August 2d – 1816.
I was, yesterday, favored with your letter, – & thinking it possible that you may feel impatient, as I have very often done, to be relieved from a doubt or difficulty, I lose no time in giving you all the information in my power respecting your Carex. From your description, however brief, I am acquainted with the plant in question. It is very common, & equally liable to variation in the distance of the spikes from each other. When they approach each other it has the character of C. fulva; – when otherwise, of C. distans or binervis – for, in my opinion these are one & the same. The only difference I cd ever discover is in the peduncles – which in Smith’s <1> C. distans are longer – in his C. binervis, equal to the vagina. As to the nerves, they are merely the sutures of the capsule – in this Carex particularly strong. I beg, sir, to be understood as always speaking with diffidence upon these &
every all other subjects: – but, when I have the pleasure of yr company here I will place before you a set of specimens which may, probably, induce you to form the same opinion. My Botanical career commenced with this intricate genus, & the trouble it cost me at the time was amply compensated by the habit of patient investigation which it confirmed in me. Can I be of any use to you with regard to specimens or Books? My Botanical Library is tolerably rich, & my duplicates, tho’ they have been severely handled, are still worth the notice of one commencing an Herbarium. It is presumption in me to make an offer of the kind to a friend of Hooker’s <2> – whose liberality is only equalled by his skill, & in whom both are exceeded by his worth. My wish is to serve you if I can – & I feel confident that your goodness will accept the inclination where ability falls short. – I think this the best season for mosses, in proper stations. In yr Lime-stone country, nothing of the kind, Tortulæ excepted, will be found. The beautiful Hypnum crista-castrensis bears fruit within a dozen miles of me, & I confess with shame that I have never yet paid a visit to the station. My time is much occupied in training my eldest Boy, nearly 11 yrs old, for a public school, & the business is so irksome to me that, when lessons are done, I am glad to be quiet & at home for the rest of the day. Schkuhr’s Caryces is an admirable work – & the present Bishop of Carlisle’s <3> descriptions, in the Linn. Transs are not to be exceeded. Some few new species have been discovered since my Botanical mania began to subside, & I have them not – nor do I even know their names. I will trespass no longer upon your patience. If I can send you specimens or remove any difficulty you may encounter, be assured that I shall feel happy in being applied to.
Yr obedient & faithful servt
W. H. F. Talbot Esqre
1. Sir James Edward Smith who wrote Introduction to Physiological & Systematic Botany (London: Longman, Hurst, Reese, Orme, and White, 1807).
2. Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865), Prof & botanist.
3. Samuel Goodenough (1743–1827), bishop of Carlisle 1808–1827 and a vice-president of the Linnean Society.