George Harvey Vachell finished a long and closely written letter to
Jenyns that he had started on the 14th, from Macao. The last letter
from Jenyns was dated 5th September 1829 and had arrived on the 18th
May 1830. His plants had arrived safely in England but no-one
mentioned the box of saucers "of the beautiful gold and silver which
the chinese use with such effect in their paintings - there were eight
of them for your sister Elizabeth in the same box as the plants".
doubted that he could collect some of the plants again and many other
things such as the chinese murderer's skull, but he was making another
collection of plants and flowers.
"I think I can get you some more geological specimens from the Peninsula, and some cool day I will take out my hammer and chisel for that purpose. The principal to be met with; is Granite... and in every part of the Peninsula are to be seen Quartz Dykes of great magnitude traversing the granite...".
Edible birds nests and collecting nests were of considerable interest to Vachell as well as insects
"When I first came to China, everyone told
me that it was impossible to keep insects from the scavenger insects,
"I have got several butterflies &c &c. in an airtight glass cabinet
what have been in about a year & a half - and not one bears the
slightest appearance of decomposition"
he treated then lightly with a
mixture of Turpentine and Camphor which formed a kind of varnish on
Vachell was in excellent health "I continue to like China
extremely" he was only four pounds lighter than when he left England.
"In the comfy establishments in China every thing is done as if by
clockwork, and it is by being so abstemious and careful of
non-imposture to the midday sun, that we all enjoy such uninterrupted
good health; and all this to, with every luxury around us; for our
William Yarrell wrote to Jenyns from London "Your present of fishes
came safely to my hands in beautiful condition, I should think,
differing but little from their appearance when alive and the Red or
Shallow exhibiting the particular metallic hue you described, and all
of them more rich in colour generally than those of the same species I
am in the habit of seeing, the fins all being remarkable for their
brilliant vermillion colour, but white at the base.
Some slight differences will probably occur in fishes of the same species from different waters, both in colour and number of fin rays. The two examples of Bream you sent me differed considerably... The Roach and Dace appear to be the same. I could not observe any difference in the four you sent me, supposed to be two of each... your fishes are richer in colour than ours from the Thames, which the greater impurity of the water near London may account for.
One object I have in writing is to tell you that about 20 fellows of
the Linnean Society intend meeting at the White Hart at Braintree
(Essex) on Saturday next by 12 or 1 o'clock, to walk over to
Black Notley, [to] visit the house and Tomb of John Ray, and return to
Braintree for dinner, most of the party will also stop the next day,
and go to Black Notley Church, and we shall all be most happy to see
you there, if your arrangements will permit. I have heard that
Professor Henslow will be there if possible".
Jenyns was also
planning a visit to London and Yarrell wants him to "take up your
abode with me". The letter was posted on the 28th June, free postage
with a "Frank" and arrived at Cambridge on the 29th June.
A local man who was in the habit of bringing down birds with a stone,
killed one in a hedge between Bottisham and Wilbraham. He brought the
bird, a Red-backed Butcher-bird, to Jenyns, it was not the first. "it
is rather singular that the same man killed a bird of this species in
the same place, a few years back & in the same manner".
"Several specimens of the Tree sparrow (Passer montanus) have occured
lately in the neighborhood of Cambridge. I was shewn one by C.Darwin
of Xts' Coll. - which was killed close to Bottisham".
"Some years ago, two eels of an enormous size were taken in a drain
near Wisbeach, weighing, the larger one 28 pounds & the smaller 22
pounds, the length of each was upwards of six feet, and the girth
equalling a man's leg. The skins of these fish were stuffed & brought
to Cambridge - where they are still to be seen in a fishmonger's shop
in Trumpington Street. A short time since [probably on Saturday 3rd
July] I shewed them to Mr.Yarrell, who happened to be at Cambridge - &
he pronounced them to be the fresh-water eels (& not Congers) and
belong to the slender headed kind. It is worthy of note that these
eels were taken on the occasion of cleaning the drain out, and that no
other fish of any kind, according to the report I received, were found
with them". [note: By 1846 the fishmonger's shop had gone]
Vachell started writing another letter to Jenyns, it was commenced at
"I have been cruising in our yacht amongst the islands, near Macao Roads, and having landed upon some of those nearest the edge of the China Sea,...I did not fail to take advantage of "culling samples" upon many islands whereon an European foot has seldom trod, & although many of the flowers & plants I brought form thence, are so precisely similar to those obtained nearer home, you may perhaps find some that are worthy of acceptance;
on these trips I always take a vast quantity of paper for drying plants; a large, and wide mouthed bottle of sprit for any reptiles I may find myself, or any old fish I may chance to draw from the "wells" of those fishing boats, which having toiled all day, some miles out to sea, are wont to return to the snug bays which we generally look out for "Under Lee" of the outside Islands for a night anchorage.
Vachell had been
collecting beautiful cotton shrubs, some burst and displayed their
contents "from which all the brown Nankeen Cloth is fabricated".
Bee keepers it seemed, waited until a swarm left the hive, then through a handful of sand in the air above them, this forced the bees down, where they were caught in a box. They were then suspended on a pole above water to stop the ants getting in. The honey "is much thinner than in England, but possesses a very delicate flavour".
Vachell thought that the Java "leaf insects, the most curious creatures I have seen in the East; and have one or two in our Museum, the body and shape and appearance is so exactly like a leaf, that it requires minute inspection to be detected in the smaller ones".
Vachell in Macao continues:" The thermometer now stands (1.pm.) at 90ø
in a way near the window in my room; but it is a most lovely day
nevertheless, and a nice little breeze comes off the water which
renders it very pleasant when sitting still in the house, the sun is
bright, with a beautiful clear atmosphere, and all the most distant
islands can be seen from my window, just close to which by the way,
are several Chinese wading from the Beach to fish, without an article
of covering on the shoulders or bare heads; their skulls must be
miraculously thick, if the sun does not inconvenience them...After 6
in the evening, it is quite delightful getting a ramble; or going on
I am anxiously looking out for two Indiamen from Bombay to appear round the "Calneta Point" many country ships are expected hourly from India; and an American Dr. from London: My telescope is generally at hand on my writing table as ships generally show their number when they approach from seaward".
Vachell had a close encounter with a poisonous snake on one of the
islands, which he killed. He had also been collecting some "curious
plants from the surface of the water, in pools about the Hill
ravines". He always collected flowers and seeds where practicable "as
a friend of mine here is upon most intimate terms with Dr Hooker of
Glasgow; many duplicates I obtain, will probably find their way to
that celebrated Professor".
The letter was sent Via "Mexico" and the American Brig."Lancaster" on
the 18th July 1830. It seems to have gone to "New Orleans" on the 10th
Nov. 1830 and signed "H.Butt Consul" it was eventually stamped as
"Shipletter Liverpool". and delivered to Jenyns at "Little Swaffham
Fish were much on Jenyns' mind, his brother gave him an account of his
fishing in the Cam some years before. He had caught a Trout but it was
supposed to be "a very uncommon fish in that river".
Jenyns packed his bags for one of his English walking tours, this time
to Derbyshire. This tour he wrote up in great detail every day, some
extracts follow. It was usual for his sunday services to be taken by a
student from Cambridge University in his absence. "Left London in the
afternoon for St. Albans, where I arrived for dinner" he was going to
stay several days.