413752Charles von Hügel — IV. Presentation Address. W. R. Hamilton



Vienna, 1831.






President of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Presentation of the Gold Medals
at the Anniversary Meeting of the Royal Geographic Society of London,
held May 28,1849.
See Journal Royal Geographical Society of London. Vol. XIX.




"YOU have also been informed that the Patron's Medal[2] has been awarded by the Council to the distinguished Austrian traveller Baron Charles von Hügel, for his enterprising and successful exploration of Cashmere, the Punjab, and the surrounding countries, as communicated to the public in his work entitled Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek; and also for the zeal and ability with which he formed those collections of plants and animals in Australia, as well as in Upper India which have enriched European museums, and particularly those of Vienna.

The fame of Baron Hügel's travels has been so long before the world, and the character they have acquired for faithful representation and graphic delineation is so well known, that it is unnecessary for me to enter upon that subject. I therefore propose to take a rapid glance over Baron Hügel's route, to mention the principal places which he visited, and to describe the line of country over which he passed in his novel and interesting expedition. I will only mention as a proof of his accuracy, that it has been stated that during the late military operations against the Sikhs, our officers derived the greatest advantage from the correctness with which he had described the country he visited, and the care with which it was laid down in the map constructed by Mr Arrowsmith chiefly from his materials. When we recollect the difficulties of travelling in Eastern countries, and particularly in the then less known portions of Runjeet Singh's dominions, unassisted by a single companion, as was the case with Baron Hügel, we can well appreciate the energy with which he carried out his plans, and the perseverance which enabled him so faithfully to record what he had seen.

But to return to our narrative. After many months of preparation and delay, Baron Hügel started from Simla on the 13th of October, 1835, and crossed the Sutlej into the Maharajah's territory at Belaspoor. The lateness of the season prevented his taking the less frequented route by the Berenda Pass, and thus reaching Cashmere by way of Ladak. Equally unwilling to cross the plains of the Punjab, Baron Hügel determined to take the direction of the lowest range of the Himalaya: thus avoiding the difficulties of the mountain-passes and the monotony of the plains.

From Belaspoor he proceeded to Narpoor, thence to Cashmere by the more practicable route of Jammú, thus skirting the Punjab, instead of attempting the then impassable route by Kishtiwar. Here the vegetation is described as truly luxuriant; watered as the country is by the numerous streams rising at the foot of the Himalayas, or within the parallel ranges by which it is skirted. After quitting Jammú, he entered a mountainous district, and, proceeding in a more northerly direction, entered the happy valley of Cashmere by the Pass of Pir Punjal. He was unfortunate in the season; the cold of winter disabled his Indian followers and added to his difficulties.

At Sirinaghur, the capital of Cashmere, he fell in with our countryman Mr Godfrey Vigne, with whom he subsequently travelled to Attock, and through the Punjab to Lahore. One of the great peculiarities of Cashmere is the absence of storms and wind; probably owing to the sequestered position of the valley, surrounded by ranges of lofty mountains. From Sirinaghur, Baron Hügel and Mr Vigne visited the eastern portion of the valley as far as Islamabad, near which was one of the summer palaces of the Emperors of Delhi, situated on the banks of the Jylum. This river is navigable throughout almost the whole length of the valley of Cashmere. After a short delay, Baron Hügel quitted the capital in company with Mr Vigne and Dr Henderson, and proceeded to visit the Wallar Lake, near the north-west extremity of the valley, whence they ascended the mountain-barrier 7000 feet above Cashmere. Beyond this lake the current of the Jylum increases, and on reaching the Baramulla Pass, by which our travellers proposed descending to Attock, it becomes a rapid stream. This pass is the boundary of Cashmere; a rapid descent leads, amidst scenery of the wildest description, following the windings of the river, to Muzafferabad, 3000 feet below Cashmere. A fatiguing and dangerous journey over a wild country brought them from thence to Attock. On many occasions the zeal with which Baron Hügel pursued his investigations in botany and natural history exposed him to much danger from the prejudices of the natives, aroused by his killing birds which were held sacred by them[3]. At Attock, Baron Hügel again found himself in the plain of India, and at length reached the limit of his journey; being, as he says, the first European who had hitherto wandered through this vast empire from its most southern point at Cape Comorin, to its northern boundary at Attock.

From Attock he proceeded by the imperial route to Lahore, through a country now well known, but the details of which are graphically described in the work before us, which deserves the careful perusal of those who wish to have a vivid picture of Indian life, and of the varied impressions excited in the minds of those who visit India from the distant West. The description of the route from Attock to Lahore is peculiarly interesting at the present moment, associated as it is with the proceedings of the late campaign against the Sikhs.

At Lahore Baron Hügel remained some time enjoying the hospitality of Runjeet Singh, of whom and his government he gives us a lively and interesting account. His description of Runjeet's troops, of his officers, and especially of his powerful artillery—powerful even in that day (1836), is particularly worthy of remark. The work concludes with some brief political and geographical remarks on the kingdom founded by Runjeet Singh, and on the Punjab.

But I must here conclude, and omit alluding to any other portion of Baron Hügel's adventurous travels through China, Singapore, and Australia. His work on Cashmere and the Punjab is alone sufficient to place him in the foremost rank of the distinguished travellers of the age."

The President, then addressing Sir Roderick Murchison, said:—

"Sir Roderick Murchison,—In handing to you this medal for your friend Baron Hügel, you will allow me to observe that we had hoped from your own statement that the Austrian Minister, Count Colloredo, would have been able to be present on this occasion to receive the medal for his distinguished countryman: the Royal Geographical Society would have witnessed with pleasure the presence of one whose name is so well known to science as that of Count Colloredo.

In his absence, however, I must request you, as the personal friend of Baron Hügel, to forward to him this medal, and in doing so, to assure him of the warm interest felt by this Society in his prosperity and happiness, and of their hope that the speedy restoration of peace and quiet to his country will enable him to resume those occupations in which he has hitherto been engaged with so much satisfaction to himself, and so much advantage to his country."

To which Sir Roderick Murchison replied:—

"Whilst I regret that public duties have prevented his Excellency the Austrian Minister, Count Colloredo (himself a worthy cultivator of physical science), from being present to receive this medal, I have the sincerest pleasure, Sir, in being made the organ of communication between yourself and my distinguished friend Baron C. Hügel, who will, I am certain, deeply value this token of the esteem and consideration of the Royal Geographical Society of London. We have, Sir, in truth, done honour to ourselves in thus recompensing an enlightened and enterprising foreign nobleman, who has so freely devoted years of toil, and a competent fortune, to the advancement of our science; and I trust that this manifestation of our opinion of his merits may so strengthen the just claims which he has upon the gratitude of his country, that when Austria shall have regained internal tranquillity, we may see our medallist occupying the high post of Director of the Imperial Museums and Gardens of Vienna, which he has so much enriched—a post which I have authority to state it was intended he should occupy, if the recent revolution had not intervened to check (for a time only, let us hope) all administrative scientific arrangements."

  1. See plate, p. xix.
  2. The Founder's Medal was awarded on the same occasion to Mr Austen Henry Layard (later Sir Henry Layard of Nineveh renown). A. v. H.
  3. "The energy and ardour with which he pursued his researches is exemplified by the following anecdote. He was on one occasion bent on procuring a specimen of a rare plant, only to be found in a spot which a conflagration in the surrounding jungle rendered apparently inaccessible. Undaunted by the danger, the daring traveller rode full gallop through the burning waste, and succeeded in carrying off the treasure he was seeking. The wild inhabitants of the district were so astonished at this feat that they declared the man who could achieve it must be a God." Fullerton's In Memoriam, p. 8. (A. v. H.)