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From modest shoot to forward plant
Author: Sam George

The stereotype of the forward, sexually precocious female botanist made its first appearance in literature in the turbulent revolutionary climate of the 1790s. The emergence of this figure illustrates both the contemporary appeal, particularly to women, of the Linnaean Sexual System of botanical classification, and the anxieties surrounding female modesty that it provoked. This book explores the cultivation of the female mind and the feminised discourse of botanical literature in eighteenth-century Britain. In particular, it discusses British women's engagement with the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, and his unsettling discovery of plant sexuality. The book also explores nationality and sexuality debates in relation to botany and charts the appearance of a new literary stereotype, the sexually precocious female botanist. It investigates the cultivation of the female mind and its implications for the theories of the feminised discourse of botanical literature. The book also investigates a process of feminisation of botany in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's and Priscilla Wakefield's letters on botany; these were literary and educational texts addressed specifically to women. Linnaean classification exemplified order, making botany an ideal discipline for young British women in the eighteenth century. Erasmus Darwin's explicit discussion of sexuality related to the aura of illicit sexuality that had surrounded Sir Joseph Banks. Richard Polwhele appropriates Collinsonia's image of the promiscuous female to allude to Mary Wollstonecraft's sexuality, drawing on forward plants in Darwin and Thomas Mathias. The book finally looks at early nineteenth-century debates and demonstrates how scientific botany came into conflict with the craft of floristry.

Abstract only
Sam George

THE STEREOTYPE of the forward, sexually precocious female botanist made its first appearance in literature in the turbulent revolutionary climate of the 1790s, though women had, in fact, been avidly botanising earlier in the century. The emergence of this figure illustrates both the contemporary appeal, particularly to women, of the Linnaean Sexual System of botanical

in Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830
Botany and sexual anxiety in the late eighteenth century
Sam George

might be derived, that the improvement of the heart might keep pace with the information of the mind’ (‘Advertisement’). 107 Rowden’s representation of the Linnaean Sexual System is curiously devoid of sexuality. The relationship between stamens and pistils is non-sexual, with one or two exceptions. The majority of the males/stamens are ‘gallant youths’ or ‘brother-saints’ and pose no sexual

in Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830
Botany and the feminine
Sam George

readers ranged from the novice, including women and young people, to fellow members of the Lunar Society in Birmingham. One such member, Erasmus Darwin, published a poetic rendering of the Linnaean sexual system in 1789 – The Loves of the Plants, which formed part of the epic poem, The Botanic Garden, eventually published in 1791. Darwin cast himself in the role of a

in Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830
Sam George

academies, universities and learned societies, British women entered into aesthetic, philosophic and scientific debate through botany. The principal medium for this was the Anglicization of the Linnaean Sexual System but this, in turn, conjured up its own attendant anxieties. Notes 1 The poem is most probably by Anna Seward; I

in Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830