This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I had never much reason to suppose that you sympathized greatly with plain ways of talking about things, especially about plants. But I am sure you do not want to be unjust to my book, and therefore I want you to print a few words about your notice of the "Wild Garden." From the tenor of your review any one would suppose that my mission was to use English names instead of Latin ones! I never thought of this, though I have sympathy enough with non-technical people - that is to say, with the public, educated or non-educated - to know that you will never succeed in cramming Latin - dog and otherwise - down their throats. I also know that in other countries, as scientific as the country of your adoption, or as this country, writers habitually use their native tongue in speaking of plants and other things that men of science talk about. I could refer you to excellent books in French and German where men of the highest knowledge use their own language (sometimes in addition to the Latin nomenclature) in speaking of things that ought to be so familar to everybody as the flowers of our gardens, and the trees of our woods.
No one would suppose, from your review of the "Wild Garden," that the Latin names were given in the descriptive part, as well as the English names, when good or fitting English names happened to exist. When you go on to criticise the English names that are given, and express surprise at such a name as the " Cheddar pink," then one sees the amount of attention you have paid to the subject.
You say: "Though we have endeavored to keep the track of Mr. Robinson's new names as they appeared in the Garden, we find a large number here that we know nothing about, and in consequence all that he says about the plants might as well have been written in Chinese. We suppose " Cheddar pink " is some sort of a Dian-thus".
If, indeed, your knowledge of the English flower does not inform you that the Cheddar pink is a well-known English plant, that grows in that most interesting and beautiful rocky gorge at Cheddar, in Somerset, then one cannot suppose you have gone very deeply into English plant names. The name Cheddar pink is not mine, but a well-established English name. So, too, the other English names you speak of are, some of them, mere translations, which ought not to be difficult to anybody that knows plants, and which would be used in preference by many persons who knew both names. I have no doubt that many American lovers of plants would willingly use fitting English names, and I have reason to know that the leading weekly journals in America sympathize with efforts in this direction.
Further on you take a set of phrases used in the "Wild Garden" as descriptive, such as "pretty little rosy bindweed," which is part of the text, and has nothing to do with English names, and you call it an English name!
If one advocated the abolition of Latin names altogether - an absurdity, in the face of the fact that we have no organized English names - one could understand your objections in the matter, but that you should object to the use of an English name where it is possible to get a good one, or to the invention of a name where the Latin one is very awkward, seems to us to indicate a want of sympathy with the real wants of the flower-loving public, as distinguished from those brought up on botanical terms, so to say. It may suit a minute philosopher to raise a question of this kind (entirely apart from the aim and plan of the book), and to take no account of the book itself, its artistic illustrations or what it advocates. But that is not fair to the book, and is scarcely common sense. English names are in no way made more prominent than they are in Professor Gray's book on the plants of North America, a book on a professedly more technical subject. Indeed my practice is that of your best American authors, and is justified alike by the genius of our language, the wants and tastes of our people, and in the interest of science itself! We have no right, as the Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford says, to bar the fairest gate of knowledge, by the use of more technical terms than are necessary.
I find that American books and American literature help me, in my desire to give an English name in addition to the Latin one. I am now preparing the English Flower Garden, the vast mass of matter for which must be arranged alphabetically after the Latin names, but it is pleasant to be able, instead of saying Epigaea repens alone, to add the pretty name of May flower, which is an American name. How very shocking of some American botanists to add that this plant is also called " trailing arbutus! " I am sure they will meet with your disapprobation! But this simple New England name, with the associations it calls up, tells even in this country, where it has only been used of late, more of the history of the plant than its Latin name ever can. Wishing you a happy New Year, and that Heaven may deliver you and every earnest soul from pedantry and bad Latin, love of jaw-breakers, and every other misfortune and illusion.
[Certainly, we do not " sympathize with plain ways of talking," as illustrated by Mr. Robinson's letter, which is inserted only because justice is invoked in its behalf. We are proud to believe that the style of writing, employed both by Mr. Robinson and Mr. Riley as above, is not popular " in the country of your adoption".
And, as it is a question of justice, our readers will see it is far off the mark. We have never objected to common names when they are common. We have Pansy, Violet, Sweet William and hundreds of similar common names. These are genuine common names, and we wish we had more of them. We use " May flower " and "trailing arbutus ;" these came to us from the common people. They are truly common names. Our point with Mr. Robinson is, that he is manufacturing and issuing names as common names which are not common, and of which not one in a hundred ever will be.
Dr. Gray is referred to as though he had coined names as what Mr. Robinson is doing. If he has, he is probably sorry. The writer of this has attempted something of the kind, and certainly regrets it. He fell into the error he believes Mr. Robinson is still under, of believing he could make common names for the common people. He found they will make their own names, and however desirable and pretty they may be, we must wait till they make them. It is not with common names, but with what in propriety we may call their spurious and wholesale manufacture that we contend, proceeding which the people themselves will overturn when the "names" in question become common enough for the public to take a vote on them. - Ed. G. M].