Possessing Albany, 1630-1710

The Dutch Vrouws,
page 6 of 9

The enumeration of great and lesser drawing-rooms, front and back parlors, blue and gold leather room, green and gold leather room, tapestry room, chintz room, etc., show its pretension and extent. She lived on Broad Street, had a fine garden laid out in the Dutch taste, a house full of servants, and spent her money freely as she made it thriftily. A very good portrait of her exists. It shows an interesting countenance, with fine features, a keen eye, and indicating robust health. She is not dressed with great elegance, wearing the costume of the day, — a commonplace frilled cap, folded kerchief, close sleeves, such as we are familiar with in portraits of English women of her time.

Jane Colden, the daughter of Governor Cadwallader Colden, was of signal service, not in trade, but in science. A letter written by her father explains her interest and usefulness:—

“Botany is an amusement which may be made agreeable to the ladies who are often at a loss to fill up their time. Their natural curiosity and the pleasure they take in the beauty and variety of dress seem to fit them for it.
“I have a daughter who has an inclination to reading, and a curiosity for Natural Philosophy or Natural History, and a sufficient curiosity for attaining a competent knowledge. I took the pains to explain Linnæus’system, and to put it into an English form for her use by freeing it from technical terms, which was easily done, by using two or three words in the place of one. She is now grown very fond of the study, and has made such a progress in it as, I believe, would please you, if you saw her performance. Though she could not have been persuaded to learn the terms at first, she now understands to some degree Linnæus’characters, — notwithstanding she does not understand Latin. She has already a pretty large volume in writing of the description of plants. She has shewn a method of taking the impression of the leaves on paper with printers’ink, by a simple kind of rolling press which is of use in distinguishing the species. No description in words alone, can give so clear an idea, as when assisted with a picture. She has the impression of three hundred plants in the manner you—ll see by the samples. That you may have some conception of her performance, and her manner of describing, I propose to enclose some samples in her own writing, some of which I think are new genera.”


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