Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Point de Galle, Ceylon [Sri Lanka],Sri Lanka
JDH/1/10 f.18-24
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
Contemporary MS copy
18 page letter over 7 folios

JDH describes arrival at Point de Galle 31 Dec. Compares Cape Comorin, Cape of Good Hope & Cape Horn. Met by [George] Gardner [GG] with invitation from Lord Torrington to visit Candy [Kandy] but no time. Describes native peoples. Notes Thespesia populnea, Jack & Mango trees, & valuable timbers. Walked wooded lanes with GG, reminded of Amsterdam & Lyden. Showed GG home similar to Hartecamp, Linnaeus’ residence. Lists plant species in damp, very wet & dryer areas. Names fern species & common weeds, tropical roadside genera & palms. Discusses useful plants; Sonneratia acida wood for boxes, Terminalia catappa embryo eaten for dessert, Ficus demonum [F. daemonum] leaves to polish wood, & Artocarpus pubescens. Lists shrubs & small trees. Few parasites & epiphytes. Widespread Passiflora foetida introduced 1824, Bryophyllum & Allamanda cathartica. Discusses relationship between phosphorescent insects & humidity observed in Madras [Chennai], Calcutta [Kolkata], Behar, Birbhoom, Shahabad, Mizrapore & Darjeeling. Mosses fairly represented, algae very rare, lichens abundant. Bid farewell to Matilda. JDH uncertain he will visit Ceylon [Sri Lanka] again. Collected Trimeriza. Visited house with beautiful carved curiosities & jewels. Reminded of Professor Miller of Cambridge. Arrived Madras with GG, 5 Jan. Describes Lord Dalhousie’s military reception & vast number of natives in welcoming party. Met various knowledgeable people while staying with Lord Tweeddale. Walter Elliot directed him to Buddhist antiquities. Discusses winged lion familiar from Syrian marbles & sketches by Walter Forbes. [Brian Houghton] Hodgson says they are evidence of Asian origin of the Buddhist religion. In another letter JDH will show how the physical geography has indicated the positions of the tribes of people as well as plants, & has regulated their migration. Spent a long time with WE at botanic garden under care of Captain Worcester'. Describes garden.


to pursue; & we had each looked forward so confidently to our previous & this meeting that the certainty of not seeing her again caused a blank in the future voyages. James Smith visits on my returning to Ceylon & if I could only persuade Gardner to accompany me thence to Singapore or Malana I would do so. Much will depend on monsoons & money, whether I shall ever see Ceylon again.
Before Breakfast I enjoyed another short walk with Gardner where he showed me the TrimerizaI think but forget the name he has notes of it growing on shady banks in abundance, he differs from Lindley in his sense of its affinity, but from what I have since seen of the Aristolochiae I am inclined to think the latter right in his conclusion as to its affinity. I could not help gathering it though I had no paper to dry it in & have preserved a good many specimens after a fashion.
The powerful sun of 8 AM unceremoniously drove us home, but after breakfast we made another start in our kind hosts carriage, to call on a gentleman whose house is laden with Cingular[sic] curiosities. Such as cabinet chair & table work of beautiful wood, carved

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Point de Galle
My dear Father
We arrived here yesterday at Point de Galle on the forenoon of the last day of the year having sighted the hilly land of Cape Comorin on the previous forenoon. As we on passing that celebrated promontory we could not help looking on it with feelings of deep interest, not only from the many associations it recalls to the mind of every boy, however ordinarily read in the History of British India, but as the first glimpse of a land over which our various paths were to be pursued. In other respects it was the least interesting of the four great Capes by which the continents of Asia Africa America & Australasia are prolonged towards or within the endless waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The curious sandstone cliffs of the Cape of Good Hope with the Devil's Bay & Lion's Mount, are noble terminations to any headland; Cape Horn presents a bold front of Greenstone packed with the

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snowy mountains of Fuegria; & the South extreme of Tasmania is memorable from its curious basaltic columns, but Cape Comorin appeared more of a slope than a steep & we were too far distant to appreciate the sizes of its vegetation, which probably is its best feature in the eyes of a naturalist:
I know no sp cove or bay that exceeds the little harbor of Point de Galle in beauty: it is so small that three or four ships of any size jostle one another, & surrounded by groves of Pal Coura not Palms, more vigorous & fresh than I had elsewhere seen. Behind & around were miles green with verdure, the waters are clear & bright with here & there a projecting rock, over which the oceanic swell stumbles & strikes along in white sheets of foam. The substantially built white washed walls of the old Dutch fortifications & house contrasts brilliantly from a distance with the

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deep green groves in which they were half hidden, and the snug appearance
of the native cottages ensconced in the Palm woods was no less attractive, though a closer inspection proved the appearances of neatness the one & propriety in the other to be very deceptive. We had hardly anchored when our friend Gardner came on board & gave me a hearty welcome to Ceylon *1 he had been awaiting my arrival for some weeks & almost despaired of me coming at all, previous to his necessary return to the Peradenia Garden was looking thoroughly well & very little altered by the severe fevers experience had sustained upon him. He conveyed a most kind invitation from Ld Torrington the Governor for me to repair to Candy [Kandy] but this the shortness of our stay necessarily prevented. Major the Commandant had most kindly provided rooms for my reception

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whither I repaired with Gardener immediately on landing on an oriental coast
& especially in Ceylon I was much struck with the swarm of inhabitants & the effeminate features of the men. a tall slender prettily & a gracefully rather than well proportioned race, with flowing hair gathered up in a knot & secured with a tortoise shell comb. Our walk up to the village lay through an avenue of Thespesia populnea & occasionally Jack & Mango trees, & along the beach there were heaps of logs of Ebony & other rare timbers, piled up like in heaps as if they were no
more valuable better than so much Fir, Ash or Elm.
The "Precursor" & another steamer were busy coaling at the wharf, an operation far from lending

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additional charm to the scene in short the association of three giant steamers with a tropical cove of singular beauty & peacefulness is too novel & the contrasts it affords too violent to be regarded without a repetition of the same feelings with which when a boy I saw the first steamer disfiguring Lochlomond[sic] & a stage coach established [two words deleted, illeg.] between Trossachs & Culloden. The contrast was further heightened here by the enormous dimensions of the vessells[sic] which rather looked as if left by a trick & than as having found their own way in; the diminutive size of the land locked harbor, in comparison with the boundless ocean a stones throw beyond; & the long shallows, of the natives with their rude outriggers & paddles, clustering round them the mightiest inventions of an age triumphing in inventions.
In the afternoon I walked with Gardner through the wooded lanes which strike inland from the town. This was the first colony bearing traces of the

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a Dutch rule that I had ever been in, except the Cape of Good Hope which the looses looses its nationality for the want of water wherewith to make canals & difficulty of planting trees. Point de Galle was on the other hand tropical Holland all over; avenues, ditches & canals reminded me of Holland Amsterdam & Lyden & I was particularly pleased on a Botanical ramble to be able to point out to Gardner a home & Demesne forcibly reminding me of Hartecamp, for some years the Residence of Linnaeus (& the original "Hortus cliffortianus") & surrounded by a wall with the identical quaint scalloped top which I had overlooked to see the Liriodendron planted by that great systematist and philosophers hand. Soon however we were beyond all further associations with the Dutch & Linnaeus than the Cinnamon groves on one hand & the nomenclature of the Flora Zeylanica on the other could suggest. The cocoa nuts, which absolutely monopolize the soil near the sea & there cover

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the face of the earth becomes scarcer as you receding from the shore, a dicotyedonous forest in the main succeding the perennial. The roads were greatly varied, with Rice grounds inundated more or less, on both sides full of Gramineae, Cyperaceae, & Leeches innumerable -- In the more watery places Gardner pointed out to me Nymphaea stellata Damasonium Indicum Utriculia (floating) Hydrocera triflora Ceratophyllum Limnophila & Typha augustefolia. Such Cyperaceae as Rhynchospora, Fimbristylis, Scleria, Fuirena & Cyperus & Hydrocotyle Asiatica & Eragrostis. inhabited drier Jussiaea villosa but still very wet places, with various Paspala Parsonia . In the dryer[sic] still Sporobolus, Aristida, Setaria, Urochloa, Chrysan[part of mss missing] &c. Frequently the road side was banked or ran along low hills & loose stone walls, where Ferns frequented the shaded spots & various roadside weed there & the more exposed places of the Ferns Aspidium propinquum, Phymatodes vulgare, Adiantum rhizophora (a pretty creeping species) Nephrolepis splendens, Lomaria scandens, Drymoglossum pilosum[?] Gymnogramma caudata, Pteris nervosa & interrupta a Lygodium, Acrost. quercifolium, Gleichenia dichotoma, a Lindsaea & Selaginella

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The weeds again were very often Acanthaceous, of which many genera species & individuals prevailed, Acanthus ilicifolius, Ruellias several & Gendarussa, Barleria prionitis Eranthemum montanum. Of Amaranthacea a few, as Desmochaetum & Amaranthus together with other Tropical roadside genera as Triumfetta, Sida acutifolia Phyllanthus, Convolvulus (like pes-caprae), Desmodia, Cardiospermum Halicacbum , Solana, Hibiscus Surattensis, Tragia, Abutilon Indicia, Desmodium 3--floreum & others, Leucas biflora & Zeylanica, Urena lobata Anisomeles intermedia, Polygona, Lippia, Hedyotis, Herpestis monocera[sic], Clerodendron infortunatum & inerme, & Triumf some Compositae Vernonia cinerea & zeylanica Vernonia & zeylanica Wedelia calendulacea , Eclipta erecta, Emilia &c.
In the woods bordering the road, the most striking plants are the Palms, as Cocoa, the Phoenix Sylvestris Toddy Palm Caryota urens & Areca Catechu, or Betel nut the Pandanus odoratus with its curious stem leaves & fruit scarlet Erythrinas, Dalbergias Calophyllum, Nauclea, Tabernaemontana, curious Plumeria. Sonneratia acida the wood of which is used for

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fruit[?] boxes, Paritinea liliaceum, Terminalia Catalpa, whose curiously remarkable coiled up embryo is served at dessert & eats like an almond. Several Fici & especially the F.dernonum the scalerid leaves of which are employed to polish wood. Bassia longifolia , Garcinia & Elaeocarpus oblongifolias, Artocarpus pubescens & integrifolia the latter yielding a wood so useful as to entitle it to the distinction of being called the Oak Mahogany of Ceylon, this wood is further of no mean beauty & is employed commonly for doors, chairs & window frames. Mussaenda frondosa & Viteza alata also appeared as large trees. Schleichera trijuga (the Cingalese Oak). A Barringtonia with noble flowers & foliage Anacardium occidentale occurs abundantly though an introduced plant originally. The species of shrubs around smaller trees are very numerous, as Cassias, Grumesena, Desmodium arborium, Randias, the beautiful Lyona Cocanea, Hedera terehinthacea, Symploros, some Aurantica, Geruphia angustifolia, Grewias & Solana, Feronia elephantum. Guams Asclepiadea, Zizyphus -- Sapium, Croton aromaticam, Melastomaceae, & very many others. Two Leguminae a struck me as both having a remarkably strobilosum inflorescence, very peculiar in the order to which they belong. These were the genera Diserma & Flemingia plants genera in no other respect allied. In numbers of Parasitic &

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Epiphytes I was disappointed, a Cymbidium was one of the few of the latter habit & one Loranthus of the former.
One or two exotics have spread so successfully & abundantly as to deserve mention, the Passiflora foetida, introduced in 1824, now a perfect pest a Bryophyllum & the Allamanda cathartica whose glorious clusters of golden blossoms contrasting with the deep green handsome foliage formed a superb spectacle.
On our wal evening walk home the dark paths & banks were lighted up with fire flies these do not dart & flutter like many of the S. American phosphorescent Insects, but more resemble falling stars suddenly shedding a pale bright light as they slowly fall & which is as suddenly extinguished. The effect was exactly that of sprinkling gold leaf in a sun beam.
There is some intimate connection between phosphorescence in insect life & humidity of the atmosphere. At Madras *2 I saw none, at Calcutta *3 they are rare except during the rains, over the dry plains of Behar, Birbhoona, Shahabad & Mirzapore I saw none except by the banks of Tanks: but on my arrival in an equally torrid season on the moister

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plains of Purmeah (Purncah) they abounded. At Darjeeling I have seen but few, though now the rains are settling in they are expected in abundance. So in Gr[ea]t Britain the glow worm is generally haunts the moister counties, on the E[ast]. coast of Scotland they are rare or unknown, but on the moister west tolerably abundant: as in Wales Devonshire &c.
To return to Botany however, I must glance at the Cryptogamia before concluding mosses were fairly represented, algae remarkably rare, chiefly a species of Sargassum. Fleshy Fungi revelled on the sunny banks but the preponderance of Lichens was most remarkably[sic] & this neither of the crustaceous exactly or foliaceous groups, but of the Lecideae & Leconoras with incomplete & appressed thalli. These adhere to the barks of the harder trees & even to the Cocoa nut, coating their trunks (generally so unprolific) with curious discs of white, pale green, or rusty brown.
On new years morning I was up at four to see Matilda off in the stage for Kandy, unexpectedly as we had met at Suez in the Dessert[sic], at Aden in Arabia & here again in the spice groves of Ceylon we felt like fellow travellers, each leaving home for an indefinite period from with untrod paths

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to pursue; & we had each looked forward so confidently to our previous & this meeting that the certainty of not seeing her again caused a blank in the future voyages. James Smith visits on my returning to Ceylon & if I could only persuade Gardner to accompany me thence to Singapore or Malana I would do so. Much will depend on monsoons & money, whether I shall ever see Ceylon again.
Before Breakfast I enjoyed another short walk with Gardner where he showed me the TrimerizaI think but forget the name he has notes of it growing on shady banks in abundance, he differs from Lindley in his sense of its affinity, but from what I have since seen of the Aristolochiae I am inclined to think the latter right in his conclusion as to its affinity. I could not help gathering it though I had no paper to dry it in & have preserved a good many specimens after a fashion.
The powerful sun of 8 AM unceremoniously drove us home, but after breakfast we made another start in our kind hosts carriage, to call on a gentleman whose house is laden with Cingular[sic] curiosities. Such as cabinet chair & table work of beautiful wood, carved

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ornaments in Ivory, tortoiseshell Ebony, Elephants teeth & tortoiseshell, all more beautiful from the substance employed than the task exerted in modelling it the material. A cabinet of precious stones was really valuable but the jewels so totally unfit in their present state for Cornhill[?] ship windows that I was very near asking him when all was shown where the jewels were. I could not help thinking of Prof Miller of Cambridge having kindly offered to meet me at his museum to show a collection of diamonds valuable beyond computation, when I arrived the little man was standing beside a box with about 600 ordinary bits of glass stuck on pointed cards (I think). Unfortunately I was not shrewd enough to observe the double from box hasps keys & staples that retained the captive stones & now ceremoniously opened, for after an hours conversation on indifferent subjects, I was about to ask to see the diamonds & was only prevented by Henslow's coming in when conversation soon led me to infer that I had been an unconcerned spectator of the display of as much wealth as would build Henslow a new College.
A cabinet of Ceylon shells both land & fresh water appeared both more attractive both to myself & to Gardner. This forenoon we had torrents of rain with heavy thunder & lightning, the latter soon passed over but we embarked under a torrent

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and were soon making our passage to Madras. At Madras, where we arrived on the morning of Ja[nua]ry 5th we remained 4 days. The troubled Roads with its fleet of Men of War & merchant ships is even agitated by a ground swell, rendering landing most difficult & only practicable in the curious Massalah boats (employed for all ships passengers) or the curious logs on which the native stands & all but lives; looking more like some Triton or a sea horse or aquatic Dinosaur, than an honest water boatman plying his ferry. There are however features too often described to be worth recapitulating, though could I do justice to the imposing sight of Ld Dalhousie's landing & reception it would indeed astonish you. It was not the grandeur of scenery, which is of the very flattest description both really by nature & in figure of speech, nor the stately procession of man of war -- boats which putting in measured time in one long procession from ship to shore, gay with banners & trim in array, when discipline overawes the spectator into reverence & admiration, for his Lordship was taken in as ordinary a Massalah boat with as uproarious a view of our disciplined flanks as well might be, & was rather flung ashore by the boisterous surf like a seaweed, by in the all rolling element which no more staid its bigger or lesser pulsations for him

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than it did its periodic flow for King Caractacus. The military music with the roar of the guns saluting battery from Fort George were drowned in the billowing waves. The superb array of military reaching in one unbroken line from for perhaps 2 miles were hidden behind a dense populace in front, the lances gay caps & spear heads alone peeping over the heads turbans of the nation. & Except those few of the English immediately surrounding Ld Tweeddale there were few white faces to be seen. One feature in the scene to a foreigner was worth all the pomp of the most brilliant seraphim that could salute monarch; & this I need hardly add was the sea of natives extending in one unbroken one continuous mass for miles along the beach -- more uniform in height than any European mob; the white turbans, black faces, white Kufera over the body & again swarthy lower extremities all appeared in a line so uniform & so continuous that the sea seemed to break at the foot of some banded cliffs rather than on a shore pent in by a population. The very
simplicity of the attire was lent an imposing to the spectacle; these were the loyal inhabitants receiving their supreme ruler, so perhaps more cordially than an English crowd does a leader better personally known to them; but without tumult, strife for place, or one instance of violence & theft. There was no bedifferring in dress no act to display themselves; the European for the natives assembled in unity of person with the one sole object of seeing & welcoming the foreign general, whilst under

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similar circumstances as the Europeans spectator in England or elsewhere must so deport himself as to in dress & ambition for prominence as to shew[sic] that he intends to attract some of the attention if he cannot eclipse the principal in the scene. It would be difficult to select elsewhere a spot when a population like that of Madras could be viewed with the effect that the low track of the road admits of, -- a people whose costume is so uniformly simple & occasion to bring marshal them forth like the present. Under Lord Tweeddales hospitable roof I had the opportunity of
meeting many persons whose no less remarkable for their skill in positions of command than in the knowledge of the productive resources of the country. To Walter Elliott Esq in particular I am much indebted, he is an accomplished zoologist & no less interested me in his conversation into res naturales, thus by his an instructive lesson he gave me on the subject of Boodhist [Budhist] antiquities. The sculptures & architectural remains to which he directed my attention were of rare beauty & in excellent preservation, but I cannot here give you even a compendium of the practical information I obtained; The winged lion with which I was so familiar in the Syrian marbles & the sketches of my accomplished friend Walter Forbes struck me as very remarkable & I have since learned from Hodgson that they are evidences of the Asian origin of the Boodh religion propagated from the N[orth].W[est]. by that great racetide which swept over all India N[orth] of the Peninsula, & which has now replaced the Tamalias by Indo--Germanic tribes. This is however a subject I must treat of in a separate letter & attempt to shew[sic] you how the three prominent features of in the Physical Geography of this wonderful country. The Snowy range, the Ghats & the

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malarious Terai have indicated the position of tribes of people as well as of plants, & have regulated the migration of which both & assigned the limits to tribes of all groups of the animal & vegetable creation from the subdivisions stripes of homo man down to the genera of cryptogamia plants:-- And this not only by presenting desert obstacles to the interchange of species on the one hand & the intercourse of tribes on the other, but through the action of climate causes, themselves reciprocally regulated by, if not wholly due to, the configuration in outline & elevation of the continent. I was struck with the facilities for obtaining information from the best sources, which the kindness of Lord Dalhousie has afforded me, that I feel more inclined to gossip over the various novel facts & views brought under my notice by men from all parts of the Madras Presidency, than to sift & to group them My Of sights there are hardly any about Madras, the soil is of a brow a clay sandstone called LD Iaterite. hard--baked in the tropical sun & gravelly on the surface with much Iron in its composition. Under neath the earth would appear burrowed by streams seeking a subterranean course to the sea, some of good water & some of bad, & these are traced by the wells along over various parts of the town & neighbourhood.
I spent a long time with Elliott at the little public Botanic Gardens, these are under the generous care of an officer of the Engineers (Capt Worcester) who is, as Dr Wight says in a letter to me, an excellent fellow, deserving well of his countrymen for the unselfish manner in which he devotes his time & effective energies to the Garden in the barren soil, of Madras. I do not think that we at home can appreciate the amount of true love of science & zeal in its chores, required to mention even in one's ownself the study of botanical science. In the great citys[sic] at home we have companions &

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and friends besides advantages, in the country we find it a solace but to pursue the subject in an Indian metropolis teeming with a native & European population equally dead to, if not averse to the pursuit, requires much mental exertion & more enduring patriotism. Especially in those cultivators who, with other duties to perform, take charge unpaid, & perhaps unthanked, of public gardens. To give you a sketch of what I may call Worcester's garden, it is a more properly a the Horti agricultural establishment of a Hort. society of 8 acres, supported by private funds & receiving no further encouragement from Gov[ernmen]t. than prizes to the value of some hundred pounds, for samples of Cotton & Indigo & as much towards the propagation of Sugar plants. The arrangement adopted is excellent one part devoted to Horticulture, & 2d to propagation of good samples of Cotton, Indigo & Sugar &c. & a third to an illustrative series of the more important plants scientifically arranged, in short a Botanic Garden. The ground is trim & well kept, laid out with considerable taste & has naturally been a favourite walk for the subscribers. Our annuals & hardy perennials many of them thrive well, though the tendency to spoil is remarkable, this in Stocks & prevalent enough at home, but not so common I think in Pinks which is in India accompanied with a tendency run to leaf. Mexican & some Californian plants thrive beautifully, especially Zinnias & other Compositae. Mango, Avarshoas, Nyctanthes, Tamarind & Sugars with the omnipresent Casuarinas are the prevailing Trees -- Hedging is made with Henna as in Egypt, Bamboo, Lantana or Parkinsonia: In the outskirts of the [end of letter missing] *4


1. The country formerly known as Ceylon is now called Sri Lanka.
2. The city formerly known as Madras is now called Chennai.
3. The city formerly known as Calcutta is now called Kolkata.
4. A note written in another hand states "conclusion missing".

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