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2-359 (Original)

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addressee author,male,Mereweather, John Davies,25
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Hale, 1950
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June 17th, 1850. - To-day, though in mid-winter, we have a glowing sun, modified by a balmy breeze. All the deck is confusion, for the emigrants, who go no further than Adelaide, are getting out their baggage. I, at the request of the passengers, drew out a testimonial for the doctor, which was unanimously signed; and he deserves this mark of attention, for, professionally, he has been most assiduous, and socially, he has behaved as a gentleman should. Many of the surgeons on board of emigrant ships are disreputable characters in every way. [183] In the course of the day I went with two passengers to Adelaide. We travelled in a public conveyance, which was a Whitechapel cart, drawn by two horses, tandem fashion. The drivers of these vehicles carry as many passengers as they can get. We were said to be lucky, for there were only six besides us three. The road, which passed through a desolate tract of country, was full of large holes, which by recent rains had been converted into round ponds; these ponds we had to coast round, making a great half circle, so that instead of travelling seven miles, the distance between Port Adelaide and Adelaide, we travelled at least ten miles. On our way we met and passed innumerable bullock-drays, drawn by eight, or ten, or twelve, patient, hard-tugging bullocks. We also saw several of the aborigines, clothed in dirty blankets and kangaroo and opossum-skins; they looked half-starved, like the dogs that followed them, and were hideously dirty and ugly. Adelaide strikes me as a very miserable, squalid place. Wide streets are laid out, but there are few houses in them, and those few are mean and wretched: the roads are full of holes, receptacles of dust in summer and mud in winter; public houses abound, and drunkenness seems everywhere prevalent. There is a substantial Change for the merchants to congregate in, but all the business of Adelaide seems done at a noted public-house, kept by a man called Coppin, or Choppin. Here is to be seen a strange mixture of merchants, newly-arrived immigrants, squatters, bullock-drivers, shopkeepers, loose characters, trafficking, blaspheming, laughing, singing, yelling, and drinking innumerable nobblers. Everybody goes there, for every business rendezvous is made at Choppin's. As I could get no conveyance to the port in the evening, I slept at an inn there. Each bed-room has three very plain sofa-couches; and I was told that if I didn't wish companions, I must pay for all three. The guests here live table d'hôte fashion, and their breakfasts, dinners, and teas, are served with a monotonous prodigality. At every meal there are beef sausages, mutton chops, beef steaks, roast mutton and boiled beef, good potatoes, and most delicious bread; and of these three substantial meals the guests partake with the most persevering elasticity. The table-talk is of bullocks, highly-flavoured with oaths, and each person seems bent on making his fortune as quickly as possible. [184] I can imagine the early Puritan settlers in North America to have been a very different set of persons. A young person at table, speaking contemptuously of some newly-arrived immigrants ('Jimmy Grants,' I think, was the slang term she applied to them), I asked her how long she had been out herself? 'Oh,' she said, 'I have been out six weeks, and I feel quite colonial already.' I told her I could well believe her. But the affectation and pretension of these people is to me very extraordinary. To hear them talk, you would suppose they had held important social positions in their fatherland, instead of which, three parts out of four have been driven out of it by hunger, or by crime.
July 8. - Steamed up the Yarra Yarra, whose banks are very ugly. They are low, covered with sad-looking, short scrub, and studded with boiling-down establishments, which circumfuse most fetid odours. In about a couple of hours arrived at Melbourne, a considerable town, sufficiently well situated on two hills and the intervening valley. The main streets are wide - too wide, if anything - and the drainage ought to be perfect. The river is spanned by a handsome stone bridge of one arch. The streets are infested by enormous dogs, who thrive here on the cheap butchers' meat. Went to a very excellent hotel called the Prince of Wales, where I dined and slept.
July 11. - Received an intimation from the Melbourne Club that I was received as an honorary member. Dined there with my introducer, an old member, and six others. We sat down at six o'clock at a well-appointed table, lighted by many wax-lights, and we were waited upon by two men-servants, one in dress livery the other out of livery. At night, as I lay on an excellent bed at the hotel, I could not help making the following reflections. Here am I, after a voyage of thirteen thousand or fourteen thousand miles through the great ocean, arrived on a vast continent, the existence of which was unknown to the world until two hundred years ago, and which was not inhabited by white men until sixty-two years ago. [185] More than that, I have been partaking of an excellent repast, served in a way which would be considered creditable in London or Paris, in the society of educated and wealthy men, in a portion of that continent which was only discovered seventeen or eighteen years ago, and in a city which sixteen years back was a savage waste, trodden by savage men in chase of the emu and the kangaroo. In this city there are 25,000 inhabitants, surrounded by all the necessaries and comforts of life; there are well-built houses; shops filled with everything one can require; two churches, besides chapels; active Ministers of all denominations; a well-managed custom-house, gaol, and post-office; numerous colonial trading vessels clustering at the river quays; while at the mouth of the Yarra, by William's Town, lie at anchor fourteen or fifteen full-rigged ships. What wonderful civilising tendencies the Anglo-Saxon race seems to have! Instruments are they of an All-Wise Providence to substitute in the remote extremities of the world humanising Christianity for savage Paganisos, a pure cods of morals for abominable impurities, government for anarchy, peace for bloodshed, industry for idleness, the certain fruits of agriculture for the precarious yield of the chase! An Englishman is never content to do anything that he undertakes, by halves; he will pull up all surrounding influences to his level; he never descends to them. It is the genius of the British colonist to reproduce in the most distant regions, and under the most unfavourable auspices, the minutest details of early associations, to surround himself at the antipodes with the atmosphere of home. With dogged energy he never rests till he has reduced to practice the great theories necessary to the births and existence of commonwealths, which have been familiar to him from his childhood. And this imitation of 'Home' is carried into all the details of private domestic life, even down to the furnishing of a house or the arranging of a dinner. And why has Providence chosen England from all other nations to carry Christianity, and its offspring, Civilisation, into the faraway wildernesses of distant lands, inhabited by savage men, devouring one another? How does this come to pass? If we may, without presumption, canvass the designs of Providence, the question would be capable of the following solution. [186] It is, then, that every Englishman is brought up from his earliest infancy to read, learn, and digest the pure and undefiled word of God. He early forms a habitude of judging for himself in religious matters, biased, perhaps, but not peremptorily dictated to, by any man, or any body of men. And this independence of judgement, once formed, extends naturally to secular matters, and prevents the growth of vacillation of character. And more than this, he learns within the book of life that every man should consider himself a responsible being, gifted with certain talents by his Creator, of which he is to make use. This gives him early an idea that he has an object in life, and that he must not run to seed down here; and though the religious part of the matter is, alas! often lost sight of, yet the mural tone remains kneaded into his character, and begets in him a ceaseless activity, and a tenacious perseverance in carrying out all that he begins. To this, I imagine, must be attributed the superiority of the English national character over all other national characters; and this is why he is called upon by Heaven to accomplish that in which other nations, from want of moral ballast - fixity of purpose, would fail.
July 14 (Sunday). - Waded to church through mud four inches deep. St. James's is the first church that was built in Melbourne. Its external architecture is very hideous; internally it is, if anything, worse.
Sept. 4. - We have weather, the like to which, for beauty, I have never experienced. Mountains at sixty miles' distance seem but twelve away, and the air is so pure and fresh that one feels as if he were inhaling laughing gas. Took a long walk in the environs the other side of the Yarra. All is beautiful, but the parched-looking green colour of the trees is a great drawback. Attended a government land sale. The land is put up in lots, varying from two roods to six hundred acres, at prices varying from one pound to three hundred pounds an acre. It is a strange sight to see the rough-looking bushmen, mixed up with tradesmen and gentlemen, eagerly bidding in a room blocked up with stores, some sitting upon, others straddling across, barrels, cases, chests, and boxes. [187]
Sept. 28. - After breakfast started for Gishorne.
Sept. 30. - Started for Melbourne after lunch, and rode there in four hours, stopping for twenty minutes or half-an-hour at the house of a rich importer and breeder of rams, situated on a plain of wonderful fertility. The last fifteen miles we rode in an hour and twenty minutes, without distressing the horses at all. Thus ends my tour in the Mount Macedon district, in which I was first initiated into the mysteries of squatting. In my childhood I always pictured squatters as a party of dirty people, squatting and lying round a large cauldron, full of inexpressible things, suspended from three sticks, and simmering over a fire. That idea has, I confess, a little haunted me since. At all events I never thought, until I went to Australia, a squatter's life to be an agreeable one; but now I am quite undeceived. I find well-educated and wealthy gentlemen squatting in the midst of their flocks and herds, surrounded by every comfort and luxury, and enjoying a delicious climate. They have nicely furnished dwellings; their dining-tables sparkle with glass and plate, and they ride the best of horses. Some of them are married, and the bush ladies make excellent managers, especially those that are gentlewoman by births. They have good gardens, which yield them flowers and vegetables; and they are permitted to cultivate as much land as their home consumption may require. As they have vast tracts of fertile land given them by the Government for sheep and cattle-runs, at almost a nominal yearly rent, it would not be just towards the farmers, who buy land at a high price, that they (the squatters) should be allowed to sell the product of the soil. But every squatting has its drawbacks; the sheep are liable to three diseases, one troublesome and noisome, called the foot-rot, the curs of which is one of the most disagreeable operations that one can imagine; the other two mortal and ruinous - scab, and the terrible catarrh. Sheep with foot-rot and scab can be dressed with mercurial preparations and turpentine. Loss and trouble enough supervene with these; but for catarrh there has been no remedy - no alleviatory course of treatment discovered. The only plan is to cut the throats of those sheep that show any symptoms of the disease, and draw off the unaffected ones to a distant part of the run, leaving that part tabooed for many a long day. [188] If there be a boiling-down establishment near, the bodies of the victims can be converted into tallow; if not, they must be burned or buried, and then the loss is total. Thus squatters - particularly those whose runs adjoin the high roads - have always the sword of ruin hanging over their heads. They are subject, too, to drought, when the stock dies from the drying up of the water-holes. Their sheep, also, get rushed and worried by the wild dogs; and some times Government steps in, when the lease of the run is up, to take possession of the land, that it may be surveyed and sold in lots for the purposes of cultivation. In that case the squatter receives just compensation for the buildings he has erected.
Oct. 11, 1851. - Walked about Melbourne, which, owing to the auri sacra fames, has quite a deserted appearance. Many of the shops are shut, the occupants having given up sure and profitable trades that they may have a chance of getting rich suddenly.
Oct. 13 - People mad about the Mount Alexander Diggings. Four hundred Van-Diemonians have just arrived from Tasmania, on their way to them. Dined with a Mr. B - , one of the first merchants here. He takes a great interest in the religious and social progress of my district, and highly approved of my scheme of making every important head sheep-station a nucleus from which religious knowledge might be diffused.
Nov. 1. - On my way back to my district rode through the Black Forest to Kyneton, where the large inn is full of people going to and returning from the diggings, eighteen miles off. People drinking and making a great noise all night. No talk but of gold, and of the great yield of the mines. The maid-servant, an Irish girl, as savage as the surrounding aborigines, pulled out of her dirty pocket three or four nuggets of gold to show me, worth, at least, 12£, which a digger had given her.
Nov. 3. - Visited the Mount Alexander Diggings, accompanied by a mounted policeman. [189] Rode along a mountainous road until we came to the locality where the gold was found. In a narrow valley between two ranges of lofty volcanic-looking hills were assembled, on the borders of a nearly exhausted stream, about three thousand men, some digging earth from pits êight feet square; others washing the earth in what are called 'cradles;' and others washing the bottoms of the contents of the cradles in tin dishes. In the background, away from the stream, were an infinite number of tents and shelters of every description. Looking by chance into one of the numerous pits I recognised a friend of mine, a young gentleman from Tasmania, who, with five others, were come here, hoping to make their fortune. After digging through four feet of gravel they had come to a stratum of decomposed slats, which they were washing to great advantage. I saw my friend pick with his penknife into a tin box from the sides of the pit a great number of small bits of very pure gold, about four times as large as a pin's head. On Friday last they got two ounces; on Saturday, three; and to-day they had already got five, when I was there. It is a very exciting occupation. The sight of a quantity of rich virgin gold just taken from the surrounding mould agitates the nerves strangely.
Nov. 8. - Arrived in my district across the Murray. Found a mob of drunken men and a conjurer in the public room at Marsden's Inn. This vice of drunkenness prevails to a frightful extent everywhere here. And thus it comes to pass. It is rarely the custom to keep wines, or beer, or spirits at the sheep-stations. So people when at home, whether masters at the chief hut, or shepherds at the remote outstanding hut, drink nothing but raking green tea, which I believe would be poisonous, if this effects of the copperas were not neutralised by an enormous quantity of sugar. Drinking several times in the day of this liquid, they get their stomachs into such a nervous, sensitive state, that when they have occasion to visit a public-house, requiring some tonic, they drink madly of spirituous and fermented liquors. And to drink moderately of wholesome drink would be advantageous to them, but as the rum is strongly tinctured with tobacco, the beer embittered with strichnia, and the wine is some odious fabrication into which juice of the grape enters not, those who drink with comparative sobriety earn a headache, those who drink to excess subject themselves to delirium tremens. [190]
Dec. 16. - Arrived at Deniliquin, having employed yesterday and to-day in travelling on horseback from Moolamon, a distance of seventy miles. Found all in confusion at the inn: the landlord and landlady are in bed ill; the other is tipsy; the whole population seems to be on the point of leaving for the diggings. And it is not to be wondered at; for I know to a certainty, that a labouring man, one of a party at the diggings, has gained for his share twenty ounces of gold in eight days.