Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sabine, Joseph (1770-1837)

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SABINE, JOSEPH (1770–1837), writer on horticulture, eldest son of Joseph Sabine of Tewin, Hertfordshire, and brother of Sir Edward Sabine [q. v.], was born at Tewin in 1770. He was educated for the bar, and practised until 1808, when he was made inspector-general of assessed taxes, a post which he retained until his retirement in 1835. Sabine was chosen one of the original fellows of the Linnean Society in 1798, was elected fellow of the Royal Society on 7 Nov. 1779, and in 1810 succeeded Richard Anthony Salisbury [q. v.] as honorary secretary of the Horticultural Society. He found the society's accounts in the greatest confusion, and for his success in the work of reorganisation was awarded the society's gold medal in 1816. He took a leading part in the establishment of the society's garden, first at Hammersmith and afterwards at Chiswick; in sending out David Douglas [q. v.] and others as collectors; in starting local societies in connection with the Royal Horticultural Society; in growing fine varieties of fruit; and in distributing new and improved varieties of flowers, fruits, and vegetables throughout the country. To the ‘Transactions’ of the society (vols. i.–vii.) he contributed in all forty papers, dealing among other subjects with pæonies, passion flowers, magnolias, dahlias, roses, chrysanthemums, crocuses, and tomatoes. His management of the society's affairs, which he ruled despotically, subsequently became unsatisfactory. A too sanguine view of its future led him to incur debts of more than eighteen thousand pounds. In 1830 a committee of inquiry was appointed, a vote of censure was threatened, and he resigned. He afterwards took an active part in the work of the Zoological Society, of which he was treasurer and vice-president, adding many animals to their collection. He was a recognised authority on British birds, their moulting, migration, and habits. He died in Mill Street, Hanover Square, London, on 24 Jan. 1837, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 1 Feb. There is a lithograph of him after a portrait by Eddis, and his name was commemorated by De Candolle in the leguminous genus Sabinea.

He contributed a list of plants to Clutterbuck's ‘History of Hertfordshire’ (1815), a zoological appendix to Sir John Franklin's ‘Narrative’ (1823), and four papers to the ‘Transactions of the Linnean Society,’ vols. xii–xiv. (1818–24), one dealing with a species of gull from Greenland, and another with North American marmots.

[Gent. Mag. 1837, i. 435–6; Royal Society's Catalogue of Papers, v. 354–5; Britten and Boulger's Biogr. Index of British Botanists, and the authorities there cited.]

G. S. B.