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Record number: WCP5555

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Sent by:
William Bancroft Espeut
Sent to:
Joseph Dalton Hooker
7 June 1879

Sent by William Bancroft Espeut, Spring Garden, Jamaica to Joseph Dalton Hooker [none given] on 7 June 1879.

Record created:
06 June 2014 by Benny, Ruth


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Record contains:

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LETTER (WCP5555.6313)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Finding number:
DC 210 folio 77
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the William Bancroft Espeut Literary Estate.
Record scrutiny:
06/06/2014 - Benny, Ruth;

Physical description

Transcription information




Spring Garden


7th. June 1879.

Dear Sir2

I have decided to trouble you with this note to ascertain if you care to have for Kew3 a Coconut which has sprouted at two eyes -- has two distinct young trees coming out of a single nut.4 I would have sent it without writing but as it is the only one I have ever seen I did not care to part with it until I knew you would appreciate it. If you say send it I will do so with pleasure.

I have just erected a 25 H[orse] P[ower] steam saw mill at a place of mine Chepstow which I have connected with my wharf on the sea coast by a line of tramway 5 miles long -- a large undertaking as I have had to cut in some places thro’[ugh] 100 feet of solid Rock, and bridge a large river. At Chepstow is the only available bit of Virgin Forest which I know of in Jamaica. So far I know of 150 different kinds of Timber-trees & woods suitable for Cabinet or Carpentry work -- many of them I cannot find botanical names for -- this I hope to get over as Mr Jarman5 has promised to pay me a visit as soon as he can fit time to do so. I mention this matter because if you would care to have a box of sample pieces of my woods I shall be happy to have [[2]] have [sic] a set prepared for Kew: in the hope that they might attract attention from persons interested in Cabinet-woods, for some are very beautiful, notably so Eugenia fragrans var cuneata6. Zanthoxylem Clava Herculis. Clethra tinifolia7. Guettardia argentia [sic]8. Hufelandia pendula. Cordia Gerascanthoides[sic]9. Bucida capitata. Diospyros tetrasperma. Bucida buceras. Paritium elatum & P[aritium]. tiliaceum. Monorobia coccinia10. Caenothus Chloroxylon. [2 words illeg.] & numerous others known -- and as far as I can make out unknown.

Sometime ago I saw an article, I think from your pen on insectiferous [sic] plants. I do not know if you are aware of the fact that Aristolochia grandiflora is one of the most voracious insect destroyers. It is a very large and peculiar but splendid flower. In the sack or cup I have seen hundreds of flies, mosquitoes, wasps, Bees, a moth of the Sphinx tribe & the large red ant -- all captive and in all stages of putrefaction. The flower has a horrid smell precisely like carrion -- in fact the negroes [sic] always call the plant John-Crow11 Bush in consequence of this carrion-like smell. The very newest-blown flowers have scarcely any smell -- but those which have been open for a day or two smell frightful. It [[3]] It [sic] is a nauseating job to open a full blown flower and to search its ‘abdomen’. If you have not any of the seeds of this Creeper I could send you some as I am curious to have my observations tested & confirmed.12

I am very anxious to establish Liberian Coffee on the land as I clear off the forest but I have had such ill fortune with the seeds of C[offea]. Liberia which at some expense I have obtained from England & the Continent that I am afraid I shall have to plant C.[offea] Arabica although I know the altitude & climate of Chepstow is far better adapted for C[offea]. Liberica. If you think it will be fair exchange for a sett [sic] of samples of my woods -- and anything else I could send for Kew -- orchids or ferns or Amaryllidae [sic]13, I should be very grateful to fit some reliable seeds of C[offea]. Liberica or to know from whom they can be got. It is not the expense I seek to avoid but the vexation of having a lot of sterile seeds.

My grandfather Dr. E. N. Bancroft14 was a correspondent of your father Sir W. Hooker15, & although I know it gives me no right to trouble you as I have done with this letter still [[4]] still [sic] I cannot feel as if I was addressing a stranger altho’[ugh] such is the fact. When I was in England last in 1874 I called at Kew in the hope of meeting you, though I think my anxiety to see how Angraecum funalis [sic]16 prospered was an equal inducement. Unfortunately you were absent & the young gentleman who showed me the orchid -- which I requested Dr. Wallace to send in my name -- and he did not -- seemed to think it less curious & pretty than I do. I can send you a good mass of it if you wish17. The plant I saw at Kew was a very wretched one.

I am Dear Sir, | Yours faithfully | W. Bancroft Espeut18. [signature]

P[ost]. S[criptum].

I omitted to say that I hope soon to tell you that I have made a start in seri-culture19. I have invented a means by which the silk of B[ombyx]. Pernyi20 & Cynthia21 can be wound. Indeed by which all silk produced by worms can be more rapidly easily & economically wound than any plan I know of.

W[illiam]. B[ancroft]. E[speut].


1. "An[swere]d July 13 / Morris to take out / [3 words illeg.]" three lines written in ink across top LH corner of page. The number "77" is stamped in the top RH corner.

2. Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1817-1911). British botanist and explorer and founder of geographical botany. He succeeded his father William Jackson Hooker as Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew on his death and held the post for 20 years.

3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

4. This sentence is highlighted with two vertical pencilled lines in the LH margin and the word "no" written in the margin to the left.

5. Not identified.

6. This sentence is highlighted with a vertical pencilled line in the RH margin and the word "pods" is written alongside.

7. Clethra tinifolia Sw. is a synonym of Clethra occidentalis (L.) Kuntze. This name is a synonym of Clethra occidentalis (L.) Kuntze.

8. Guettarda argentea var. glabrata Urb.

9. Cordia geraschanthoides Kunth is a synonym of Cordia gerascanthus L.

10. Not identified.

11. Jamaican name for the turkey vulture Cathartes aura.

12. This sentence is highlighted by two vertical pencilled lines in the LH margin.

13. The Amaryllidaceae are a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants. The family takes its name from the genus Amaryllis, hence the common name of the amaryllis family.

14. Bancroft, Edward Nathaniel (1772-1842). English physician and maternal grandfather of the author (see Endnote 18).

15. Hooker, William Jackson (1785-1865). English systematic botanist and botanical illustrator. He was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1841-1865). His son, Joseph Dalton Hooker (see Endnote 2) succeeded him to the Directorship.

16. Dendrophylax funalis, Benth. (synonyms Aeranthes funalis, Rchb. f., and Angraecum funale, Lindl.), is an "air plant", an orchid which is leafless and has no pseudobulbs.

17. This sentence is highlighted by two vertical pencilled lines in the LH margin and the word "please" (twice underlined) is written beneath.

18. Bancroft Espeut, William (1843-1893). Acquired large sugar and banana estates in Jamaica. He planned and supervised the construction of a tram line connecting the outlying portions of his estates with the sea. Elected to the Legislative Council of the island, he built bridges over dangerous rivers, extended the railroad through the island and established the Institute of Jamaica.

19. The rearing of silkworms (larvae of the silk moth) for the production of silk.

20. Bombyx pernyi is now known as Antheraea pernyi, a wild silk moth. (Bombyx mori is the domesticated mulberry silk moth).

21. Bombyx cynthia is now known as Samia cynthia ricini, a wild silk moth.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.