July 19, 1832

⟨[19 July]⟩ Early on the nineteenth, I undertook a walk to the country home of Louis ⟨[sic, Joseph]⟩ Bonaparte, ex-king of Spain. It is located 300 paces from Bordentown, not far from the railroad from New Brunswick Amboy, which passes here in the direction of Camden, opposite Philadelphia, and is already sixty miles in length. This road was still under construction, and in sections of the valley, large em- bankments had been thrown up, as for a highway. The railway on each side is narrow; it is solidly embedded with stones; and the wheels have a flange, with which they run on the iron track. Between Philadelphia and Fairmount, this road had already been largely completed.

On the right side of the path, in the region near L. ⟨[sic, Joseph]⟩ Bonaparte’s country home, I went botanizing. Near a deep ditch in the swamp, with dense thickets and woods on the opposite side, there were magnificent rhododendron shrubs blooming, ten to fifteen and more feet tall, with thick tufts of large, beautiful white or pale reddish flowers and stiff, laurel-like leaves. The young blossoms are rose pink, the older ones almost completely white with a pale shimmer of reddish color. Count Survilliers’ gardener maintains that this is Rhododendron maximum.M13His assertion is absolutely correct. The shrubs were thickly entangled by wild grapevines. I took all these plants with me.

Figure 2.17 Oak leaf (possibly blackjack oak,) Quercus marilandica.

Beyond the railroad there was a dense forest ⟨[with]⟩ three or four species of oaks: one of them with delicately pinnatifid leaves (Quercus alba), another with broad, bluntly spatulate leaves (Q. ferruginea), as well as nice varieties of nut trees (Juglans) and the American chestnut (Castanea vesca?), a tall, beautiful, shady forest tree now still in bloom; furthermore, sassafras with its trilobate, often varied, foliage. And the understory in this forest of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees consisted of rhododendron and Kalmia, which had finished blossoming here in the dark shade of the forest. It seems that in Europe these shrubs should always be planted beneath other trees as undergrowth. Their dried-out leaves lay on the ground and rustled when we walked on them. In open spots along all the pathways, mullein (Verbascum thapsus), with its yellow flowers and large whitish, woolly leaves, grew. It is said to have come from Europe, and Phytolacca is the most common plant everywhere. Since I wanted to avoid the excessive heat, I returned at ten o’clock, but was already bathed in perspiration. In dense blackberry bushes and wild grapevines on my way home, I noticed a movement, and when I had been observing a ditch beside them for a while, a cute chipmunk with its colorful stripes appeared, but I had no shotgun with which to kill it. It was probably rummaging about for the fruits of the shrubs.

As the day began to cool off, I went to Louis ⟨[sic, Joseph]⟩ Bonaparte’s country home. The gardener, who was working in the large garden, well and nicely planted with all sorts of European vegetables and fruits, opened the door for me. The country home itself is nice and simple, moderately large with three floors and a flat roof built in this shape: ‘a’ is the garden side; ‘b,’ a terrace surrounded with a white railing above a deep ditch, here passing through dark forest. Several heads (probably antiques) have been set up in ‘e.’ Figure 2.18 Joseph Bonaparte's house and garden, plan view diagram.A flower garden is found in ‘c,’ before which, closer to the street, the administrative buildings of the superintendent, or manager, and servants are located. In ‘d,’ on the left wing of the house, there is a small, single-story pavilion with glass doors all around. Behind this wing a row of white and red ole- ander (Nerium), now in bloom, has been planted.

I now passed through the entire, very shady, park, which extends on the same level areas along Crosswicks Creek, a rapid brook that flows into the Delaware near Bordentown. On the elevation facing Bordentown, there is a high, narrow pavilion with a small tower and a balcony, from which there must be an excellent view. Around the pavilion there is a terrace with ⟨[a]⟩ railing from which one enjoys the beautiful view, high over the wooded bank of the river, toward the green region, covered with woods and bushes, through which the Delaware gently glides. From here dark, shady paths go along this tall bank, always on the edge, in twists and turns; this forest, as well as the one shading the mountain face down toward the creek, is magnificent.

All the beautiful forest trees of this region, with a now magnificently blooming undergrowth of rhododendron with its white-reddish tufts, provided dark shade. Coniferous and deciduous trees were intermingled. I heard only a few kinds of bird calls here, which seldom came from a few small songbirds but, on the contrary, frequently from catbirds (Turdus felivox Vicill.), which were uncommonly numerous here. These dark-gray birds were seen in all the trees and shrubs, but their call is not quite like that of the cat. In the town of Bordentown, I saw these birds, very tame, near the habitations.

An elevated spot on the steep creek bank, mentioned earlier, is interesting. Here in the dark forest, a bridge with a railing has been constructed out over the edge, and beside a stout old hemlock fir (Pinus canadensis), from which I took branches with young fruit, there is a roomy, rectangular platform with benches and railings from which one has an extensive view of the Delaware and its green surroundings, as well as of the creek emptying into it at the right and left. Along its banks this rapid brook has extensive strips of an aquatic plant with a arrow-shaped or shieldlike leaf (probably Nymphaea lutea).M14Nymphaea advenawith yellow blossoms.And the wooded slope below the park was adorned with the white-reddish flower clusters of the tall rhododendron. Farther away there were rugged pathways in this forest; everywhere the wild grape sent out vines and the rhododendron bloomed.M15While I was walking here, I suddenly came upon a wild rabbit(Lepus americanus)which is said to be very common here, sitting in front of me along the path. At first sight it resembled the European wild rabbit, nor was it larger. In this park there are also several large fields on which grain had evidently been harvested; other grain was still standing.

After returning to the inn, I prepared the collected plants and then, from the height of Bordentown, saw a dark storm with thunder and lightning approaching, which brought only a little rain and somewhat cooler weather. The evening was very pleasant. Especially mornings, but even throughout the entire day, an accumulation of gentlemen idly lounged before the door of the house, smoked their cigars, and talked about the news of the day, particularly about cholera in New York. These men reminded me very much of Brazil: there, too, one saw the Portuguese with their straw hats and short light summer jackets sitting around idly all day long; the difference was that they wore no stockings but only sandals, whereas the Americans, for the most part, are elegantly attired. Coaches to and from the steamboats, as well as others, continually drove back and forth, and there was more than a little activity in this rural town.

Thursday, July 19, 1832
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Roz Parr
Nina Crabtree