20 AUGUST 1881, Page 18

PERUVIAN BARK* " REPLENISH the earth, and subdue it :

every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat." From far off down the ages comes the echo of the voice which spoke through the Hebrew seer, and comes to us with all the freshness of a new message, as we close the utterly prosaic pages before us. Mr. Clements Markham has laboured long, earnestly, and successfully at his difficult task, and before attempting to follow him in his researches, we would state briefly what that task has been, and what has been accomplished. Mr. Markham set before himself no less an object than the introduction of the cultivation of Peruvian-bark trees on an extensive scale into British India and Ceylon. The object he had most at heart, undoubtedly, was to supply in the very heart of fever districts "a cheap and efficacious febrifuge to the people of India ;" but his scheme has succeeded beyond, not his own hope probably, but certainly beyond the wildest expectations of onlookers. The enterprise, begun twenty years ago, has for observable result that there are now 847 acres under chinchona cultivation in the Govern- ment plantations on the Nilgiri Hills, besides 4,000 acres of private plantations on the Nilgiri, in Wainad, Coorg, and other hill districts of Southern India. In British Sikkim, the Government chinchona plantations cover an area of 2,242 acres. The annual bark crop from the Government plantations of British India alone is already 490,000 lb. In Ceylon, 5,578 acres were under chinchona cultivation in 1877- In 1879-80, the quantity of bark sold in the London market from British India and Ceylon was 1,172,000 lb. The labourers, who, with desperate toil and herculean energy, have given to the millions of India the trees which are emphatically for the heal- ing of the nations, have deserved more recognition than their services have as yet met with,—but of this more by-and-by ; at present, we will follow Mr. Markham for a moment in his earlier wanderings, while collecting chinchona plants and seeds in South America. His narrative, though stiff as a .Blue-book (the reader who opens it at random will assuredly believe it to

• A Popular Account of the Introduction of Chinchona Cultivation into British India. By Clements R. Markham, C.B.,P.R.S. London: John Murray. 1880.

be stuffed with dry statistics), is full of interesting matter. Before entering upon the narrative of his search, Mr. Markham pauses to give an account of the early use of the plants he seeks, and the origin of the name now applied to them. He tells us the Indians, though probably aware of the fever-healing virtues of their Peruvian bark, were prejudiced against its use. There is some evidence that European travellers were healed by it as early as the year 1600, and it was in 1638, more than seventy years after the conquest of Peru, that the Countess of Chinchona, wife of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru, "lay sick of an intermittent fever in the palace of Lima." It was this same Count and Countess of Chinchona, remarks Mr. Markham, who at an earlier date entertained Prince Charles and the Duke of Buckingham at the alcazar of Segovia. Subsequently, when appointed to the government of Peru, the great event of their viceroyalty was the cure of the Countess of Chinchona of a tertian fever by the use of Peruvian bark. The Countess returned to Spain (we are still quoting from Mr. Mark- ham's account) in 1640, and brought with her a supply of the " quina" bark which had worked her own cure, determined to use it for the sufferers from tertian ague on her father's and husband's estates," in the fertile but unhealthy vegeta of the Tagus, the Tarama, and the Tajuna." The powder was long known as "the Countess's Powder" (Pulv is Cometissa), and Linmens in her honour called it by her title. The Jesuits appear to have been the great promoters of the further intro- duction of the bark into Europe, and the new medicine shared the fate of all medical or other innovations. A storm of pre- judice was raised, it would kill more than it would cure,'—may be taken as a rough estimate of conservative thought concern- ing it in the seventeenth century, while even those who admitted its efficacy and valued it as a boon were profoundly ignorant of the tree from which it was taken. This being so, we confess we turned with considerable curiosity to the next chapter, in which we learn how the people of Europe really became first acquainted with the chinchona trees. Mr. Markham tells us the first description of the quinquina tree is due to the memorable French expedition to South America which, on May 16th, 1735, sailed from Rochelle, to measure an arc of the meridian near Quito, and thus determine the shape of the earth. MM. De la Condamine and the botanist Joseph de Jussieu were amongst the principal members of the expedition. Both made laborious efforts to collect and take home young plants, but the fate which for some in- scrutable reasons attends so many early efforts befell theirs. The plants La Condamine had for eight months preserved with loving care were washed from the deck of his little vessel by a wave, and Jussieu, "after fifteen years of laborious work, was robbed of his large collection of plants by a servant at Buenos Ayres, who believed that the boxes contained money." Poor Jussieu! the blow struck him heavily, and he returned to France deprived of reason. But glancing over the narrative of his work, we notice that "he was the first botanist who examined and sent home specimens of the coca plant, the beloved narcotic of the Peruvian Indian." Farther on, Mr. Markham devotes a chapter to the history of the cultivation of the coca, a chapter which seems to the present writer full of interest. Mr. Markham states that the coca leaf is to the Peruvian Indian what betel is to the Hindu, kava to the South Sea Islander, and tobacco to the rest of man- kind. So much, perhaps, was already pretty generally known ; but we imagine that, at least outside a very limited medical circle, it was not known that "its use pro- duces invigorating effects which are not possessed by the other stimulants." While reading carefully the history of the marvellous virtues of this plant given by Mr. Markham, the present writer came accidentally across a recent prescrip- tion, in which a preparation of it was given in minimum doses, the efficacy of which was tested, with good result, on headache caused by mental worry. On further inquiry, we fonnd its use was the subject of careful consideration and even administra- tion amongst some of our ablest physicians. The Peruvians, says our author, look on it with feelings of superstitious vener- ation, and the old Incas sacrificed it to the Sun. The plant can be cultivated from 5,000 to 6,000 feet above the level of the sea; but we have no space to follow the interesting details of its cultivation, we can only add Mr. Markham's testimony to its medicinal use. He says :—" Applied externally, coca moderates the rheumatic pains caused by cold, and cures headache. When used to excess, it is, like everything else, prejudicial to health ; yet, of all narcotics used by man, coca is the least injurious, and the most soothing and invigorating." And he adds, "I chewed coca, not constantly, but very frequently, from the day of my departure from Sandia, and besides the agree- able, soothing feeling it produced, I found that I could endure

long abstinence from food with less inconvenience than I should otherwise have felt, and it enabled me to ascend precipitous mountain sides with a feeling of lightness and elasticity, and without losing breath."

But we have left ourselves small space to touch on what, after all, is really the subject-matter of the work before us,—the author's labours in the, as it has proved, successful attempt' to introduce the cultivation of chinchona trees into British India. The work, as he tells us, was accompanied by this difficulty, from which similar undertakings have been free,—the plant to be transplanted had never been cultivated. When tea was intro- daced into the Himalayan districts, it had been a cultivated plant in China for ages, and experienced Chinese cultivators came with it, but the chinchona had remained a wild forest- tree." In 1852, the proposal to introduce chinchona plants into India was made officially. In 1852, and again in Maya 1853, Dr. Boyle drew up a long and valuable report on the sub- ject; and at the same moment Mr. Markham was actually ex- ploring some of the chinchona forests of Peru, in ignorance of • any desire on the part of the Indian Government to procure chin- chona plants, and his objects, he tells us, were of an antiquarian and ethnological character. But the subject of chinchona culti- vation being in 1859 brought under his notice by Mr. Henry Deedes, of the India Office, he gave the subject due considera- tion, saw the inestimable benefit that might be conferred on India and the world generally, and resolved to undertake its execution. Mr. Markham was, indeed, well qualified for the gigantic task he set himself. He knew the region, the people, and their languages, and having to consider whether the under- taking should be a private or a Government one, he wisely, as we think, submitted his propoial to Lord Stanley, then, in 1859, First Secretary of State for India, and was entrusted with the commission he executed so thoroughly, namely, to introduce chinchona cultivation into India. The plan for which he applied for sanction was as follows :—

"To make a collection of plants and seeds of all the &inchoate known to commerce, through the instrumentality of qualified agents. This would entail the despatch of five avnts ; to Bolivia or Caravaya for the Calisaya plants, to Huannco in Peru for the grey barks, to Loxa in Ecuador for the brown barks, to Huaranda in Ecuador for the red barks, and to Popayan for the Colombian barks. These five agents were to work simultaneously under my general superintend- ence, and a special steamer was to be supplied to convey the collec- tions of plants and seeds from the five ports of Islay, Callao, Payta, Guayaquil, and Buenaventura, direct to India across the Pacific Ocean. If the scheme failed at one or more points—which, consider- ing the enormous difficulties, was quite probable—my plan was to repeat the work in the next season, and, if necessary, in the next and the next, until complete success was secured."

He adds subsequently :— "The measures which I thought necessary from the first, and which I have since continuously striven to bring to perfection, were : —1. The introduction into India of all chinchona species known to commerce, because it was uncertain which would eventually prove to be best adapted for cultivation in the new country. Even species which do not yield quinine were collected, because the other chin- chona alkaloids also possess febrifuge virtues. 2. The establishment of Government plantations wherever suitable sites could be found in India, to form centres for the distlibution of plants and seeds, and for ascertaining the best methods of cultivation. 3. The manufac- ture, in India, of a form of the febrifuge combining, in the highest attainable degree, efficacy and cheapness ; so that there may be abundant supplies within reach of all classes of the people."

Mr. Markham was eminently happy in the fellow-Labourers who assisted him in his huge work ; through lands every- where bright with flowers, amid magnificent mountain scenery, they found the primeval chinchona trees ; it was no easy, summer day's task. In dense forests, on the verge of giddy precipices, with hornets stinging, ground choked with

creepers and fallen masses of twisted bamboo, they steadily, for many a day, fought their way, and the record of their work is well worth reading. Their collection was made at last ; but their work did not go on undisturbed by vexatious interrup- tions, even danger of arrest from local magnates, though

carried on with the free permission of the Peruvian Govern- ment; and probably, no one who has not personally assisted at such a task knows the infinite labour and care required to transport in safety a large mass of plants, seeds, and seedlings from one country to another. In April, 1860, Mr. Markham com- menced his work ; in February, 1878, he is able to record that his

original plan had been carried out in its entirety, and the species of the five regions whence the barks of commerce are derived were converted from a wild to a cultivated state, and brought together in the plantations of British India,—the health-giving trees into the land which numbers "a million and a half of deaths from fever annually." At least half these deaths may, says Mr. Markham, be prevented by putting some cheap form of the chinchona alkaloids into every pansari's shop in the country, and thus countless multitudes be saved from death or grievous suffering. It remains but to add, in this brief, imperfect sketch of Mr. Markham's work, to which we can but call atten- tion, that the English Government, with the short-sighted neglig- ence which but too often accompanies its sanction to scientific research, has left unrecognised and unrewarded many of Mr. Markham's most able fellow-helpers,—men who risked, not only their lives, but what was, perhaps, more valuable, permanently their health and strength in the undertaking ; while the justifica- tion for such negligence is certainly not to be found even in the market value of the work accomplished, since we find "on the Nilgiris the whole expenditure has been repaid with interest by the sale of bark in the London market, and the Government is now deriving large profits of many thousands a year from bark harvests."