Pehr Artedi was a friend of Linnaeus’s youth who became known for his study of fishes. He drowned in a canal in Amsterdam after a night of drinking. Linnaeus edited his book about fish.
Falck was a Linnaeus apostle. Linnaeus thinks he sees him standing by the fire. Named in the story only by his last name, the historical person was Johann Pehr Falck (1732–1774). Falck traveled to St. Petersburg, Turkistan, and Mongolia. In Kazan, according to Linnaeus’s memory, he was lonely and sad and shot himself.
Pehr Forskal (1732–1763) was a Linnaeus apostle who traveled to Alexandria, where, Linnaeus recalls, he concealed himself from marauding Bedouins by dressing as a peasant. Forskal made a collection of new plants in Cairo and traveled to Arabia, where he died of plague. Historically, he is known for being the first man to describe the plant and animal life of the Red Sea. His travel diary has been frequently republished. Linnaeus thinks he sees him standing by the fire at Hammarby.
Fredrik Hasselquist (1722–1752) was one of Linnaeus’s apostles. Linnaeus remembers him as modest and poor. Hasselquist traveled widely throughout the Middle East, keeping a precise diary that Linnaeus edited. Hasselquist died in a village near Smyrna, Turkey, when he was thirty. Hasselquist’s main interest was in learning about biblical plants and animals. Linnaeus thinks he sees Hasselquist standing by the fire at Hammarby and talking with some of the other apostles.
Martin Kahler was a Linnaeus apostle. Linnaeus recalls how Kahler returned from his travels with nothing, his health broken by shipwreck, fever, and poverty. Pirates stole the chest containing his collections.
Pehr Kalm was a Linnaeus apostle. All that Linnaeus remembers of him was that he crossed the Great Lakes and walked into Canada. As a matter of historical fact, Kalm (1716–1779) traveled to North America in 1748. His work included a description of the now extinct passenger pigeon.
Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) is the renowned eighteenth-century Swedish botanist. In the story, he is seventy years old and in very poor health, the result of a series of strokes. He is partially paralyzed and can hardly speak, sometimes only able to produce a syllable at a time. His memory is also failing him, and he cannot even be sure that the woman who comes to the house is his own daughter Sophia.
He passes the time by reflecting on his achievements and those of his followers, whom he calls his “apostles.” He recalls when he was a vigorous man of twenty-five, he explored “Lappland” and was stunned by the beauty of the natural world. He is proud of the fame and honor his work brought him and that he managed to fend off all the attacks that were made on his work. He is also proud of the work of his apostles, but he is conscious that many of them died as a result of the travels that he inspired them to take, and this fact appears to weigh on his mind. He weeps as he recalls them, since almost all of them are dead. But in his wandering mind, he recreates some of them in his imagination, even believing that they are grouped together near the fire in the room in which he is sitting. Linnaeus does not appear to be closely attached to his family, except perhaps for Sophia; he is a man who chose to focus his life on his work rather than his family.
Sara Lisa Linnaeus
Sara Lisa is Linnaeus’s wife. Linnaeus remembers how she would complain that there was not enough money to provide for their children. He thinks of her as a practical woman; she also appears to have a bad temper. Pehr fears that she will be angry, and ready to blame him, for the fact that Linnaeus has gone to Hammarby without anyone’s knowledge. Linnaeus also thinks that his wife criticizes his every word. He recalls an incident in Sophia’s childhood, when she dropped a tray full of dishes and he bought a new set to spare the child her mother’s wrath.
Sophia is the youngest of Linnaeus’s three daughters. He thinks of her as unlike the others, and she is his favorite, with her “fine straight nose, her beautiful eyes.” He remembers how when she was small he would take her to his lectures, and she would stand between his knees and listen. Sophia arrives at Hammarby with a young man who is probably her husband or fiancé, and they escort Linnaeus home.
Pehr Lofling (1729–1756) was a Linnaeus apostle. Linnaeus recalls Lofling taking dictation from him when he was crippled by gout. Lofling made a name for himself in Spain where he moved in 1751. He then traveled to Venezuela, South America, and from that location, he wrote letters and sent bird specimens to Linnaeus. He died in Venezuela of fever.
Pehr Osbeck was a Linnaeus apostle who went to China and returned with a huge collection of new plants.
Pehr is the coachman who drives Linnaeus in the sleigh to Hammarby. He has a wife and family to support and is worried that he will get into trouble with his employers for taking the sleigh beyond city limits. He is a quiet man who takes great care to look after Linnaeus as well as he can.
Daniel Rolander was one of Linnaeus’s apostles. He came back from Surinam with only a pot of Indian fig covered with cochineal insects, which his gardener mistakenly washed away. Rolander had lost his mind in Surinam. He thought the insects were pearls. When Linnaeus pointed out his error, Rolander was angry and left for Denmark, where Linnaeus believes he lives on charity.
Rotheram was Linnaeus’s English pupil. Linnaeus thinks the man who arrives with Sophia at Hammarby is Rotheram, although this is probably a delusion of his failing mind. Linnaeus recalls how Rotheram fell ill several years ago, and Sophia nursed him. Rotheram was close to the whole family. Historically, although it is not given in the story, Rotheram was Dr. John Rotheram (1750– 1804), an English naturalist. Rotheram was one of only two people present at the death of Linnaeus in 1778. (The other was Samuel Christoffer Duse, Sophia’s husband.)
Christopher Ternström was one of Linnaeus’s apostles. Linnaeus recalls him as a passionate botanist. Ternström sailed to the East Indies in search of a tea plant and some living goldfish. He died of a tropical fever on an island off Cambodia. Linnaeus believes that he sees Ternström as one of a group of men standing by the fire at Hammarby. Although the story does not state it, Ternström (1711–1746) was the first of Linnaeus’s apostles.
Carl Thunberg was one of Linnaeus’s apostles. Thunberg had traveled to Japan and was passionate about learning all he could about Japanese flora.
He spread knowledge of Linnaeus’s methods amongst the Japanese. Linnaeus remembers that Thunberg introduced into Japan the treatment of syphilis by quicksilver. Linnaeus thinks he sees him standing by the fire and talking with other apostles.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Andrea Barrett, Published by Gale Group, 2006