LINNAEUS, Carolus. Autograph letter signed ("Car. v. Linne"), to Francois Boissier de Sauvages de la Croix (1706-1767), Uppsala, 10 March 1764. 3 pages, closely written, with integral address leaf. In Latin.
"IN WHAT CONCERNS MY SYSTEM, THERE IS NOTHING I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY"
A VIGOROUS DEFENSE OF HIS WORK AND PRIDE IN HIS HOME-GROWN TEA. Defending his classification systems against critics, Linnaeus faults himself for personal inadequacy, but insists on the validity and usefulness of his theories. He tells his long-time friend and fellow scientist, Sauvauges de la Croix, that "I am not satisfied with myself because of my stupid intelligence...were I less blind, I should have noticed even more. However in what concerns my system, there is nothing I would do differently.... I had to establish a system so that any observer could see what the sex of plants were in the rest in their former classes, then my method would not have based on sexual differentiation.... I believed that there were few men born with such endowments of intellect that they could properly distinguish so many genera without the use of system. I would wish for nothing better than that some great men would give us a system free form all faults.... It's easy to see other men's errors and be unaware of one's own..." On the specific cases that one critic raised, he says, "if only he could be bothered to take note of the key to the classes.... What he says about the Arus, I have already said in respect of Gynandriam. Indeed I am not aware that receptacula place absolute limits on any classes. What he says about boerhaaviae is fine. I did not know this and have never had Boerhaaviae in sufficient quantity is fine. I did not Know this and have never had Boerhaaviae in sufficient quantity to allow me to examine the floweret. The rest of his criticisms are more unpleasant..."
Linnaeus is generous in praise for the work of a fellow botanist, he lauds Gerard's Herbal. "Gerard was indeed fortunate to have such a good climate for all his journeys to depict completely undocumented plants. Like a bee I drank greedily from his glowers the sweetest honey.... I hold Gerard most dear and consider him the best of men, revering him because his accomplishment in the are of the herbal..." Linnaeus continues with a running account of events in the botanical world, identifying specimens he has been sent, announcing discoveries by other botanists and mentioning books that he has received. He describes his efforts in growing tea ("My tea plants grows amazingly. Could you tell me whether you have ever heard of its growing in Europe. I am sure what I have been shown as being a tea plant was actually a species of Cassine..."), and mentions that he is about to begin a new edition of his own Systema augmented with a huge number of additional examples. He says he will send Sauvauges copies of his Genera Plantorum, Species Plantorum and Museum Reginae. He recounts his medical complaints and expresses his resentment about the approach of old age.