The Botanical Writings of Maria Graham

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Journal of Literature and Science 4 2011 Hagglund Maria Graham 44 58. This claim needs to be qualified there were many other competing discourses and. Leask himself argues strongly for a parallel aesthetic and archaeological discourse in. many early nineteenth century travel accounts suggesting that i n many travel. narratives the systematic protocols of natural history antiquarian curiosity and. Taste reflected in the indirect discourse of the traveller s response to people and. places coexist in loose solution reflecting the predisciplinary nature of the genre. itself 48 Other travel texts of the period were further shaped by missionary. discourses or those of captivity and slave narratives Nonetheless it is clear that for. many travellers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries regardless of the. purpose of their travel natural history particularly botany formed a major part of the. experience and the narrative which resulted from that experience. As I have said the particular circumstances of colonial and diplomatic wives. enabled them to travel further afield as part of the imperial project Many of these. women created herbaria and botanical gardens at the places where they were stationed. and sent back to England plant specimens both live and dried seeds and botanical. drawings Georgiana Molloy 1805 1843 for example who emigrated from England. to Western Australia with her husband sent back seeds to various botanical gardens. Lady Henrietta Clive 1758 1830 who arrived in India with her husband the. Governor in 1798 established a garden and recorded the plants of the area of Mysore. and the Carnatic Annabella Telfair d 1832 wife of the naturalist and colonial. officer Charles Telfair collected marine plants in Mauritius many of her drawings of. botanical specimens were published by prestigious European scientific journals 2. Similarly a particular set of family and marital circumstances enabled the. author Maria Graham to travel in Europe Asia and South America The topic of. botany runs through her travel and other writings but her interest in science began. much earlier than that When in later years she looked back over her life the early. study of botany stood out as a highlight, There was a spot which I was very fond of visiting There I became. acquainted with the Rest Harrow and the Pettywhin there grew in full. luxuriance all the Trefoil race There I first saw the streaked Eyebright the. elegant Milkwort and sitting upon one of the ridges with the wild Heartsease. in my hand I first heard Shakespeare s fairy description of how it was before. milk white now purple with Love s wound 3 Reminiscences 20 21. While it would be easy to interpret this passage simply as a schoolgirl s idyllic. introduction to natural history Graham s Reminiscences were dictated by her. during the last years of her life At the time she composed the Reminiscences she. was also working on an illustrated book of Biblical plants which included. Shakespearean and other literary references Although heartsease was not one of the. plants included in A Scripture Herbal it is likely that Graham was at the time going. through Shakespeare s works for botanical references and she may well have been. reminded of the Midsummer Night s Dream reference to heartsease during that. research process Nevertheless Graham s memory of luxuriating in the colours and. scents of the plants while being told fairy tales from Shakespeare provides a. glimpse into the way in which young middle class girls at the beginning of the. nineteenth century were encouraged to respond emotionally as well as scientifically to. the natural world, JLS 2011 All rights reserved Not for unauthorised distribution. Downloaded from http literatureandscience research glam ac uk journal. Journal of Literature and Science 4 2011 Hagglund Maria Graham 44 58. At the same time Graham recalled that the classification and identification of. plants using William Withering s An Arrangement of British Plants 1796 had also. formed part of this botanical education, With Withering tucked under my arm trudging along by the side of the. governess I have often thought myself the happiest creature in the world. while she shewed me how to compare the plants with the description in the. book Reminiscences 21, Again we see the connection in Graham s memory between her early experience of. science and the emotion with which she links her memory of the botanical tasks to the. context of pleasurable one to one time spent out of doors with her governess. After leaving school Graham spent a year in Edinburgh socialising with. university science professors such as Dugald Stewart John Playfair and John Leslie. and acquiring the nickname metaphysics in muslin qtd in Orr 97 It was during. that time too that her intellectual position described accurately by Nigel Leask as a. feminised version of Scottish enlightenment civic humanism and improvement. 214 became firmly established In her Reminiscences Graham claimed that it was. particularly during that year that a love for science was awakened recalling the. ways in which these men particularly Playfair had guided her reading and answered. her questions 84 79 This interest in scientific matters was to continue throughout. her life Carl Thompson argues that Graham s work is at a level of scientific literacy. and accomplishment, Graham in her correspondence only touches on scientific issues occasionally.
and usually in passing but when she does so she typically displays quite a. sophisticated level of scientific literacy and comprehension Thus we find her. in a letter of 1812 discussing recent publications on what she terms the. philosophical part of literature and citing as the most interesting recent. development Leslie s discovery of the formation of ice by admitting cold thin. air to play on the surface of water It is a discovery she suggests which. bid s fair to furnish some very interesting results to the chemist and. Following Thompson we should regard her as something rather more than a mere. hobbyist and dilettante then, In 1809 at the age of twenty four Graham began to travel and to publish. travel accounts The subject of botany formed a significant element in Graham s. travel writings from the very beginning In her first book the Journal of a Residence. in India 1812 for example she incorporated botanical studies with observations of. scenery people customs buildings and places This wide range of topics is of. course characteristic of much early nineteenth century travel writing and is generally. true of both men s and women s texts As Nigel Leask has argued. One of the attractions of travel writing in the period is the uninhibited energy. with which it ranges across modern disciplinary boundaries as the shaping. itinerary narrative is punctuated with reports on botany and zoology alongside. ancient ruins and monuments mineralogy alongside modern manners ancient. history alongside contemporary politics 1 2, JLS 2011 All rights reserved Not for unauthorised distribution. Downloaded from http literatureandscience research glam ac uk journal. Journal of Literature and Science 4 2011 Hagglund Maria Graham 44 58. Nevertheless Graham s Indian travel writing is distinguished from that of many. contemporary women writers in its scholarly orientalism and its detailed attention to. scientific subjects 4 When visiting temples and private homes she paid particular. attention to recording details of the gardens and their plants She was careful and. detailed in her observations, I remarked the Saguerus Rumphii sic a kind of palm from which an. excellent kind of sago is made It is also valuable on account of the black. fibres surrounding the trunk at the insertion of the leaves which afford a. cordage for ships said to be stronger and more durable than that made from. any other vegetable substance Graham Journal of a Residence in India 125. As the above also illustrates she showed an awareness of the potential for economic. exploitation Visits to the gardens of the naval hospital in Madras and the Calcutta. Botanical Gardens formed part of Graham s itinerary and at each spot she highlighted. plants of particular interest using scientific terms and including contextual. information on culinary medicinal and manufacturing uses of the plants she. described On several occasions she quoted directly and extensively from John. Fleming s A Catalogue of Indian Medicinal Plants and Drugs 1810 5. The Calcutta Botanic Gardens founded by the British East India Company in. 1787 with the objects of identifying new plants of commercial value and growing. spices in an attempt to challenge the Dutch spice monopoly have been described as. the greatest of the imperial botanic gardens despite the saltiness of their soil and. their initial inaccessibility on the north bank of the Hooghly River McCracken 6. The botanist and physician William Roxburgh who served as superintendent of the. garden between 1793 and 1813 increasingly concentrated on the scientific side of the. garden introducing a vast number of new plants recording meteorological data and. creating a herbarium The gardens were a popular destination for visitors to Calcutta. and Graham was no exception She described the gardens and trees in detail. commenting particularly on the great banyan tree already thirty one years old with. its monstrous warty trunk of soft useless wood crowned with a few ragged. branches and palmated leaves Journal of a Residence in India 145 compared an. evergreen tree with similar trees in Europe suggesting that the differences might be. attributed to variations in climate and noted that. Carefully preserved there is a cajeput from the leaves of one species of which. Melelucca cajeputi the famous cajeput oil is extracted which is used by the. inhabitants of Malacca and the eastern isles of which the tree is a native as a. sovereign remedy for rheumatisms swellings and bruises Journal of a. Residence in India 145, As before we see Graham s interest in the uses to which a plant is or could be put and. its potential for economic exploitation From the 1770s the East India Company had. closely identified botany with practical needs and commercial opportunities and the. Calcutta botanic gardens had been explicitly established for practical purposes. Arnold 162, Graham s text spoke warmly of time spent at the gardens in the company of.
Dr Roxburgh and his family It is likely I would argue that her ideas about the. importance of practical and economic botany in a colonial setting were at least. JLS 2011 All rights reserved Not for unauthorised distribution. Downloaded from http literatureandscience research glam ac uk journal. Journal of Literature and Science 4 2011 Hagglund Maria Graham 44 58. partially shaped by her conversations with Dr Roxburgh a Scottish scientist of. similar age and background to those who had so strongly influenced her in Edinburgh. As part of his project to identify and publish the local flora Roxburgh. employed local artists and by 1813 had 2533 illustrations of local plants 6 He allowed. Graham to watch the artists at work and to examine the portfolios of drawings She. was impressed with what she saw writing that they are the most beautiful and. correct delineations of flowers I ever saw Indeed the Hindoos excel in all minute. works of this kind Journal of a Residence in India 146. Graham herself travelled with a sketch book and watercolours and her drawings. show the same care and precision as her plant descriptions As was usual for young. women of her class drawing had formed part of her education and she was a. competent although not gifted artist Other women travelling in India also drew and. painted plants and recorded botanical findings in diaries and journals Mrs James. Cookson the wife of a military officer for example completed thirty botanical. drawings of Indian indigenous plants which were published in 1835 as Flowers. Drawn and Painted after Nature in India Clementina Abbott drew plants in the. Calcutta Botanic Gardens a few decades later Lady Charlotte Canning the wife of. the governor general of India collected specimens visited botanic gardens and drew. and painted plants 7, Fissell and Cooter have traced the ways that during the eighteenth century. knowledge and practice concerning plants which were increasingly collected under. the rubric of botany changed in a variety of ways arguing that. One kind of botany was the common property of many social groups the. knowledge of plants useful to humans Country dwellers were familiar with. cutting reeds for thatching collecting thistledown for stuffing pillows and. using horsetail to scour pots and pans knowledge of healing plants was. extensive among laborers artisans and rural folk Indeed it was sometimes. acknowledged that country people knew more about plants than their betters. As a boy Joseph Banks 1743 1820 paid herbwomen to teach him the names. of flowers William Curtis 1746 1799 later to found the Botanical. Magazine became interested in flowers during conversations with an ostler. who studied herbals 151 152, By the second half of the eighteenth century there was a shift away from this type of. folk knowledge and for both men and women of the upper and middle classes. Linnaean nomenclature gradually replaced the old vernacular names Interestingly. however while Maria Graham did use Linnaean terminology frequently and correctly. The Botanical Writings of Maria Graham Betty Hagglund Botany was a popular and fashionable pursuit for both men and women during the period between 1760 and 1830 its popularity demonstrated by its appearance in magazines novels and poems the increasing availability of books aimed at a general readership the publication of botanical games and playing cards manuals of instruction in flower

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