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As a practitioner, he was judicious, careful, honest, and remarkably humane to the poor; as a friend, obliging and communicative; cheerful and decent in conversation ; severe and strict in his morals, and attentive to fulfil with propriety all the various duties of life.
of Animals and Vegetables.' This was a performance I had long wished to see, and lately was so lucky as to meet with it; since which time, I could not help resolving to address the learned Author, and humbly beg the favour of his correspondence, that I might have an opportunity from time to time of laying open my difficulties in any enquiries of that kind to him, and begging his assistance and advice. At the same time, I must own, I am but poorly qualified to make proper and suitable returns for such a favour; but if accounts of any of our Vegetable, Animal, or Mineral Productions, would be acceptable, I should take the greatest and most sensible pleasure to procure or make out such as might be agreeable of such things as may fall under my notice. It is now about three years and an half since I first arrived in South Carolina, where I have practised Physic ever since, and employed every spare hour in Botany; but my progress has been much retarded for want of the proper books and assistances. There is only my learned and ingenious friend the Honourable Dr. Bull, who knows the least lota of Botany or any part of Natural History here, which, with my small Botanical Library (which only consisted of Tournefort, Ray, and Lin. Fund. Botan. with the Flora Virgin. Gron.), was a great hindrance and loss to a beginner. I have lately had a copy of all Linnæus's Works, except the late performance of the Species Plantarum, which I have only just heard of in a Letter from a German Correspondent. This last year I was obliged to leave Carolina, and go to the Northern Colonies, in search of a cooler and freer air, on the account of health; and as soon as my health and strength would permit, I travelled over most of the adjacent countries in search of their Vegetable Productions, and met with many curious things, some of which we have not here. In the Province of New York I met with the Honourable Cadwallader Colden, a truly great Philosopher and very accurato and ingenious Botanist; as witness his Philosophical performances, and his ‘Genera Plantarum, published in the ‘Acta Upsaliensa.' I could not help being greatly pleased, and at the same time chagrined, at the account which he gave me of Dr. Kalm the Swede, who is just now publishing his Collections, made in our Colonies, in the Swedish Language, by the particular desire of his King. This will not only give them the glory and honour of such public undertakings, but the sple advantage of what observations he may have made. This looks as if we must be obliged to strangers to point out our own richness, and shew us the advantages of what we ourselves possess.
In 1769, he proposed to retire from business and from London, for the sake of his health; and, having disposed of most of his books and his fossils with that view, went to Bristol: but soon found it inconsistent with his happiness to forsake all the advantages which a long residence in the capital, and the many connexions he had formed, had rendered habitual to him. He therefore returned to his old house; and died in it, after a week's illness, April 4, 1770. By his last will, dated in October 1766, he
gave his whole property to Mrs. Parsons; and, in case of her death before him, to Miss Mary Reynolds, her only sister, “ in recompence for her affectionate attention to him and to his wife, for a long course of years, in sickness and in health.”
Something similar to this will soon be seen in Dr. Loefling's Voyage to our Íslands and the Spanish Main, especially while he is to be supported by the Royal bounty. And have not we lands that would produce most of these vegetables that the Spaniards just now reap such advantage from? Yes, surely we have; but, as we are ignorant of the proper method of curing and manufacturing them, our people are deterred from running the risk of losing money, labour, or time, in this slow way of getting knowledge of them by experiment, while they have some other commodities that answer tolerably well in the mean time. -Mr. Clayton in Virginia, and John Bartram in Pennsylvania, are the only Botanists or Naturalists that I know of, besides Mr. Colden, on the Continent. And I doubt not but you are well acquainted with the character and genius of both these men. Mr. Bartram is certainly a most surprizing man, who, without any assistance of conversation or of books (he understands a very little botanical Latin), should have arrived at so great a knowledge of Plants, especially in a systematical way. It is a great pity that he does not understand Mr. Loefling's Dissertation on Gems; for I am fully persuaded he is amongst the best qualified men to improve that part of the science. How often have I been pleased, delighted, and instructed, by many of his lively and strong natural thoughts on gems, izs to their structure, use, time, and properties! I shall not detain you longer, but again beg leave to request the favour of your correspondence, and your forgiveness for this trouble. I am, with great esteem, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant, ALEXANDER GARDEN.
“Charles Town, South Carolina, May 5, 1755."
It was his particular request that he should not be buried till some change should appear in his corpse; a request which occasioned his being kept unburied 17 days, and even then scarce the slightest alteration was perceivable. He was buried at Hendon, in a vault which he had caused to be built on the ground purchased on the death of his son, where his tomb is thus inscribed :
rests James Parsons, D. M.
with talents the most numerous and rare.
no consideration could move him
Languages, and the fine Arts,
mankind in mental endowments, the sincere Christian, the affectionate husband,
the generous and humane friend, were in him superior to the sage, the scholar,
and the philosopher.
in the 66th year of his age.
who diel Dec. 9, 1750,
A portrait of Dr. Parsons, by Mr. Wilson, is now in the British Museum; another, by Wells, was in the hands of his widow, with a third unfinished; and one of his son James; also a family piece, in which the same son is introduced, with the Doctor and his lady, accompanied by her sister.
Among other portraits, Mrs. Parsons had fine ones of the illustrious Harvey, of Bp. Burnet, and of Dr. John Freind; a beautiful miniature of Dr. Stukeley ; some good paintings by her husband's own hand, particularly the Rhinoceros, which he described in the Philosophical Transactions. She possessed also his MSS. and some capital printed books; a large folio volume, intituled, Figuræ quædam Miscellaneæ quæ ad rem Anatomicam Historiamque Naturalem spectant; quas propriâ adumbravit manu Jacobus Parsons, M. D. S.S. R. Ant. &c." another, called, “ Drawings of curious Fossils, Shells, &c. in Dr. Parsons's Collection, drawn by himself. I have been indulged with a sight of these valuable drawings. Amongst other curiosities, is an exact delineation of a human fætus, which was the subject of an extraordinary imposture; the upper part being well made, and in good proportion, the lower extremities monstrous. It was inclosed in a glass case, and shewn at the Heathcock, Charing Cross, as "a surprizing young Mermaid, taken on the coast of Acapulco." This figure the Doctor elrew; and caused the show-man to be turned out of town.
She also possessed a set of the fine prints engraved
curâ et sumptibus eximii viri Thomæ Hollisii
est arrogans; omnibus tamen gratus, neque unquam absentem rodit amicum. J. P.
19 Julii, 1764." Dr. Parsons having sent Mr. Hollis some present in return for these valuable prints, received a reply, dated August 21, 1764, which is worth preserving, as characteristic of the writer: “ I return you my thanks for a curious and obliging present, which was received this day, and is already deposited amidst my other choicest virtù. A number of the prints from the plates in my possession having been lately stricken off, and the last set having seemed not unacceptable to you; I have taken the liberty to send you another set of them, for, if you please, a friend. My time, I confess, has been greatly engaged, and even finessed on to certain purposes, honest ones it is hoped, for years past; but those purposes will have their end before it is long, and then I shall be able to partake again, happily, in the society of my friends, and of wise and good men. I am, with unfeigned and deep respect, Sir, your most obedient humble servant, T. Hollis."
I shall add to this letter a short extract from the biographer of Mr. Hollis: “Paid four guineas, the full subscription for six copies of the Remains of Japhet, by Dr. James Parsons; burnt five of the subscriptions. We give this memorandum just as we find it, being uncertain whether a friendly partiality for the author, or the subject, was the motive of this generous subscription. It is certain, that there are positions in that book from which, we apprehend, Mr. Hollis would dissent *."
Mrs. Parsons (I was, in 1782, enabled to say on her own authority', had she been properly applied to, was ready to have given, either to the Royal or Antiquarian Society, a portrait of her worthy husband, and a sum of money to found a lecture to perpetuate his memory, similar to that established by his friend Mr. Henry Baker.
Memoirs of Mr. Hollis, p. 495.