Sherard, William

, a very learned botanist, was the son of George Sherwood, of Bushby, in Leicestershire. It does not appear at what time or for what reason the alteration in the name was made. He was born in 1659, educated first at Merchant Taylors’ school, and then at St. John’s college, Oxford, where he entered in 1677. He subsequently became a fellow of this college, and took the degree of bachelor of law, December 11, 1683. Being appointed travelling tutor successively, to Charles, afterwards the second viscount Townshend, and to Wriothesley lord Howland, son of the celebrated patriot lord Russel, who in 1700 became the second duke of Bedford, Sherard made two successive tours through Holland, France, Italy, &c. returning from the last, as sir J. Smith thinks, not. much before the year 1700, when his last-mentioned pupil was twenty years old. Dr. Pulteney supposes him to have come back in 1693, led perhaps by the date of Ray’s “Sylloge Stirpium Europaearum,” printed in 1694, to which Sherard communicated a catalogue of plants gathered on mount Jura, Saleve, and the neighbourhood of Geneva. About this time we find he was in Ireland, on a visit to his friend sir Arthur Rawdon, at Moira. Long before either of his foreign journeys he had travelled over various parts of England, and proceeded to Jersey, for the purpose of botanical investigation; and the fruits of hi* discoveries enriched the publications of the illustrious Ray.

Botany was ever the prominent pursuit of Sherard in all his journeys. He cultivated the friendship and correspondence of the most able men on the continent, such as Boerhaave, Hermann, Tournefort, Vaillant, Micheli, *&c. He is universally believed to have been the author of a 12mo volume, entitled “Schola Botanica,” published at Amsterdam in 1689, and reprinted in 1691 and 1699. This


Ath. Ox. vol. II new edit. Dodd’s Chnrch Hist.

| is a systematic catalogue of the Paris garden. Its preface, dated London, Nov. 1688, is signed S.W. A., which the French writers have interpreted Samuel Wharton, Anglus, under which name the book occurs in Haller’s “Bibliotheca Botanica,” v. I. 643. But as no one ever heard of such a botanist as Wharton, and the preface in question displays the objects and acquisitions of one of the first rank, who could certainly not long remain in obscurity, the above initials are presumed to mean William Sherard, to whom alone indeed, with or without a signature, that preface could belong. Its writer is described as having attended three courses of Tourne fort’s botanical lectures, in 1686, 87, and 88, all which years, he says, he spent at Paris. In the summer of 1688 he describes himself as having passed some time in Holland, collecting specimens of plants from the rich gardens of that country, and getting them named by professor Hermann himself, who allowed him to peruse the manuscript rudiments of his “Paradisus Batavus,” to examine his herbarium, and to compose a Prodromus of that work, which is subjoined to the little volume now under our consideration. All this can apply to Sherard only, who became the editor of Hermann’s book itself, and who in Hs preface, dated from Geneva in 1697, appears under his own name, and speaks of himself as having long enjoyed the friendship and the communications of that eminer>t man, whose judgment and talents he justly commemorates, and of whose various literary performances, as well as of his botanical principles, he gives an account. Dr. Pulteney cpnceives this preface to have been written during a third tour of its author to the continent; but we presume him to have then been with the young lord Rowland, and consequently on his second tour only.

Sherard communicated to the Royal Society, in 1700, a paper relative to the making of Chinese or Japan varnishes, which is printed in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. XXII. The information which it contains was sent by the Jesuits to the grand duke of Tuscany, and probably obtained by our author at Florence. He now entered on a more public walk of life, becoming one of the commissioners for sick and wounded seamen at Portsmouth; and about the year 1702, or soon after, was sent out -as British consul to Smyrna. Here his botanical taste met with fresh gratification; nor was he neglectful of other curiosities of science dr literature, He visited the seven churches of Asia, | copied several ancient inscriptions, and communicated to the Royal Society an account of the new volcanic island, near Santorini, which rose out of the sea May 12, 1707. Botany, however, continued to be his leading object. He had a villa at Sedekio, near Smyrna., where he could with the more ease resign himself to the contemplation of plants, and where he began his great herbarium. Hasselquist visited this spot, with the devotion of a pilgrim, in the spring of 1750. He saw the house, with a small garden laid out by Sherard, but not enriched at any great expence, nor storeid with extensive collections of exotics. Many of the latter indeed might, in the course of thirty-two years, have disappeared. Whatever specimens Sherard could obtain from Greece, and the neighbouring countries, he here carefully preserved and being well aware of the insufficiency of Baubin’s “Pinax,” as a clue to the botanical knowledge then in the world, he is said to have here formed the project of continuing it, and even to have made some progress in that arduous undertaking, before he returned to his native country in 1718. Soon after his return he received at Oxford the degree of LL.D.

In 1721, Dr. Sherard revisited the continent. Vaillant was now in a declining state of health, and died in May 1722. Previous to his decease he concluded, through the mediation of Sherard, the sale of his manuscripts and drawings of Parisian plants, to Boerhaave, who published in 1727 the splendid “Botanicon Parisiense.” This work, though not free from imperfections in the distribution of its materials, would doubtless have been far less correct, but for the superintendance of Sherard, who passed a summer with Boerhaave in revising the manuscript. Our great botanist had already rendered a more important service to his favourite science, by bringing with him from Germany, in August 1721, the celebrated Dillenius. (See Dillenius.) By a comparison of dates, it appears that Sherard made several visits to the continent. He went from Paris to Holland in 1721, and thence with Dillenius, the same year, to England. He stayed some time with Boerhaave again in 1724, or perhaps 1725. We know not precisely when or where it happened that he was, like Linnæus in Norway, in danger of being shot for a wolf.

What principally attached Sherard to Dillenius, was the similarity of their tastes respecting those intricate tribes of vegetables now termed cryptogamic. To these the | attention of both had long been directed, and hence originated the cultivation, which this line of botanical study has received, from that period, in England and Germany. This taste, however, was not exclusive; for these friends and fellow labourers left no department of botany unimproved. James Sherard, seven years younger than his brother, who had acquired opulence by medical practice, first as an apothecary, and then as a physician, in London, had a great fondness for the same pursuit, and reared at his country seat at Eltham, a number of exotic plants, from every climate. Hither the more learned subject of our present article frequently resorted. He had acquired affluence by his public appointments, but his style of living was simple and private Devoted to the cultivation of knowledge in himself, and to the diffusion of that of others, he lent his aid to all who required it, without coming forward conspicuously as an author. *He assisted Catesby with information and with money, to bring out his natural history of Carolina, though neither that work, nor the “Hortus Elthamensis” of Dillenius, appeared till some time after his decease, which happened at Eltham Aug. 12, 1728, when he was 69 years of age. He was buried at Eltham Aug. 19. His brother died Feb. 12, 1738-9, aged/72, and is buried in Evington church, near Leicester, with his wife, whose maiden name was Lockwood, by whom he had no children.

The most ostensible and splendid service to botany was rendered by the will of Dr. William Sherard, who left 3000l. for the endowment of the botanical professorship at Oxford, besides 500l. which he gave in his life-time for the improvement of the garden. He bequeathed to this establishment his choice botanical library, his ample herbarium, and the manuscript of his “Pinax,” the completion of which he intended should be one of the objects and duties of the new professor. He bequeathed also his books (with the exception of the botanical part) and many curiosities to St. John’s college, Oxford. In 1766, some of his Mss. were presented by Mr. Ellis to the Royal Society. 1


Pulteney’s Botany. Rees’s Cyclop. —Gent. Mag. vo!. LXVI. where are some curious particulars of both the Sherards, Preface to Martyn’s Dissertation on the Æneid, p. xl.