Table of Contents / Preface

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Volume I

First published 1854

To CHARLES DARWIN, F.R.S., etc. These volumes are dedicated, by his affectionate friend, J.D. HOOKER Kew, Jan. 12th, 1854



HAVING accompanied Sir James Boss on his voyage of discovery to the Antarctic regions, where botany was my chief pursuit, on my return I earnestly desired to add to my acquaintance with the natural history of the temperate zones, more knowledge of that of the tropics than I bad hitherto had the opportunity of acquiring. My choice lay between India and the Andes, and I decided upon the former, being principally influenced by Dr. Falconer, who promised me every assistance which his position as Superintendent of the H.E.I.C. Botanic Garden at Calcutta, would enable hum to give. He also drew my attention to the fact that we were ignorant even of the geography of the central and eastern parts of these mountains, while all to the north was involved in a mystery equally attractive to the traveller and the naturalist.

On hearing of the kind interest taken by Baron Humboldt in my proposed travels, and at the request of my father (Sir William Hooker), the Earl of Carlisle (then Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests) undertook to represent to Her Majesty's Government the expediency of securing my collections for the Royal Gardens at Kew; and owing to the generous exertions of that nobleman, and of the late Earl of Auckland (then First Lord of the Admiralty), my journey assumed the character of a Government mission, �400 per annum being granted by the Treasury for two years.

I did not contemplate proceeding beyond the Himalaya and Tibet, when Lord Auckland desired that I should afterwards visit Borneo, for the purpose of reporting on the capabilities of Labuan, with reference to the cultivation of cotton, tobacco, sugar, indigo, spices, guttapercha, etc. To this end a commission in the navy (to which service I was already attached) was given me, such instructions were drawn up as might facilitate my movements in the East, and a suitable sum of money was placed at my disposal.

Soon after leaving England, my plans became, from various causes, altered. The Earl of Auckland* [It is with a melancholy satisfaction that I here record the intentions of that enlightened nobleman. The idea of turning to public account what was intended as a scientific voyage, occurred to his lordship when considering my application for official leave to proceed to India; and from the hour of my accepting the Borneo commission with which he honoured me, he displayed the most active zeal in promoting its fulfilment. He communicated to me his views as to the direction in which I should pursue my researches, furnished me with official and other information, and provided me with introductions of the most essential use.] was dead; the interest in Borneo had in a great measure subsided; H.M.S. "Maeander," to which I had been attached for service in Labuan, had left the Archipelago; reports of the unhealthy nature of the coast had excited alarm; and the results of my researches in the Himalaya had proved of more interest and advantage than had been anticipated. It was hence thought expedient to cancel the Borneo appointment, and to prolong my services for a third year in India; for which purpose a grant of �300 (originally intended for defraying the expense of collecting only, in Borneo) was transferred as salary for the additional year to be spent in the Himalaya.

The portion of the Himalaya best worth exploring, was selected for me both by Lord Auckland and Dr. Falconer, who independently recommended Sikkim, as being ground untrodden by traveller or naturalist. Its ruler was, moreover, all but a dependant of the British government, and it was supposed, would therefore be glad to facilitate my researches.

No part of the snowy Himalaya eastward of the northwest extremity of the British possessions had been visited since Turner's embassy to Tibet in 1789; and hence it was highly important to explore scientifically a part of the chain which, from its central position, might be presumed to be typical of the whole range. The possibility of visiting Tibet, and of ascertaining particulars respecting the great mountain Chumulari,* [My earliest recollections in reading are of "Turner's Travels in Tibet," and of "Cook's Voyages." The account of Lama worship and of Chumulari in the one, and of Kerguelen's Land in the other, always took a strong hold on my fancy. It is, therefore, singular that Kerguelen's Land should have been the first strange country I ever visited (now fourteen years ago), and that in the first King's ship which has touched there since Cook's voyage, and whilst following the track of that illustrious navigator in south polar discovery. At a later period I have been nearly the first European who has approached Chumulari since Turner's embassy.] which was only known from Turner's account, were additional inducements to a student of physical geography; but it was not then known that Kinchinjunga, the loftiest known mountain on the globe, was situated on my route, and formed a principal feature in the physical geography of Sikkim.

My passage to Egypt was provided by the Admiralty in H.M. steam-vessel "Sidon," destined to convey the Marquis of Dalhousie, Governor-General of India, thus far on his way. On his arrival in Egypt, his Lordship did me the honour of desiring me to consider myself in the position of one of his suite, for the remainder of the voyage, which was performed in the "Moozuffer," a steam frigate belonging to the Indian Navy. My obligations to this nobleman had commenced before leaving England, by his promising me every facility he could command; and he thus took the earliest opportunity of affording it, by giving me such a position near himself as ensured me the best reception everywhere; no other introduction being needed. His Lordship procured my admission into Sikkim, and honoured me throughout my travels with the kindest encouragement.

During the passage out, some days were spent in Egypt, at Aden, Ceylon, and Madras. I have not thought it necessary to give here the observations made in those well-known countries; they are detailed in a series of letters published in the "London Journal of Botany," as written for my private friends. Arriving at Calcutta in January, I passed the remainder of the cold season in making myself acquainted with the vegetation of the plains and hills of Western Bengal, south of the Ganges, by a journey across the mountains of Birbhoom and Behar to the Soane valley, and thence over the Vindhya range to the Ganges, at Mirzapore, whence I descended that stream to Bhaugulpore; and leaving my boat, struck north to the Sikkim Himalaya. This excursion is detailed in the "London Journal of Botany," and the Asiatic Society of Bengal honoured me by printing the meteorological observations made during its progress.

During the two years' residence in Sikkim which succeeded, I was laid under obligations of no ordinary nature to Brian H. Hodgson, Esq., B.C.S., for many years Resident at the Nepal Court; whose guest I became for several months. Mr. Hodgson's high position as a man of science requires no mention here; but the difficulties he overcame, and the sacrifices he made, in attaining that position, are known to few. He entered the wilds of Nepal when very young, and in indifferent health; and finding time to spare, cast about for the best method of employing it: he had no one to recommend or direct a pursuit, no example to follow, no rival to equal or surpass; he had never been acquainted with a scientific man, and knew nothing of science except the name. The natural history of men and animals, in its most comprehensive sense, attracted his attention; he sent to Europe for books, and commenced the study of ethnology and zoology. His labours have now extended over upwards of twenty-five years' residence in the Himalaya. During this period he has seldom had a staff of less than from ten to twenty persons (often many more), of various tongues and races, employed as translators and collectors, artists, shooters, and stuffers. By unceasing exertions and a princely liberality, Mr. Hodgson has unveiled the mysteries of the Boodhist religion, chronicled the affinities, languages, customs, and faiths of the Himalayan tribes; and completed a natural history of the animals and birds of these regions. His collections of specimens are immense, and are illustrated by drawings and descriptions taken from life, with remarks on the anatomy,* [In this department he availed himself of the services of Dr. Campbell, who was also attached to the Residency at Nepal, as surgeon and assistant political agent.] habits, and localities of the animals themselves. Twenty volumes of the Journals, and the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, teem with the proofs of his indefatigable zeal; and throughout the cabinets of the bird and quadruped departments of our national museum, Mr. Hodgson's name stands pre-eminent. A seat in the Institute of France, and the cross of the Legion of Honour, prove the estimation in which his Boodhist studies are held on the continent of Europe. To be welcomed to the Himalaya by such a person, and to be allowed the most unreserved intercourse, and the advantage of all his information and library, exercised a material influence on the progress I made in my studies, and on my travels. When I add that many of the subjects treated of in these volumes were discussed between us, it will be evident that it is impossible for me to divest much of the information thus insensibly obtained, of the appearance of being the fruits of my own research.

Dr. Campbell, the Superintendent of Dorjiling, is likewise the Governor-General's agent, or medium of communication between the British Government and the Sikkim Rajah; and as such, invested with many discretionary powers. In the course of this narrative, I shall give a sketch of the rise, progress, and prospects of the Sanatarium, or Health-station of Dorjiling, and of the anomalous position held by the Sikkim Rajah. The latter circumstance led indirectly to the detention of Dr. Campbell (who joined me in one of my journeys) and myself, by a faction of the Sikkim court, for the purpose of obtaining from the Indian Government a more favourable treaty than that then existing. This mode of enforcing a request by _douce violence_ and detention, is common with the turbulent tribes east of Nepal, but was in this instance aggravated by violence towards my fellow-prisoner, through the ill will of the persons who executed the orders of their superiors, and who had been punished by Dr. Campbell for crimes committed against both the British and Nepalese governments. The circumstances of this outrage were misunderstood at the time; its instigators were supposed to be Chinese; its perpetrators Tibetans; and we the offenders were assumed to have thrust ourselves into the country, without authority from our own government, and contrary to the will of the Sikkim Rajah; who was imagined to be a tributary of China, and protected by that nation, and to be under no obligation to the East Indian government.

With regard to the obligations I owe to Dr. Campbell, I confine myself to saying that his whole aim was to promote my comfort, and to secure my success, in all possible ways. Every object I had in view was as sedulously cared for by him as by myself: I am indebted to his influence with Jung Bahadoor* [It was in Nepal that Dr. Campbell gained the friendship of Jung Bahadoor, the most remarkable proof of which is the acceding to his request, and granting me leave to visit the eastern parts of his dominions; no European that I am aware of, having been allowed, either before or since, to travel anywhere except to and from the plains of India and valley of Katmandu, in which the capital city and British residency are situated.] for the permission to traverse his dominions, and to visit the Tibetan passes of Nepal. His prudence and patience in negotiating with the Sikkim court, enabled me to pursue my investigations in that country. My journal is largely indebted to his varied and extensive knowledge of the people and productions of these regions.

In all numerical calculations connected with my observations, I received most essential aid from John Muller, Esq., Accountant of the Calcutta Mint, and from his brother, Charles Muller, Esq., of Patna, both ardent amateurs in scientific pursuits, and who employed themselves in making meteorological observations at Dorjiling, where they were recruiting constitutions impaired by the performance of arduous duties in the climate of the plains. I cannot sufficiently thank these gentlemen for the handsome manner in which they volunteered me their assistance in these laborious operations. Mr. J. Muller resided at Dorjiling during eighteen months of my stay in Sikkim, over the whole of which period his generous zeal in my service never relaxed; he assisted me in the reduction of many hundreds of my observations for latitude, time, and elevation, besides adjusting and rating my instruments; and I can recall no more pleasant days than those thus spent with these hospitable friends.

Thanks to Dr. Falconer's indefatigable exertions, such of my collections as reached Calcutta were forwarded to England in excellent order; and they were temporarily deposited in Kew Gardens until their destination should be determined. On my return home, my scientific friends interested themselves in procuring from the Government such aid as might enable me to devote the necessary time to the arrangement, naming, and distributing of my collections, the publication of my manuscripts, etc. I am in this most deeply indebted to the disinterested and generous exertions of Mr. L. Horner, Sir Charles Lyell, Dr. Lindley, Professor E. Forbes, and many others; and most especially to the Presidents of the Royal Society (the Earl of Rosse), of the Linnean (Mr. R. Brown), and Geological (Mr. Hopkins), who in their official capacities memorialized in person the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests on this subject; Sir William Hooker at the same time bringing it under the notice of the First Lord of the Treasury. The result was a grant of �400 annually for three years.

Dr. T. Thomson joined me in Dorjiling in the end of 1849, after the completion of his arduous journeys in the North-West Himalaya and Tibet, and we spent the year 1850 in travelling and collecting, returning to England together in 1851. Having obtained permission from the Indian Government to distribute his botanical collections, which equal my own in extent and value, we were advised by all our botanical friends to incorporate, and thus to distribute them. The whole constitute an Herbarium of from 6000 to 7000 species of Indian plants, including an immense number of duplicates; and it is now in process of being arranged and named, by Dr. Thomson and myself, preparatory to its distribution amongst sixty of the principal public and private herbaria in Europe, India, and the United States of America.

For the information of future travellers, I may state that the total expense of my Indian journey, including outfit, three years and a half travelling, and the sending of my collections to Calcutta, was under �2000 (of which �1200 were defrayed by government), but would have come to much more, had I not enjoyed the great advantages I have detailed. This sum does not include the purchase of books and instruments, with which I supplied myself, and which cost about �200, nor the freight of the collections to England, which was paid by Government. Owing to the kind services of Mr. J. C. Melvill, Secretary of the India House, many small parcels of seeds, etc., were conveyed to England, free of cost; and I have to record my great obligations and sincere thanks to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, for conveying, without charge, all small parcels of books, instruments and specimens, addressed to or by myself.

It remains to say something of the illustrations of this work. The maps are from surveys of my own, made chiefly with my own instruments, but partly with some valuable ones for the use of which I am indebted to my friend Captain H. Thuillier, Deputy Surveyor-General of India, who placed at my disposal the resources of the magnificent establishment under his control, and to whose innumerable good offices I am very greatly beholden.

The landscapes, etc. have been prepared chiefly from my own drawings, and will, I hope, be found to be tolerably faithful representations of the scenes. I have always endeavoured to overcome that tendency to exaggerate heights, and increase the angle of slopes, which is I believe the besetting sin, not of amateurs only, but of our most accomplished artists. As, however, I did not use instruments in projecting the outlines, I do not pretend to have wholly avoided this snare; nor, I regret to say; has the lithographer, in all cases, been content to abide by his copy. My drawings will be considered tame compared with most mountain landscapes, though the subjects comprise some of the grandest scenes in nature. Considering how conventional the treatment of such subjects is, and how unanimous artists seem to be as to the propriety of exaggerating those features which should predominate in the landscape, it may fairly be doubted whether the total effect of steepness and elevation, especially in a mountain view, can, on a small scale, be conveyed by a strict adherence to truth. I need hardly add, that if such is attainable, it is only by those who have a power of colouring that few pretend to. In the list of plates and woodcuts I have mentioned the obligations I am under to several friends for the use of drawings, etc.

With regard to the spelling of native names, after much anxious discussion I have adopted that which assimilates most to the English pronunciation. For great assistance in this, for a careful revision of the sheets as they passed through the press, and for numerous valuable suggestions throughout, I am indebted to my fellow-traveller, Dr. Thomas Thomson.