I find the flower to have been held by it as a lion might
hold his prey by the loins if he missed its throat; the blue petals being
really campanulate, and the flower best described as a dark bluebell,
seized and crushed almost flat by its own calyx in a rage. Pulling away now
also the upper petals, I find that what are in the violet the lateral and
well-ordered fringes, are here thrown mainly on the lower (largest) petal
near its origin, and opposite the point of the seizure by the calyx,
spreading from this centre over the surface of the lower petals, partly
like an irregular shower of fine Venetian glass broken, partly like the
wild-flung Medusa like embroidery of the white Lucia.
4. The calyx is of a dark _soppy_ green, I said; like that of sugary
preserved citron; the root leaves are of green just as soppy, but pale and
yellowish, as if they were half decayed; the edges curled up and, as it
were, water-shrivelled, as one's fingers shrivel if kept too long in water.
And the whole plant looks as if it had been a violet unjustly banished to a
bog, and obliged to live there--not for its own sins, but for some Emperor
Pansy's, far away in the garden,--in a partly boggish, partly hoggish
manner, drenched and desolate; and with something of demoniac temper got
into its calyx, so that it quarrels with, and bites the corolla;--something
of gluttonous and greasy habit got into its leaves; a discomfortable
sensuality, even in its desolation. Perhaps a penguin-ish life would be
truer of it than a piggish, the _nest_ of it being indeed on the rock, or
morassy rock-investiture, like a sea-bird's on her rock ledge.
5. I have hunted through seven treatises on Botany, namely, Loudon's
Encyclopaedia, Balfour, Grindon, Oliver, Baxter of Oxford, Lindley ('Ladies'
Botany'), and Figuer, without being able to find the meaning of
'Lentibulariaceae,' to which tribe the Pinguicula is said by them all
(except Figuier) to belong. It may perhaps be in Sowerby: but these
above-named treatises are precisely of the kind with which the ordinary
scholar must be content: and in all of them he has to learn this long,
worse than useless, word, under which he is betrayed into classing together
two orders naturally quite distinct, the Butterworts and the Bladderworts.
Whatever the name may mean--it is bad Latin. There is such a word as
Lenticularis--there is no Lentibularis; and it must positively trouble us
The Butterworts are a perfectly distinct group--whether small or large,
always recognizable at a glance. Their proper Latin name will be
Pinguicula, (plural Pinguiculae,)--their English, Bog-Violet, or, more
familiarly, Butterwort; and their French, as at present, _Grassette_.
The families to be remembered will be only five, namely,
1. Pinguicula Major, the largest of the group. As bog plants, Ireland may
rightly claim the noblest of them, which certainly grow there luxuriantly,
and not (I believe) with us. Their colour is, however, more broken and less
characteristic than that of the following species.
2. Pinguicula Violacea: Violet-coloured Butterwort, (instead of
'vulgaris,') the common English and Swiss kind above noticed.
3. Pinguicula Alpina: Alpine Butterwort, white and much smaller than either
of the first two families; the spur especially small, according to D. 453.
Much rarer, as well as smaller, than the other varieties in Southern
Europe. "In Britain, known only upon the moors of Rosehaugh, Ross-shire,
where the progress of cultivation seems likely soon to efface it."
4. Pinguicula Pallida: Pale Butterwort. From Sowerby's drawing, (135, vol.
iii,) it would appear to be the most delicate and lovely of all the group.
The leaves, "like those of other species, but rather more delicate and
pellucid, reticulated with red veins, and much involute in the margin. Tube
of the corolla, yellow, streaked with red, (the streaks like those of a
pansy); the petals, pale violet. It much resembles Villosa, (our Minima,
No. 5,) in many particulars, the stem being hairy, and in the lower part
the hairs tipped with a viscid fluid, like a sundew. But the Villosa has a
slender sharp spur; and in this the spur is blunt and thick at the end."
(Since the hairy stem is not peculiar to Villosa, I take for her, instead,
the epithet Minima, which is really definitive.)
The pale one is commonly called 'Lusitanica,' but I find no direct notice
of its Portuguese habitation. Sowerby's plant came from Blandford,
Dorsetshire; and Grindon says it is frequent in Ireland, abundant in Arran,
and extends on the western side of the British island from Cornwall to Cape
Wrath. My epithet, Pallida, is secure, and simple, wherever the plant is
[Illustration: FIG. III.]
5. Pinguicula Minima: Least Butterwort; in D. 1021 called Villosa, the
_scape_ of it being hairy. I have not yet got rid of this absurd word
'scape,' meaning, in botanist's Latin, the flower-stalk of a flower growing
out of a cluster of leaves on the ground. It is a bad corruption of
'sceptre,' and especially false and absurd, because a true sceptre is
necessarily branched. In 'Proserpina,' when it is spoken of
distinctively, it is called 'virgula' (see vol. i., pp. 146, 147, 151,
152). The hairs on the virgula are in this instance so minute, that even
with a lens I cannot see them in the Danish plate: of which Fig. 3 is a
rough translation into woodcut, to show the grace and mien of the little
thing. The trine leaf cluster is characteristic, and the folding up of the
leaf edges. The flower, in the Danish plate, full purple. Abundant in east
of _Finmark_ (Finland?), but _always growing in marsh moss_, (Sphagnum
6. I call it 'Minima' only, as the least of the five here named; without
putting forward any claim for it to be the smallest pinguicula that ever
was or will be. In such sense only, the epithets minima or maxima are to be
understood when used in 'Proserpina': and so also, every statement and
every principle is only to be understood as true or tenable, respecting the
plants which the writer has seen, and which he is sure that the reader can
easily see: liable to modification to any extent by wider experience; but
better first learned securely within a narrow fence, and afterwards trained
or fructified, along more complex trellises.
7. And indeed my readers--at least, my newly found readers--must note
always that the only power which I claim for any of my books, is that of
being right and true as far as they reach. None of them pretend to be
Kosmoses;--none to be systems of Positivism or Negativism, on which the
earth is in future to swing instead of on its old worn-out poles;--none of
them to be works of genius;--none of them to be, more than all true work
_must_ be, pious;--and none to be, beyond the power of common people's
eyes, ears, and noses, 'aesthetic.' They tell you that the world is _so_
big, and can't be made bigger--that you yourself are also so big, and can't
be made bigger, however you puff or bloat yourself; but that, on modern
mental nourishment, you may very easily be made smaller. They tell you that
two and two are four, that ginger is hot in the mouth, that roses are red,
and smuts black. Not themselves assuming to be pious, they yet assure you
that there is such a thing as piety in the world, and that it is wiser than
impiety; and not themselves pretending to be works of genius, they yet
assure you that there is such a thing as genius in the world, and that it
is meant for the light and delight of the world.
8. Into these repetitions of remarks on my work, often made before, I have
been led by an unlucky author who has just sent me his book, advising me
that it is "neither critical nor sentimental" (he had better have said in
plain English "without either judgment or feeling"), and in which nearly
the first sentence I read is--"Solomon with all his acuteness was not wise
enough to ... etc., etc., etc." ('give the Jews the British constitution,'
I believe the man means.) He is not a whit more conceited than Mr. Herbert
Spencer, or Mr. Goldwin Smith, or Professor Tyndall,--or any lively London
apprentice out on a Sunday; but this general superciliousness with respect
to Solomon, his Proverbs, and his politics, characteristic of the modern
Cockney, Yankee, and Anglicised Scot, is a difficult thing to deal with for
us of the old school, who were well whipped when we were young; and have
been in the habit of occasionally ascertaining our own levels as we grew
older, and of recognizing that, here and there, somebody stood higher, and
9. A difficult thing to deal with, I feel more and more, hourly, even to
the point of almost ceasing to write; not only every feeling I have, but,
of late, even _every word I use_, being alike inconceivable to the
insolence, and unintelligible amidst the slang, of the modern London
writers. Only in the last magazine I took up, I found an article by Mr.
Goldwin Smith on the Jews (of which the gist--as far as it had any--was
that we had better give up reading the Bible), and in the text of which I
found the word 'tribal' repeated about ten times in every page. Now, if
'tribe' makes 'tribal,' tube must make tubal, cube, cubal, and gibe, gibal;
and I suppose we shall next hear of tubal music, cubal minerals, and gibal
conversation! And observe how all this bad English leads instantly to
blunder in thought, prolonged indefinitely. The Jewish Tribes are not
separate races, but the descendants of brothers. The Roman Tribes,
political divisions; essentially Trine: and the whole force of the word
Tribune vanishes, as soon as the ear is wrung into acceptance of his lazy
innovation by the modern writer. Similarly, in the last elements of
mineralogy I took up, the first order of crystals was called 'tesseral';
the writer being much too fine to call them 'four-al,' and too much bent on
distinguishing himself from all previous writers to call them cubic.
10. What simple schoolchildren, and sensible schoolmasters, are to do in
this atmosphere of Egyptian marsh, which rains fools upon them like frogs,
I can no more with any hope or patience conceive;--but this finally I
repeat, concerning my own books, that they are written in honest English,
of good Johnsonian lineage, touched here and there with colour of a little
finer or Elizabethan quality: and that the things they tell you are
comprehensible by any moderately industrious and intelligent person; and
_accurate_, to a degree which the accepted methods of modern science
cannot, in my own particular fields, approach.
11. Of which accuracy, the reader may observe for immediate instance, my
extrication for him, from among the uvularias, of these five species of the
Butterwort; which, being all that need be distinctly named and remembered,
_do_ need to be first carefully distinguished, and then remembered in their
companionship. So alike are they, that Gerarde makes no distinction among
them; but masses them under the general type of the frequent English one,
described as the second kind of his promiscuous group of 'Sanicle,' "which
Clusius calleth Pinguicula; not before his time remembered, hath sundry
small thick leaves, fat and full of juice, being broad towards the root and
sharp towards the point, of a faint green colour, and bitter in taste; out
of the middest whereof sprouteth or shooteth up a naked slender stalke nine
inches long, every stalke bearing one flower and no more, sometimes white,
and sometimes of a bluish purple colour, fashioned like unto the common
Monkshoods" (he means Larkspurs) "called Consolida Regalis, having the like
spur or Lark's heel attached thereto." Then after describing a third kind
of Sanicle--(Cortusa Mathioli, a large-leaved Alpine Primula,) he goes on:
"These plants are strangers in England; their natural country is the alpish
mountains of Helvetia. They grow in my garden, where they flourish
exceedingly, except Butterwoort, which groweth in our English _squally_ wet
grounds,"--('Squally,' I believe, here, from squalidus, though Johnson does
not give this sense; but one of his quotations from Ben Jonson touches it
nearly: "Take heed that their new flowers and sweetness do not as much
corrupt as the others' dryness and squalor,"--and note farther that the
word 'squal,' in the sense of gust, is not pure English, but the Arabic
'Chuaul' with an s prefixed:--the English word, a form of 'squeal,' meaning
a child's cry, from Gothic 'Squaela' and Icelandic 'squilla,' would scarcely
have been made an adjective by Gerarde),--"and will not yield to any
culturing or transplanting: it groweth especially in a field called Cragge
Close, and at Crosbie Ravenswaithe, in Westmerland; (West-_mere_-land you
observe, not mor) upon Ingleborough Fells, twelve miles from Lancaster, and
by Harwoode in the same county near to Blackburn: ten miles from Preston,
in Anderness, upon the bogs and marish ground, and in the boggie meadows
about Bishop's-Hatfield, and also in the fens in the way to Wittles Meare"
(Roger Wildrake's Squattlesea Mere?) "from Fendon, in Huntingdonshire."
Where doubtless Cromwell ploughed it up, in his young days, pitilessly; and
in nowise pausing, as Burns beside his fallen daisy.
12. Finally, however, I believe we may accept its English name of
'Butterwort' as true Yorkshire, the more enigmatic form of 'Pigwilly'
preserving the tradition of the flowers once abounding, with softened Latin
name, in Pigwilly bottom, close to Force bridge, by Kendal. Gerarde draws
the English variety as "Pinguicula sive Sanicula Eboracensis,--Butterwoort,
or Yorkshire Sanicle;" and he adds: "The husbandmen's wives of Yorkshire do
use to anoint the dugs of their kine with the fat and oilous juice of the
herb Butterwort when they be bitten of any venomous worm, or chapped,
rifted and hurt by any other means."
13. In Lapland it is put to much more certain use; "it is called Taetgrass,
and the leaves are used by the inhabitants to make their 'taet miolk,' a
preparation of milk in common use among them. Some fresh leaves are laid
upon a filter, and milk, yet warm from the reindeer, is poured over them.
After passing quickly through the filter, this is allowed to rest for one
or two days until it becomes ascescent, when it is found not to have
separated from the whey, and yet to have attained much greater tenacity and
consistence than it would have done otherwise. The Laplanders and Swedes
are said to be extremely fond of this milk, which when once made, it is not
necessary to renew the use of the leaves, for we are told that a spoonful
of it will turn another quantity of warm milk, and make it like the
first." (Baxter, vol. iii., No. 209.)
14. In the same page, I find quoted Dr. Johnston's observation that "when
specimens of this plant were somewhat rudely pulled up, the flower-stalk,
previously erect, almost immediately began to bend itself backwards, and
formed a more or less perfect segment of a circle; and so also, if a
specimen is placed in the Botanic box, you will in a short time find that
the leaves have curled themselves backwards, and now conceal the root by
I have no doubt that this elastic and wiry action is partly connected with
the plant's more or less predatory or fly-trap character, in which these
curiously degraded plants are associated with Drosera. I separate them
therefore entirely from the Bladderworts, and hold them to be a link
between the Violets and the Droseraceae, placing them, however, with the
Cytherides, as a sub-family, for their beautiful colour, and because they
are indeed a grace and delight in ground which, but for them, would be
painfully and rudely desolate.
* * * * *
1. "The Corolla of the Foxglove," says Dr. Lindley, beginning his account
of the tribe at page 195 of the first volume of his 'Ladies' Botany,' "is a
large inflated body(!), with its throat spotted with rich purple, and its
border divided obliquely into five very short lobes, of which the two upper
are the smaller; its four stamens are of unequal length, and its style is
divided into two lobes at the upper end. A number of long hairs cover the
ovary, which contains two cells and a great quantity of ovules.
"This" (_sc._ information) "will show you what is the usual character of
the Foxglove tribe; and you will find that all the other genera referred to
it in books agree with it essentially, although they differ in subordinate
points. It is chiefly (A) in the form of the corolla, (B) in the number of
the stamens, (C) in the consistence of the rind of the fruit, (D) in its
form, (E) in the number of the seeds it contains, and (F) in the manner in
which the sepals are combined, that these differences consist."
2. The enumerative letters are of my insertion--otherwise the above
sentence is, word for word, Dr. Lindley's,--and it seems to me an
interesting and memorable one in the history of modern Botanical science.
For it appears from the tenor of it, that in a scientific botanist's mind,
six particulars, at least, in the character of a plant, are merely
1. (F) The combination of its calyx,
2. (A) The shape of its corolla,
3. (B) The number of its stamens,
4. (D) The form of its fruit,
5. (C) The consistence of its shell,--and
6. (E) The number of seeds in it.
Abstracting, then, from the primary description, all the six inessential
points, I find the three essential ones left are, that the style is divided
into two lobes at the upper end, that a number of glandular hairs cover the
ovary, and that this latter contains two cells.
3. None of which particulars concern any reasonable mortal, looking at a
Foxglove, in the smallest degree. Whether hairs which he can't see are
glandular or bristly,--whether the green knobs, which are left when the
purple bells are gone, are divided into two lobes or two hundred,--and
whether the style is split, like a snake's tongue, into two lobes, or like
a rogue's, into any number--are merely matters of vulgar curiosity, which
he needs a microscope to discover, and will lose a day of his life in
discovering. But if any pretty young Proserpina, escaped from the Plutonic
durance of London, and carried by the tubular process, which replaces
Charon's boat, over the Lune at Lancaster, cares to come and walk on the
Coniston hills in a summer morning, when the eyebright is out on the high
fields, she may gather, with a little help from Brantwood garden, a bouquet
of the entire Foxglove tribe in flower, as it is at present defined, and
may see what they are like, altogether.
4. She shall gather: first, the Euphrasy, which makes the turf on the brow
of the hill glitter as if with new-fallen manna; then, from one of the blue
clusters on the top of the garden wall, the common bright blue Speedwell;
and, from the garden bed beneath, a dark blue spire of Veronica spicata;
then, at the nearest opening into the wood, a little foxglove in its first
delight of shaking out its bells; then--what next does the Doctor say?--a
snapdragon? we must go back into the garden for that--here is a goodly
crimson one, but what the little speedwell will think of him for a relative
_I_ can't think!--a mullein?--that we must do without for the moment; a
monkey flower?--that we will do without, altogether; a lady's slipper?--say
rather a goblin's with the gout! but, such as the flower-cobbler has made
it, here is one of the kind that people praise, out of the greenhouse,--and
yet a figwort we must have, too; which I see on referring to Loudon, may be
balm-leaved, hemp-leaved, tansy-leaved, nettle-leaved, wing-leaved,
heart-leaved, ear-leaved, spear-leaved, or lyre-leaved. I think I can find
a balm-leaved one, though I don't know what to make of it when I've got it,
but it's called a 'Scorodonia' in Sowerby, and something very ugly
besides;--I'll put a bit of Teucrium Scorodonia in, to finish: and now--how
will my young Proserpina arrange her bouquet, and rank the family relations
to their contentment?
5. She has only one kind of flowers--in her hand, as botanical
classification stands at present; and whether the system be more rational,
or in any human sense more scientific, which puts calceolaria and speedwell
together,--and foxglove and euphrasy; and runs them on one side into the
mints, and on the other into the nightshades;--naming them, meanwhile, some
from diseases, some from vermin, some from blockheads, and the rest
anyhow:--or the method I am pleading for, which teaches us, watchful of
their seasonable return and chosen abiding places, to associate in our
memory the flowers which truly resemble, or fondly companion, or, in time
kept by the signs of Heaven, succeed, each other; and to name them in some
historical connection with the loveliest fancies and most helpful faiths of
the ancestral world--Proserpina be judge; with every maid that sets flowers
on brow or breast--from Thule to Sicily.
6. We will unbind our bouquet, then, and putting all the rest of its
flowers aside, examine the range and nature of the little blue cluster
And first--we have to note of it, that the plan of the blossom in all the
kinds is the same; an irregular quatre-foil: and irregular quatrefoils are
of extreme rarity in flower form. I don't myself know _one_, except the
Veronica. The cruciform vegetables--the heaths, the olives, the lilacs, the
little Tormentillas, and the poppies, are all perfectly symmetrical. Two of
the petals, indeed, as a rule, are different from the other two, except in
the heaths; and thus a distinctly crosslet form obtained, but always an
equally balanced one: while in the Veronica, as in the Violet, the blossom
always refers itself to a supposed place on the stalk with respect to the
ground; and the upper petal is always the largest.
The supposed place is often very suppositious indeed--for clusters of the
common veronicas, if luxuriant, throw their blossoms about anywhere. But
the idea of an upper and lower petal is always kept in the flower's little
7. In the second place, it is a quite open and flat quatrefoil--so
separating itself from the belled quadrature of the heath, and the tubed
and primrose-like quadrature of the cruciferae; and, both as a quatrefoil,
and as an open one, it is separated from the foxgloves and snapdragons,
which are neither quatrefoils, nor open; but are cinqfoils shut up!
8. In the third place, open and flat though the flower be, it is
monopetalous; all the four arms of the cross strictly becoming one in the
centre; so that, though the blue foils _look_ no less sharply separate than
those of a buttercup or a cistus; and are so delicate that one expects them
to fall from their stalk if we breathe too near,--do but lay hold of
one,--and, at the touch, the entire blossom is lifted from its stalk, and
may be laid, in perfect shape, on our paper before us, as easily as if it
had been a nicely made-up blue bonnet, lifted off its stand by the
I pause here, to consider a little; because I find myself mixing up two
characteristics which have nothing necessary in their relation;--namely,
the unity of the blossom, and its coming easily off the stalk. The separate
petals of the cistus and cherry fall as easily as the foxglove drops its
bells;--on the other hand, there are monopetalous things that don't drop,
but hold on like the convoluta, and make the rest of the tree sad for
their dying. I do not see my way to any systematic noting of decadent or
persistent corolla; but, in passing, we may thank the veronica for never
allowing us to see how it fades, and being always cheerful and lovely,
while it is with us.
9. And for a farther specialty, I think we should take note of the purity
and simplicity of its _floral_ blue, not sprinkling itself with unwholesome
sugar like a larkspur, nor varying into coppery or turquoise-like hue as
the forget-me-not; but keeping itself as modest as a blue print, pale, in
the most frequent kinds; but pure exceedingly; and rejoicing in fellowship
with the grey of its native rocks. The palest of all I think it will be
well to remember as Veronica Clara, the "Poor Clare" of Veronicas. I find
this note on it in my diary,--
'The flower of an exquisite grey-white, like lichen, or shaded hoar-frost,
or dead silver; making the long-weathered stones it grew upon perfect with
a finished modesty of paleness, as if the flower _could_ be blue, and would
not, for their sake. Laying its fine small leaves along in embroidery, like
Anagallis tenella,--indescribable in the tender feebleness of
it--afterwards as it grew, dropping the little blossoms from the base of
the spire, before the buds at the top had blown. Gathered, it was happy
beside me, with a little water under a stone, and put out one pale blossom
after another, day by day.'
10. Lastly, and for a high worthiness, in my estimate, note that it is
_wild_, of the wildest, and proud in pure descent of race; submitting
itself to no follies of the cur-breeding florist. Its species, though many
resembling each other, are severally constant in aspect, and easily
recognizable; and I have never seen it provoked to glare into any gigantic
impudence at a flower show. Fortunately, perhaps, it is scentless, and so
11. Before I attempt arranging its families, we must note that while the
corolla itself is one of the most constant in form, and so distinct from
all other blossoms that it may be always known at a glance; the leaves and
habit of growth vary so greatly in families of different climates, and
those born for special situations, moist or dry, and the like, that it is
quite impossible to characterize Veronic, or Veronique, vegetation in
general terms. One can say, comfortably, of a strawberry, that it is a
creeper, without expecting at the next moment to see a steeple of
strawberry blossoms rise to contradict us;--we can venture to say of a
foxglove that it grows in a spire, without any danger of finding, farther
on, a carpet of prostrate and entangling digitalis; and we may pronounce of
a buttercup that it grows mostly in meadows, without fear of finding
ourselves, at the edge of the next thicket, under the shadow of a
buttercup-bush growing into valuable timber. But the Veronica reclines with
the lowly, upon occasion, and aspires, with the proud; is here the
pleased companion of the ground-ivies, and there the unrebuked rival of the
larkspurs: on the rocks of Coniston it effaces itself almost into the film
of a lichen; it pierces the snows of Iceland with the gentian: and in the
Falkland Islands is a white-blossomed evergreen, of which botanists are in
dispute whether it be Veronica or Olive.
12. Of these many and various forms, I find the manners and customs alike
inconstant; and this of especially singular in them--that the Alpine and
northern species bloom hardily in contest with the retiring snows, while
with us they wait till the spring is past, and offer themselves to us only
in consolation for the vanished violet and primrose. As we farther examine
the ways of plants, I suppose we shall find some that determine upon a
fixed season, and will bloom methodically in June or July, whether in
Abyssinia or Greenland; and others, like the violet and crocus, which are
flowers of the spring, at whatever time of the favouring or frowning year
the spring returns to their country. I suppose also that botanists and
gardeners know all these matters thoroughly: but they don't put them into
their books, and the clear notions of them only come to me now, as I think
13. Broadly, however, the families of the Veronica fall into three main
divisions,--those which have round leaves lobed at the edge, like ground
ivy; those which have small thyme-like leaves; and those which have long
leaves like a foxglove's, only smaller--never more than two or two and a
half inches long. I therefore take them in these connections, though
without any bar between the groups; only separating the Regina from the
other thyme-leaved ones, to give her due precedence; and the rest will then
arrange themselves into twenty families, easily distinguishable and
[Illustration: FIG. IV.]
I have chosen for Veronica Regina, the brave Icelandic one, which pierces
the snow in first spring, with lovely small shoots of perfectly set leaves,
no larger than a grain of wheat; the flowers in a lifted cluster of five or
six together, not crowded, yet not loose; large, for veronica--about the
size of a silver penny, or say half an inch across--deep blue, with ruby
My woodcut, Fig. 4, is outlined from the beautiful engraving D.
342,--there called 'fruticulosa,' from the number of the young shoots.
14. Beneath the Regina, come the twenty easily distinguished families,
1. Chamaedrys. 'Ground-oak.' I cannot tell why so called--its small and
rounded leaves having nothing like oak leaves about them, except the
serration, which is common to half, at least, of all leaves that grow. But
the idea is all over Europe, apparently. Fr. 'petit chene:' German and
English 'Germander,' a merely corrupt form of Chamaedrys.
The representative English veronica "Germander Speedwell"--very prettily
drawn in S. 986; too tall and weed-like in D. 448.
2. Hederifolia. Ivy-leaved: but more properly, cymbalaria-leaved. It is the
English field representative, though blue-flowered, of the Byzantine white
veronica, V. Cymbalaria, very beautifully drawn in G. 9. Hederifolia well
in D. 428.
3. Agrestis. Fr. 'Rustique.' We ought however clearly to understand whether
'agrestis,' used by English botanists, is meant to imply a literally field
flower, or only a 'rustic' one, which might as properly grow in a wood. I
shall always myself use 'agrestis' in the literal sense, and 'rustica' for
'rustique.' I see no reason, in the present case, for separating the Polite
from the Rustic flower: the agrestis, D. 449 and S. 971, seems to me not
more meekly recumbent, nor more frankly cultureless, than the so-called
Polita, S. 972: there seems also no French acknowledgment of its
politeness, and the Greek family, G. 8, seem the rudest and wildest of all.
Quite a _field_ flower it is, I believe, lying always low on the ground;
recumbent, but not creeping. Note this difference: no fastening roots are
thrown out by the reposing stems of this Veronica; a creeping or accurately
'rampant' plant roots itself in advancing. Conf. Nos. 5, 6.
4. Arvensis. We have yet to note a still finer distinction in epithet.
'Agrestis' will properly mean a flower of the open ground--yet not caring
whether the piece of earth be cultivated or not, so long as it is under
clear sky. But when _agri_-culture has turned the unfruitful acres into
'arva beata,'--if then the plant thrust itself between the furrows of the
plough, it is properly called 'Arvensis.'
I don't quite see my way to the same distinction in English,--perhaps I may
get into the habit, as time goes on, of calling the Arvenses consistently
furrow-flowers, and the Agrestes field-flowers. Furrow-veronica is a
tiresomely long name, but must do for the present, as the best
interpretation of its Latin character, "vulgatissima in cultis et arvis."
D. 515. The blossom itself is exquisitely delicate; and we may be thankful,
both here and in Denmark, for such a lovely 'vulgate.'
5. Montana. D. 1201. The first really creeping plant we have had to notice.
It throws out roots from the recumbent stems. Otherwise like agrestis, it
has leaves like ground-ivy. Called a wood species in the text of D.
6. Persica. An eastern form, but now perfectly naturalized here--D. 1982;
S. 973. The flowers very large, and extremely beautiful, but only one
springing from each leaf-axil.
Leaves and stem like Montana; and also creeping with new-roots at
7. Triphylla, (not triphyll_os_,--see Flora Suecica, 22). Meaning
trifid-leaved; but the leaf is really divided into five lobes, not
three--see S. 974, and G. 10. The palmate form of the leaf seems a mere
caprice, and indicates no transitional form in the plant: it may be
accepted as only a momentary compliment of mimicry to the geraniums. The
Siberian variety, 'multifida,' C. 1679, divides itself almost as the
submerged leaves of the water-ranunculus.
The triphylla itself is widely diffused, growing alike on the sandy fields
of Kent, and of Troy. In D. 627 is given an extremely delicate and minute
northern type, the flowers springing as in Persica, one from each
leaf-axil, and at distant intervals.
8. Officinalis. D. 248, S. 294. Fr. 'Veronique officinale'; (Germ.
Gebrauchlicher Ehrenpreis,) our commonest English and Welsh speedwell;
richest in cluster and frankest in roadside growth, whether on bank or
rock; but assuredly liking _either_ a bank _or_ a rock, and the top of a
wall better than the shelter of one. Uncountable 'myriads,' I am tempted to
write, but, cautiously and literally, 'hundreds' of blossoms--if one
_could_ count,--ranging certainly towards the thousand in some groups, all
bright at once, make our Westmoreland lanes look as if they were decked for
weddings, in early summer. In the Danish Flora it is drawn small and poor;
its southern type being the true one: but it is difficult to explain the
difference between the look of a flower which really _suffers_, as in this
instance, by a colder climate, and becomes mean and weak, as well as
dwarfed; and one which is braced and brightened by the cold, though
diminished, as if under the charge and charm of an affectionate fairy, and
becomes a joyfully patriotic inheritor of wilder scenes and skies.
Medicinal, to soul and body alike, this gracious and domestic flower;
though astringent and bitter in the juice. It is the Welsh deeply honoured
'Fluellen.'--See final note on the myth of Veronica, see Sec. 18.
9. Thymifolia. Thyme-leaved, G. 6. Of course the longest possible
word--serpyllifolia--is used in S. 978. It is a high mountain plant,
growing on the top of Crete as the snow retires; and the Veronica minor of
Gerarde; "the roote is small and threddie, taking hold of the _upper
surface_ of the earth, where it spreadeth." So also it is drawn as a
creeper in F. 492, where the flower appears to be oppressed and concealed
by the leafage.
10. Minuta, called 'hirsuta' in S. 985: an ugly characteristic to name the
lovely little thing by. The distinct blue lines in the petals might perhaps
justify 'picta' or 'lineata,' rather than an epithet of size; but I suppose
it is Gerarde's Minima, and so leave it, more safely named as 'minute' than
'least.' For I think the next variety may dispute the leastness.
[Illustration: FIG. V.]
11. Verna. D. 252. Mountains, in dry places in early spring. Upright, and
confused in the leafage, which is sharp-pointed and close set, much hiding
the blossom, but of extreme elegance, fit for a sacred foreground; as any
gentle student will feel, who copies this outline from the Flora Danica,
12. Peregrina. Another extremely small variety, nearly pink in colour,
passing into bluish lilac and white. American; but called, I do not see
why, 'Veronique _voyageuse_,' by the French, and Fremder Ehrenpreis in
Germany. Given as a frequent English weed in S. 927.
13. Alpina. Veronique des Alpes. Gebirgs Ehrenpreis. Still minute; its
scarcely distinct flowers forming a close head among the leaves;
round-petalled in D. 16, but sharp, as usual, in S. 980. On the Norway Alps
in grassy places; and in Scotland by the side of mountain rills; but rare.
On Ben Nevis and Lachin y Gair (S.)
14. Scutellata. From the shield-like shape of its seed-vessels. Veronique a
Ecusson; Schildfruchtiger Ehrenpreis. But the seed-vessels are more heart
shape than shield. Marsh Speedwell. S. 988, D. 209,--in the one pink, in
the other blue; but again in D. 1561, pink.
"In flooded meadows, common." (D.) A spoiled and scattered form; the seeds
too conspicuous, but the flowers very delicate, hence 'Gratiola minima' in
Gesner. The confused ramification of the clusters worth noting, in relation
to the equally straggling fibres of root.
15. Spicata. S. 982: very prettily done, representing the inside of the
flower as deep blue, the outside pale. The top of the spire, all calices,
the calyx being indeed, through all the veronicas, an important and
The tendency to arrange itself in spikes is to be noted as a degradation of
the veronic character; connecting it on one side with the snapdragons, on
the other with the ophryds. In Veronica Ophrydea, (C. 2210,) this
resemblance to the contorted tribe is carried so far that "the corolla of
the veronica becomes irregular, the tube gibbous, the faux (throat) hairy,
and three of the laciniae (lobes of petals) variously twisted." The spire of
blossom, violet-coloured, is then close set, and exactly resembles an
ophryd, except in being sharper at the top. The engraved outline of the
blossom is good, and very curious.
16. Gentianoides. This is the most directly and curiously imitative among
the--shall we call them--'histrionic' types of Veronica. It grows exactly
like a clustered upright gentian; has the same kind of leaves at its root,
and springs with the same bright vitality among the retiring snows of the
Bithynian Olympus. (G. 5.) If, however, the Caucasian flower, C. 1002, be
the same, it has lost its perfect grace in luxuriance, growing as large as
an asphodel, and with root-leaves half a foot long.
The petals are much veined; and this, of all veronicas, has the lower petal
smallest in proportion to the three above,--"triplo aut quadruplo minori."
17. Stagnarum. Marsh-Veronica. The last four families we have been
examining vary from the typical Veronicas not only in their lance-shaped
clusters, but in their lengthened, and often every way much enlarged leaves
also: and the two which we now will take in association, 17 and 18, carry
the change in aspect farthest of any, being both of them true water-plants,
with strong stems and thick leaves. The present name of my Veronica
Stagnarum is however V. anagallis, a mere insult to the little water
primula, which one plant of the Veronica would make fifty of. This is a
rank water-weed, having confused bunches of blossom and seed, like unripe
currants, dangling from the leaf-axils. So that where the little triphylla,
(No. 7, above,) has only one blossom, daintily set, and well seen, this has
a litter of twenty-five or thirty on a long stalk, of which only three or
four are well out as flowers, and the rest are mere knobs of bud or seed.
The stalk is thick (half an inch round at the bottom), the leaves long and
misshapen. "Frequens in fossis," D. 203. French, Mouron d'Eau, but I don't
know the root or exact meaning of Mouron.
An ugly Australian species, 'labiata,' C. 1660, has leaves two inches long,
of the shape of an aloe's, and partly aloeine in texture, "sawed with
unequal, fleshy, pointed teeth."
18. Fontium. Brook-Veronica. Brook-_Lime_, the Anglo-Saxon 'lime' from
Latin limus, meaning the soft mud of streams. German 'Bach-bunge'
(Brook-purse?) ridiculously changed by the botanists into 'Beccabunga,' for
a Latin name! Very beautiful in its crowded green leaves as a
stream-companion; rich and bright more than watercress. See notice of it at
Matlock, in 'Modern Painters,' vol. v.
19. Clara. Veronique des rochers. Saxatilis, I suppose, in Sowerby, but am
not sure of having identified that with my own favourite, for which I
therefore keep the name 'Clara,' (see above, Sec. 9); and the other rock
variety, if indeed another, mast be remembered, together with it.
20. Glauca. G. 7. And this, at all events, with the Clara, is to be
remembered as closing the series of twenty families, acknowledged by
Proserpina. It is a beautiful low-growing ivy-leaved type, with flowers of
subdued lilac blue. On Mount Hymettus: no other locality given in the Flora
15. I am sorry, and shall always be so, when the varieties of any flower
which I have to commend to the student's memory, exceed ten or twelve in
number; but I am content to gratify his pride with lengthier task, if
indeed he will resign himself to the imperative close of the more inclusive
catalogue, and be content to know the twelve, or sixteen, or twenty,
acknowledged families, thoroughly; and only in their illustration to think
of rarer forms. The object of 'Proserpina' is to make him happily cognizant
of the common aspect of Greek and English flowers; under the term
'English,' comprehending the Saxon, Celtic, Norman, and Danish Floras. Of
the evergreen shrub alluded to in Sec. 11 above, the Veronica Decussata of the
Pacific, which is "a bushy evergreen, with beautifully set cross-leaves,
and white blossoms scented like olea fragrans," I should like him only to
read with much surprise, and some incredulity, in Pinkerton's or other
entertaining travellers' voyages.
16. And of the families given, he is to note for the common simple
characteristic, that they are quatrefoils referred to a more or less
elevated position on a central stem, and having, in that relation, the
lowermost petal diminished, contrary to the almost universal habit of other
flowers to develope in such a position the lower petal chiefly, that it may
have its full share of light. You will find nothing but blunder and
embarrassment result from any endeavour to enter into further particulars,
such as "the relation of the dissepiment with respect to the valves of the
capsule," etc., etc., since "in the various species of Veronica almost
every kind of dehiscence may be observed" (C. under V. perfoliata, 1936, an
Australian species). Sibthorpe gives the entire definition of Veronica with
only one epithet added to mine, "Corolla quadrifida, _rotata_, lacinia
infima angustiore," but I do not know what 'rotata' here means, as there is
no appearance of revolved action in the petals, so far as I can see.
17. Of the mythic or poetic significance of the veronica, there is less to
be said than of its natural beauty. I have not been able to discover with
what feeling, or at what time, its sacred name was originally given; and
the legend of S. Veronica herself is, in the substance of it, irrational,
and therefore incredible. The meaning of the term 'rational,' as applied to
a legend or miracle, is, that there has been an intelligible need for the
permission of the miracle at the time when it is recorded; and that the
nature and manner of the act itself should be comprehensible in the scope.
There was thus quite simple need for Christ to feed the multitudes, and to
appear to S. Paul; but no need, so far as human intelligence can reach, for
the reflection of His features upon a piece of linen which could be seen by
not one in a million of the disciples to whom He might more easily, at any
time, manifest Himself personally and perfectly. Nor, I believe, has the
story of S. Veronica ever been asserted to be other than symbolic by the
sincere teachers of the Church; and, even so far as in that merely
explanatory function, it became the seal of an extreme sorrow, it is not
easy to understand how the pensive fable was associated with a flower so
familiar, so bright, and so popularly of good omen, as the Speedwell.
18. Yet, the fact being actually so, and this consecration of the veronica
being certainly far more ancient and earnest than the faintly romantic and
extremely absurd legend of the forget-me-not; the speedwell has assuredly
the higher claim to be given and accepted as a token of pure and faithful
love, and to be trusted as a sweet sign that the innocence of affection is
indeed more frequent, and the appointed destiny of its faith more
fortunate, than our inattentive hearts have hitherto discerned.
19. And this the more, because the recognized virtues and uses of the plant
are real and manifold; and the ideas of a peculiar honourableness and worth
of life connected with it by the German popular name 'Honour-prize'; while
to the heart of the British race, the same thought is brought home by
Shakespeare's adoption of the flower's Welsh name, for the faithfullest
common soldier of his ideal king. As a lover's pledge, therefore, it does
not merely mean memory;--for, indeed, why should love be thought of as such
at all, if it need to promise not to forget?--but the blossom is
significant also of the lover's best virtues, patience in suffering, purity
in thought, gaiety in courage, and serenity in truth: and therefore I make
it, worthily, the clasping and central flower of the Cytherides.
* * * * *
1. Supposing that, in early life, one had the power of living to one's
fancy,--and why should we not, if the said fancy were restrained by the
knowledge of the two great laws concerning our nature, that happiness is
increased, not by the enlargement of the possessions, but of the heart; and
days lengthened, not by the crowding of emotions, but the economy of
them?--if thus taught, we had, I repeat, the ordering of our house and
estate in our own hands, I believe no manner of temperance in pleasure
would be better rewarded than that of making our gardens gay only with
common flowers; and leaving those which needed care for their transplanted
life to be found in their native places when we travelled. So long as I had
crocus and daisy in the spring, roses in the summer, and hollyhocks and
pinks in the autumn, I used to be myself independent of farther
horticulture,--and it is only now that I am old, and since pleasant
travelling has become impossible to me, that I am thankful to have the
white narcissus in my borders, instead of waiting to walk through the
fragrance of the meadows of Clarens; and pleased to see the milkwort blue
on my scythe-mown banks, since I cannot gather it any more on the rocks of
the Vosges, or in the divine glens of Jura.
2. Among the losses, all the more fatal in being unfelt, brought upon us by
the fury and vulgarity of modern life, I count for one of the saddest, the
loss of the wish to gather a flower in travelling. The other day,--whether
indeed a sign of some dawning of doubt and remorse in the public mind, as
to the perfect jubilee of railroad journey, or merely a piece of the common
daily flattery on which the power of the British press first depends, I
cannot judge;--but, for one or other of such motives, I saw lately in some
illustrated paper, a pictorial comparison of old-fashioned and modern
travel, representing, as the type of things passed away, the outside
passengers of the mail shrinking into huddled and silent distress from the
swirl of a winter snowstorm; and for type of the present Elysian
dispensation, the inside of a first-class saloon carriage, with a beautiful
young lady in the last pattern of Parisian travelling dress, conversing,
Daily news in hand, with a young officer--her fortunate vis-a-vis--on the
subject of our military successes in Afghanistan and Zululand.
3. I will not, in presenting--it must not be called the other side, but the
supplementary, and wilfully omitted, facts, of this ideal,--oppose, as I
fairly might, the discomforts of a modern cheap excursion train, to the
chariot-and-four, with outriders and courier, of ancient noblesse. I will
compare only the actual facts, in the former and in latter years, of my own
journey from Paris to Geneva. As matters are now arranged, I find myself,
at half past eight in the evening, waiting in a confused crowd with which I
am presently to contend for a seat, in the dim light and cigar-stench of
the great station of the Lyons line. Making slow way through the
hostilities of the platform, in partly real, partly weak politeness, as may
be, I find the corner seats of course already full of prohibitory cloaks
and umbrellas; but manage to get a middle back one; the net overhead is
already surcharged with a bulging extra portmanteau, so that I squeeze my
desk as well as I can between my legs, and arrange what wraps I have about
my knees and shoulders. Follow a couple of hours of simple patience, with
nothing to entertain one's thoughts but the steady roar of the line under
the wheels, the blinking and dripping of the oil lantern, and the more or
less ungainly wretchedness, and variously sullen compromises and
encroachments of posture, among the five other passengers preparing
themselves for sleep: the last arrangement for the night being to shut up
both windows, in order to effect, with our six breaths, a salutary
modification of the night air.
4. The banging and bumping of the carriages over the turn-tables wakes me
up as I am beginning to doze, at Fontainebleau, and again at Sens; and the
trilling and thrilling of the little telegraph bell establishes itself in
my ears, and stays there, trilling me at last into a shivering, suspicious
sort of sleep, which, with a few vaguely fretful shrugs and fidgets,
carries me as far as Tonnerre, where the 'quinze minutes d'arret'
revolutionize everything; and I get a turn or two on the platform, and
perhaps a glimpse of the stars, with promise of a clear morning; and so
generally keep awake past Mont Bard, remembering the happy walks one used
to have on the terrace under Buffon's tower, and thence watching, if
perchance, from the mouth of the high tunnel, any film of moonlight may
show the far undulating masses of the hills of Citeaux. But most likely one
knows the place where the great old view used to be only by the sensible
quickening of the pace as the train turns down the incline, and crashes
through the trenched cliffs into the confusion and high clattering vault of
the station at Dijon.
5. And as my journey is almost always in the springtime, the twisted spire
of the cathedral usually shows itself against the first grey of dawn, as we
run out again southwards: and resolving to watch the sunrise, I fall more
complacently asleep,--and the sun is really up by the time one has to
change carriages, and get morning coffee at Macon. And from Amberieux,
through the Jura valley, one is more or less feverishly happy and thankful,
not so much for being in sight of Mont Blanc again, as in having got
through the nasty and gloomy night journey; and then the sight of the Rhone
and the Saleve seems only like a dream, presently to end in nothingness;
till, covered with dust, and feeling as if one never should be fit for
anything any more, one staggers down the hill to the Hotel des Bergues, and
sees the dirtied Rhone, with its new iron bridge, and the smoke of a new
factory exactly dividing the line of the aiguilles of Chamouni.
6. That is the journey as it is now,--and as, for me, it must be; except on
foot, since there is now no other way of making it. But this _was_ the way
we used to manage it in old days:--
Very early in Continental transits we had found out that the family
travelling carriage, taking much time and ingenuity to load, needing at the
least three, usually four--horses, and on Alpine passes six, not only
jolted and lagged painfully on bad roads, but was liable in every way to
more awkward discomfitures than lighter vehicles; getting itself jammed in
archways, wrenched with damage out of ruts, and involved in volleys of
justifiable reprobation among market stalls. So when we knew better, my
father and mother always had their own old-fashioned light two-horse
carriage to themselves, and I had one made with any quantity of front and
side pockets for books and picked up stones; and hung very low, with a
fixed side-step, which I could get off or on with the horses at the trot;
and at any rise or fall of the road, relieve them, and get my own walk,
without troubling the driver to think of me.
7. Thus, leaving Paris in the bright spring morning, when the Seine
glittered gaily at Charenton, and the arbres de Judee were mere pyramids of
purple bloom round Villeneuve-St.-Georges, one had an afternoon walk among
the rocks of Fontainebleau, and next day we got early into Sens, for new
lessons in its cathedral aisles, and the first saunter among the budding
vines of the coteaux. I finished my plate of the Tower of Giotto, for the
'Seven Lamps,' in the old inn at Sens, which Dickens has described in his
wholly matchless way in the last chapter of 'Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings'. The
next day brought us to the oolite limestones at Mont Bard, and we always
spent the Sunday at the Bell in Dijon. Monday, the drive of drives, through
the village of Genlis, the fortress of Auxonne, and up the hill to the
vine-surrounded town of Dole; whence, behold at last the limitless ranges
of Jura, south and north, beyond the woody plain, and above them the
'Derniers Kochers' and the white square-set summit, worshipped ever anew.
Then at Poligny, the same afternoon, we gathered the first milkwort for
that year; and on Tuesday, at St. Laurent, the wild lily of the valley; and
on Wednesday, at Morez, gentians.
And on Thursday, the _eighth or ninth_ day from Paris, days all spent
patiently and well, one saw from the gained height of Jura, the great Alps
unfold themselves in their chains and wreaths of incredible crest and
8. Unhappily, during all the earliest and usefullest years of such
travelling, I had no thought of ever taking up botany as a study; feeling
well that even geology, which was antecedent to painting with me, could not
be followed out in connection with art but under strict limits, and with
sore shortcomings. It has only been the later discovery of the uselessness
of old scientific botany, and the abominableness of new, as an element of
education for youth;--and my certainty that a true knowledge of their
native Flora was meant by Heaven to be one of the first heart-possessions
of every happy boy and girl in flower-bearing lands, that have compelled me
to gather into system my fading memories, and wandering thoughts. And
of course in the diaries written at places of which I now want chiefly the
details of the Flora, I find none; and in this instance of the milkwort,
whose name I was first told by the Chamouni guide, Joseph Couttet, then
walking with me on the unperilous turf of the first rise of the Vosges,
west of Strasburg, and rebuking me indignantly for my complaint that, being
then thirty-seven years old, and not yet able to draw the great plain and
distant spire, it was of no use trying in the poor remainder of life to do
anything serious,--then, and there, I say, for the first time examining the
strange little flower, and always associating it, since, with the limestone
crags of Alsace and Burgundy, I don't find a single note of its preferences
or antipathies in other districts, and cannot say a word about the soil it
chooses, or the height it ventures, or the familiarities to which it
condescends, on the Alps or Apennines.
9. But one thing I have ascertained of it, lately at Brantwood, that it is
capricious and fastidious beyond any other little blossom I know of. In
laying out the rock garden, most of the terrace sides were trusted to
remnants of the natural slope, propped by fragments of stone, among which
nearly every other wild flower that likes sun and air, is glad sometimes to
root itself. But at the top of all, one terrace was brought to
mathematically true level of surface, and slope of side, and turfed with
delicately chosen and adjusted sods, meant to be kept duly trim by the
scythe. And _only_ on this terrace does the Giulietta choose to show
herself,--and even there, not in any consistent places, but gleaming out
here in one year, there in another, like little bits of unexpected sky
through cloud; and entirely refusing to allow either bank or terrace to be
mown the least trim during _her_ time of disport there. So spared and
indulged, there are no more wayward things in all the woods or wilds; no
more delicate and perfect things to be brought up by watch through day and
night, than her recumbent clusters, trickling, sometimes almost gushing
through the grass, and meeting in tiny pools of flawless blue.
10. I will not attempt at present to arrange the varieties of the
Giulietta, for I find that all the larger and presumably characteristic
forms belong to the Cape; and only since Mr. Froude came back from his
African explorings have I been able to get any clear idea of the brilliancy
and associated infinitude of the Cape flowers. If I could but write down
the substance of what he has told me, in the course of a chat or two, which
have been among the best privileges of my recent stay in London, (prolonged
as it has been by recurrence of illness,) it would be a better summary of
what should be generally known in the natural history of southern plants
than I could glean from fifty volumes of horticultural botany. In the
meantime, everything being again thrown out of gear by the aforesaid
illness, I must let this piece of 'Proserpina' break off, as most of my
work does--and as perhaps all of it may soon do--leaving only suggestion
for the happier research of the students who trust me thus far.
11. Some essential points respecting the flower I shall note, however,
before ending. There is one large and frequent species of it of which the
flowers are delicately yellow, touched with tawny red, forming one of the
chief elements of wild foreground vegetation in the healthy districts of
hard Alpine limestone. This is, I believe, the only European type of
the large Cape varieties, in all of which, judging from such plates as have
been accessible to me, the crests or fringes of the lower petal are less
conspicuous than in the smaller species; and the flower almost takes the
aspect of a broom-blossom or pease-blossom. In the smaller European
varieties, the white fringes of the lower petal are the most important and
characteristic part of the flower, and they are, among European wild
flowers, absolutely without any likeness of associated structure. The
fringes or crests which, towards the origin of petals, so often give a
frosted or gemmed appearance to the centres of flowers, are here thrown to
the extremity of the petal, and suggest an almost coralline structure of
blossom, which in no other instance whatever has been imitated, still less
carried out into its conceivable varieties of form. How many such varieties
might have been produced if these fringes of the Giulietta, or those
already alluded to of Lucia nivea, had been repeated and enlarged; as the
type, once adopted for complex bloom in the thistle-head, is multiplied in
the innumerable gradations of thistle, teasel, hawkweed, and aster! We
might have had flowers edged with lace finer than was ever woven by mortal
fingers, or tasselled and braided with fretwork of silver, never
tarnished--or hoarfrost that grew brighter in the sun. But it was not to
be, and after a few hints of what might be done in this kind, the Fate, or
Folly, or, on recent theories, the extreme fitness--and consequent
survival, of the Thistles and Dandelions, entirely drives the fringed
Lucias and blue-flushing milkworts out of common human neighbourhood, to
live recluse lives with the memories of the abbots of Cluny, and pastors of
12. I have called the Giulietta 'blue-_flushing_' because it is one of the
group of exquisite flowers which at the time of their own blossoming,
breathe their colour into the surrounding leaves and supporting stem. Very
notably the Grape hyacinth and Jura hyacinth, and some of the Vestals,
empurpling all their green leaves even to the ground: a quite distinct
nature in the flower, observe, this possession of a power to kindle the
leaf and stem with its own passion, from that of the heaths, roses, or
lilies, where the determined bracts or calicos assert themselves in
opposition to the blossom, as little pine-leaves, or mosses, or brown paper
packages, and the like.
13. The Giulietta, however, is again entirely separate from the other
leaf-flushing blossoms, in that, after the two green leaves next the flower
have glowed with its blue, while it lived, they do not fade or waste with
it, but return to their own former green simplicity, and close over it to
protect the seed. I only know this to be the case with the Giulietta
Regina; but suppose it to be (with variety of course in the colours) a
condition in other species,--though of course nothing is ever said of it in
the botanical accounts of them. I gather, however, from Curtis's careful
drawings that the prevailing colour of the Cape species is purple, thus
justifying still further my placing them among the Cytherides; and I am
content to take the descriptive epithets at present given them, for the
following five of this southern group, hoping that they may be explained
for me afterwards by helpful friends.
14. Bracteolata, C. 345. Oppositifolia, C. 492. Speciosa, C. 1790. These
three all purple, and scarcely distinguishable from sweet pease-blossom,
Stipulacea, C. 1715. Small, and very beautiful, lilac and purple, with a
leaf and mode of growth like rosemary. The "Foxtail" milkwort, whose name I
don't accept, C. 1006, is intermediate between this and the next species.
15. Mixta, C. 1714. I don't see what mingling is meant, except that it is
just like Erica tetralix in the leaf, only, apparently, having little
four-petalled pinks for blossoms. This appearance is thus botanically
explained. I do not myself understand the description, but copy it,
thinking it may be of use to somebody. "The apex of the carina is expanded
into a two-lobed plain petal, the lobes of which are emarginate. This
appendix is of a bright rose colour, and forms the principal part of the
flower." The describer relaxes, or relapses, into common language so far as
to add that 'this appendix' "dispersed among the green foliage in every
part of the shrub, gives it a pretty lively appearance."
Perhaps this may also be worth extracting.
"Carina, deeply channeled, _of a saturated purple_ within, sides folded
together, so as to include and firmly embrace the style and stamens, which,
when arrived at maturity, upon being moved, escape elastically from their
confinement, and strike against the two erect petals or alae--by which the
pollen is dispersed.
"Stem shrubby, with long flexile branches." (Length or height not told. I
imagine like an ordinary heath's.)
The term 'carina,' occurring twice in the above description, is peculiar to
the structure of the pease and milk-worts; we will examine it afterwards.
The European varieties of the milkwort, except the chamaebuxus, are all
minute,--and, their ordinary epithets being at least inoffensive, I give
them for reference till we find prettier ones; altering only the Calcarea,
because we could not have a 'Chalk Juliet,' and two varieties of the
Regina, changed for reason good--her name, according to the last modern
refinements of grace and ease in pronunciation, being Eu-vularis, var.
genuina! My readers may more happily remember her and her sister as
16. (I.) Giulietta Regina. Pure blue. The same in colour, form, and size,
(II.) Giulietta Soror-Reginae. Pale, reddish-blue or white in the flower,
and smaller in the leaf, otherwise like the Regina.
(III.) Giulietta Depressa. The smallest of those I can find drawings of.
Flowers, blue; lilac in the fringe, and no bigger than pins' heads; the
leaves quite gem-like in minuteness and order.
(IV.) Giulietta Cisterciana. Its present name, 'Calcarea,' is meant, in
botanic Latin, to express its growth on limestone or chalk mountains. But
we might as well call the South Down sheep, Calcareous mutton. My epithet
will rightly associate it with the Burgundian hills round Cluny and
Citeaux. Its ground leaves are much larger than those of the Depressa; the
flower a little larger, but very pale.
(V.) Giulietta Austriaca. Pink, and very lovely, with bold cluster of
ground leaves, but itself minute--almost dwarf. Called 'small bitter
milkwort' by S. How far distinct from the next following one, Norwegian, is
The above five kinds are given by Sowerby as British, but I have never
found the Austriaca myself.
(VI.) Giulietta Amara. Norwegian. Very quaint in blossom outline, like a
little blue rabbit with long ears. D. 1169.
17. Nobody tells me why either this last or No. 5 have been called bitter;
and Gerarde's five kinds are distinguished only by colour--blue, red,
white, purple, and "the dark, of an overworn ill-favoured colour, which
maketh it to differ from all others of his kind." I find no account of this
ill-favoured one elsewhere. The white is my Soror Reginae; the red must be
the Austriaca; but the purple and overworn ones are perhaps now overworn
indeed. All of them must have been more common in Gerarde's time than now,
for he goes on to say "Milk-woort is called _Ambarualis flos_. so called
because it doth specially flourish in the Crosse or Gang-weeke, or
Rogation-weeke, of which flowers, the maidens which use in the countries to
walk the procession do make themselves garlands and nosegaies, in English
we may call it Crosse flower, Gang flower, Rogation flower, and
18. Above, at page 197, vol. i., in first arranging the Cytherides, I too
hastily concluded that the ascription to this plant of helpfulness to
nursing mothers was 'more than ordinarily false'; thinking that its rarity
could never have allowed it to be fairly tried. If indeed true, or in any
degree true, the flower has the best right of all to be classed with the
Cytherides, and we might have as much of it for beauty and for service as
we choose, if we only took half the pains to garnish our summer gardens
with living and life-giving blossom, that we do to garnish our winter
gluttonies with dying and useless ones.
19. I have said nothing of root, or fruit, or seed, having never had the
hardness of heart to pull up a milkwort cluster--nor the chance of watching
one in seed:--The pretty thing vanishes as it comes, like the blue sky of
April, and leaves no sign of itself--that _I_ ever found. The botanists
tell me that its fruit "dehisces loculicidally," which I suppose is botanic
for "splits like boxes," (but boxes shouldn't split, and didn't, as we used
to make and handle them before railways). Out of the split boxes fall
seeds--too few; and, as aforesaid, the plant never seems to grow again in
the same spot. I should thankfully receive any notes from friends happy
enough to live near milkwort banks, on the manner of its nativity.
20. Meanwhile, the Thistle, and the Nettle, and the Dock, and the Dandelion
are cared for in their generations by the finest arts of--Providence, shall
we say? or of the spirits appointed to punish our own want of Providence?
May I ask the reader to look back to the seventh chapter of the first
volume, for it contains suggestions of thoughts which came to me at a time
of very earnest and faithful inquiry, set down, I now see too shortly,
under the press of reading they involved, but intelligible enough if they
are read as slowly as they were written, and especially note the paragraph
of summary of p. 121 on the power of the Earth Mother, as Mother, and as
_judge;_ watching and rewarding the conditions which induce adversity and
prosperity in the kingdoms of men: comparing with it carefully the close of
the fourth chapter, p. 85, which contains, for the now recklessly
multiplying classes of artists and colonists, truths essential to their
skill, and inexorable upon their labour.
21. The pen-drawing facsimiled by Mr. Allen with more than his usual care
in the frontispiece to this number of 'Proserpina,' was one of many
executed during the investigation of the schools of Gothic (German, and
later French), which founded their minor ornamentation on the serration of
the thistle leaf, as the Greeks on that of the Acanthus, but with a
consequent, and often morbid, love of thorny points, and insistance upon
jagged or knotted intricacies of stubborn vegetation, which is connected in
a deeply mysterious way with the gloomier forms of Catholic asceticism.
22. But also, in beginning 'Proserpina,' I intended to give many
illustrations of the light and shade of foreground leaves belonging to the
nobler groups of thistles, because I thought they had been neglected by
ordinary botanical draughtsmen; not knowing at that time either the
original drawings at Oxford for the 'Flora Graeca,' or the nobly engraved
plates executed in the close of the last century for the 'Flora Danica' and
'Flora Londinensis.' The latter is in the most difficult portraiture of the
larger plants, even the more wonderful of the two; and had I seen the
miracles of skill, patience, and faithful study which are collected in the
first and second volumes, published in 1777 and 1798, I believe my own work
would never have been undertaken. Such as it is, however, I may still,
health being granted me, persevere in it; for my own leaf and branch
studies express conditions of shade which even these most exquisite
botanical plates ignore; and exemplify uses of the pen and pencil which
cannot be learned from the inimitable fineness of line engraving. The
frontispiece to this number, for instance, (a seeding head of the commonest
field-thistle of our London suburbs,) copied with a steel pen on smooth
grey paper, and the drawing softly touched with white on the nearer thorns,
may well surpass the effect of the plate.
23. In the following number of 'Proserpina' I have been tempted to follow,
with more minute notice than usual, the 'conditions of adversity' which, as
they fret the thistle tribe into jagged malice, have humbled the beauty of
the great domestic group of the Vestals into confused likenesses of the
Dragonweed and Nettle: but I feel every hour more and more the necessity of
separating the treatment of subjects in 'Proserpina' from the microscopic
curiosities of recent botanic illustration, nor shall this work close, if
my strength hold, without fulfilling in some sort, the effort begun long
ago in 'Modern Painters,' to interpret the grace of the larger blossoming
trees, and the mysteries of leafy form which clothe the Swiss precipice
with gentleness, and colour with softest azure the rich horizons of England
* * * * *
1. It ought to have been added to the statements of general law in
irregular flowers, in Chapter I. of this volume, Sec. 6, that if the petals,
while brought into relations of inequality, still retain their perfect
petal form,--and whether broad or narrow, extended or reduced, remain
clearly _leaves_, as in the pansy, pea, or azalea, and assume no grotesque
or obscure outline,--the flower, though injured, is not to be thought of as
corrupted or misled. But if any of the petals lose their definite character
as such, and become swollen, solidified, stiffened, or strained into any
other form or function than that of petals, the flower is to be looked upon
as affected by some kind of constant evil influence; and, so far as we
conceive of any spiritual power being concerned in the protection or
affliction of the inferior orders of creatures, it will be felt to bear the
aspect of possession by, or pollution by, a more or less degraded
2. I have already enough spoken of the special manifestation of this
character in the orders Contorta and Satyrium, vol. i., p. 91, and the
reader will find the parallel aspects of the Draconidae dwelt upon at length
in the 86th and 87th paragraphs of the 'Queen of the Air,' where also their
relation to the labiate group is touched upon. But I am far more
embarrassed by the symbolism of that group which I called 'Vestales,' from
their especially domestic character and their serviceable purity; but which
may be, with more convenience perhaps, simply recognizable as 'Menthae.'
3. These are, to our northern countries, what the spice-bearing trees are
in the tropics;--our thyme, lavender, mint, marjoram, and their like,
separating themselves not less in the health giving or strengthening
character of their scent from the flowers more or less enervating in
perfume, as the rose, orange, and violet,--than in their humble colours and
forms from the grace and splendour of those higher tribes; thus allowing
themselves to be summed under the general word 'balm' more truly than the
balsams from which the word is derived. Giving the most pure and healing
powers to the air around them; with a comfort of warmth also, being mostly
in dry places, and forming sweet carpets and close turf; but only to be
rightly enjoyed in the open air, or indoors when dried; not tempting any
one to luxury, nor expressive of any kind of exultation. Brides do not deck
themselves with thyme, nor do we wreathe triumphal arches with mint.
4. It is most notable, also, farther, that none of these flowers have any
extreme beauty in colour. The blue sage is the only one of vivid hue at
all; and we never think of it as for a moment comparable to the violet or
bluebell: thyme is unnoticed beside heath, and many of the other purple
varieties of the group are almost dark and sad coloured among the flowers
of summer; while, so far from gaining beauty on closer looking, there is
scarcely a blossom of them which is not more or less grotesque, even to
ugliness, in outline; and so hooded or lappeted as to look at first like
some imperfect form of snapdragon for the most part spotted also, wrinkled
as if by old age or decay, cleft or torn, as if by violence, and springing
out of calices which, in their clustering spines, embody the general
roughness of the plant.
5. I take at once for example, lest the reader should think me unkind or
intemperate in my description, a flower very dear and precious to me; and
at this time my chief comfort in field walks. For, now, the reign of all
the sweet reginas of the spring is over--the reign of the silvia and
anemone, of viola and veronica; and at last, and this year abdicated under
tyrannous storm, the reign of the rose. And the last foxglove-bells are
nearly fallen; and over all my fields and by the brooksides are coming up
the burdock, and the coarse and vainly white aster, and the black
knapweeds; and there is only one flower left to be loved among the
grass,--the soft, warm-scented Brunelle.
6. _P_runell, _or_ Brunell--Gerarde calls it; and Brunella, rightly and
authoritatively, Tournefort; Prunella, carelessly, Linnaeus, and idly
following him, the moderns, casting out all the meaning and help of its
name--of which presently. Selfe-heale, Gerarde and Gray call it, in
English--meaning that who has this plant needs no physician.
7. As I look at it, close beside me, it seems as if it would reprove me for
what I have just said of the poverty of colour in its tribe; for the most
glowing of violets could not be lovelier than each fine purple gleam of its
hooded blossoms. But their flush is broken and oppressed by the dark
calices out of which they spring, and their utmost power in the field is
only of a saddened amethystine lustre, subdued with furry brown. And what
is worst in the victory of the darker colour is the disorder of the
scattered blossoms;--of all flowers I know, this is the strangest, in the
way that here and there, only in their cluster, its bells rise or remain,
and it always looks as if half of them had been shaken off, and the top of
the cluster broken short away altogether.
8. We must never lose hold of the principle that every flower is meant to
be seen by human creatures with human eyes, as by spiders with spider eyes.
But as the painter may sometimes play the spider, and weave a mesh to
entrap the heart, so the beholder may play the spider, when there are
meshes to be disentangled that have entrapped his mind. I take my lens,
therefore--to the little wonder of a brown wasps' nest with blue-winged
wasps in it,--and perceive therewith the following particulars.
9. First, that the blue of the petals is indeed pure and lovely, and a
little crystalline in texture; but that the form and setting of them is
grotesque beyond all wonder; the two uppermost joined being like an old
fashioned and enormous hood or bonnet, and the lower one projecting far out
in the shape of a cup or cauldron, torn deep at the edges into a kind of
Looking more closely still, I perceive there is a cluster of stiff white
hairs, almost bristles, on the top of the hood; for no imaginable purpose
of use or decoration--any more than a hearth-brush put for a
helmet-crest,--and that, as we put the flower full in front, the lower
petal begins to look like some threatening viperine or shark-like jaw,
edged with ghastly teeth,--and yet more, that the hollow within begins to
suggest a resemblance to an open throat in which there are two projections
where the lower petal joins the lateral ones, almost exactly like swollen
I believe it was this resemblance, inevitable to any careful and close
observer, which first suggested the use of the plant in throat diseases to
physicians; guided, as in those first days of pharmacy, chiefly by
imagination. Then the German name for one of the most fatal of throat
affections, Braune, extended itself into the first name of the plant,
10. The truth of all popular traditions as to the healing power of herbs
will be tried impartially as soon as men again desire to lead healthy
lives; but I shall not in 'Proserpina' retain any of the names of their
gathered and dead or distilled substance, but name them always from the
characters of their life. I retain, however, for this plant its name
Brunella, Fr. Brunelle, because we may ourselves understand it as a
derivation from Brune; and I bring it here before the reader's attention as
giving him a perfectly instructive general type of the kind of degradation
which takes place in the forms of flowers under more or less malefic
influence, causing distortion and disguise of their floral structure. Thus
it is not the normal character of a flower petal to have a cluster of
bristles growing out of the middle of it, nor to be jagged at the edge into
the likeness of a fanged fish's jaw, nor to be swollen or pouted into the
likeness of a diseased gland in an animal's throat. A really uncorrupted
flower suggests none but delightful images, and is like nothing but itself.
11. I find that in the year 1719, Tournefort defined, with exactitude which
has rendered the definition authoritative for all time, the tribe to which
this Brownie flower belongs, constituting them his fourth class, and
describing them in terms even more depreciatingly imaginative than any I
have ventured to use myself. I translate the passage (vol. i., p. 177):--
12. "The name of Labiate flower is given to a single-petaled flower which,
beneath, is attenuated into a tube, and above is expanded into a lip, which
is either single or double. It is proper to a labiate flower,--first, that
it has a one-leaved calyx (ut calycem habeat _unifolium_), for the most
part tubulated, or reminding one of a paper hood (cucullum papyraceum);
and, secondly, that its pistil ripens into a fruit consisting of four
seeds, which ripen in the calyx itself, as if in their own seed-vessel, by
which a labiate flower is distinguished from a personate one, whose pistil
becomes a capsule far divided from the calyx (a calyce longo divisam). And
a labiate flower differs from rotate, or bell-shaped flowers, which have
four seeds, in that the lips of a labiate flower have a gape like the face
of a goblin, or ludicrous mask, emulous of animal form."
13. This class is then divided into four sections.
In the first, the upper lip is helmeted, or hooked--"galeatum est, vel
In the second, the upper lip is excavated like a spoon--"cochlearis
instar est excavatum."
In the third the upper lip is erect.
And in the fourth there is no upper lip at all.
The reader will, I hope, forgive me for at once rejecting a classification
of lipped plants into three classes that have lips, and one that has none,
and in which the lips of those that have got any, are like helmets and
Linnaeus, in 1758, grouped the family into two divisions, by the form of
the calyx, (five-fold or two-fold), and then went into the wildest
confusion in distinction of species,--sometimes by the form of corolla,
sometimes by that of calyx, sometimes by that of the filaments, sometimes
by that of the stigma, and sometimes by that of the seed. As, for instance,
thyme is to be identified by the calyx having hairs in its throat, dead
nettle by having bristles in its mouth, lion's tail by having bones in its
anthers (antherae punctis osseis adspersae), and teucrium by having its upper
lip cut in two!
14. St. Hilaire, in 1805, divides again into four sections, but as three of
these depend on form of corolla, and the fourth on abortion of stamens, the
reader may conclude practically, that logical division of the family is
impossible, and that all he can do, or that there is the smallest occasion
for his doing, is first to understand the typical structure thoroughly, and
then to know a certain number of forms accurately, grouping the others
round them at convenient distances; and, finally, to attach to their known
forms such simple names as may be utterable by children, and memorable by
old people, with more ease and benefit than the 'Galeopsis Eu-te-trahit,'
'Lamium Galeobdalon,' or 'Scutellaria Galericulata,'and the like, of modern
botany. But to do this rightly, I must review and amplify some of my former
classification, which it will be advisable to do in a separate chapter.
* * * * *
1. It is not a little vexing to me, in looking over the very little I have
got done of my planned Systema Proserpinae, to discover a grave mistake in
the specifications of Veronica. It is Veronica chamaedrys, not officinalis,
which is our proper English Speedwell, and Welsh Fluellen; and all the
eighth paragraph, p. 74, properly applies to that. Veronica officinalis is
an extremely small flower rising on vertical stems out of recumbent leaves;
and the drawing of it in the Flora Danica, which I mistook for a stunted
northern state, is quite true of the English species, except that it
does not express the recumbent action of the leaves. The proper
representation of ground-leafage has never yet been attempted in any
botanical work whatever, and as, in recumbent plants, their grouping and
action can only be seen from above, the plates of them should always have a
dark and rugged background, not only to indicate the position of the eye,
but to relieve the forms of the leaves as they were intended to be shown. I
will try to give some examples in the course of this year.
2. I find also, sorrowfully, that the references are wrong in three, if not
more, places in that chapter. S. 971 and 972 should be transposed in p. 72.
S. 294 in p. 74 should be 984. D. 407 should be inserted after Peregrina,
in p. 76; and 203, in fourth line from bottom of p. 78, should be 903. I
wish it were likely that these errors had been corrected by my
readers,--the rarity of the Flora Danica making at present my references
virtually useless: but I hope in time that our public institutes will
possess themselves of copies: still more do I hope that some book of the
kind will be undertaken by English artists and engravers, which shall be
worthy of our own country.
3. Farther, I get into confusion by not always remembering my own
nomenclature, and have allowed 'Gentianoides' to remain, for No. 16, though
I banish Gentian. It will be far better to call this eastern mountain
species 'Olympica': according to Sibthorpe's localization, "in summa parte,
nive soluta, montis Olympi Bithyni," and the rather that Curtis's plate
above referred to shows it in luxuriance to be liker an asphodel than a
4. I have also perhaps done wrong in considering Veronica polita and
agrestis as only varieties, in No. 3. No author tells me why the first is
called polite, but its blue seems more intense than that of agrestis; and
as it is above described with attention, vol. i., p. 75, as an example of
precision in flower-form, we may as well retain it in our list here. It
will be therefore our twenty-first variety,--it is Loudon's fifty-ninth and
last. He translates 'polita' simply 'polished,' which is nonsense. I can
think of nothing to call it but 'dainty,' and will leave it at present
5. Lastly. I can't think why I omitted V. Humifusa, S. 979, which seems to
be quite one of the most beautiful of the family--a mountain flower also,
and one which I ought to find here; but hitherto I know only among the
mantlings of the ground, V. thymifolia and officinalis. All these, however,
agree in the extreme prettiness and grace of their crowded leafage,--the
officinalis, of which the leaves are shown much too coarsely serrated in S.
984, forming carpets of finished embroidery which I have never yet rightly
examined, because I mistook them for St. John's wort. They are of a
beautiful pointed oval form, serrated so finely that they seem smooth in
distant effect, and covered with equally invisible hairs, which seem to
collect towards the edge in the variety Hirsuta, S. 985.
For the present, I should like the reader to group the three flowers, S.
979, 984, 985, under the general name of Humifusa, and to distinguish them
by a third epithet, which I allow myself when in difficulties, thus:
V. Humifusa, caerulea, the beautiful blue one, which resembles
V. Humifusa, officinalis, and,
V. Humifusa, hirsuta: the last seems to me extremely interesting, and I
hope to find it and study it carefully.
By this arrangement we shall have only twenty-one species to remember: the
one which chiefly decorates the ground again dividing into the above three.
6. These matters being set right, I pass to the business in hand, which is
to define as far as possible the subtle relations between the Veronicas and
Draconidae, and again between these and the tribe at present called labiate.
In my classification above, vol. i, p. 200, the Draconidae include the
Nightshades; but this was an oversight. Atropa belongs properly to the
following class, Moiridae; and my Draconids are intended to include only the
two great families of Personate and Ringent flowers, which in some degree
resemble the head of an animal: the representative one being what we call
'snapdragon,' but the French, careless of its snapping power, 'calf's
muzzle'--"Muflier, muflande, or muffle de Veau."--Rousseau, 'Lettres,' p.
7. As I examine his careful and sensible plates of it, I chance also on a
bit of his text, which, extremely wise and generally useful, I translate
"I understand, my dear, that one is vexed to take so much trouble without
learning the names of the plants one examines; but I confess to you in good
faith that it never entered into my plan to spare you this little chagrin.
One pretends that Botany is nothing but a science of words, which only
exercises the memory, and only teaches how to give plants names. For me, I
know _no_ rational study which is only a science of words: and to which of
the two, I pray you, shall I grant the name of botanist,--to him who knows
how to spit out a name or a phrase at the sight of a plant, without knowing
anything of its structure, or to him who, knowing that structure very well,
is ignorant nevertheless of the very arbitrary name that one gives to the
plant in such and such a country? If we only gave to your children an
amusing occupation, we should miss the best half of our purpose, which is,
in amusing them, to exercise their intelligence and accustom them to
attention. Before teaching them to name what they see, let us begin by
teaching them to see it. _That_ science, forgotten in all educations, ought
to form the most important part of theirs. I can never repeat it often
enough--teach them never to be satisfied with words, ('se payer de mots')
and to hold themselves as knowing nothing of what has reached no farther
than their memories."
8. Rousseau chooses, to represent his 'Personees,' La Mufflaude, la
Linaire, l'Euphraise, la Pediculaire, la Crete-de-coq, l'Orobanche, la
Cimbalaire, la Velvote, la Digitale, giving plates of snapdragon, foxglove,
and Madonna-herb, (the Cimbalaire), and therefore including my entire class
of Draconidae, whether open or close throated. But I propose myself to
separate from them the flower which, for the present, I have called
Monacha, but may perhaps find hereafter a better name; this one, which is
the best Latin I can find for a nun of the desert, being given to it
because all the resemblance either to calf or dragon has ceased in its rosy
petals, and they resemble--the lower ones those of the mountain thyme, and
the upper one a softly crimson cowl or hood.
9. This beautiful mountain flower, at present, by the good grace of
botanists, known as Pedicularis, from a disease which it is supposed to
give to sheep, is distinguished from all other Draconidae by its beautifully
divided leaves: while the flower itself, like, as aforesaid, thyme in the
three lower petals, rises in the upper one quite upright, and terminates in
the narrow and peculiar hood from which I have named it 'Monacha.'
10. Two deeper crimson spots with white centres animate the colour of the
lower petals in our mountain kind---mountain or morass;--it is vilely drawn
in S. 997 under the name of Sylvatica, translated 'Procumbent'! As it is
neither a wood flower nor a procumbent one, and as its rosy colour is
rare among morass flowers, I shall call it simply Monacha Rosea.
I have not the smallest notion of the meaning of the following sentence in
S.:--"Upper lip of corolla not rostrate, with the margin on each side
furnished with a triangular tooth immediately below the apex, but without
any tooth below the middle." Why, or when, a lip is rostrate, or has any
'tooth below the middle,' I do not know; but the upper _petal_ of the
corolla is here a very close gathered hood, with the style emergent
downwards, and the stamens all hidden and close set within.
In this action of the upper petal, and curve of the style, the flower
resembles the Labiates, and is the proper link between them and the
Draconidae. The capsule is said by S. to be oval-ovoid. As eggs always _are_
oval, I don't feel farther informed by the epithet. The capsule and seed
both are of entirely indescribable shapes, with any number of sides--very
foxglove-like, and inordinately large. The seeds of the entire family are
11. I find only two species given as British by S., namely, Sylvatica and
Palustris; but I take first for the Regina, the beautiful Arctic species D.
1105, Flora Suecica, 555. Rose-coloured in the stem, pale pink in the
flowers (corollae pallide incarnatae), the calices furry against the cold,
whence the present ugly name, Hirsuta. Only on the highest crests of the
(2) Rosea, D. 225, there called Sylvatica, as by S., presumably because "in
pascuis subhumidis non rarae." Beautifully drawn, but, as I have described
it, vigorously erect, and with no decumbency whatever in any part of it.
Root branched, and enormous in proportion to plant, and I fancy therefore
must be good for something if one knew it. But Gerarde, who calls the plant
Red Rattle, (it having indeed much in common with the Yellow Rattle), says,
"It groweth in moist and moorish meadows; the herbe is not only
unprofitable, but likewise hurtful, and an infirmity of the meadows."
(3) Palustris, D. 2055, S. 996--scarcely any likeness between the plates.
"Everywhere in the meadows," according to D. I leave the English name,
Marsh Monacha, much doubting its being more marshy than others.
12. I take next (4 and 5) two northern species, Lapponica, D. 2, and
Groenlandica, D. 1166; the first yellow, the second red, both beautiful. The
Lap one has its divided leaves almost united into one lovely spear-shaped,
single leaf. The Greenland one has its red hood much prolonged in front.
(6) Ramosa, also a Greenland species; yellow, very delicate and beautiful.
Three stems from one root, but may be more or fewer, I suppose.
13. (7) Norvegica, a beautifully clustered golden flower, with thick stem.
D. 30, the only locality given being the Dovrefeldt. "Alpina" and "Flammea"
are the synonyms, but I do not know it on the Alps, and it is no more
flame-coloured than a cowslip.
Both the Lapland and Norwegian flowers are drawn with their stems wavy,
though upright--a rare and pretty habit of growth.
14. (8) Suecica, D. 26, named awkwardly Sceptrum Carolinum, in honour of
Charles XII. It is the largest of all the species drawn in D., and
contrasts strikingly with (4) and (5) in the strict uprightness of its
stem. The corolla is closed at the extremity, which is red; the body of the
flower pale yellow. Grows in marshy and shady woods, near Upsal. Linn.,
Flora Suecica, 553.
The many-lobed but united leaves, at the root five or six inches long, are
15. These eight species are all I can specify, having no pictures of the
others named by Loudon,--eleven, making nineteen altogether, and I wish I
could find a twentieth and draw them all, but the reader may be well
satisfied if he clearly know these eight. The group they form is an
entirely distinct one, exactly intermediate between the Vestals and
Draconids, and cannot be rightly attached to either; for it is Draconid in
structure and affinity--Vestal in form--and I don't see how to get the
connection of the three families rightly expressed without taking the
Draconidae out of the groups belonging to the dark Kora, and placing them
next the Vestals, with the Monachae between; for indeed Linaria and several
other Draconid forms are entirely innocent and beautiful, and even the
Foxglove never does any real mischief like hemlock, while decoratively it
is one of the most precious of mountain flowers. I find myself also
embarrassed by my name of Vestals, because of the masculine groups of Basil
and Thymus, and I think it will be better to call them simply Menthae, and
to place them with the other cottage-garden plants not yet classed, taking
the easily remembered names Mentha, Monacha, Draconida. This will leave me
a blank seventh place among my twelve orders at p. 194, vol. i., which I
think I shall fill by taking cyclamen and anagillis out of the Primulaceae,
and making a separate group of them. These retouchings and changes are
inevitable in a work confessedly tentative and suggestive only; but in
whatever state of imperfection I may be forced to leave 'Proserpina,' it
will assuredly be found, up to the point reached, a better foundation for
the knowledge of flowers in the minds of young people than any hitherto
adopted system of nomenclature.
16. Taking then this re-arranged group, Mentha, Monacha, and Draconida, as
a sufficiently natural and convenient one, I will briefly give the
essentially botanical relations of the three families.
Mentha and Monacha agree in being essentially hooded flowers, the upper
petal more or less taking the form of a cup, helmet or hood, which conceals
the tops of the stamens. Of the three lower petals, the lowest is almost
invariably the longest; it sometimes is itself divided again into two, but
may be best thought of as single, and with the two lateral ones,
distinguished in the Menthae as the apron and the side pockets.
Plate XII. represents the most characteristic types of the blossoms of
Menthae, in the profile and front views, all a little magnified. The upper
two are white basil, purple spotted--growing here at Brantwood always with
two terminal flowers. The two middle figures are the purple-spotted dead
nettle, Lamium maculatum; and the two lower, thyme: but I have not been
able to draw these as I wanted, the perspectives of the petals being too
difficult, and inexplicable to the eye even in the flowers themselves
without continually putting them in changed positions.
17. The Menthae are in their structure essentially quadrate plants; their
stems are square, their leaves opposite, their stamens either four or two,
their seeds two-carpeled. But their calices are five-sepaled, falling into
divisions of two and three; and the flowers, though essentially
four-petaled, may divide either the upper or lower petal, or both, into two
lobes, and so present a six-lobed outline. The entire plants, but chiefly
the leaves, are nearly always fragrant, and always innocent. None of them
sting, none prick, and none poison.
18. The Draconids, easily recognizable by their aspect, are botanically
indefinable with any clearness or simplicity. The calyx may be five- or
four-sepaled; the corolla, five- or four-lobed; the stamens may be two,
four, four with a rudimentary fifth, or five with the two anterior ones
longer than the other three! The capsule may open by two, three, or four
valves,--or by pores; the seeds, generally numerous, are sometimes
solitary, and the leaves may be alternate, opposite, or verticillate.
19. Thus licentious in structure, they are also doubtful in disposition.
None that I know of are fragrant, few useful, many more or less malignant,
and some parasitic. The following piece of a friend's letter almost makes
me regret my rescue of them from the dark kingdom of Kora:--
"... And I find that the Monacha Rosea (Red Rattle is its name, besides
the ugly one) is a perennial, and several of the other draconidae,
foxglove, etc., are biennials, born this year, flowering and dying next
year, and the size of roots is generally proportioned to the life of
plants; except when artificial cultivation develops the root specially,
as in turnips, etc. Several of the Draconidae are parasites, and suck
the roots of other plants, and have only just enough of their own to
catch with. The Yellow Rattle is one; it clings to the roots of the
grasses and clovers, and no cultivation will make it thrive without
them. My authority for this last fact is Grant Allen; but I have
observed for myself that the Yellow Rattle has very small _white_
sucking roots, and no earth sticking to them. The toothworts and broom
rapes are Draconidae, I think, and wholly parasites. Can it be that the
Red Rattle is the one member of the family that has 'proper pride, and
is self supporting'? the others are mendicant orders. We had what we
choose to call the Dorcas flower show yesterday, and we gave, as usual,
prizes for wild flower bouquets. I tried to find out the local names of
several flowers, but they all seemed to be called 'I don't know,
ma'am.' I would not allow this name to suffice for the red poppy, and I
said 'This red flower _must_ be called _something_--tell me what you
call it?' A few of the audience answered 'Blind Eyes.' Is it because
they have to do with sleep that they are called Blind Eyes--or because
they are dazzling?"
20. I think, certainly, from the dazzling, which sometimes with the poppy,
scarlet geranium, and nasturtium, is more distinctly oppressive to the eye
than a real excess of light.
I will certainly not include among my rescued Draconidae, the parasitic
Lathraea and Orobanche; and cannot yet make certain of any minor
classification among those which I retain,--but, uniting Bartsia with
Euphrasia, I shall have, in the main, the three divisions Digitalis,
Linaria, Euphrasia, and probably separate the moneyworts as links with
Veronica, and Rhinanthus as links with Lathraea.
And as I shall certainly be unable this summer, under the pressure of
resumed work at Oxford, to spend time in any new botanical investigations,
I will rather try to fulfil the promise given in the last number, to
collect what little I have been able hitherto to describe or ascertain,
respecting the higher modes of tree structure.
* * * * *
SCIENCE IN HER CELLS.
[The following chapter has been written six years. It was delayed in
order to complete the promised clearer analysis of stem-structure;
which, after a great deal of chopping, chipping, and peeling of my oaks
and birches, came to reverently hopeless pause. What is here done may
yet have some use in pointing out to younger students how they may
simplify their language, and direct their thoughts, so as to attain, in
due time, to reverent hope.]
1. The most generally useful book, to myself, hitherto, in such little time
as I have for reading about plants, has been Lindley's 'Ladies' Botany';
but the most rich and true I have yet found in illustration, the 'Histoire
des Plantes,' by Louis Figuier. I should like those of my readers who
can afford it to buy both these books; the first named, at any rate, as I
shall always refer to it for structural drawings, and on points of doubtful
classification; while the second contains much general knowledge, expressed
with some really human intelligence and feeling; besides some good and
singularly _just_ history of botanical discovery and the men who guided it.
The botanists, indeed, tell me proudly, "Figuier is no authority." But who
wants authority! Is there nothing known yet about plants, then, which can
be taught to a boy or girl, without referring them to an 'authority'?
I, for my own part, care only to gather what Figuier can teach concerning
things visible, to any boy or girl, who live within reach of a bramble
hedge, or a hawthorn thicket, and can find authority enough for what they
are told, in the sticks of them.
2. If only _he_ would, or could, tell us clearly that much; but like other
doctors, though with better meaning than most, he has learned mainly to
look at things with a microscope,--rarely with his eyes. And I am sorry to
see, on re-reading this chapter of my own, which is little more than an
endeavour to analyze and arrange the statements contained in his second,
that I have done it more petulantly and unkindly than I ought; but I can't
do all the work over again, now,--more's the pity. I have not looked at
this chapter for a year, and shall be sixty before I know where I am;--(I
find myself, instead, now, sixty-four!)
3. But I stand at once partly corrected in this second chapter of
Figuier's, on the 'Tige,' French from the Latin 'Tignum,' which
'authorities' say is again from the Sanscrit, and means 'the thing hewn
with an axe'; anyhow it is modern French for what we are to call the stem
(Sec. 12, p. 136).
"The tige," then, begins M. Louis, "is the axis of the ascending system of
a vegetable, and it is garnished at intervals with vital knots, (eyes,)
from which spring leaves and buds, disposed in a perfectly regular order.
The root presents nothing of the kind. This character permits us always to
distinguish, in the vegetable axis, what belongs really to the stem, and
what to the root."
4. Yes; and that is partly a new idea to me, for in this power of
_assigning their order_ for the leaves, the stem seems to take a royal or
commandant character, and cannot be merely defined as the connexion of the
leaf with the roots.
In _it_ is put the spirit of determination. One cannot fancy the little
leaf, as it is born, determining the point it will be born at: the
governing stem must determine that for it. Also the disorderliness of the
root is to be noted for a condition of its degradation, no less than its
love, and need, of Darkness.
Nor was I quite right (above, Sec. 15, p. 139) in calling the stem _itself_
'spiral': it is itself a straight-growing rod, but one which, as it grows,
lays the buds of future leaves round it in a spiral order, like the
bas-relief on Trajan's column.
I go on with Figuier: the next passage is very valuable.
5. "The tige is the part of plants which, directed into the air, supports,
and _gives growing power to_, the branches, the twigs, the leaves, and the
flowers. The form, strength, and direction of the tige depend on the part
that each plant has to play among the vast vegetable population of our
globe. Plants which need for their life a pure and often-renewed air, are
borne by a straight tige, robust and tall. When they have need only of a
moist air, more condensed, and more rarely renewed, when they have to creep
on the ground or glide in thickets, the tiges are long, flexible, and
dragging. If they are to float in the air, sustaining themselves on more
robust vegetables, they are provided with flexible, slender, and supple
6. Yes; but in that last sentence he loses hold of his main idea, and to me
the important one,--namely, the connexion of the form of stem with the
quality of the air it requires. And that idea itself is at present vague,
though most valuable, to me. A strawberry creeps, with a flexible stem, but
requires certainly no less pure air than a wood-fungus, which stands up
straight. And in our own hedges and woods, are the wild rose and
honeysuckle signs of unwholesome air?
"And honeysuckle loved to crawl
Up the lone crags and ruined wall.
I deemed such nooks the sweetest shade
The sun in all his round surveyed."
It seems to me, in the nooks most haunted by honeysuckle in my own wood,
that the reason for its twining is a very feminine one,--that it likes to
twine; and that all these whys and wherefores resolve themselves at last
into--what a modern philosopher, of course, cannot understand--caprice.
7. Farther on, Figuier, quoting St. Hilaire, tells us, of the creepers in
primitive forests,--"Some of them resemble waving ribands, others coil
themselves and describe vast spirals; they droop in festoons, they wind
hither and thither among the trees, they fling themselves from one to
another, and form masses of leaves and flowers in which the observer is
often at a loss to discover on which plant each several blossom grows."
For all this, the real reasons will be known only when human beings become
reasonable. For, except a curious naturalist or wistful missionary, no
Christian has trodden the labyrinths of delight and decay among these
garlands, but men who had no other thought than how to cheat their savage
people out of their gold, and give them gin and smallpox in exchange. But,
so soon as true servants of Heaven shall enter these Edens, and the Spirit
of God enter with them, another spirit will also be breathed into the
physical air; and the stinging insect, and venomous snake, and poisonous
tree, pass away before the power of the regenerate human soul.
8. At length, on the structure of the tige, Figuier begins his real work,
"A glance of the eye, thrown on the section of a log of wood destined for
warming, permits us to recognize that the tige of the trees of our forests
presents three essential parts, which are, in going from within to without,
the pith, the wood, and the bark. The pith, (in French, marrow,) forms a
sort of column in the centre of the woody axis. In very thick and old stems
its diameter appears very little; and it has even for a long time been
supposed that the marrow ends by disappearing altogether from the stems of
old trees. But it does nothing of the sort; and it is now ascertained,
by exact measures, that its diameter remains sensibly invariable from
the moment when the young woody axis begins to consolidate itself, to the
epoch of its most complete development."
So far, so good; but what does he mean by the complete development of the
young _woody_ axis? When does the axis become 'wooden,' and how far up the
tree does he call it an axis? If the stem divides into three branches,
which is the axis? And is the pith in the trunk no thicker than in each
9. He proceeds to tell us, "The marrow is formed by a reunion of
cells."--Yes, and so is Newgate, and so was the Bastille. But what does it
matter whether the marrow is made of a reunion of cells, or cellars, or
walls, or floors, or ceilings? I want to know what's the use of it? why
doesn't it grow bigger with the rest of the tree? when _does_ the tree
'consolidate itself'? when is it finally consolidated? and how can there be
always marrow in it when the weary frame of its age remains a mere scarred
tower of war with the elements, full of dust and bats?
[Illustration: FIG. 24.]
'He will tell you if only you go on patiently,' thinks the reader. He will
not! Once your modern botanist gets into cells, he stays in them. Hear how
he goes on!--"This cell is a sort of sack; this sack is completely closed;
sometimes it is empty, sometimes it"--is full?--no, that would be
unscientific simplicity: sometimes it "conceals a matter in its interior."
"The marrow of young trees, such as it is represented in Figure 24
(Figuier, Figs. 38, 39, p. 42), is nothing else"--(indeed!)--"than an
aggregation of cells, which, first of spherical form, have become
polyhedric by their increase and mutual compression."
10. Now these figures, 38 and 39, which profess to represent this change,
show us sixteen oval cells, such as at A, (Fig. 24) enlarged into thirteen
larger, and flattish, hexagons!--B, placed at a totally different angle.
And before I can give you the figure revised with any available accuracy, I
must know why or how the cells are enlarged, and in what direction.
Do their walls lengthen laterally when they are empty, or does the
'matiere' inside stuff them more out, (itself increased from what sources?)
when they are full? In either case, during this change from circle to
hexagon, is the marrow getting thicker without getting longer? If so, the
change in the angle of the cells is intentional, and probably is so; but
the number of cells should have been the same: and further, the term
'hexagonal' can only be applied to the _section_ of a tubular cell, as in
honeycomb, so that the floor and ceiling of our pith cell are left
11. Having got thus much of (partly conjectural) idea of the mechanical
structure of marrow, here follows the solitary vital, or mortal, fact in
the whole business, given in one crushing sentence at the close:---
"The medullary tissue" (first time of using this fine phrase for the
marrow,--why can't he say marrowy tissue--'tissue moelleuse'?) "appears
very early struck with atony," ('atonic,' want of tone,) "above all, in its
central parts." And so ends all he has to say for the present about the
marrow! and it never appears to occur to him for a moment, that if indeed
the noblest trees live all their lives in a state of healthy and robust
paralysis, it is a distinction, hitherto unheard of, between vegetables and
12. Two pages farther on, however, (p. 45,) we get more about the marrow,
and of great interest,--to this effect, for I must abstract and complete
here, instead of translating.
"The marrow itself is surrounded, as the centre of an electric cable is, by
its guarding threads--that is to say, by a number of cords or threads
coming between it and the wood, and differing from all others in the tree.
"The entire protecting cylinder composed of them has been called the
'etui,' (or needle-case,) of the marrow. But each of the cords which
together form this etui, is itself composed of an almost infinitely
delicate thread twisted into a screw, like the common spring of a
letter-weigher or a Jack-in-the-box, but of exquisite fineness." Upon this,
two pages and an elaborate figure are given to these 'trachees'--tracheas,
the French call them,--and we are never told the measure of them, either in
diameter or length, and still less, the use of them!
I collect, however, in my thoughts, what I have learned thus far.
13. A tree stem, it seems, is a growing thing, cracked outside, because its
skin won't stretch, paralysed inside, because its marrow won't grow, but
which continues the process of its life somehow, by knitted nerves without
any nervous energy in them, protected by spiral springs without any spring
Stay--I am going too fast. That coiling is perhaps prepared for some kind
of uncoiling; and I will try if I can't learn something about it from some
other book--noticing, as I pause to think where to look, the advantage of
our English tongue in its pithy Saxon word, 'pith,' separating all our
ideas of vegetable structure clearly from animal; while the poor Latin and
French must use the entirely inaccurate words 'medulla' and 'moelle'; all,
however, concurring in their recognition of a vital power of some essential
kind in this white cord of cells: "Medulla, sive illa vitalis anima est,
ante se tendit, longitudinem impellens." (Pliny, 'Of the Vine,' liber X.,
cap. xxi.) 'Vitalis anima'--yes--_that_ I accept; but 'longitudinem
impellens,' I pause at; being not at all clear, yet, myself, about any
impulsive power in the pith.
14. However, I take up first, and with best hope, Dr. Asa Gray, who tells
me (Art. 211) that pith consists of parenchyma, 'which is at first gorged
with sap,' but that many stems expand so rapidly that their pith is torn
into a mere lining or into horizontal plates; and that as the stem grows
older, the pith becomes dry and light, and is 'then of no farther use to
the plant.' But of what use it ever was, we are not informed; and the
Doctor makes us his bow, so far as the professed article on pith goes; but,
farther on, I find in his account of 'Sap-wood,' (Art. 224.) that in the
germinating plantlet, the sap 'ascends first through the parenchyma,
especially through its central portion or pith.' Whereby we are led back to
our old question, what sap is, and where it comes from, with the now
superadded question, whether the young pith is a mere succulent sponge, or
an active power, and constructive mechanism, nourished by the abundant sap:
as Columella has it,--
"Naturali enim spiritu omne alimentum virentis quasi quaedam anima, per
_medullam_ trunci veluti per siphonem, trahitur in summum."
As none of these authors make any mention of a _communication_ between the
cells of the pith, I conclude that the sap they are filled with is taken up
by them, and used to construct their own thickening tissue.
15. Next, I take Balfour's 'Structural Botany,' and by his index, under the
word 'Pith,' am referred to his articles 8, 72, and 75. In article 8,
neither the word pith, nor any expression alluding to it, occurs.
In article 72, the stem of an outlaid tree is defined as consisting of
'pith, fibro-vascular and  woody tissue, medullary rays, bark, and
A more detailed statement follows, illustrated by a figure surrounded by
twenty-three letters--namely, two _b_ s, three _c_ s, four _e_ s, three _f_
s, one _l_, four _m_ s, three _p_ s, one _r_, and two _v_ s.
Eighteen or twenty minute sputters of dots may, with a good lens, be
discerned to proceed from this alphabet, and to stop at various points, or
lose themselves in the texture, of the represented wood. And, knowing now
something of the matter beforehand, guessing a little more, and gleaning
the rest with my finest glass, I achieve the elucidation of the figure, to
the following extent, explicable without letters at all, by my more simple
drawing, Figure 25.
16. (1) The inner circle full of little cells, diminishing in size towards
the outside, represents the pith, 'very large at this period of the
growth'--(the first year, we are told in next page,) and 'very large'--he
means in proportion to the rest of the branch. _How_ large he does not say,
in his text, but states, in his note, that the figure is magnified 26
diameters. I have drawn mine by the more convenient multiplier of 30, and
given the real size at B, _according to Balfour_:--but without believing
him to be right. I never saw a maple stem of the first year so small.
[Illustration: FIG. 25.]
(2) The black band with white dots round the marrow, represents the
(3) From the marrow-sheath run the marrow-rays 'dividing the vascular
circle into numerous compact segments.' A 'ray' cannot divide anything into
a segment. Only a partition, or a knife, can do that. But we shall find
presently that marrow _rays_ ought to be called marrow-_plates_, and are
really mural, forming more or less continuous partitions.
(4) The compact segments 'consist of woody vessels and of porous vessels.'
This is the first we have heard of woody _vessels_! He means the '_fibres_
ligneux' of Figuier; and represents them in each compartment, as at C (Fig.
25). without telling us why he draws the woody vessels as radiating. They
appear to radiate, indeed, when wood is sawn across, but they are really
(5) A moist layer of greenish cellular tissue called the cambium
layer--black in Figure 25--and he draws it in flat arches, without saying
(6), (7), (8) Three layers of bark (called in his note Endophloeum;
Mesophloeum, and Epiphloeum!) with 'laticiferous vessels.' 
(9) Epidermis. The three layers of bark being separated by single lines, I
indicate the epidermis by a double one, with a rough fringe outside, and
thus we have the parts of the section clearly visible and distinct for
discussion, so far as this first figure goes,--without wanting one letter
of all his three and twenty!
17. But on the next page, this ingenious author gives us a new figure,
which professes to represent the same order of things in a longitudinal
section; and in retracing that order sideways, instead of looking down, he
not only introduces new terms, but misses one of his old layers in doing
His order, in explaining Figure 96, contains, as above, nine members of the
But his order, in explaining Figure 97, contains only eight, thus:
(1) The pith. (2) Medullary sheath. Circles.
(3) Medullary ray = a Radius.
(4) Vascular zone, with woody _fibres_ (not now vessels!) The fibres are
composed of spiral, annular, pitted, and other vessels.
(5) Inner bark or 'liber,' with layer of cambium cells.
(6) Second layer of bark, or 'cellular envelope,' with laticiferous
(7) Outer or tuberous layer of bark.
Doing the best I can to get at the muddle-headed gentleman's meaning, it
appears, by the lettering of his Figure 97, my 25 above, that the 'liber,'
number 5, contains the cambium layer in the middle of it. The part of the
liber between the cambium and the wood is not marked in Figure 96;--but the
cambium is number 5, and the liber outside of it is number 6,--the
Endophloeum of his note.
[Illustration: FIG. 26.]
Having got himself into this piece of lovely confusion, he proceeds to give
a figure of the wood in the second year, which I think he has borrowed,
without acknowledgment, from Figuier, omitting a piece of Figuier's woodcut
which is unexplained in Figuier's text. I will spare my readers the work I
have had to do, in order to get the statements on either side clarified:
but I think they will find, if they care to work through the wilderness of
the two authors' wits, that this which follows is the sum of what they have
effectively to tell us; with the collated list of the main questions they
leave unanswered--and, worse, unasked.
18. An ordinary tree branch, in transverse section, consists essentially of
three parts only,--the Pith, Wood, and Bark.
The pith is in full animation during the first year--that is to say, during
the actual shooting of the wood. We are left to infer that in the second
year, the pith of the then unprogressive shoot becomes collective only, not
formative; and that the pith of the new shoot virtually energizes the new
wood in its deposition beside the old one. Thus, let _a b_, Figure 26, be a
shoot of the first year, and _b c_ of the second. The pith remains of the
same thickness in both, but that of the new shoot is, I suppose, chiefly
active in sending down the new wood to thicken the old one, which is
collected, however, and fastened by the extending pith-rays below. You see,
I have given each shoot four fibres of wood for its own; then the four
fibres of the upper one send out two to thicken the lower: the pith-rays,
represented by the white transverse claws, catch and gather all together.
Mind, I certify nothing of this to you; but if this do not happen,--let the
botanists tell you what _does_.
19. Secondly. The wood, represented by these four lines, is to be always
remembered as consisting of fibres and vessels; therefore it is called
'vascular,' a word which you may as well remember (though rarely needed in
familiar English), with its roots, _vas_, a vase, and _vasculum_, a little
vase or phial. 'Vascule' may sometimes be allowed in botanical descriptions
where 'cell' is not clear enough; thus, at present, we find our botanists
calling the pith 'cellular' but the wood 'vascular,' with, I think, the
implied meaning that a 'vascule,' little or large, is a long thing, and has
some liquid in it, while a 'cell' is a more or less round thing, and to be
supposed empty, unless described as full. But what liquid fills the
vascules of the wood, they do not tell us. I assume that they absorb
water, as long as the tree lives.
[Illustration: FIG. 27.]
20. Wood, whether vascular or fibrous, is however formed, in outlaid
plants, first outside of the pith, and then, in shoots of the second year,
outside of the wood of the first, and in the third year, outside of the
wood of the second; so that supposing the quantity of wood sent down from
the growing shoot distributed on a flat plane, the structure in the third
year would be as in Figure 27. But since the new wood is distributed all
round the stem, (in successive cords or threads, if not at once), the
increase of substance after a year or two would be untraceable, unless more
shoots than one were formed at the extremity of the branch. Of actual bud
and branch structure, I gave introductory account long since in the fifth
volume of 'Modern Painters.' to which I would now refer the reader; but
both then, and to-day, after twenty years' further time allowed me, I am
unable to give the least explanation of the mode in which the wood is
really added to the interior stem. I cannot find, even, whether this is
mainly done in springtime, or in the summer and autumn, when the young
suckers form on the wood; but my impression is that though all the several
substances are added annually, a little more pith going to the edges of the
pith-plates, and a little more bark to the bark, with a great deal more
wood to the wood,--there is a different or at least successive period for
each deposit, the carrying all these elements to their places involving a
fineness of basket work or web work in the vessels, which neither
microscope nor dissecting tool can disentangle. The result on the whole,
however, is practically that we have, outside the wood, always a mysterious
'cambium layer,' and then some distinctions in the bark itself, of which we
must take separate notice.
21. Of Cambium, Dr. Gray's 220th article gives the following account. "It
is not a distinct substance, but a layer of delicate new cells full of sap.
The inner portion of the cambium layer is, therefore, nascent wood, and the
outer nascent bark. As the cells of this layer multiply, the greater number
lengthen vertically into _prosenchyma_, or woody tissue, while some are
transformed into ducts" (wood vessels?) "and others remaining as
_parenchyma_, continue the medullary rays, or commence new ones." Nothing
is said here of the part of the cambium which becomes bark: but at page
128, the thin walled cells of the bark are said to be those of ordinary
'parenchyma,' and in the next page a very important passage occurs, which
must have a paragraph to itself. I close the present one with one more
protest against the entirely absurd terms 'par-enchyma,' for common
cellular tissue, 'pros-enchyma,' for cellular tissue with longer
cells;--'cambium' for an early state of _both_, and 'diachyma' for a
peculiar position of _one_! while the chemistry of all these substances
is wholly neglected, and we have no idea given us of any difference in
pith, wood, and bark, than that they are made of short or long--young or
22. But in Dr. Gray's 230th article comes this passage of real value.
(Italics mine--all.) "While the newer layers of the wood abound in _crude_
sap, which they convey to the leaves, those of the inner bark abound in
_elaborated_ sap, which _they receive from the leaves_, and convey to the
_cambium_ layer, or _zone of growth_. The proper juices and peculiar
products of plants are accordingly found in the foliage and bark,
especially the latter. In the bark, therefore, either of the stem or root,
medicinal and other principles are usually to be sought, rather than in the
wood. Nevertheless, as the wood is kept in connection with the bark by the
medullary rays, many products which probably originate in the former are
deposited in the wood."
23. Now, at last, I see my way to useful summary of the whole, which I had
better give in a separate chapter: and will try in future to do the
preliminary work of elaboration of the sap from my authorities, above
shown, in its process, to the reader, without making so much fuss about it.
But, I think in this case, it was desirable that the floods of pros-, par-,
peri-, dia-, and circumlocution, through which one has to wade towards any
emergent crag of fact in modern scientific books, should for once be seen
in the wasteful tide of them; that so I might finally pray the younger
students who feel, or remember, their disastrous sway, to cure themselves
for ever of the fatal habit of imagining that they know more of anything
after naming it unintelligibly, and thinking about it impudently, than they
did by loving sight of its nameless being, and in wise confession of its
* * * * *
In re-reading the text of this number I can secure my young readers of some
things left doubtful, as, for instance, in their acceptance of the word
'Monacha,' for the flower described in the sixth chapter. I have used it
now habitually too long to part with it myself, and I think it will be
found serviceable and pleasurable by others. Neither shall I now change the
position of the Draconidae, as suggested at p. 118, but keep all as first
planned. See among other reasons for doing so the letter quoted in p. 121.
I also add to the plate originally prepared for this number, one showing
the effect of Veronica officinalis in decoration of foreground, merely by
its green leaves; see the paragraphs 1 and 5 of Chapter VI. I have not
represented the fine serration of the leaves, as they are quite invisible
from standing height: the book should be laid on the floor and looked down
on, without stooping, to see the effect intended. And so I gladly close
this long-lagging number, hoping never to write such a tiresome chapter as
this again, or to make so long a pause between any readable one and its
* * * * *
 Vol. i., p. 212, note.
 See 'Deucalion,' vol. ii., chap, i., p. 12, Sec. 18.
 I am ashamed to give so rude outlines; but every moment now is valuable
to me: careful outline of a dog-violet is given in Plate X.
 A careless bit of Byron's, (the last song but one in the 'Deformed
Transformed'); but Byron's most careless work is better, by its innate
energy, than other people's most laboured. I suppress, in some doubts about
my 'digamma,' notes on the Greek violet and the Ion of Euripides;--which
the reader will perhaps be good enough to fancy a serious loss to him, and
supply for himself.
 Nine; I see that I missed count of P. farinosa, the most abundant of
 "A feeble little quatrefoil--growing one on the stem, like a Parnassia,
and looking like a Parnassia that had dropped a leaf. I think it drops one
of its own four, mostly, and lives as three-fourths of itself, for most of
its time. Stamens pale gold. Root-leaves, three or four, grass-like;
growing among the moist moss chiefly."
 The great work of Lecoq, 'Geographic Botanique,' is of priceless value;
but treats all on too vast a scale for our purposes.
 It is, I believe, Sowerby's Viola Lutea, 721 of the old edition, there
painted with purple upper petals; but he says in the text, "Petals either
all yellow, or the two uppermost are of a blue purple, the rest yellow with
a blue tinge: very often the whole are purple."
 Did the wretch never hear bees in a lime tree then, or ever see one on
a star gentian?
 Septuagint, "the eyes of doves out of thy silence." Vulgate, "the eyes
of doves, besides that which is hidden in them." Meaning--the _dim_ look of
love, beyond all others in sweetness.
 When I have the chance, and the time, to submit the proofs of
'Proserpina' to friends who know more of Botany than I, or have kindness
enough to ascertain debateable things for me, I mean in future to do
so,--using the letter A to signify Amicus, generally; with acknowledgment
by name, when it is permitted, of especial help or correction. Note first
of this kind: I find here on this word, 'five-petaled,' as applied to
Pinguicula, "Qy. two-lipped? it is monopetalous, and monosepalous, the
calyx and corolla being each all in one piece."
Yes; and I am glad to have the observation inserted. But my term,
'five-petaled,' must stand. For the question with me is always first, not
how the petals are connected, but how many they are. Also I have accepted
the term petal--but never the word lip--as applied to flowers. The generic
term 'Labiatae' is cancelled in 'Proserpina,' 'Vestales' being substituted;
and these flowers, when I come to examine them, are to be described, not as
divided into two lips, but into hood, apron, and side-pockets. Farther, the
depth to which either calyx or corolla is divided, and the firmness with
which the petals are attached to the torus, may, indeed, often be an
important part of the plant's description, but ought not to be elements in
its definition. Three petaled and three-sepaled, four-petaled and
four-sepaled, five-petaled and five-sepaled, etc., etc., are
essential--with me, primal--elements of definition; next, whether resolute
or stellar in their connection; next, whether round or pointed, etc. Fancy,
for instance, the fatality to a rose of pointing its petals, and to a lily,
of rounding them! But how deep cut, or how hard holding, is quite a minor
Farther, that all plants _are_ petaled and sepaled, and never mere cups in
saucers, is a great fact, not to be dwelt on in a note.
 Our 'Lucia Nivea,' 'Blanche Lucy;' in present botany, Bog bean! having
no connection whatever with any manner of bean, but only a slight
resemblance to bean-_leaves_ in its own lower ones. Compare Ch. IV. Sec. 11.
 It is not. (Resolute negative from A., unsparing of time for me; and
what a state of things it all signifies!)
 With the following three notes, 'A' must become a definitely and
gratefully interpreted letter. I am indebted for the first, conclusive in
itself, but variously supported and confirmed by the two following, to R.J.
Mann, Esq., M.D., long ago a pupil of Dr. Lindley's, and now on the council
of Whitelands College, Chelsea:--for the second, to Mr. Thomas Moore,
F.L.S., the kind Keeper of the Botanic Garden at Chelsea; for the third,
which will be farther on useful to us, to Miss Kemm, the botanical lecturer
(1) There is no explanation of Lentibulariaceae in Lindley's 'Vegetable
Kingdom.' He was not great in that line. The term is, however, taken from
_Lenticula_, the lentil, in allusion to the lentil-shaped air-bladders of
the typical genus _Utricularia_.
The change of the c into b may possibly have been made only from some
euphonic fancy of the contriver of the name, who, I think, was Rich.
But I somewhat incline myself to think that the _tibia_, a pipe or flute,
may have had something to do with it. The _tibia_ may possibly have been
diminished into a little pipe by a stretch of licence, and have become
_tibula_: [but _tibulus_ is a kind of pine tree in Pliny]; when _Len
tibula_ would be the lens or lentil-shaped pipe or bladder. I give you this
only for what it is worth. The _lenticula_, as a derivation, is reliable
and has authority.
_Lenticula_, a lentil, a freckly eruption; _lenticularis_, lentil-shaped;
so the nat. ord. ought to be (if this be right) _lenticulariaceae_.
(2) BOTANIC GARDENS, CHELSEA, _Feb._ 14, 1882.
_Lentibularia_ is an old generic name of Tournefort's, which has been
superseded by _utricularia,_ but, oddly enough, has been retained in the
name of the order _lentibulareae_; but it probably comes from _lenticula_,
which signifies the little root bladders, somewhat resembling lentils.
(3) 'Manual of Scientific Terms,' Stormonth, p. 234.
_Lentibulariaceae_, neuter, plural.
(_Lenticula_, the shape of a lentil; from _lens_, a lentil.) The Butterwort
family, an order of plants so named from the lenticular shape of the
air-bladders on the branches of utricularia, one of the genera. (But
observe that the _Butterworts_ have nothing of the sort, any of them.--R.)
Lindley.--"Sometimes with whorled vesicles."
In Nuttall's Standard (?) Pronouncing Dictionary, it is given,--
_Lenticulareae_, a nat. ord. of marsh plants, which thrive in water or
 More accurately, shows the pruned roots of branches,--[Greek: epeide
prota tomen en horessi lelotpen]. The _pruning_ is the mythic expression of
the subduing of passion by rectorial law.
 The bitter sorrow with which I first recognized the extreme rarity of
finely-developed organic sight is expressed enough in the lecture on the
Mystery of Life, added in the large edition of 'Sesame and Lilies.'
 Lat. acesco, to turn sour.
 Withering quotes this as from Linnaeus, and adds on authority of a Mr.
Hawkes, "This did not succeed when tried with cows' milk." He also gives as
another name, Yorkshire Sanicle; and says it is called _earning grass_ in
Scotland. Linnaeus says the juice will curdle reindeer's milk. The name for
rennet is _earning_, in Lincolnshire. Withering also gives this note:
"_Pinguis_, fat, from its effect in CONGEALING milk."--(A.) Withering of
course wrong: the name comes, be the reader finally assured, from the
fatness of the green leaf, quite peculiar among wild plants, and fastened
down for us in the French word 'Grassette.' I have found the flowers also
difficult to dry, in the benighted early times when I used to think a dried
plant useful! See closing paragraphs of the *4th chapter.--R.
 I find much more difficulty, myself, being old, in using my altered
names for species than my young scholars will. In watching the bells of the
purple bindweed fade at evening, let them learn the fourth verse of the
prayer of Hezekiah, as it is in the Vulgate--"Generatio mea ablata est, et
convoluta est a me, sicut tabernaculum pastoris,"--and they will not forget
the name of the fast-fading--ever renewed--"belle d'un jour."
 "It is Miss Cobbe, I think, who says 'all wild flowers know how to die
 See distinction between recumbent and rampant herbs, below, under
'Veronica Agrestis,' p. 72.
 'Abstracted' rather, I should have said, and with perfect skill, by
Mr. Collingwood (the joint translator of Xenophon's Economics for the
'Bibliotheca Pastorum'). So also the next following cut, Fig. 5.
 Of the references, henceforward necessary to the books I have used as
authorities, the reader will please note the following abbreviations:--
C. Curtis's Magazine of Botany.
D. Flora Danica.
G. Sibthorpe's Flora Graeca.
L. Linnaeus. Systema Naturae.
L.S. Linnaeus's Flora Suecica. But till we are quite used to the other
letters, I print this reference in words.
L.N. William Curtis's Flora Londinensis. Of the exquisite plates
engraved for this book by James Sowerby, note is taken in the close of
O. Sowerby's English Wild Flowers; the old edition in thirty-two thin
volumes--far the best.
S. Sowerby's English Wild Flowers; the modern edition in ten volumes.
 See letter on the last results of our African campaigns, in the
_Morning Post_ of April 14th, of this year.
 I deliberately, not garrulously, allow more autobiography in
'Proserpina' than is becoming, because I know not how far I may be
permitted to carry on that which was begun in 'Fors.'
 In present Botany, Polygala Chamaebuxus; C. 316: or, in English, Much
Milk Ground-box. It is not, as matters usually go, a name to be ill thought
of, as it really contains three ideas; and the plant does, without doubt,
somewhat resemble box, and grows on the ground;--far more fitly called
'ground-box' than the Veronica 'ground-oak.' I want to find a pretty name
for it in connection with Savoy or Dauphine, where it indicates, as above
stated, the _healthy_ districts of _hard_ limestone. I do not remember it
as ever occurring among the dark and moist shales of the inner mountain
ranges, which at once confine and pollute the air.
 Which, with the following page, is the summary of many chapters of
'Modern Painters:' and of the aims kept in view throughout 'Munera
Pulveris.' The three kinds of Desert specified--of Reed, Sand, and
Rock--should be kept in mind as exhaustively including the states of the
earth neglected by man. For instance of a Reed desert, produced _merely_ by
his neglect, see Sir Samuel Baker's account of the choking up of the bed of
the White Nile. Of the sand desert, Sir F. Palgrave's journey from the
Djowf to Hayel, vol. i., p. 92.
 This subject is first entered on in the 'Seven Lamps,' and carried
forward in the final chapters of 'Modern Painters,'to the point where I
hope to take it up for conclusion, in the sections of 'Our Fathers have
told us' devoted to the history of the fourteenth century.
 See in the first volume, the plates of Sonchus Arvensis and Tussilago
Petasites; in the second, Carduus tomentosus and Picris Echioides.
 For the sense in which this word is used throughout my writings, see
the definition of it in the 52nd paragraph of the 'Queen of the Air,'
comparing with respect to its office in plants, Sec.Sec. 59-60.
 Written in 1880.
 The plate of Chamaedrys, D. 448, is also quite right, and not 'too tall
and weedlike,' as I have called it at p. 72.
 "Stems numerous from the crown of the root-stock, de-cumbent."--S. The
effect of the flower upon the ground is always of an extremely upright and
separate plant, never appearing in clusters, (I meant, in close masses - it
forms exquisite little rosy crowds, on ground that it likes) or in any
relation to a central root. My epithet 'rosea' does not deny its botanical
de- or pro-cumbency.
 Compare especially Galeopsis Angustifolia, D. 3031.
 Octavo: Paris, Hachette, 1865.
 See in the ninth chapter what I have been able, since this sentence
was written, to notice on the matter in question.
 I envy the French their generalized form of denial, 'Il n'en est
 'Sensiblement invariable;' 'unchanged, _so far as we can see,_' or to
general sense; microscopic and minute change not being considered.
 Moreover, the confusion between vertical and horizontal sections in
pp. 46, 47, is completed by the misprint of vertical for horizontal in the
third line of p. 43, and of horizontal for vertical in the fifth line from
bottom of p. 46; while Figure 45 is to me totally unintelligible, this
being, as far as can be made out by the lettering, a section of a tree stem
which has its marrow on the outside!
 "Try a bit of rhubarb" (says A, who sends me a pretty drawing of
rhubarb pith); but as rhubarb does not grow into wood, inapplicable to our
present subject; and if we descend to annual plants, rush pith is the thing
to be examined.
 I am too lazy now to translate, and shall trust to the chance of some
remnant, among my readers, of classical study, even in modern England.
 '_Or_ woody tissue,' suggests A. It is 'and' in Balfour.
 Terms not used now, but others quite as bad: Cuticle, Epidermis,
Cortical layer, Periderm, Cambium, Phelloderm--six hard words for 'BARK,'
says my careful annotator. "Yes; and these new six to be changed for six
newer ones next year, no doubt."
 "At first the vessels are pervious and full of _fluid_, but by degrees
thickening layers are deposited, which contract their canal."--BALFOUR.
 I cannot better this earlier statement, which in beginning
'Proserpina,' I intended to form a part of that work; but, as readers
already in possession of it in the original form, ought not to be burdened
with its repetition, I shall republish those chapters as a supplement,
which I trust may be soon issued.
 "'Diachyma' is parenchyma in the middle of a leaf!" (Balfour, Art.
137.) Henceforward, if I ever make botanical quotations, I shall always
call parenchyma, By-tis; prosenchyma, To-tis; and diachyma, Through-tis,
short for By-tissue, To-tissue, and Through-tissue--then the student will
see what all this modern wisdom comes to!