Collinson, Peter

, was an ingenious botanist, whose family is of ancient standing in the north. Peter and James were the great grandsons of Peter Collinson, who lived on his paternal estate called Hugal-Hall, or Height of Hugal, near Windermere Lake, in the parish of Stavely, about ten miles from Kendal in Westmoreland. Peter, who vvus born Jan. 14, 1693-4, whilst a youth, discovered his attachment to natural history. He began early to make a collection of dried specimens of plants; had access to the best gardens at that time in the neighbourhood of London; and became early acquainted with the most eminent naturalists of his time; the doctors Derham, Woodward, Dale, Lloyd, and Sloane, were amongst his friends. Among the great variety of articles which form, that superb collection, now (by the wise disposition of sir Hans Sloane and the munificence of parliament) the British Museum, small was the number of those with whose history Collinson was not well acquainted, he being one of those few who visited sir Hans at all times familiarly; their inclinations and pursuits in respect to natural history being the same, a firm friendship had early been established between, them. Peter Collinson was elected F. R. S. Dec. 12, 1728 and perhaps was one of the most diligent and useful members, not only in supplying them with many curious observations, but in promoting and preserving a most extensive correspondence with learned and ingenious foreigners, in all countries, and on every useful subject. Besides his attention to natural history, he minuted every striking hint | that occurred either in reading or conversation; and from this source he derived much information, as there were very few men of learning and ingenuity, who were not of his acquaintance at home; and most foreigners of eminence in natural history, or in arts and sciences, were recommended to his notice and friendship. His diligence and economy of time was such, that though he never appeared to be in a hurry, he maintained an extensive correspondence with great punctuality; acquainting the learned and ingenious in distant parts of the globe, with the discoveries and improvements in natural history in this country, and receiving the like information from the most eminent persons in almost every other. His correspondence with the ingenious Cadwallader Golden, esq, of NewYork, and the celebrated Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia, furnish instances of the benefit resulting from his attention to all improvements. The latter of these gentlemen communicated his first essays on electricity to Collinson, in a series of letters, which were then published, and have been reprinted in a late edition of the doctor’s works. Perhaps, at the present period, the account procured of the management of sheep in Spain, published in the Gentleman’s Magazine for May and June 1764, may not be considered among the least of the benefits accruing from his extensive and inquisitive correspondence. His conversation, cheerful and usefully entertaining, rendered his acquaintance much desired by those who had a relish for natural history, or were studious in cultivating rural improvements; and secured him the intimate friendship of some of the most eminent personages in this kingdom, as distinguished by their taste in planting and horticulture, as by their rank and dignity. He was the first who introduced the great variety of trees and shrubs, which are now the principal ornaments of every garden; and it was owing to his indefatigable industry, that so many persons of the first distinction are now enabled to behold groves transplanted from the Western continent flourishing so luxuriantly in their several domains, as if they were already become indigenous to Britain. He had some correspondents in almost every nation in Europe; some in Asia, and even at Pekin, who all transmitted to him the most valuable seeds they could collect, in return for the treasures of America. Linnæus, during his residence in England, contraded an intimate friendship with Mr. Collinson, which | was reciprocally increased by a multitude of good offices, and continued to the last. Besides his attachment to natural history, he was very conversant in the antiquities of our own country, having been elected F. S. A. April 7, 1737; and he supplied the society with many curious articles of intelligence, and observations respecting both our own and other countries. In the midst of all these engagements, he was a mercer by trade, and lived at the Red Lion, in Gracechurch-street. His person was rather short than tall; he had a pleasing and social aspect; of a temper open and communicative, capable of feeling for distress, and ready to relieve and sympathize. Excepting some attacks of the gout, he enjoyed, in general, perfect health and great equality of spirits, and had arrived at his 75th year; when, being on a visit to lord Petre, for whom he had a singular regard, he was seized with a total suppression of urine, which, baffling every attempt to relieve it, proved fatal Aug. 11, 1768. Mr. Collinson left behind him many materials for the improvement of natural history; and the present refined taste of horticulture may in some respects be attributed to his industry and abilities. He married, in 1724, Mary, the daughter of Michael Russell, esq. of Mill Hill, with whom he lived very happily till her death, in 1753. He left issue a son, named Michael, who resided at Mill Hill, and died Aug. 11, 1795, whose son is still living; and a daughter, Mary, married to the late John Cator, esq. of Beckenham, in Kent. Both his children inherited much of the taste and amiable disposition of their father. 1

1 From “Some Account of the late Peter Collinson,” by Dr. Fothe-gill and Michael Collinson, esq. his nephew, 1710, 4to. Biog Brit, Nichols’s Bowyer. Lettsom’s Memoirs of Fothergill, Gent. Maj. vol. LXXXII. part 1, p. 206.