Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Mr. Francis Masson, one of his Majesty's Gardeners, 1775

An Account of three Journeys from the Cape-Town into the Southern Parts us Africa} undertaken for the Discovery of new Plants, towards the Improvement of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

By Mr. Francis Masson, one of his Majesty's Gardeners.

Our botanical traveller, in his first journey, which was performed in Dec. 1771, and Jan. 1773, went as far as Schwellendam, a place about 150 miles N E. from the Cape-Town ; but, finding the season too far spent for making any considerable collections, returned back to the Cape by the same road he went. He was attended by a Dutchman, and a Hottentot, who drove his waggon, which was drawn by eight oxen ; the manner of travelling there. In this journey, however, he collected the seed of the many beautiful species of erica, which have succeeded so well in the Royal Garden at Kew.

His second journey, begun in Sept. 1773, was performed in company with Dr. Thunberg, a native of Sweden, who was sent out by the Dutch to collect plants at the Cape, and is now on that errand in the East-Indies. In this journey, which lasted four months and fourteen days, our travellers were very successful in their botanical researches collecting many plants and shrubs that were new, but which were dearly purchased, considering the fatigues and dangers here recounted. And probably neither they nor their plants would have been heard of more, had not the servants been wiser than their masters, by refusing to advance farther, or to venture among the Caffres a savage race, who, they said, would kill them, were it only to get the iron belonging to their waggons.

In his third journey, Dec. 1774., Mr. Masson proceeded as far as the last Dutch habitation, 550 miles N. from the Cape, and then changed his course, going S. E. On the whole, he has reason to congratulate himself on being now safe in Kew-Gardens, escaped from torrents and precipices, from deserts and lions ; and as to the succulent plants and aromatic shrubs thus procured, we cannot help comparing them to the water of Bethlehem, which three mighty men drew, in jeopardy of their lives, and which David therefore, though he had longed for it, nevertheless would not drink, but poured it out unto the Lord.

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