‘Mistaken for Natives of the Soil’: Translation and Erasmus Darwin’s Loves of the Plants

  • Tristanne Connolly


The idea of translation is integral to Erasmus Darwin’s Loves of the Plants (first published 1789).1 It translates plant reproduction into human sexuality by personification, and elite knowledge into popular science by versification, while its explicit goal is a translation between discourses: to ‘lead … from the looser analogies, which dress out the imagery of poetry, to the stricter ones, which form the ratiocination of philosophy’ (Advertisement). Loves of the Plants is also intertwined with translation between languages. It was composed alongside Darwin’s translations of Linnaeus: A System of Vegetables (1783) and The Families of Plants (1787),2 which Darwin plugs at the end of the Preface to Loves.3 And Loves itself was translated, into Italian in 1805 by Giovanni Gherardini (a physician and lexicographer from Milan, who would go on to write the libretto for Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra [The Thieving Magpie], first performed in 1817),4 and before that into French in 1800 by Joseph Philippe François Deleuze, who was ‘aide-naturaliste’ at the Jardin des Plantes starting in 1795 and became the secretary of the Annales du Muséum d’histoire naturelle in 1802, and then librarian of the Museum in 1828 (Kremer-Marietti, 201).


Compound Word Scientific Language Universal Language Latin Term Linnaean System 
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© Tristanne Connolly 2015

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  • Tristanne Connolly

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