The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume One]
The editor of Banks's Endeavour journal is confronted with few textual problems. The history of the original manuscript,1 however, and of the MS copies — of which there are five — is interesting. It has also been much misunderstood. It is bound up with the history of Banks's will, or rather of the testamentary dispositions which he made thereby, not very many months before he died. He died childless, 20 June 1820. His will, dated 7 January 1820, was necessarily long and complicated.2 The bulk of his property, real estate, was left to his wife for life, and thereafter to three principal legatees, who were also executors; of these the most important in our history was Sir Edward Knatchbull (1781–1849), the nephew of Lady Banks, whose sister Mary had married Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bart., of Mersham Hatch, Kent. It is not the main will that is important to us, however, but the codicils, of which there were two. The first of these, dated 21 January 1820, made provision for Robert Brown (1773–1858), the great botanist and the last of Banks's librarians, and for other persons, and secured certain financial arrangements. Brown, ‘my indefatigable and intelligent librarian’, was left an annuity of £200. The codicil went on,
I also give to the said Robert Brown the use and enjoyment during his life of my library herbarium manuscripts drawings copperplates engraved and every thing else that is contained in my collections usually kept in the back buildings of my house in … Soho Square … and after his decease then I give and bequeath the same to the Trustees for the time being of the British Museum;
1 In the brief history of the Banks papers that follows, I owe a good deal to a typescript memorandum on the ‘History of the Papers of Sir Joseph Banks’ prepared by Miss Phyllis Mander Jones, when Mitchell Librarian; to an interesting paper by Mr Warren R. Dawson, on ‘Sir Joseph Hooker and Dawson Turner’, in the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, II, pt. 6 (1950), pp. 218–22; and to an interchange of information and opinions with Mr Dawson, most valuable to me. The preface to Sir Joseph Hooker's edition of Banks's journal is not very useful, except as a stimulant to contradiction and further research; as Mr Dawson has shown, Hooker's own statements are exceedingly unreliable. I have made new investigations, and the interpretations and conclusions finally adopted are my own. For permission to use and quote from correspondence in the records of the Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum I am deeply indebted to the Department; and for help in exploring those records, to Mr T.J. Brown.
2 P.C.C. 510 Kent.
but if the Trustees wished and Brown consented these collections might be removed to the Museum during Brown's life-time, satisfactory access to them being allowed for him and his friends. Certain agreeable duties were laid down for Brown in return, entailing the continuance of his life of scientific scholarship. The Soho Square house itself was left to Lady Banks for life or as long as she required it, with provision for Brown's residence, and thereafter to Brown under the same conditions of duty fulfilled. Lady Banks preferred to reside in Portland Place, where she died in 1828. Brown, therefore, a bachelor, had the whole of No. 32, Soho Square to himself: a problem which he solved by letting the front portion to the Linnean Society in 1821, keeping the ‘back buildings’, fronting on Dean Street, for his own residence and working purposes.
In 1827 Brown became the first keeper of the Botanical Department of the British Museum, officially entitled Keeper of the Banksian Botanical Collections. This was possible because he and the Trustees had agreed on the application of the alternative clause of the codicil to Banks's will, whereby the library, the herbarium, the drawings, the copperplates, and certain manuscripts — those manuscripts actually in the library — went to the Museum during Brown's life-time. This was admirable. Did it ensure the safety of the Endeavour journal? No; because the Endeavour journal, like the bulk of the MSS in Banks's possession when he died, was not actually in the library, and did not come directly under the provisions of that part of the will at all. It would have been a great deal better if they had done so; but Banks, with the best intentions in the world, had taken a false step. His papers were multifarious, and he had concluded that further provision was necessary for them; but he had made a ruinously bad choice of a person to execute his wishes. Attempts to understand the history of the journal, among other MSS, in the light of the codicil of 21 January, have been baffled because it can be understood only in the light of the second codicil, of 7 March 1820. This second, and vital, codicil began by bequeathing the botanical drawings of Banks's draughtsman Francis Bauer to the king, in the hope that Bauer would be taken on to the staff at Kew as the first holder of a permanent position there, failing which his annuity under Codicil I was to be maintained. That clause is typical Banks, though for our purposes it is irrelevant. The relevant portion is as follows:
And it is my will and desire that my dear relative Sir Edward Knatchbull Baronet be requested to look over all my boxes of papers and other page 129 things deposited in my room and the passage room next to it in my house in Soho Square and that he do burn all papers in my hand writing except such as have reference to any part of my estate or to the County of Lincoln and that he do deliver all such other written or printed papers as shall be found in any of them to the persons to whom he thinks they will be most acceptable the papers respecting the Royal Society and the affairs thereof to the Royal Society those respecting the Mint or Coinage to the Mint and that all papers and letters relative to the County of Lincoln be sent to Revesby Abbey and be deposited in the evidence room there my foreign correspondence bound and unbound to be sent to the British Museum and all the other things in the said rooms to be disposed of as the said Sir Edward Knatchbull shall think best.
Now Codicil I had made over to Robert Brown everything in the ‘collections usually kept in the back buildings’ of the house. Banks's ‘room and the passage room next to it’ were, it seems certain, part of these ‘back buildings’, much more closely allied to the library and the herbarium than to the rooms on the Soho Square side where he had his famous philosophical breakfasts and evening parties. The two codicils therefore cut across each other, and one can imagine a pretty set of legal arguments if there had ever been a lawsuit; unless, as in the case of legislation, the particular — i.e. Codicil II — took precedence of the general — i.e. Codicil I. One would have thought, indeed, that a good executor, faced with the will as a whole, would have considered its general as well as particular provisions, and that having duly burnt and distributed according to the desire of Codicil II he might in due course have made over the residuum of the ‘boxes of papers and other things’ as part of the ‘collections’, if not to Brown — who could hardly have cared about them — then to the British Museum; for the Museum was an institution with which Banks, an able and highly regarded Trustee,1 had been long and intimately associated, and as we have seen, he had already designated it as his ultimate legatee.
1 His portrait by Lawrence still hangs in the Trustees’ Room, the only portrait of a Trustee which does.
Where then was the Endeavour journal ? Let us repeat: if it had been in the library it must surely have come to the British Museum with the library in 1827. The library came under Codicil I. But, it has already been said, the Endeavour journal did not come under that codicil: the hypothesis, that is, is irresistible that it was in one of the boxes in Banks's room or ‘the passage room next to it’. As it was in Banks's handwriting, should it then have been burnt? Apparently so — absurd as the conclusion may seem; but like so much else, it survived. We know it was in Knatchbull's possession, together with a copy of it made by Sarah Sophia Banks, which is still in the possession of Knatchbull's family; because when it first comes into our view, after its use by Dr John Hawkesworth in 1771 and 1772, it is in connection with the biography of Banks that a number of his admirers were anxious to have written.
1 e.g., in the unnamed newspaper a cutting from which is included in B.M. Add. MS 6673 (Derbyshire Collections), p. 106a.
Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen's main distinction, except for one thing, was that Jane Austen was his great-aunt. The exception was his dealings with the Banks papers. From 1857 to 1880 he was a politician, holding minor office under both Palmerston and Gladstone; in 1880, however, he was given a peerage instead of another undersecretaryship, and changed his political views. As Lord Brabourne, a man of letters, he pursued a new career, writing a series of fairy-stories for children that had some success. Like his father, he did not, it appears, have much sense of responsibility towards historical records, although it is true that he collected books on county history. In the context of that sentence, one further observation may be made, preliminary to the rest of our story. It has been a habit of those who have mourned over the fate of Banks's collections to bestow blame unequivocally upon Brabourne; and with blame a vast amount of indignation. It is now, however, clear that, whatever disapproval is levelled at Brabourne, the blame and indignation must be more widely spread. He did not play a very happy part; but at least it may be said for him that the part he did play was rendered less unnatural by the antecedent behaviour of Sir Edward Knatchbull. When the crisis came, furthermore, there was no very laudable behaviour elsewhere.
After Knatchbull's death the commonly recognized owner of the papers was Lady Knatchbull, his widow. There were still hopes page 132 of somehow obtaining a biographer, and a series of gentlemen glanced at the material and recoiled. While the search was going on, recourse was again had to the British Museum, and our next definite point is a memorandum dated 25 June 1861 and signed by Joseph Ball, among the records of the Department of Manuscripts: ‘The papers contained in this box and in a smaller case kept herewith were this day received by me from Thomas Bell Esqr late President of the Linnean Society who had received them from the Dowager Lady Knatchbull. It is her wish that after the papers and correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks leave my hands they should be deposited in the British Museum’.1 According to William Carruthers, later Keeper of the Botanical Department, they were on Lady Knatchbull's death to become the property of the Trustees. Carruthers is our only authority for this, but the story is at least not improbable. The papers went from Ball to Carruthers in the Botanical Department, for in October 1873 Carruthers was instructed to place them in the Department of Manuscripts; then at the beginning of 1876 he was allowed to take away again the twenty-three volumes of the Dawson Turner transcripts for the use of yet another potential biographer, the young Daydon Jackson.2 These, owing to some fortunate lapse in administration, were not returned, and are still in the library of the Botanical Department.
1 B.M. Dept. of MSS, Miscellaneous Letters and Papers. Joseph Ball, F.R.S. and Thomas Bell, F.R.S. were both looked on as possible biographers.
2 Carruthers's statements, some of them highly inaccurate, were made to Sir Joseph Hooker, in a letter of 14 July 1893, printed in Hooker's edition of the Journal, pp. x-xi.
3 e.g., by Carruthers, ibid., p. xi. Carruthers, writing in 1893, puts the incidents ‘Some seven or eight years ago’.
1 Knatchbull-Hugessen to Maunde Thompson, 21 May 1880; Dept. of MSS. Misc. Letters and Papers.
3 Stanhope to Maunde Thompson, 12 July , ibid.
4 Though Brabourne had a sale of books, drawings, and MSS relating to Lincolnshire at Sotheby's as early as 15 June 1880.
1 Brabourne to Maunde Thompson, 22 February 1884, ibid.
2 Brabourne to Maunde Thompson, 10 March 1884; Papers Relating to the Purchase and Acquisition of Manuscripts.
3 Brabourne to Maunde Thompson, 14 March 1884, ibid.
4 Todd to Maunde Thompson, 24 March 1884, ibid.
1 Todd to Maunde Thompson, 18 April 1884; Papers Relating to the Purchase and Acquisition of Manuscripts.
2 Samuel to Sir Joseph Hooker, n.d., published by Hooker in the Athenaeum 24 April 1897, pp. 547–8.
1 Canterbury province in New Zealand, where Enys was a well-known sheep-farmer. He retired in 1890 to the family seat in Cornwall, whence other Banks papers have lately come. Cf. p. 145 below.
2 ‘In 1891 I presented to the British Museum, nine hundred and sixty eight letters, a portion only of a large mass of the Banks Correspondence which I purchased of John Waller the Auto: Dealer for the sum of £10. 10s. !!!’—Spencer G. Perceval to James Britten, 28 May 1899, a letter attached inside a copy of Perceval's printing of Banks's journal of his Bristol journey, in the Botanical Library, B.M. (N.H.). ‘The whole transaction was an outrage on the memory of Banks!’ Perceval remarks in another note to Britten, 30 May 1899, ibid.
1 I do not go into detail on the dispersal of the Banks papers, apart from the Endeavour journal. The interested person may turn to Mr Warren Dawson's list of sources in his calendar of The Banks Letters, published by the British Museum (Natural History) in 1958. This calendar includes only those letters in collections in Great Britain—something over 7000. Mr Dawson estimates the total as 50,000, or even more.
1 Mitchell MS 1808.
The journal is contained in two leather-bound quarto volumes, of page-size 9⅛ × 7¼ in. (23.2 × 18 cm.). Apparently Banks made up the pages himself by taking larger sheets, folding them in half, and then folding them again transversely, so producing a set of four leaves. He then sometimes placed other leaves inside these, giving himself sections of from four to sixteen leaves. So at least the volumes as bound seem to imply, with watermarks often occurring on four or more consecutive leaves, or with a succession of leaves lacking any watermark at all. He then gave himself a guide to both inner and outer margins by further folding.1 Volume I comprises the period 25 August 1768–14 August 1769, pp. 1–332, followed by the description of ‘Manners and Customs of the South Sea Islands’, pp. 333–437, with three blank leaves at the end. Banks occasionally slipped in his numbering: p.33 is repeated; 220 is numbered 120; pp.242–366 were first numbered 142–266 and then corrected, while there is no 391 or 393 at all; and so on. After writing a number of pages — how many it is impossible to say — he added ‘running-heads’, generally of geographical names, which he very rarely mentioned in his text, or some like indication of the ship's position, together with the month and the year. His ‘Manners and Customs’ pages have a general running head. Bound in between the two pp.33 is a one page list of Madeira fish and a list of Madeira plants, pp. 1–13; between pp.62 and 63 is his memorandum on electrical experiments, pp. 1–13; between pp. 131 and 132 a list of Plantae Brasilienses, 11 pp. unnumbered; between pp.176 and 177 a list of plants of Tierra del Fuego, pp. 1–6; and between pp.214 and 215 Dr Nathaniel Hulme's letter on the use of citrus juices. All these are printed in Appendix I of the present work, Vol. II, pp. 276 ff.
The early part of the journal, for something like 150 pages, is written in a big rather untidy hand, as if the journal-keeper is hastening on in breakneck excitement; the writing then becomes smaller, with more lines to the page, perhaps from some prudential motive of ensuring a sufficient supply of paper; then towards the end of Volume II it becomes bigger again, as if a new excitement, that of being turned homewards, had asserted itself. Excitement cannot be the cause of Banks's lack of punctuation, because it was his nature not to punctuate, as is clear not merely from this journal but from his MSS in general. If, now and again, he is visited by a conviction that he ought to punctuate, whether because of a feeling that he is advancing on some grand set piece or for some other reason, he is likely to carry the eighteenth century conventions to so absurd a point that one can hardly get on for the commas. Fortunately these schoolboyish outbursts are very rare, and one can make one's way without deliberate obstruction from the writer. Like many of his contemporaries, in cursive writing he was prone to begin a sentence, or even a paragraph, without a capital letter; but he makes up for this by overdoing capitals elsewhere — particularly E G L J K S M. On the other hand, not all these may be capitals to Banks: he appears, for example, to have known only one form of K; his S's and C's come in all sizes; he uses a Greek E in all varieties of size, as well as the ordinary written e, for adjectives, adverbs and verbs as well as for nouns; his L is sometimes clearly an intended capital, sometimes emerges merely as a sort of habitual slip of the pen equivalent to 1; capital J seems to be used at random, like C and S — but not for the reason that, like them, it frequently falls from the pen, in rapid writing, in a size larger page 141 than the rest of a word. M is very frequently dubious; Banks never makes an elaborately formal capital, as he sometimes does with N. Inconsistency is perhaps most complete with the names of countries and peoples, even in successive lines; so that we have England, england, english, India, india, North america, new Holland, Dutch or Duch, duch, Spain, spain, spanish, and so on. Even personal names are sometimes deprived of a capital. All this is liable to cause irritation to those who go by rule — e.g. printers.
Banks's manuscript text has a few peculiarities in spelling. He is not good on final th — he always writes, e.g. lengh, strengh, for length, strength. He generally, but not always, writes his past participle -ed without either an e or an apostrophe — e.g. inclind, lookd, seemd — unless the previous syllable contained a t or d — e.g. existed, provided. It is frequently impossible to tell whether he is spelling with a c or an s — e.g. immence or immense. With the possessive case he rarely uses an apostrophe before his s. With the word notwithstanding he seems to have peculiar trouble, as if its succession of letters were altogether too long and too complicated to get right, except by extreme chance. Of generally represents off. He rarely writes out and in full, preferring the ampersand, and preferring &c to etc. With underlinings of personal or scientific names he is inconsistent. Occasionally a word necessary to the sense is omitted, and he makes the small slips common to everybody in short words — ad for as, if for is; but here we move away from peculiarities. It does not seem necessary to provide further detail.