Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Darjeeling, India
JDH/1/10 f.84-87
Hooker, Sir William Jackson
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Indian Letters 1847-1851
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Original MS
12 page letter over 4 folios

JDH reports progress on NIGER FLORA. He thinks Napoleona is close to Gustavia, it resembles an Indian Lecythis. [Nathaniel] Wallich sends JDH news. Ava trip postponed in favour of Darjeeling. Spring flora incl.: Convallariae, Apris, viola, Oak, Chestnut, Magnoliae, Arums, Fragaria, Rhododendrons, Prunus, Pyrus & Rosa with Clematis, Gentiana, Umbelliferae, Begonias, Saniculas & autumn vegetation to follow. Insects incl. Cocinillae & Grylli. Political relations with Bootan [Bhutan] & China mean JDH probably cannot go to Thibet [Tibet] via Kumaon or any other route. At Darjeeling it is not possible to see the different flora of the low valleys during the rains. Sir F. Currie sanctioned [Thomas] Thomson's [TT] continued work. JDH hopes TT measured the height of Gilgit. JDH is collecting for the museum & Jenkins at Goalpara has some things. Discusses the palm-like plants at Darjeeling, the rattan is used to make bridges & wild Musa leaves to carry things. Explains what collections, incl. from Borneo, he has promised to share with the Calcutta Garden. [Hugh] Falconer's [HF] health is improving, he will forward JDH's Bhangulpore [Bhagalpur] plants to Kew along with first shipment of roots incl. Balsams & Gesnerioids. JDH now likes HF but still has a low opinion of Royle. The collectors JDH sent to Tonglo were stopped at the border, they should be allowed to cross but Campbell the political resident does not enforce such rights. Further discusses British relations with the Rajah of Sikkim, position of Lord Dalhousie & permission to visit the snows. Mentions native people of Sikkim: Tartars, Lepchas, Tibetans, Murinis, Limbos & Bhutanese. JDH travelled to Darjeeling via Benares from hence he will go to Assam via Gowahatty & visit Sadiya in the Mishmee [Mishmi] Hills, the tea plantations & Ava. Would like to go to Tibetan passes. Comments that Madden is a good botanist. JDH is doing sketches & writing up his journal & geographical & botanical observations of the Himalayas.


June. 23. 1848.
My dear Father
I had this day the pleasure of receiving your kind letter of May 2nd & as tomorrow is the last day for answering by this mail I wanted to avail myself of it, though it is probable that other letters sent to Falconer about a fortnight ago will go along with this. To begin at the beginning I deserve all you say about the Niger Flora, at which I have been working as hard can continually with--out neglecting my duties here. I did send a large portion to go by the last mail, but Falconers ill health & consequent residence at Calcutta *1 caused it to miss the P & O steamer. Now I am well nigh through with the Leguminosae which will go by the mail following this, with sundry drawings a few roots & seeds. I am charmed to hear that Napoleona has flowered, what

Page 1

June. 23. 1848.
My dear Father
I had this day the pleasure of receiving your kind letter of May 2nd & as tomorrow is the last day for answering by this mail I wanted to avail myself of it, though it is probable that other letters sent to Falconer about a fortnight ago will go along with this. To begin at the beginning I deserve all you say about the Niger Flora, at which I have been working as hard can continually with--out neglecting my duties here. I did send a large portion to go by the last mail, but Falconers ill health & consequent residence at Calcutta *1 caused it to miss the P & O steamer. Now I am well nigh through with the Leguminosae which will go by the mail following this, with sundry drawings a few roots & seeds. I am charmed to hear that Napoleona has flowered, what

Page 2

would I not give to see it. Its true position is undoubtedly with Gustavia & near Lecythis a Myrtaceous flower here with double row of inflexed united filaments & opposite alternate subdistichous leaves put me in mind of it. The plant here I allude to is an enormous tree of which I got only a fallen flower; it grows in the Terai forests, forbidden ground at this season. -- It is very good of old Wallich to send news of me so punctually I do not intend to loose any monthly mails, but my labors are so multifarious that without mail warnings it is difficult to remember the post days.
My Ava trip is put off till next season I saw far too much to do here soon after my arrival to leave before October whether the I can go to the Snow

Page 3

there or no. When I arrived the season had not commenced nor is spring well over yet -- Convallariae, Paris, Viola, Oak Chestnut, & Magnoliae are only just done flowering with Arums, Fragaria, Prunus, Pyrus, Rosa & Rhododendrons, how European a spring you say -- Coccinillae the images of our Lady--birds swarm, & the Grylli & other grasshoppers have still but imperfect wings. Clematis, Gentiana, Umbelliferae, Begonias, Saniculas & heaps of such like are only coming out -- to be succeeded by an autumn vegetation, 3 months hence under these circumstances I expected to have got a good many seeds on my arrival, but the rotting process goes on so rapidly that of the hundreds of acorns I have picked up not one is good for any thing. The few I have are of winter flowering things.

Page 4

The Kermaon investigation you saw announced has unfortunately nothing to do with Lassa, Kumaon is ours, W[est].of Nepaul [Nepal] & E[ast]. of the Sutledge [Sutlej] beyond which are the plains of Thibet [Tibet] 15000 -- 17000 ft. The Government discourage any one entering Thibet at that quarter, & it is out of the way to Lassa which is to be gained by Bootan [Bhutan].The Chinese are more jealous of us than ever & would not receive an embassy at Lahassa if we sent it. Except some great political change takes place it will be impossible to visit Thibet at all, except by stealth & by this means one can always go a certain distance but not far. This is as you know a great disappointment to me, but I have always this rich field to fall back upon & a far richer one than I expected it is. Unfortunately I

Page 5

cannot visit the low vallies[sic] at this season which being 6000 ft below this present a very different flora. I however send men down though now the rains are set in so heavily that I am quit confined to the house myself & the men don't like going down the cuds (kuds) as these deep valleys are called. I sent you Thomsons last letter & think I told you that Sir F. Currie sanctioned his travelling for another year; by that to me it appears that he has undergone a great deal of hardship in his (unwise) attempt to cross the snowy passes in mid winter but Tom was always daring. I hope very much he has measured the height of Gilgit, where the Indus leaves the plains of Thibet & suddenly from a bid of 15000 ft or so falls to one of as many hundred it is supposed. I am making every where the best interest for museum objects & hope Jenkins will have a lot

Page 6

for me by the time I arrive at Goalpara in November. We have no palm like spiritually speaking palm here but I have got the stems of most & will of all, one is a very handsome cane. I have the spadis of one & parts of the flower of 2 others but none are striking. The rattan of which they make the bridges (horresco referens) runs to 100 ft & perhaps much more it is not in flower or fruit yet. Corchorus does not grow here, I will enquire about it. I cannot hear of any use being made of the Musa (wild) here except of the leaves to hold things in. I cannot suppose the spiral vessels are any where used. The species here appears different from Griffiths Bootan etc one.
Many thanks for your kind remarks about the Calcutta

Page 7

Gardens, their having museum things I never dreamt of, the more especially as I have to buy the best of these, but of a duplicate set of live plants & of dried specimens I did promise. Borneo things are quite a different matter I promised to send to Calcutta duplicate specimens from thence of such living plants as I thought would hardly reach England alive, but neither dried plants or still less museum objects. Of course I should afterwards give Falconer (if he is alive & desires it) duplicates of the dried but to send the things from Borneo to Calcutta would be out of the question. I do assure you Falconers wits were wool--gathering for 3 months before he left England & the poor fellow is now very unwell & writes most despondently about

Page 8

himself though better & back at the Gardens, He writes me that all my things from Bhangulpore [Bhagalpur] had not yet arrived at the Gardens, when they do all will be forwarded to Kew by the first ship. N.B. no man of war ever (i.e. hardly ever) come or go to Calcutta. -- I may find occasion to send much more from Borneo to Calcutta than I have or had any intentions of, want of ships to Malacca, monsoons &c &c &c but you may depend on my using my best intentions in all cases. No one can be more attentive than F[alconer] is & he franks me up all letters & big parcels saving me pounds of Rupees. Ld D[alhousie]. is dreadfully stingy of franking & I have such more important favors to ask that I dislike troubling him.

Page 9

I quite agree with you about Royle & thought for long the same of Falconer, but when I did leave their table I came to like him very much & disregard his manners but Royle never improved on acquaintance or taste; he is egotistical to a degree & impracticable with no head for science: whereas Falconers writings (which should have been botanical) have raised him to the highest rank. The P&O are so far stretching the bounds of their voyages that I hope they will be at Borneo before I get there. Falconer has written me word of the arrival of my two first envoys of roots at Calcutta, about 3/4 alive, & the rest either fewer in good order & others very shaby[sic] as soon as he can get boxes made they will go on to Kew. My Glenorchy things are just delivered at the Gardens & it will be 2 months before what I want reach this, but I have got a tin box or two for cuttings with great difficulty & will send them to Calcutta in time for the next mail with roots of some lovely Balsams & Gesnerioid things & Rhododendrons. I have just had a terrible mishap 6 days ago I sent my head Lepcha (not Friday who is a Christian Sahib) with 6 men to Tonglo for roots of the Rhododendrons, & Rhubarb & as is customary paid them before hand. The poor fellows were stopped at the border, the coolies sent back & my head man taken prisoner. I am exceedingly angry about it as you may suppose & at once laid the matter before the Pol[itical]. Resid[ent] he is very civil, & will do all he dares to help me, but [approx. six words crossed out, illeg.] he positively could not tell me, whether natives of the country who took service with English have a right to cross the border of course they have & so ought English men, & would be allowed did not Dr

Page 10

Campbell truckle to these pestilent fellows. I have written to Lord Dalhousie about it, but do not expect much redress on this account. The Rajah of Sikim[sic] is pressed by Bootan, & wants our assistance this by treaty we are bound to give however ill the Rajah has behaved, but I hear privately that Lord D[alhousie]. does not intend to grant it. He does not think I suppose that either I or the Pol[tical]. Resid[ent]. (who is sadly snubbed by the govt.) know any--thing of this & when Ld D[alhousie]. told me that he would see if there was any possible way to get me to the snow in Sikim[sic], he must have known that under our present relations it was impossible -- So I have written to tell him that I know all about the matter & that I am quite prepared to have a refusal to my request about the snow, at the same time thanking him very much for entertaining my request favourably under such circumstances. Ld D. is no politician though Lord Dalhousie is a thorough & uncommonly sharp man of business: is sent out [to] make the best of a bad job & get up a good story for the E[ast]. I[ndia] C[ompany]. at the time of renewing he charter, he will not therefore draw a sword or waste a shot under any provocation short of open hostilities. The probable conclusion will be that both the Sikim[sic] & Bootan Rajahs will become more & more insolent & a future governor will have to bring them to terms by force. The Sikim[sic] Rajah is a Thibetan appointed by the Lamas of Lahassa, driven from his territories by the Nepalese & restored to his throne by us who guaranteed to retain him on it. Had we followed this up by insisting on his allowing

Page 11

us access to his country, or appointed a Pol[itical] Resid[ent]. who would have kept him in order, all would have been right, but the foolish man imagines we use him as a screen against China & has fallen under Chinese influence. The bulk of the natives are originally of Tartar breed, the Lepchas, a mild inoffensive honest pleasing race, two or three other tribes also abound, as Thibetans proper, Murinis, Limbos, & some Bootan people the latter quarrelsome morose, treacherous & cruel. There is no personal danger in travelling into Sikkim but your Lepcha serv[an]ts. are taken prisoner by the Rajah for showing you the way if a very sharp look out is not kept, & no one will sell any provisions whatever for fear of confiscation. Enough of politics I wanted to give you an insight into the nature of our position here & Wallich & Sir H. Willock will explain it all to you.
I made no stay at Burdwan because Williams operations were over & the pits filled up. I took Benares on my downward passage to the plain where I struck off N[orth]. to the mts. I do not know when I shall see Calcutta again I am so pleased with the Himalayah I shall go hence to Assam via Goalpara Gowahatty where Jenkins is -- he writes me that I may reach the Him[alaya] snow via Bootan; but this I know is impossible & I cannot conceive how he comes to say so. I have written to him again: he has a large collection for you. From Gowahatty I hope to go right up to Sadiya at the foot of the Mishmee [Mishmi] hills a little beyond the Tea plantations & then if safe S[outh]. E[ast]. crossing a snowy ridge to Ava no great distance --N[orth]. E[ast]. it is impossible to go from the tribes being all at war there. Except there be some political

Page 12

change nothing will be done about Lahassa & Thibet is inaccessible E[ast]. of Nepaul. I should like to visit one of the passes W[est]. of Nepaul however or in Nepaul if the Nepalese govt would permit & this I shall ask when I get my refusal in the Sikim[sic] route. Madden seems an excellent Botanist & I have written him a long letter, he talked I hear of coming to Darjeeling this year, I wish he would to Assam with me.*2 I draw daily now but have had so much novelty as not to have written out a description of the Rhododendrons to send with the drawings, also if the Magnolias. I am getting on with my journal for your Journal & writing up Himalayan Geography & Botany, collecting materials for a complete sketch of the range divided into districts by the water sheds from the monster peaks, of this I will send a copy to the Journal. I am determined not to leave *3 off working till I get a thorough knowledge of the subject. Hodgson is a capital help[?] & the opportunity of living with him is the very best for me that could have occurred. With regard to projects for the future, they are all *4 uncertain except that I shall stay here till October at any rate. It pours every day & my plants are so damp that I am in a terrible way about them. The specimens are excellent. I am happy to say after due deliberation I have determined to keep a 2nd Friday as I see no chance of getting tolerable collectors. Ever with best love yr much affectionate son Jos. D. Hooker [signature]


1. The current name of the city formerly known as Calcutta is Kolkata. 2. The address of the recipient appears here as the letter would originally have been folded in such a way that it formed its own 'envelope'. The address reads: "via Southampton | Sir W. J. Hooker | Kew | Nr. London"
3. The subsequent text is written in the margin of page 9 at a right angle to the rest of the text but has been inserted here in the transcript as that is how the letter should be read.
4. Text from here continues on the edge of page 12, partially obscured by volume binding.

Please note that work on this transcript is ongoing. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document where possible.

Powered by Aetopia