[John Lindley, as Vice Secretary, Horticultural Society of London.] Autograph Letter Signed to John Hearne of St Domingo, on importing 'West Indian fruits' to English markets. With printed circular including 'Enquiries concerning the Pine Apple'.

John Lindley (1799-1865), Professor of Botany at University College, London, and Secretary of the Horticultural Society of London [John Hearne (c.1795-1849), merchant in Haiti and St Domingo]
Publication details: 
Stamped letterhead of the Horticultural Society, 21 Regent's Street [London]. 30 April 1844.
SKU: 21408

Two items, both in fair condition, lightly aged and worn, but carelessly extracted from the volume in which they were previously bound up, so that Lindley's letter has suffered slight damage at the edge of both leaves, resulting in repair to one of the leaves, and the loss of a tiny strip of paper from the other, with the loss of a few letters of text (all easily supplied). ONE: Autograph Letter Signed from 'John Lindley | Vice Secretary' to 'John Hearne Esq | St. Domingo'. The letter begins: 'I am directed to transmit to you the Copy of a letter [i.e. Item Two below] which has been addressed by the Council of the Horticultural Society of London to Dr. Griffith, Superintendent of the Botanical Garden at Calcutta, and to other gentlemen who are interested in the matters of Botanical & Horticultural research in the East, and as some of the subjects therein discussed may have come under your observation and may be greatly elucidated by you, I have earnestly on the part of the Council to request your attention to them & to express an anxious desire that you may be led to favour the Society with such information as you may possess upon them or to pursue a similar train of enquiry.' Lindley also describes 'a secondary object': 'the communication between England & the West Indies, is now so greatly facilitated, that an intercourse in plants & productions, more extended than has hitherto prevailed, may possibly be established with advantage […] The rapidity of Steam Communication leads us to believe that means may be found of regularly supplying the markets of England with West Indian fruits. Pine apples have in fact already been imported in large quantities from Nassau, & although they arrived in bad condition & from their bad quality produced an inconsiderable price, yet the possibility of receiving them here is sufficiently proved by the experiment - & an attempt might be made with other kinds'. Although the 'funds of the Society will not permit any great outlay', it desires 'samples of the finest West Indian fruits & vegetables', and Lindley asks if Hearne could 'ascertain the expense of obtaining them occasionally and transmitting them by Steamers […] we should be willing to defray any moderate charge for the purpose of trying the experiment – what fruits besides the pine apple, Mango, and Banana it may be practicable thus to transmit'. Lindley continues over the latter part of the letter to discuss 'the Experiment alluded to', putting forward in return for assistance the Society's offer to 'offer suggestions upon Horticultural subjects in which the West Indies are interested'. Referring to results in Calcutta, he states that 'our forcing houses may enable us to prepare the Vine, the Peach, the Strawberry, and similar fruits that they would yield one crop on their arrival in the West Indies'. Reference is also made to 'such vegetables as Asparagus, Sea Kale & Rhubarb'. TWO: Lithographed circular, in facsimile of handwriting, referred to by Lindley at the beginning of his letter. 4pp, folio, and 1p, 8vo. The final 8vo page is headed 'Enquiries concerning the Pine Apple, - for answers to which, as far as concerns [St. Domingo] the Horticultural Society will be much obliged.' (The words 'St. Domingo' are inserted in Lindley's autograph.) Consisting of twelve questions, the last of which reads: 'Are there any varieties of such peculiar excellence as to render it desirable that they should be imported into England.' The main body of the circular, covering four folio pages, begins: 'I am directed by the Council of the Horticultural Society, to inform you that, upon the proposition of the Earl of Auckland, you have been elected one of the Corresponding Members of the Society, and earnestly to request on your part the acceptance of this nomination, and the favor of such occasional communications from you as may tend to promote the interests of botany and horticulture, as well in this country as in that in which you are at present residing.' The text of the document is as Lindley has laid out in his letter, noting that 'from the improved & enlarged construction of hot houses in this country, a desire for the growth of tropical fruits increaases, & that already in the growth of the Banana or Plantain the success is complete, though the endeavours to produce the Leechee, the Mango, the Custard Apple, the Cherimoyer and others, have hitherto wholly or in great part failed'. Regarding the recipient see the announcement of his death in the Annual Register, 4 October 1849: 'In Montague-square, in his 54th year, John Hearne, esq. one of the oldest and most eminent merchants of Port-au-Prince, Hayti, and for many years Swedish and Norwegian consul to that republic.' And also Wetmore and Swales, 'Birds of Haiti and the Dominican Republic', 1931.