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.
work and restricted access to the latest botanicalliterature, ‘an inconvenience made almost inevitable by the
circumstances of war that interrupted commerce’. 86 Consequently, only the first
three volumes of their findings ever made it into print.
The outbreak of European war also severed intra-European
exchange programmes, stifling the flow of information, specimens and men
of science between Spain
botanicalliterature. I offer detailed readings of epistolary, dialogic
and poetical introductions to botany by eighteenth-century British
women. I situate these unique texts within the literature of the
eighteenth century where they can be seen to be in dialogue with the
writings of the key figures, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Erasmus Darwin and
Mary Wollstonecraft, people who straddle the
Restoration (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
116 Annamaria Ducci, ‘“Leur chair chante des Marseillaises”: la main dans les écrits
sur l’art en France, repères pour un parcours’, in Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio
(ed.), Die Hand: Elemente einer Medizin- und Kulturgeschichte (Berlin: LIT, 2010),
117 Pernety, Dictionnaire portatif, pp. 537–8, entry ‘Touche’. Pernety, who was familiar
with the botanicalliterature of the time, referred to the Encyclopédie in his Dictionnaire portatif and might have encountered the notion tissu among others in the