GOSSE, Philip Henry (1810–1888), zoologist & religious writer. ALS to W. Lavers 1877

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GOSSE, Philip Henry (1810–1888), zoologist and religious writer. Autograph letter signed to W. Lavers, 4 sides of an 8vo bifolium, Sandhurst, Torquay, February 26 1877, regarding their mutual interest in orchids “I was pleased to hear that the Orchid-Mania having bitten you, had broken out with so favourable an eruption. Go on & prosper! Thank you for the offer of Saphronitis Grandiflora, I have some specimens of it. But why should you be so eager to get rid of what you have so recently gotten? It is a most charming bloomer & so very compact & neat, & so easy to grow, that it specially suits a small collection. May I venture to commend you to keep what you have ……… You ask if I have any thing I would like to get rid of. Yes, I have several; but unfortunately they are of poor worthless needy sort, that would be no more worth your growing than of mine. And as for the offer of your ever large & liberal  heart, to “give me a plant”, surely, surely, my kind friend, it would be far better to become me to spare you something out of my full collection, than to hold out a greedy hand for a gift from your newborn one! Yet the kindness & self-sacrifice of the prosser are not less appreciated. After all, it is just like you! ……The Orchid pots & Baskets that we like so well are from John Matthews, Royal Pottery, Weston super Mare. Write him & he will send you his illustrated & priced Catalogue., and in closing writes “ I am thankfull to say I am now pretty well again. Yesterday I took the work of God at my little Chapel, both morning & evening. Will you tell Miss Lavers, with our kind Christian love, that I hope to resume our Scripture readings at our house, on Thursday 8th March……….”. Some soiling and foxing.

Philip Henry Gosse was an accomplished naturalist and well known popularizer of natural science, as well as a religious writer. One of his few controversial books (and that for which he is best remembered) was Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, published in 1857, in which he sought to reconcile geology with the biblical account of creation. In 1857 Gosse moved to Sandhurst, St Marychurch, Torquay, where amongst his many other commitments to writing and the church, he indulged in his favourite pastime of growing orchids, a family of plants about which he exchanged regular letters with Charles Darwin.

Gosse’s correspondent was the retired Devon solicitor William Lavers (1819-1894), who in retirement became an enthusiastic cultivator of orchids, and was President of the Torquay District Gardeners' Association.