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THE SECOND EDITION.
WHEN the first edition of this book was submitted to the public, it was necessary for the author to preface it with some observations upon the Natural System of Botany, which by some were thought too strong, by others unfair towards the school of Linnæus, and by many to bear too hardly upon the meritorious endeavours of those local Botanists by whose silent, but uninterrupted investigations the Flora of Great Britain has been so thoroughly examined. I do not acknowledge the justice of such criticisms. I had no intention of hurting the feelings of any individual; and if it really has happened that remarks directed against a particular system of investigation, which I consider a very bad one, have been applied personally by any English Botanist, I can only regret it, and assure such individuals that my meaning has been altogether misapprehended.
That the system of classification invented by Linnæus, was altogether worthy of the reputation of that great man, considering the state of science at the time when he lived, and that it effected much temporary good, may, perhaps, be conceded: but that any Botanist should attempt to deny that, when it fell into the hands of such men as were esteemed the heads of the Linnæan System during the
last quarter of a century, it became a positive incubus upon science, is to me, I must confess, a subject of unfeigned astonishment. Surely, it cannot be denied that this school has acted as if the whole object of Botany were naming and describing species, evidently mistaking the means for the end, and converting the study of the vegetable kingdom into a system of verbal trifling. Neither can it, I think, be doubted, that, wherever the influence of the Linnæan school extended, the science itself gradually declined; that it became so feeble and impotent as to meet with universal public neglect; and that it in no instance began to recover either its true position as a branch of knowledge, or its former station in public esteem, until the doctrines of the school of Ray and Jussieu displaced those of the followers of Linnæus.
In the year 1820, in Great Britain, many parts of Germany, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, Botany was bedridden and paralytic; and so it still remains, except in Great Britain and Germany, and in the few places in those other countries in which its spirit has been renovated by the adoption of modern views and opinions. Could any one, let me ask, have got together in London, in the year 1820, a public class of Botany consisting of fifty students? Could they even in 1825? And yet the season that has just passed has witnessed classes of two hundred persons, attracted by the mere interest of the subject, and not brought together by academical compulsion.
The Linnæan system of classification is superficial to the greatest possible degree; it has a manifest tendency to render those who employ it superficial also, as is proved by all experience; it leads to a mere knowledge of names instead of things; it renders careful investigation and general principles, which are the result of it, almost unnecessary; and it does not lead to the application of Botany to any one useful purpose. For these and many other reasons I reject it; for such reasons the world has rejected
it; and hence, moreover, it no longer finds favour in the eyes of any, except those to whom it is endeared by old habits and ancient recollections, which, however amiable, are not to be allowed to interfere with public good. It is repudiated every where by the rising generation; and, if it might not now be safely left to public opinion, I should have no hesitation in saying that it ought to be excluded from all courses of public instruction, by every governing body in this country.
With regard to the present work, it was originally written for the use of the students in the University of London, and was intended as their pocket companion in the classroom or the field. It was therefore contracted as much as was consistent with its intended object; perhaps too much so; it has, however, been found to possess advantages even in that respect. Unfortunately, the first edition was blemished by many typographical and other errors; and the analytical tables were prepared at a time when I had no experience in teaching by their aid. The use of them for several years has led me to discover many sources of error, and at the same time the mode of correcting it; so that I hope these tables, which are entirely new, will now be found far superior to those in the first edition. The genus Salix has been relieved from the burthen of an enormous accumulation of false species, by adopting the admirable arrangement of Koch; Rubus has been reconsidered; Labiata have been recast in conformity with Mr. Bentham's views; such new species have been introduced in a Supplement, as have been recently discovered; and the references to the Supplement of English Botany have been completed; so that this work is now, in fact, a complete systematic index of the plates of flowering plants in that valuable publication. All the genera to which new species are to be added are marked on the margin with an S, which refers to the Supplement, where their names and characters are given.
It may, perhaps, be a matter of surprise, that I should not have rearranged the natural orders, according to the plan proposed in my Nixus. This was impracticable, in consequence of the work having been stereotyped; and I do not consider it a matter of the slightest importance: all that is material is this, that the natural orders themselves should have permanent limits, which do not fluctuate with changes of opinion concerning general arrangement. The few hundred plants which form the phænogamic Flora of this country, have so little bearing upon general principles of classification, that I do not think the student need occupy himself at all with such considerations, while using a work like the present.
London, July 30. 1835.