BANKS, Sir Joseph, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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BANKS, Sir Joseph (1743-1820). Naturalist.
Autograph Letter Signed to George Nicol (1740?-1828, bookseller and publisher), 1 page 4to with address-leaf and Nicol's reply on the inner pages, Soho Square, 26 June 1799. A little soiled at the edges, slight traces of former mounting to the reverse. Forwarding a 'silly letter' which he had received from [John] Pinkerton together with his reply to it [neither included].
'I think it necessary to enclose to you the silly Letter which you receive with this & my answer to it that you may know what the Little wasp who wrote it is about. I had as you will see an idea of enlarging a little more of the impertinance of his attempting a censure on the medium of conversation which I consider as the excuse of Sunday evenings but when I considered the character of my correspondent I concluded that short Letters to him were the Right sort.'
Nicol's reply is expansive:
'... Your sending me the malicious Letter of that wicked wasp Pinkerton so full of all kinds of falsehoods is a fresh proof of your kindness and confidence ... I too have had the mortification of a correspondence with him within this day or two on the same subject, of which I trouble you with a Copy enclosed [no longer]. What can have put it into the unhappy creature's head that I have abused Mr Browne or his work I cannot conceive. I declare before God there is nothing more untrue. On the contrary I have been waiting with impatience to peruse the Book from which I really have great expectations. I am free to confess that I should have liked the work the better if it came from Mr Browne himself without the manufactory of Mr Pinkerton.
 'As to the little spiteful insinuation that I have abused the Book because I published Park and not Browne - It is a picture of Pinkerton's own mind and not mine - For I am the person who advised Mr Brown to sell his work - nay made the calculation for him what he should ask for it. ...
 'The whole of this ridiculous falsehood is absurd, but there is something very wicked in saying that I used your name. ...'
John Pinkerton (1758-1826), historian and poet, who also wrote under the pseudonymns of Robert Heron and H. Bennet, was always something of a literary maverick, and started his career badly with a forgery of a supposed ancient poetic fragment - a mistake to which he later confessed. He twice appealed to Banks for an opening at the British Museum, on the first occasion through the intermediacy of Horace Walpole, but was rejected. His unorthodox views on religion and morality and the 'irregularities of his conduct' did nothing to endear him to the establishment.
 Pinkerton's correspondence with Banks is held by Edinburgh University Library and Banks's correspondence with Nicol at the British Library.
Provenance: from a collection formed by A.M. Broadley in 1903.
[No: 24698]

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