[Sir Robert Ker Porter [‘Reynhold Steinkirk’], historical painter to Tsar of Russia, British consul in Venezuela; botany] Two Autograph Letters Signed to the Hon. Mrs Villiers, regarding the procurement in Venezuela of the ‘rarest seeds’.

Sir Robert Ker Porter [pseudonym ‘Reynhold Steinkirk’] (1777-1842), Anglo-Irish artist, diplomat and author, historical painter to Tsar Alexander I of Russia, British consul in Venezuela [Villiers]
Publication details: 
ONE: 1 April 1830; Esher [England]. TWO: 18 October 1830; Caracas [Venezuela].
SKU: 25694

Artist, author, diplomat and horseman, present at Sir John Moore’s death in Corunna, knighted by the king of Sweden, historical painter to Tsar Alexander, British consul in Venezuela: see the entry on this renaissance man in the Oxford DNB. Both in good condition, with folds for postage. Both signed ‘R Ker Porter’. The recipient (known to her family as the ‘Queen Bee’) was the widow of the Hon. George Villiers, who resided with her family at Kent House, Knightsbridge, home of her brother the Earl of Morley. (See the entry on her son Thomas Hyde Villiers (1801-1832) in the History of Parliament.) ONE (1 April 1830): 4pp, 12mo. Bifolium. When he reaches ‘the Other World’ he will be pleased to collect for her ‘any seeds that I think will be acceptable - with respect to the Gnaco Plant’. At the College of Physicians on 5 May, a paper will be read ‘on its virtues, expressed with all the care I was Master of’, and he will be ‘truly happy on my return to aid you in any way in my power in really expressing the plant - in order to put its virtues to the test’. He asks her to tell ‘Miss Villiers that the drawing both for herself, and my good friend Villiers shall be voyaged from the terra firma on the other side of the Atlantic sans faute and possibly their [sic] having been done under a tropical Sun may make them more curious - and If devoid of Spirit the [sic] cannot lack warmth of colouring’. He sails on the Wednesday and will ‘count (as I did before) the months that wear away till I once again see England all my dear relations and friends left therein’. He ends with reference to his mother’s death. TWO (18 October 1830): 6pp, 4to. Bifolium and single leaf, the latter bearing small seal in red wax, and addressed to ‘The Honble Mrs Villiers / &c &c &c / Kent House’. He acknowledges that he has ‘sinned somewhat’ with regard to his promise, but hopes ‘not past forgiveness’. If she knew ‘dreary as well as unsettled state of affairs we are in here - I think you would be surprized, that the one did not smother in gloom, every exertion of thought, and the other create so ungovernable an effervescence of intellect, as to obliterate both friends, seeds, and drawings’. He is sending ‘a few of our rarest seeds - that one of the Palo de Vaca - or Vegetable Cow - (for we have innumerable vegetable animal representatives in this new world) is very difficult to be procured not only from the distance the trees grow up the mountain, but also the great labour and privation the amateur is obliged to undergo in wandering after it’. He is making ‘a Second Excursion in order to investigate more carefully the To-nian Tree - at the period it is in Flower - the height of it, is from 80 to a 100 feet and before the enormous branches spread from its trunk’. He describes its dimensions, and how ‘if pierced to the heart - (which unlike the animal Cow) lives - and gives gallons of milk for hours together - with which the Aboriginal Indians feed their children, and use for other domestic purposes - When the moon is at the full, the tree is doubly productive - I intrude this little history of my my friend - in order to enhance the value of the Solitary Seed now sent’. The drawing he promised her daughter will ‘find its way to Downing Street (as I hope this Envoi will) in the course of a packet or two’. He ends by noting that ‘there is not an English family in Caracas (save one, and that is Jewish)’, so that he is ‘compelled to cross the mountains to the Sea Coast several leagues that I may not be tete a tete with my secretary’. From the Villiers family papers.