Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Lachen River-11000 ft, close to Thibet [Tibet] frontier half way between Powhurry & Kinchin [Kanchenjunga] North of that Mountain
JDH/1/10 f.175-179
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
20 page letter over 5 folios

Map of JDH’s route from Darjeeling showing the Lachen & Lachong passes, the Chola range & his location near the Thibet [Tibet] frontier. He can see the source of the Lachen [River] at the base of Kinchin [Kinchinjunga]. JDH wrote to his mother from Choongtam & to Bentham from Lachen. The villagers are indifferent to JDH's expedition. He draws on the granary that Campbell stored for him at Choongtam. A purple Dentaria & a Polygonum make excellent pot herbs. He describes explorations through scrub of Wallich’s Rhododendron campanulatum, different to WJH’s in 'Botanical Magazine', & the vegetation of the area. JDH discusses his instruments and study of geology & geography. The Rajah has made threats for if JDH enters Thibet. JDH plans to travel up the Rungeet to Jongri. JDH discusses the prospect of going to Borneo for government. He wonders why Lobb is not sent to Darjeeling as he could get Veitch a good collection. JDH aims to open the way for explorers after him. The Rajah has gone to Chumbi & ordered the villages to share food with JDH. He discusses western Borneo & does not believe[James] Brooke’s account, especially after spending time with the Dutch East India Company. JDH would do better at RBG Kew than Borneo, despite his yearning to travel. He discusses government purchasing WJH’s herbarium & library. Graham’s fetched £900. JDH urges WJH to speak to Lord Carlisle about Borneo. Lord Auckland's death does not negate JDH’s obligations. JDH discusses finances; Findley advised him things were bad in Calcutta [Kolkata]. He is sorry the Coelogynes arrived dead; Macrae will attend to further roots sent. Falconer has written to him, JDH fears the H.E.I. [Honorable East India Company] gardens are in trouble. Lord Dalhousie does not care for science. JDH discusses how best to send collections home. Mrs Lawrence succeeded with the Amherstia. JDH discusses identification of Rhododendrons & D.C.[De Candolle’s] divisions of genera. Humbolt complained to JDH about Pentland.


have what food they can spare at a fair price, better than never. Though my difficulties in that way are now well past & these Thibetans care neither for King nor Kaisar. My people all behave extremely well & do not murmur at their occasional hard face -- I did an effect the other day, by giving my last morsel of meat to a poor fellow who was sick from the quantity of rubbish he had eaten. This sounds grand but is after all only a sprint[?] to catch &c & doubly pays in the long run.
I am in no hurry to leave this place where there are lots of plants, I want to teaze[sic] these unruly rude Thibetans a little here as any where -- They are terrible cowards & the most pacific people imaginable: when insolent I strut up to them like a turkey & you would laugh to see hem run by the dozen; -- if they only knew that I won't fight they would be very insolent -- tacit opposition deceit & bullying is are their weapons, they never quarrel ever amongst themselves -- I have travelled for months & have not even worn a knife or pistol & never had the smallest trifle stolen. Now they are busy disfiguring their roads &c to turn me from the pass, probably successfully as

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Lachen river -- 11000 ft
close to Thibet [Tibet] frontier
half way between Powhurry & Kinchin [Kanchenjunga] N. of that Mt.
[A hand drawn map appears here, marked on it are: Thibet, Lachen, Lachoong, Powhurry 23000, Chumaluri, Lachen, Jongi, village, Lachen, Choonjerma, Lachoong Tanglaw, Tumlung Rajahs residence Sikkim, Chombi Rajahs former resid[ence]. in Thibet, Pemiongchi, Manom, Gt Rungeet, Teesta, Tendong, Tonglo]
June 12 1849 *1
My dear Father
I was greatly pleased with you & my mother's letters finding me out three days ago "jungletis ordersimis"[sic] full of good

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good[sic] & interesting news as both were & the attentions you pay to my troublesome & expensive requirements which deserve all my gratitude & every exertion to do myself credit here. I preface this with a sketch map of my route from Darj[eeling]. by which you will see
1. That the Lacen & Lachoong passes both are W[est]. of the great meridional or Chola c h o l a range & head on to the table land of Thibet N[orth].of Sikkim
2. That I have got close to the frontier of the Westernmost of these, my position indicated by a great round dot, elevation 11000 ft. snow all about & abundance of vegetation.
Up this valley w[est]. I have an extraordinary view of the source of the Lachen in a great basin of snow at the W[est]. foot of Kinchin. N[orth]. are low snowy hills & the blue sky over Thibet -- a little river path in a fork (N[orth]. of me) leads to the Lachen pass, & I have passed another basin route to the same where a line -- -- -- -- -- so heads off from the E[ast]. bank of the river.

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The dotted mark is my route, the ▲ my camping places. I wrote to my mother from Choongtam & proceeded up the Lachen to the village of that name where I was again detained for food, 7 days. It is a wretched Bhothea village of 30 or 40 wooden houses surrounded by lofty showy Mts. deeply pine clad to 12000 ft. with Abies webbiana, Picea brunoniana, P. spinulosa Griff. Journal (quite a new sp. I presume), Larix Griffith. mishi[?] & Juniper. I wrote thence to dear Mr Bentham & tried to get to the pass by the dotted ink route a. The villagers are all Thibetan barbarians & care nothing for me, my guide (Meepo) or the Rajah. & took me to a ridge which they swore was the pass. of course I was not humbugged so but said nothing & camped at the ridge. Meepo knows nothing of the route, but I have found out there are two, one by the dotted line a, the other up the river & I hope by the gully opposite (N[orth]. of my camp. The latter is a deserted route[.] The villagers will give no information & finding I was not deceived have gone en masse along the route a to try &

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poze[sic] me again. I therefore took the old route for two marches opening up a path with great labor, for the Rhod[odendron]. scrub is terrible & great beds of snow cumber the floor of the valley. Arrived at ●/ I find the bridge across the Lachen gone, but some sheds '''/ opposite all but assure me that must be the way. I have been here three days & again I am out of food -- but as Campbell has stored a granary for me at Choongtam I sent thither & got a lot up & have sent for more. My party is very small & the roads so bad we cannot carry much, & yesterday when the food arrived I had not the day a morsel of bread or meat only Tea & a case of carrotts[sic] & the people of course worse off, however we pick up much food in the jungle, a beautiful purple Dentaria? is an excellent pot herb as is a fine Polygonum, a Rhubarb, Oxyria & above all a Mecanth, or smilacina S. oleracea with great racemes of white flowers, now sprouting. I am sorry I left Endlichea at Lachen but will name it as soon as I can I have drawn it -- In the evening two

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of my smart boys came in with nearly 100lbs weight of rice -- Tin cases of Hare soup & fish & meat from Hodgson & Campbell, 6 loaves of bread, mouldy of course, but very good toasted & a splendid plum cake from Campbell's children & their mamma. also what I prize more, a load of paper for which I was hard pressed.
Two days ago I set the men to bridge the river & ascended to the P[erpetual]. S[now]. at 13500ft on a N[orth].exposure but S[outh]. of my camp. I had a splendid view up to Kinchin as I told you -- West -- & N[orth]. saw a branch of the river leading up to low Mts bordering the plain of Thibet & a lovely blue vault over thus from a little W[est]. of my camp. Up the gully due N[orth]. I could see nothing -- yesterday as the people could not work at the bridge for want of food I took 3 active men to see if we could get up this river & to the branch from the low hills. We went 2 miles through the densest scrub of the great leaved Rhod[odendron] whose long branches interlace for 10 or 15 ft. This is I expect Wallich's Campanulatum -- not yours of Bot[anical]. Mag[azine]. (which is my lilacinum common here & has not a campanulata corolla) I sent home leaves of this. The inflor[escence] is immense 20--50 flowers

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great & pale purple form a dense capitular as half as big as your head.. it is the commonest species of these gullys[sic] -- we go miles & miles through it & my shins can tell of its dense growth. leaves commonly 18 inches long -- I have drawn it for you -- about 8 miles up we came to where the river rushes between rocks, which we clambered over by Rhod[odendron]. stems & descended to a rocky hole full of snow, rounded another cliff in the bed of the river which was up to our middle & the current very strong & then for 100 yards up its bed between cliffs of snow 60ft high on one hand & 20 on the other, above the valley widened again with little plants flats of gravel, alternating with rocky cliffs, piles of stones & sloping beds of snow. A mile further we could stand out no longer. 5 or 6 Rhod[odendrons] with stunted birch rose & Barberry formed impenetrable thickets. The rocks & cliffs were impracticable, the snow beds too slippery, & the icy torrents we crossed every few yards bitterly cold. All this time the Therm[ometer] was 74 & the sun blazing hot. The ground covered with beautiful spring flowers as

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creeping red Tamarix & prostrate white Lonicera several terrest[rial].orchid -- Carices, 5 Primulas (I have now 8 or 9) -- Pedicularis, 8 Rhododendrons, willows from the size of your little finger nail to 10 & 15ft high & a multitude of plants not yet in flower -- two Trichomanes one gold the other white, 3 anemones, & a Umbelif[era] stinking of asafoetida & heaps of other things Veronica, Pinguicula, Andersonia, Parmassia, Andromedas, Gaultheria, Ranunculus, Podophyllum, Thalictrum, Coptis, Arum, Ferns, 5 or 6 Convollaria, & hundreds of new things cover the ground here -- I get on an average 10 new plants a day, & the flowering season has but begun. I have not a single Sedum Camp. Lobelia or grass. We returned as we went, getting another icy ducking in the river -- These explorations are very hard work, but I get such lots of plants that they are always abundantly profitable & I am in rare health.
On our way down we found a place where the river will be easily bridged if we cannot manage this place, opposite my camp, to which I have set the men again this morning. I am quite indifferent to getting on, into Thibet I cannot go & I am at my botany from morning till night with my hands full of drawing & drying, writing at night. It is rather cold

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but never down to freezing at 11000ft, & I am dry & comfortable, as long as the food comes up -- My Instruments are my only other employment & I often fear you think they take up too much of my time, as they do of my money, but I assure you the former is not the case, I often never leave my pencil or plants except to note thermometers for the whole day, & as to the expense they are my only indulgences & I am crazily fond of dabbling with them, besides hoping the results will be valuable. I take your supplying my wants in this line as one of your most liberal acts towards me, one of very many for which I am deeply deeply grateful and I cannot tell you how many hours of rational enjoyment these toys afford me, for toys they are in a measure to me, who pretend to no depth of investigation. As to Geology, that here, where there are no fossils costs neither time nor expense. it is just noting rocks & appearances of mt. river & plain, a little more systematically & I hope intelligently than an ungeological observer would. Geography & mapping is a dead bore, but then without the compass & sextant I should not know where I am & I shall have the credit of mapping indifferently well a large hitherto unexplored tract of country.

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And now to answer your letter -- all the V[an]. D[iemen's] L[and]. orders except Monocots, are put in -- are my last new sp. published? or to be? it will be difficult without Planchon or Bentham! I am glad you have put in N.Z.-- you will find my Rhod[odendron] Suppl[ement] like the P.S. of a ladies letter -- you will be astonished-- The Mt sides here actually bloom white, scarlet, purple, pink, yellow no language can exaggerate their beauty. Why is Lobb not sent to Dorjiling [Darjeeling] ? though I think he is better to start from where he is, for there he has good water carriage & he will pay Veitch well -- but by all & every means when once he has established his ways, & knows language & let him come to Dorjiling -- be assured if I am there or not he shall have every assistance advice & encouragement from me as I warned you before I set out here from Kew, I cannot be much more than a garden pioneer. I assure you any difficulties are very great, dangers none -- it will be easy for any one after me to fulfil horticultural duties, they will know how, when & where to go; how to employ the people & who to employ. As for me I never know what the next hour is to bring forth, where I am going, or where I am to get food. My great aim is to open the way for future explorers of details, in all branches of science, & I only hope whoever comes after me will do ten times more than I have & ten times better.
The Rajah has gone to Chombi, silenced I am happy to say by my wroth & has written an order that the inhabitants[?] let me

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have what food they can spare at a fair price, better than never. Though my difficulties in that way are now well past & these Thibetans care neither for King nor Kaisar. My people all behave extremely well & do not murmur at their occasional hard face -- I did an effect the other day, by giving my last morsel of meat to a poor fellow who was sick from the quantity of rubbish he had eaten. This sounds grand but is after all only a sprint[?] to catch &c & doubly pays in the long run.
I am in no hurry to leave this place where there are lots of plants, I want to teaze[sic] these unruly rude Thibetans a little here as any where -- They are terrible cowards & the most pacific people imaginable: when insolent I strut up to them like a turkey & you would laugh to see hem run by the dozen; -- if they only knew that I won't fight they would be very insolent -- tacit opposition deceit & bullying is are their weapons, they never quarrel ever amongst themselves -- I have travelled for months & have not even worn a knife or pistol & never had the smallest trifle stolen. Now they are busy disfiguring their roads &c to turn me from the pass, probably successfully as

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I have no guide nor route; but as I said above, with paper pencil & drying paper it is all one to me at how many balked efforts I make. I assure you I do not care a sixpence, but shall be sorry if I do not see the pass after all. Meepo now that he has my promise to keep on this side the border is doing all he can to get me to the pass & I have sworn I will not move south till I see it if I be 6 months here . The Rajah threatens the poor soul with banishment if I go into Thibet.
On my return from this hole I shall go up the Lachoong by the dotted line -- -- -- -- -- from Choongtam, to the pass of that name what heaps of plants will there be in flower! this will occupy all June & probably part of July. I then think of crossing by Mainomchi to the G[rea]t Runget & going to Jongri, establishing collectors & camp there & returning to Darjeeling, returning thither in October for seeds with Campbell I hope, who intends to travel with me Octob[er] & Nov[embe]r.
As to Borneo I do not know what to say -- it is a Gov[ernmen]t employment, & I should not like to give it up without a gov[ernmen]t recall & prospect sure of something at home. The Navy establishments may rejoice its rescindment -- or something may turn up at home. You ask my feelings they are

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simply these -- Had I no ties at home & could afford it I would travel away till I met my end as every traveller has sooner or later, I hope with fortitude & resignation. I have ties at home, friends, resources, useful employment, a collection to be taken care of & a property in the vista -- long I pray god, it may be to that my dear Father -- but I have no definite prospects, & to keep home & marry on slender means never would suit me. I have been a Gov[ernmen]t serv[ant] off & on for 10 years, as a traveller, done my duty I hope, & never turned a penny to profit; quite the contrary, if I call what of your's[sic] I have spent mine. I have been so long before Gov[ernmen]t. that it is their duty to think whether it is worth while continuing my services abroad at certain risks, or employing them at home, with a better prospect of my being profitable to them in the long run. I put claims on one side, I am too proud to let these be overlooked & have diffidence cander enough to feel admit that I could urge them to strongly. I am 32 years old -- a critical period for an ambitious man, whatever his bent be, & mine is neither wealth, power nor pleasure. To go home to the slender income & hard work I had, would infallibly destroy my zeal as a public serv[an]t. & 10 years hence, the fair pay would come too late to be fully profited by as then follow past service would

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only be just remunerated. I know nothing of modern Borneo but what the papers stated & my mother quoted. I never one moment believed Brookes account of its salubrity, nor was it likely I should after a months residence amongst the Dutch E[ast]. I[ndia]. C[ompany]. serv[an]ts in Lyden, the Hague &c but it was not for me to break my head against Gov[ernmen]t bent, & be called a puppy & mar--plot for my pains: there was no hurry, & so I let things take their course only persisting on the Himal. first, with good Lord A[uckland]., however tempting Borneo was made. I carried my point & now is the critical time for Gov[ernmen]t not for me to think of risks, I am the Serv[an]t & know too well by the dear bought experience of the many, what it is to give up a gov[ernmen]t situation -- how many officers are ruined for life by refusing to take African coast employment.
Of course I say all this in the thorough conviction that the gov[ernmen]t would do best to recall require my services at Kew, I honestly believe that £400 reserved to me in England would not be thrown away, & that £500 in Borneo may be, always remembering that as my servitude goes on, future good employment knows the reward of past actions & after a certain time of life is not regarded as the stimulus to future exertions. I have too many & too good friends at home for the Gov[ernmen]t to hope that I may be passed over in peace as many better but worse paid Serv[an]ts

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are who want friends in place & power to back their claims.
My Indian time is done close at an end & I have money enough to carry on without further application in this healthy climate for 8 or 10 months more. If I go to Borneo, to be recalled from there, I undergo a heavy expense, for whenever I do I must borrow from you except Lord D[alhousie]. get me a passage -- The first 6 months too at Borneo, will be required for acclimatization, for I am not going to run needless risks, except directly called on by gov[ernmen]t to do so.
I here put two things on one side. 1) my own wish to see Borneo -- I wish to see the Andes & every other part of the world as much as I should no more be satisfied as a traveller by Borneo than I was by the Antarct[ic] Exped[ition]. or am by the Himal.
2) all ties & connections at home -- for this every man who seeks his own fortune must.
Your vast collections & library; my patrimony -- must come into consideration -- that they will be gov[ernmen]t property one day is sure possible as also that I could not afford to keep them up, when were I tomorrow to stand in your position with your Garden salary & with only my share of your private property & a family to educate. If when your services

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in the garden are wholly inefficient, I am promoted thereto the Herb[arium].& library will involve the Gov[ermen]t with great difficulties I will not then give up for a trifle what has cost you some several 1000 pounds, & which if sold in pieces would realize an equal sum. The scientific world will require the Gov[ernmen]t to purchase it at a fair price & that can only be calculated from what it cost, & would fetch broken up.-- if Graham's fetched £900 what will not this? -- Older & harder headed with a family to maintain I shall then drive a hard bargain & probably do both myself & the public injury, such is human nature, & the feelings would be enhanced by the great share of my own labors which the the Herab[arium] possess, both of my dear bought experience & hard life in all parts of the world, scientific education & day & night study, pay received for other duties, unpaid publications.
Hence I am inseparable from the Herb[arium]. & however unprofitable a Serv[an]t I the one part might be, the early acquisition of the fragments would be a saving to gov[ernmen]t. Take me & the Herb with or without the Herb[arium]. now & ensure me £400 a year & they have a good hard working Serv[an]t.. Put it off 10 years & human nature will assert its sway -- with £400 & the £100 you kindly offered me & what Francis will have I could get on, with nothing less.

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I am too old to study economy & my disposition revolts at counting money to pence. -- Let gov[ernmen]t remember Babbages machine. That your position is god willing to be mine, all the world says & it would require a degree more duplicity than modesty for me to pretend to overlook that; my position too amongst my scientific brethren was not gained by direct exertions thereto towards their favor. My election to the R[oyal].S[ociety]. at the very head & so far ahead of all my compeers & my election forthwith to the Phil[osophical] Club I may well be proud of, & dwell upon, as proofs, that if I conduct myself well my claims will be forced one day on gov[ernmen]t.
Enough for an (ahem) modest man! Tis "true the times are hard" they will be harder yet, & when Lord D. is Premier, it will require more than scientific claims to get money grants for Kew.
It would be well therefore to sound the Admiralty, -- if they think of knocking my Borneo app[ointmen]t on the head, so be it -- if not & my friends wholly disapprove of my tempting that climate -- state so much of your views as agree with mine to Lord Colvile if he will hear them -- but I beseech you to remember that I do not seek or court a recall, it is for my friends or gov[ernmen]t to do that -- I will never ask it, honor forbids this, & I would rather return with broken health to

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poverty, than have my honor touched as a Gov[ernmen]t. serv[an]t. I accepted the app[ointment]t from Lord A[Auckland]. as that generous nobleman offered it & his lamented death does not cancel my obligation to fulfil his intentions so far as lies in my power so to do. Subsequent events, the failure of the colony, money pressure or more useful employment opening for me elsewhere, may, any or all these, induce the Gov[rnmen]t. to cancel Lord A[uckland]'s decisions, he might have done so himself had he been spared -- all that is nothing to me.
I am indeed glad that you have got an assistant for your herbarium, & hope he will turn out well with books before him you will soon see what he is made of, & in taking a young hand you have always the advantage of teaching him how to handle the papers &c. Still you will want more scientific assistance which I hope to be able to give on my return to Kew.
This working in the Jungles improves my powers of naming plants wonderfully & with only Endlicher I am driven to every recourse[?] of organization & get on much better than I ever did. Still not one in a thousand has Planchon's tact & power of seizing characters I wonder what will become of him but do not

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care much whether good or bad: I don’t see why you should not employ my Navy pay on the collection & library though I suppose with the £800 a year you are now comfortable. I drew on you for £300 the other day -- through Mr Friar Smith & Coy -- having heard nothing of my Gov[ernmen]t pay. You have not told me whether it was all right about the first draft -- I have only spent £500 as yet i.e. the £400 gov[ernmen]t pay & £100 you added. It came out in cheque or bill on Barclay Bevan & Co of which I negotiated[?] £300 at once & £200 since. Findley advising me not to draw the whole sum from B[arclay]. B[evan]. at once as affairs were so bad in Calcutta *2 . I am very sorry to hear of the arrival of Coelogynes dead. I have sent to Calcutta last month upwards of 40 packets of roots, collected at great pains & some expense, & Macrae promised to attend to them. Falconer has not written to me I much fear the H[onorable]. E[ast]. I[ndia]. Gardens are going to the dogs & I do not know what to do. Lord D[alhousie]. cares not a wit[?] for science -- I would send you

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things through Peel but cannot trust his steward who I think is a knave & P[eel] himself is a great Lord who knows no more of what goes on in house or garden than the D[uke]. of Devonshire. Colvile has neither garden nor gardener[?] & there is no direct carriage to Calcutta by which they would go hence ready for shipment to England they must either go by Banghy (a parcel post) which is very expensive not & takes 20--40 days according to the season or by carriage land & water which takes 2 or even 3 months. By Banghy things go free to the Gardens & I am sure I have saved nearly £100 of postage (oh far far more) by the Gardens, for instance the little parcel of books you sent would have cost me 16/ or £1 by Banghy had they not been franked, & my baskets of roots &c are often thrice as large as that & I send as many as 40 in a month. Macrae tells me the last arrived in very good order. So Mrs Lawence has flowered the Amherstia! I am very anxious to get you Beaumontia if you have it not. Wallichs plate gives no idea of it at all.
I have two roses a white & a red; the

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latter I have just found, it has very long calyx tails not having D[e] C[andolle]. I do not know if it be R. Lyellii or no, I have several curious sp. of Paris a fine true Asarum, a new genus of Primulaceae & whole heaps of fine things already. I expect to make superb collection, indeed that I already have -- you can form no idea at all what Rhododendrons are till you get my drawings -- most botanists would make 5 or 6 genera, not coincident with D[e], C[andolle]s divisions but from totally distinct & palpable characters of Stamens Corolla & Calyx. Do not trust to foliage, very similar leaves have generically (if you will) different flowers I am inclined to unite with arboreum Campbelliae, Nilgharicum, the Ceylon *3 one & the Khassya..
Humboldt complains of Pentland in a letter to me -- & I fear there is a screw loose about that man.
Ever you most affectionate son | Jos D Hooker [signature]
Do not forget Gunn
June 12.
We have bridged the river & find a capital road up back to Lachen on the opposite side. I still hope to find one to the pass. *4


1. A note written in another hand records that the letter was received Aug[ust]. 22 1849.
2. The city formerly known as Calcutta is now called Kolkata.
3. The country formerly known as Ceylon is now called Sri Lanka.
4. This text is written at the bottom of page 20, across the preceding text and at a right angle to it.

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