Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III.: 1854–1859. - Letters and Journal
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER III.: 1854–1859. - William Stanley Jevons, Letters and Journal 
Letters and Journal of W. Stanley Jevons, edited by his Wife (Harriet A. Jevons) (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Ship “Oliver Lang,” 11th September 1854.
“Dearest Father—As we are now in pretty nearly the last week of the voyage to Melbourne, it is high time to be beginning some sort of an account of it, to let you know how pleasantly it has been passed by myself, or how unpleasantly by others. … In the Tropics it was certainly often extremely hot, but we felt it less than I expected, and the delightfully cool evenings made up for the days. For two or three days near the Tropics we had rather curiously in the middle of a dead calm a very large but low swell, which shook the ship about in a most uneasy and uncomfortable manner—it must have been caused by a storm just before. I can remember perfectly some of the splendidly fine days we had in the Tropics when we were lying on the deck under the awning all day, reading, playing draughts, or cards, etc., after tea, watching the sun set and the moon rise, and then sitting out in the night till late. Sometimes the sun went down quite alone without a cloud all over the sky. More often there were clouds of all variety of shapes. One time the sky all round was covered with bright fiery-coloured clouds, which, being of a scattered shape, looked exactly like ridges of flames; another time there were splendid mountainous masses of cloud about the sun, with others of different shapes and colours about the sky. Besides the clouds, there were the tints of the sky, which were very beautiful, chiefly singular greens, every variety of reds and oranges, and, after the sun set, a very beautiful rose or pink tint. Not to tire you as we were tired with too much fine weather, I must come to the gales. We saw a little of the sort on the 22d of August, but on the 24th at 10 p.m. began the strongest. Though the captain had fully expected it, he had, according to his usual custom, kept all sail out. One topsail was reefed by the men very slowly, but they as good as refused to reef the two others, though ready hauled up, and accordingly they were both soon torn; three of the stay sails had been split at the first, and the three jibs were torn completely to shreds. These, with one royal, made nine sails more or less injured. The next day a different gale came on at 10 a.m., and we ran all day before the wind with only the mainsail and foresail set, looking more like a wreck than anything. A very heavy sea, of course, rose, and the large waves rolling in astern, and leaving by the head, looked very grand, and more like rather distant mountains and valleys than anything else.
“On 4th September and the night before we had another tremendous gale, during which five or six more of the principal sails were more or less torn, including the mainsail and foresail. About this time, too, we had plenty of hail and snow, and water often froze on the deck.
“Since then we have only had one other gale worth mentioning, on the 9th, but the captain had taken in sail before it began, and we ran quite safely and without injury through it with close-reefed topsails. Studding sail booms have been carried away without number from time to time, and two of them by dipping into the waves and snapping off with the force of the ship's motion. I always said that the ship could not be rigged well in such a short time as it was, and it is quite proved now by many things which are defective. Most of the iron-work is of the most horrible iron, and this is the chief cause of the loss of so many sails, as well as of the falling of two of the topsail yards, though luckily not down to the deck.
“We have, of course, had the usual succession of fishes and birds to amuse us. We wondered for a long time at the porpoises, until at last some dolphins were seen, a small one of which was caught by a line. In the Tropics we saw thousands of the small white flying fish, sometimes chased by porpoises, and at length a shark appeared with his two pilot fish. He swam round the vessel for some time, but was caught, with some difficulty. Several others were caught from time to time, but the best sport was with the last one—he appeared in the middle of some Cape pigeons he was trying to catch, but soon came up to the ship. The hook with a large piece of pork was put over the stern, and we saw him slowly turn over twice and take it in his mouth. He was not, however, hooked till the third bite, when he was hauled straight up and dragged away to be cut up. He was about five or six feet long, and had a pigeon in his stomach, swallowed whole.
“We have had Cape pigeons following the ship now for nearly a month. They are very pretty black and white birds, of the shape of a pigeon, and fly about the stern in great numbers. Among them are nearly always several albatrosses. We have seen none of these of a white all over, and most are of a dull black, but they are magnificent birds, floating about in the air with the greatest ease, and without even moving their wings, which I have scarcely ever seen them flap. I have had very poor luck with my lines. We had some very pleasant meetings with ships till the bad weather began, since which we have not seen one. On the 23d of July the Fletcher, from London to New Zealand, came up to us, and ran a race for several days, falling back at last. There were often two or three in view at the same time, but there was no chance of sending a letter back.
“To come now to the first cabin passengers, it is no easy matter to know how to tell you about the continual quarrels. They have affected me very little, as I have been on friendly terms with almost everybody, but even considering that we are all Australian emigrants, and that most are only second cabin passengers turned into the first cabin, I could scarcely have conceived that so much jealousy and hatred, as well as petty quarrelling, could have been crammed into such a small place as this cabin during three months. …. I kept clear of everything, till finding that Mr. Lane was not the one in fault, and that he was a gentleman well worth knowing, I became more intimate with him. Mr. Lane is from Cork, but has lived twenty years in different parts of France, so as to have taken completely the appearance of a Frenchman. He has been lately professor of literature (English, I suppose) in the College of Amiens. He is therefore a very well educated man, and knows a great many of the first men of France. I have had a great many very pleasant talks with him, but he has rather extraordinary political opinions, being a regular republican, engaged a little in the revolutions at Paris, as well as the Irish Rebellion. He is going to Sydney to see his father, and I shall therefore probably see something more of him. Mr. Newton is the one I care most for after him. He is a working engineer, at one time an engine-driver, but a very superior man. He has been engaged making the mint machinery, and is sent out to see it put up. After that he will remain there on his own account, but will probably be employed by the mint. As he is such a sensible, pleasant man, I shall try to get him to let me lodgings in the house he is going to take for his wife and family, and I should then, I expect, be comfortable enough. I should even, if possible, like to have my laboratory in the same house, but I cannot tell how it can be settled till it comes to the fact.
“About John Anderson, my chum, I need only say that he is as good a fellow in every way as I could wish to know, but he is going to a farm near Sydney, and I shall not see very much of him. Mr. Day, a retired old grocer and butter dealer from Shoreditch, London, is one of the kindest old men I ever knew. He has told me so many tales about all he has seen and done in London that I think I could write his Life. He is a great cribbage player, and I have had some very pleasant games to help over the long evenings, reading being impossible. Mr. Day is going to Melbourne, as well as Mr. Grylls, a young solicitor, and a sporting gentleman. Mr. Clarence (alias Joseph) Holt is a very amusing sort of man, but not from his acting, which is all tragedy. He is in a state of the greatest fear during the gales, standing in one corner of the cabin and asking everybody who passes what they think of the danger. The second cabin passengers are, on the whole, a very disagreeable set, though Charles Bolton's1 chums are amongst the best of them. The third cabin and intermediate passengers, on the contrary, are the best behaved in the ship. I have read very little, a thing nearly impossible on a ship, but have spent the time chiefly in watching the weather and such things, talking, and playing draughts and cards. In the fine weather, especially in the Tropics, this was all very pleasant, but since the stormy weather and long nights began it has got more tiresome. Twenty-four hours of some of the gales we had is enough to tire anybody out, from the motion of the vessel, noise, and wet; and I can give you no idea of what scenes there sometimes were at dinner, when, with a sudden lurch, hams, fowls, loaves, and cheeses, would roll off the table; water, soup, gravy, etc., would spill over you; and the knives and forks would fly into the corners of the cabin.
Off Port Phillip Heads, 22d September 1854.
“At last we are in sight of land, and lying several miles outside the harbour, with the pilot on board, and all anxious to get in, but without a breath of wind to take us in. We were expecting land all yesterday, and at seven o'clock in the evening the revolving light on Cape Otway was seen right ahead of us. The first land or mark of any sort that we had seen since we lost sight of Cape Clear. We hove to ten or fifteen miles from it, in order not to reach the Heads too early in the morning, and you may imagine what a pleasure it was to feel yourself near land, the Heads being then just in sight. The pilot came on board at eight o'clock, but the breeze had gone down entirely, and we therefore did not attempt to enter. At six o'clock p.m. a light breeze sprang up, which brought us just within the harbour, where we are anchored close to two lighthouses on Shortlands Bluff. The air now has a very distinct and pleasant smell of the land, and the water is of a dull green instead of its usual deep blue. We shall start to-morrow morning for Melbourne, which is still forty miles off. The coast on the western side of the entrance is very like that near Liverpool in appearance, with a small hill exactly like Dinas Dinlle, near Carnarvon; on the other side it is more uneven and rocky, with a range of hills in the distance. With the telescope I can see very plainly the scrubby dark-coloured trees and the dull green hills just above the beach. The day is very fine and warm, and I should like nothing better than a walk among the rocks and trees. There are splendid pieces of branched red sea-weed floating on the water, which show me what to expect. Since I wrote last we have had some more stormy weather, particularly a very heavy gale on the night of the 14th, and a very sudden and violent squall on the 18th. One day a shoal of large grampuses passed us, which looked very singular with their great round snouts slowly rolling out of the sides of the waves. On the 14th and 16th we had fine displays of the aurora australis, which were much finer than anything I have seen of the sort in England.
Melbourne, Sunday, 24th September 1854.
“Here we are, anchored a mile or two from Melbourne, and near enough to the shore for us to examine by the telescope the manner of life in Australia. The appearance of the houses in Richmond and Williamstown, which we see, is very strange and ugly, and tents are very common. The land round Melbourne is flat and not very inviting, but there are ranges of hills all round in the distance very similar in appearance to the Carnarvonshire mountains. I shall very probably go on shore to-morrow, and I have rather luckily made out Caldwell, Train, and Company's name on a large building at the water's edge. …”
On the 6th of October 1854, after a voyage of a hundred days, the ship Oliver Lang anchored off Sydney; and on the 16th of October Stanley wrote to his sister Lucy: “The passage from Melbourne was a very long and tedious one for the distance, and we were for five or six days continually expecting to be at Port Jackson the next day. At last we got up one morning with the port in sight, and I was quite disappointed to see nothing but bare perpendicular rocks and barren hills. I could not understand all I had heard about the beauty of Port Jackson till we got quite into it. Then I thought it really the most beautiful place I had ever seen. You must imagine an ornamental lake something like the Prince's Park, one of a very large size, with a continual succession of bays, creeks, points, and islands. The banks are everywhere old rocks overgrown with bushes and trees—with very neat gentlemen's houses here and there—and when you get to the shore, the rocks under water are covered with sea-weeds and oysters and other shells. Altogether it is the most beautiful bit of scenery I ever saw, the different views of bays and points being endless in number. When I got into the town I was glad to find it looked such a pleasant old place, most of the streets being something like those of an old English town, though the verandahs round many of the houses give it a curious appearance. In the day-time I have not been able to sit still for a whole hour together, I am sure, but have been perpetually walking about town or else in the Domain. The latter is a sort of natural park—the best part lying along the side of Woolloomoolloo (can you spell it?) Bay. It is very beautiful, with its rocks and gum-trees, the shore being rather like that at the Dingle [near Liverpool], the water, however, washing up to the rocks, and with no tide worth speaking of. A part of the Domain is separated off as a botanic garden. There is no conservatory there, for bamboos, India-rubber trees, prickly pears, and other tropical plants grow in the open air, and geraniums, roses, and all the regular garden plants are flowering splendidly in the spring. Fruit is another good thing here. The native oranges and lemons are very fine, and good ones at about the same prices as in England, so that we eat a great number, while the fruit loquats are very cheap. These are a sort of small apple with immensely large pips filling half the inside, but they eat more like a half-ripe cherry than anything else. We shall have peaches and grapes very soon. I have been two or three times a short distance into the bush, but shall soon go rather farther. In most places it is literally nothing but bush right up to the shores near Sydney, and if you walk a few yards into it you see a most extraordinary variety of flowers and flowering shrubs. I was quite astonished the first time Mr. Newton and I went a walk; almost every flower we met was a very pretty one, but quite different from the last, till we picked, I should think, thirty or forty different flowers in the course of half an hour. You may imagine what a collection I shall have.”
On the 16th October he also wrote to his father: “It was fortunate that before I left England I had never expected the mint to be ready till about Easter, for otherwise I should certainly have been disappointed to hear that the building had hardly been begun (only six weeks since), that rents were enormously high, and that there was very little other assaying to do.”
By the terms of the appointment of the two assayers to the mint, they were to have their own assay offices, and might undertake assays for banks or for private persons as well as for the mint. The first object therefore with Stanley was to find a place in which he could set up his apparatus. After a considerable search, in which he was aided by his friend Mr. Miller, the other assayer to the mint, he found a two-roomed cottage, 8 Church Hill, which he engaged at the rent of £2 a week. He describes it to his father as standing in a yard behind a warehouse, but close to the best part of the town. He then continues: “As to the cottage, I think we could hardly have made a better assay office with all the planning and considering we had together. The laboratory room, which has been a kitchen, has no ceiling, but is open to the roof as well as along over the ceiling of the other room. This will make it cool and airy, but the ceiling of the small room, being floored above, makes a storeroom for everything I shall have to put in it. I think I can manage to put up the cupel and melting furnaces without disturbing the chimney and fireplace much, and the other fittings-up and furniture will not be so expensive as you would imagine. As to domestic arrangements, I am going to buy a small sofa-bed to sleep in, in my private room, while Charles will sleep somewhere about the laboratory or loft. We shall probably cook for ourselves entirely, and I have calculated that we shall live so cheaply in this way that the whole expenses and rent will not be so much as continuing in lodgings. You will probably say that we shall be uncomfortable living by ourselves in this way, but it must be done, as I have not money otherwise, and it is not thought at all an extraordinary thing here.
“There are some disadvantages about this cottage certainly; it is an old tumble-down place with lots of cobwebs and rats, and Mr. Korff has the lease for about a year more only, so that I may then be turned out, though, as he says, he will most likely have it again, and let it to me again. I shall therefore make the least possible alteration or improvements, and there would be less trouble in moving than perhaps you would imagine.”
On November 12th he writes again to his father: “The fittings I have done in the laboratory since I wrote are (besides the cupel furnace, which is put up in the corner) building the melting furnace, making the laboratory table, the work-bench and some other things, setting the balance in order, and getting the gasfittings done. I daresay you will wonder that I have done so little, and I am myself astonished that work should take so long and be so tiring. The melting furnace I built with Mr. Miller's help, and though at first our brickwork looked rather crooked and loose, it has turned out much better than I expected. The draught is excellent, and will be better when everything is finished, and the furnace is very convenient to work at. It is bound together with sheet-iron corners and iron hoops; next it I have put up again the old oven, which may be useful. The greater part of the chimney is stopped up with sheet-iron. The gasmen have been at work now for two or three days, and everything is done but joining on the service pipe to the fittings inside, which will be done to-morrow morning. …. By the end of this next week I hope to be really in working order, which it is high time that I was.”
In his journal he writes on the 5th of January 1855: “Time gets on fast, and I begin to feel the necessity of doing something satisfactory, and of carrying out to some small extent all the fine things I have imagined. In the last eighteen months what serious advance have I made in knowledge? I made some progress in geology, of which I was before that time quite ignorant, and I am gradually getting some ideas in meteorology, and such half sciences, but that good solid foundation of all other scientific knowledge—mathematics—I have attempted as yet in vain, and I am afraid that I have lost the habit of studying, and cannot concentrate and direct my thoughts as I used. Still, I think this is no wonder, considering the worry, anxiety, and labour after common things and arrangements that I have had to go through. These may have been useful to me, but any advantage I may have derived from such changes and troubles must be set down under a different head, for they have not helped me on with study. For many months yet, too, I cannot look forward to be settled and to have my mind free for the subjects I wish. Of one thing, however, I am glad, I begin to feel that liking for, and interest in, history, poetry, and literature in general, which I always expected would come to me some day. It is certainly a much less severe exercise of the mind than the mathematical sciences, and I hope I shall not get to indulge too freely in it.
“It seems rather strange to say so now, but I cannot see that coming on such an errand as this to Australia will at all benefit me ultimately. It is a perfectly decided thing in my mind to be at home again in from five to ten years, and as I have no intention of being nothing better than an assayer or chemist all my life, I shall have to begin life on a new bottom. Only I shall begin this second time under considerable advantages, backed by a small capital (supposing everything to go on well here), my mind well formed and its direction clearly determined, with a good many years colonial experience of the world, which will be equal to double as much home experience, and I hope with knowledge and abilities which will enable me to get a good stand wherever the standing-place may be.”
He continued to live at Church Hill until the end of April 1855, when he moved to the house of his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Miller, at Petersham, a suburb of Sydney, and during the rest of his stay in Australia he made his home with them first at Petersham and then at Double Bay, where Mr. Miller built a house. Of the latter place Stanley had always a very pleasant remembrance, and spoke of it as the most delightful situation in which he had ever lived. He describes it in one of his letters.
When the mint got into working order it was arranged that the assayers should have their offices in the building, and should receive a fixed salary, giving up all assays for the public. They were also repaid for the expensive apparatus which it had been necessary to purchase, and as Mr. Thomas Jevons had advanced the money to his son for the apparatus, and for the outfit, his son repaid him as soon as he could.
This arrangement with the mint was much preferred by Stanley, as it gave him fixed hours of work, and left the rest of his time at his own disposal. At Mr. Miller's house he passed the evenings in his own little study, occupying himself with meteorology, reading, or music, except when the mail was leaving for England, when his leisure hours were spent in writing long letters home full of interesting descriptions of his new life.
To his sister Lucy.
Annangrove Cottage, Sydney, 28th May 1855.
“… I am now at my new, and I hope final, lodgings here, and I have been here three weeks already. I have been living, of course, in a more comfortable and civilised way, but the chief comfort is, that I now have regular and moderately hard work every day in town, after disposing of which, I come out here to spend the evening quietly either in my own room or the parlour (for we have regained the long-lost distinctions of parlour, drawing-room, sitting, bedroom, kitchen, etc.) My little room will be much more comfortable when I have got a few more things for furniture. If I get the first payment of my salary towards the end of this week I shall probably buy a bookcase with glass doors to keep my books and other things clean and out of the way. Possibly I may even spend £30 in getting an harmonium, as I wish very much to have a little music; but this may seem very extravagant. My life is now as active as it was idle a little time since. I get up about eight, off to town at nine, getting to the office by ten o'clock. The assays there, if an easy batch, are finished by four or five o'clock, and I start off back for dinner. The distance to my office is quite four miles, and I walk on an average six miles out of the eight; still, though quite fresh to it, I do not find it too much, and am often ready in the evenings to cut firewood, etc. In fact, I am in most excellent health, and this place is a deal better than Sidney for health. The road is one continuous line from here to Church Hill—viz., along the Parramatta Road, Parramatta Street, and George Street, and a more disagreeable road it is impossible to conceive—dusty or muddy, straight, and going through the hills by cuttings. It is crowded in the daytime with herds of cattle and sheep, bullock teams, drags going up the country, mail coaches, omnibuses, diggers on horseback, etc.; in fact, it is something like what the roads must have been in England before the time of the railways.”
To his sister Henrietta.
Annangrove Cottage, Sydney. 1st July 1855.
“I will now tell you a little about the house I am living in here. It is a low neatly-built Australian-shaped house; the little dining-room is comfortable, and looks on to the road; the drawing-room is a fine room of three windows, comfortably and handsomely furnished, and which would be admired as a good room anywhere. My little room is awkwardly shaped and placed, but being now furnished according to my own ideas of comfort, convenience, and elegance, I am thoroughly satisfied with it At one end is the harmonium, always open and ready for an occasional tune; the bookcase is a really handsome one, with glass doors, standing on a chiffonier containing a large drawer and fine cupboard to hold large books, and other things.
“It is easier to plan than to perform things, but, of course, when the work of the mint becomes easy and regular I shall begin to think of long walks, collecting Australian plants, etc. Returning to home matters, however pleasant life here may become, one does not look upon it for one moment but as temporary. Everybody talks of home, even, it is said, those who have been born here; but whatever other people do, home, you may depend upon it, I shall come in due time. These thoughts occur to me now more especially because last Wednesday or Thursday was the first anniversary of the day on which I left home. If other years pass as quickly as this seems to have done, and they will no doubt pass quicker, the time will not seem so far distant.
“… By the by, very fortunately, the day before yesterday I found a delightful way to the town through woods and dales instead of along a dusty road. I start off in the wood at our back door, and walk through close tall gum-trees and over picturesque rocks for a full mile, when I come to a stream, an inlet of the harbour; this is crossed by a bridge formed of a large gum-tree which has been blown down and fallen across it, a long row of bullocks' skulls being laid in the mud as stepping-stones on one side: the view here along the stream is also quite pretty, at least to Australian eyes. Then another mile through bush land and trees brings me within a few hundred yards of the omnibus stand at the end of the town.”
To his Father.
Annangrove Cottage, Sydney. 16th July 1855.
“… The first good news as to money matters is Captain Ward's proposal of a fixed salary. To know that I have really accepted and received the salary of £675 would, of course, remove all your anxiety about my money affairs, for I have been getting very low in pocket. I have now, however, the pleasure of repaying instead of borrowing money, and am sending £180, which is as much of the £200 granted for back salary as I can well spare now. Before the end of the year I shall no doubt be able to send some more, particularly if we receive soon the £200 owing us for apparatus. I must say the money has given me very little satisfaction, except that of sending it home. Whether in the bank or in your pocket I find £100 like a very disagreeable weight upon the mind, so I shall be very glad when it is off my hands, though I hope safe in yours. I don't know whether I shall feel the same with respect to money always, but if so it is rather depressing. …
“We are not altogether without amusements here, and I have been several times lately to the theatre to see Brooke act. I like a play now as well as anybody, but it involves a long solitary walk at night, which suggests revolvers and convict highwaymen.
“I am telling you now, however, very little of the assaying. Even now, when so little gold is coming in, we are very hard worked; and if we had any large quantity of coinage we should require additional assistants. It is the common remark at the mint that the assayers are the hardest worked of any. We have also not been altogether free from anxiety about these sovereigns, but I have no doubt they will be all right. They are now getting quite commonly into circulation.”
He writes in his journal, 4th November 1855: “For pretty nearly as long as I can remember I have been accustomed, as a habit, I believe, to the pursuit of some particular subject, and when I think about it, it occurs to me that I have had a regular succession of subjects, each of which has had my voluntary attention for a year or two at a time. Botany is about the first subject I think of; and to this I very distinctly recollect my mother, of loved memory, trying to direct my liking. In fact, at home are all the books, each of which I can remember her giving me, and of the little microscope particularly I can remember every circumstance. Botany was for a long time, in fact till within a few years since, my only voluntary study. From want of any other help than books I got on very slowly, and I never had more than the slightest knowledge of it, though a practical one. Still I liked it exceedingly, and no doubt the time was not lost time.
“Up to the time of my going to London what a little I knew of any science but botany; I had tried to read a book or two on parts of natural philosophy (Library of Useful Knowledge), but I knew not one fact of chemistry except the recollection of one or two of Roscoe's experiments which I treasured up in my mind.
“At University College School I took to chemistry, and went on fiercer and fiercer at it till I got the gold medal at college: the part of chemistry I liked best was molecular philosophy, and this I followed out a little, though, from its branching out into nearly all the other sciences, it was a serious affair. One, crystallography, in particular I liked.
“While learning assaying in London, another science rose to the top, i.e. geology, and I followed it through a few books and two or three excursions near London and Paris. Finally I have come to, and am pretty hard on, meteorology. Buff's Physics of the Earth, recommended to us by Graham, was the first book I read on it, and my first thermometer observation was made in the half year before sailing for Australia.
“I had a thermometer with me, and intended taking the temperature of the air on the voyage several times a day. However, I broke it in taking the temperature of the sea a few days out, and then I was obliged to content myself with what I could write down of the weather. A very short meteorological journal I carried on throughout the voyage, but I was ignorant of the proper meanings and distinctions of the common names of the clouds, and had no means of any exact description. Nevertheless I saw enough to interest me very much in the clouds and several parts of meteorology, and on landing I determined as soon as possible to begin a proper series of observations.
“In the middle of January, about three months after my arrival, I began, buying a maximum and minimum thermometer. In such a place as Church Hill I was awfully puzzled to know where to place it; at last I put it in a thick flat wooden box fixed against the wall of my cottage, and surrounded on all sides by walls. There, if anywhere, it was first-rately protected from the sun's direct influence, but what fraction of the daily range it showed I cannot say. I made my own barometer, and used it for some months, not caring much for the bubble of air at the top. Two observations a day I took from the first, at 9 a.m. and p.m.”
To his brother Herbert.
Petersham, Near Sydney, N.S.W., 29th November 1855.
“The mint goes on swimmingly now, 20,000 oz. being an ordinary week's receipt. Nevertheless I cannot say we are overworked, for we get to do the assays very quickly, and often do not work longer than from ten to three. Still, when you add in everything that I have to do, it does not turn out to be a very easy life.
“On the whole, however, I may say that we are getting on at Petersham better than ever we did before, and there is nothing like an active life to be pleasant.
“These few nights I am very busily engaged copying out a register of the weather kept on board the Maid of Judah, from London, by the captain. It was the ship Mr. Trickett came out in two voyages ago. I am copying the whole for Trickett, as well as parts for myself. The observations are every two hours, but were made in a rough sailor-like manner; still, they are worth having. At the same time we are having thunder-showers here, and the splendid thunder-clouds cause me a deal of trouble in observation and description, etc.
“A little time ago I was at a very jolly thing, viz. a moonlight concert in the Domain. It struck my fancy as the most enjoyable way of hearing music, from the place and manner being completely natural. The Domain is a sort of natural park, and you walk about it or lie on the grass in the moonlight just as you like.”
To his Father.
Petersham, N.S.W., 18th January 1856.
“I know that at any time you will be glad to have a letter from me, and so, without any particular prospect of a mail, I am going to write you a few pages. I have been much occupied the last twenty-four hours with an incident that occurred to me last night, and which I shall not easily forget. On going upstairs to bed about 10.30 p.m., with a candle, I had got but a short distance into the room when I saw a long irregular black thing lying on the floor. I was puzzled at first to think what it was, but a very few moments of examination were required to decide the question, for it was without doubt a black snake, and still further to convince me, the thing began to move and to hiss! To tell the truth, I then went out of the room quite as fast as I came in (as people say), and, to have him in safe keeping, shut the door. On returning with Mr. O'Connell, provided with sticks, etc., for his destruction, we could see nothing of him, but ultimately discovered him hidden in a corner under the bed, from which being displaced, Mr. O'Connell soon killed him with a few good knocks, but not before he had made a great display of his wide-opened mouth and forked tongue. The fellow was then found to be over a yard long, but though he be no wonder himself, everybody acknowledges it to be the most singular fact they remember of a snake getting into a house, for besides crossing the yard, he had to go up several stone steps into the lobby, and then up long, steep, and rather awkward stairs into the room. Everybody says, too, that he is a regularly poisonous rascal. It is well, however, that it was as it was, for if he had simply moved under the bed before I came in, I should have probably gone to bed with him under me—a very disagreeable thought. I have thus been giving you an account of the affair as lengthily as if I had been talking to you, and I do not know what for, unless for my own satisfaction and amusement, but I hope not to your alarm. It is singular that this is the first snake of any size that any of us have met this summer, and in all probability I may go to bed every day of my life and not meet a second.
“… Though often rather tired with assaying in the midst of hot winds and the present awfully close weather, I am very jolly and well. Last Monday I went a long walk through the bush and swamps to the shores of Botany Bay, but it is rather an uninteresting place, except for its associations, and I got back without anything worth relating. …
“Sunday, 27th January.—In many of your letters, some months since, you noticed my having been to a déjeûner at Dawes Battery last year, and seemed to take pleasure in it. The same thing came off yesterday again, being a general holiday for the anniversary of the foundation of the colony; but as Captain Ward, of course, knows ten times as many people as he did then, it was on a much more extensive scale. It was most excessively formal; but I found it easy to get on without being noticed for any peculiarity among the number of people, and I was somewhat pleased to have an opportunity of observing the Australian aristocracy. That you may understand the occasion of the whole affair, you must know that the Sydney people, liking holidays, make the anniversary day a good excuse for one, and the whole town turns out in a way unknown in England, unless it be a Good Friday or a Fast-Day. The chief attraction is the regatta, the principal one of the year, and the points at Fort Macquarie and Dawes Battery are crowded with people, as well as all other places within sight Captain Ward's house, on the top of the point, has the best view of the whole; and from the pictures you have of the harbour you can imagine what a really beautiful scene it is to see it covered with different yachts and sailing boats, innumerable row boats, many of the large coasting steamers strolling about with bands, and full of visitors, and all the shipping and flag-poles fully decorated with flags. Any one arriving from sea on a regatta day must indeed think Sydney a fine place.”
This last letter, addressed to his father, was never received by him; he had died in the previous November, but so long did it then take for letters to reach Australia that it was the 14th February before his son received the news. Mr. Thomas Jevons was travelling in Italy with his eldest daughter and niece. An entry in his son's journal says: “At an hotel at Pisa, just at the commencement of his return journey, he was suddenly seized, on the night of the 7th November 1855, with an attack of cholera, and after severe suffering, soothed only by the presence of his most dearly-loved daughter Lucy, he died on the morning of the 8th.”
A few days after the news reached him, Stanley re-read all his father's letters to him, numbering them, and entering in his journal the contents of each letter, and any remarks which the chief passages called forth. Referring to the letter dated 18th April 1855 he writes: “Next he refers with evident pleasure to the improving condition of their iron business, and also to his plans, which have since acquired such a melancholy interest, of extending their business to the Continent. It is evident, in fact, that he had already made up his mind for a continental journey, which he had long looked forward to as a crowning pleasure of his life. In reading it, however much I might wish that he were still living, I feel not even the slightest possible tinge of regret at the plan. After many years of anxiety, trouble, and sorrow, he found his affairs continually growing more and more cheerful in aspect, and he died at a moment when everything was prosperous and satisfactory, and himself in the midst of the truest enjoyments.”
To his sister Lucy.
14th February 1856.
“A sad day indeed has this been to me, for the mail, per Mermaid, this morning brought me numerous letters, in which the one intelligence was the death of a father such as ours was, far away from our common home, and that home still farther off from me. Your letter (of 12th November), I may truly say, has been a very great comfort to me, written with so much feeling and love, which I know could never be away from you; but also in so collected and thoughtful a manner, as could hardly be expected after such a sudden and heavy loss, and in such desolate circumstances. I thank you for it, particularly for portions of it assuring me that my conduct and progress (such as it is) were to the last a great satisfaction, nay, a great pleasure, to him. This forms my chief consolation now, and will through life leave a bright mark of joy upon his memory. This great loss must of course alter for all of us very much our motives, duties, and plans. For myself I feel as if I had very suddenly and almost unexpectedly lost an object which for a long time has been more and more a motive urging me to exertion, namely, to please him whom God has just taken from us, and thus partially to repay the affection which he has always shown to all of us in such perfection and constancy; the same must be the case with each of us, particularly with you whose part it has been so long to care and manage for him, and whom he speaks of in one of his letters to me as acting as his ‘right hand.’ But you will stop me instantly and say that, though he is no longer bodily present with us, we must act on, in such a way as would give him pleasure still; and, besides this, that we still remain bound by the affections of brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, one feels that the loss of our last parent is like the removal of a rest upon which we stood, and that now one enters the problem of life in a wider, freer, but perhaps less cheerful sense. Such at least it is with me; but a little thought and habit will no doubt bring things back to a more regular and proper course. … You have mentioned his pleasure in reading my last letters received in Rome. I wonder what those letters were? I am afraid my letters there were not so long and good as I have since tried to make them; and it is sorrowful to think that my letters will still keep arriving at Chatham Street for six months, and he no longer there to read them. You mention some small gold coins which he was keeping for me; they will be kept as carefully as a small present I received in a similar way through Uncle Dick from my mother. As to any other things, I had better leave it altogether in your hands. The drawings of parts of Pisa will be a very thoughtful present of yours.
“As to the journey, it really seems as if the pain were diminished by knowing that his life was terminated in the midst of such really deep pleasure, almost happiness, which I can well believe he took in great and interesting sights, and as his letters and descriptions plainly show. From all accounts, and my own knowledge, this journey has for some time been a favourite design and object of his life; and as all pleasure and good is to be got only by exertion, and as exertion must be accompanied by risk, thus alone has arisen the occasion of his death. Also, if I understand rightly his object in combining business with travelling, the present state of affairs with America is near upon the point of proving his foresight. He seems to have been excellently attended in his short illness, and you were fortunate in finding such a kind man as Dr. Lambe. … As for myself, I take it and bear it, I hope, as I ought. Beyond half a day (Mr. Miller taking a box of assays off my hands) it will not interrupt my usual business, and the people at the mint will know or observe little more than the simple fact. But it will be long before the current of my thoughts in private can be turned from constantly dwelling on you and the others now forming my much-changed home. Thus have I given you with much more freedom than perhaps I should on any less occasion all my thoughts for the first few hours after getting the letters, and the time spent in writing this is in the dead and quiet of the night, which seems the pleasantest of the day; for never before did I feel more inclined to be and think alone, unless indeed I could be in Liverpool; and it is the first time I have been able to consider things calmly and fully, and without the confusion of thoughts that one has at first.”
“Monday Evening, 18th February.—Though my thoughts have been almost throughout the day ever upon you and the one sad subject, the work and other occupations of the day are now done and laid aside, and I sit down for a quiet think and a quiet write. It is my way of bearing such a loss without anybody near to sympathise with me. Last night was the most beautiful night conceivable, or that in fact I think I have ever seen. A cloudless sky, bright moonlight casting shadows among the trees, and air so warm and yet so pleasant that I sat out late at night, and felt no feeling of chill. But the beauty of the weather only reminded me the more of Italy, which this country is said to resemble most in climate, and the very hot wind we had to-day is like the sirocco. Thus I shall often be reminded while here, even by the weather, of the place and beauties amid which our father died; and you no doubt too will similarly feel anything reminding you of the scenes you saw when accompanying him there. I must say I think of these things with feelings scarcely to be called painful, so happy is it to be able to know that at the last his life was full of pleasure and satisfaction: when one thinks of it thus one could hardly wish it otherwise, for the very taking of such a long journey shows conclusively that his mind was quite at ease as to money matters, and free from other anxieties, except that indeed of getting back safe for his children's sake; and as to this he was saved from pain by the shortness of his illness. Under this view, you can, no more than I am sure that I should, feel regret about this journey, or look back upon it with anything like pain.
“Dearest Lucy, you tell me ‘never to forget that home will not have passed away because the head has gone.’ These words I shall remember, for they are intended to remind me that your love and the others, as well as affections, perhaps, that we shall now more than ever feel the value of, remain. Yes, home will always remain, and in conception will have the same good, indeed heavenly, influence over us in all places; but how can we hope always to ‘think of it as of old?’ for we must all feel that Providence often separates those who love each other best, and that a family must often be broken up for its mutual advantage. I set not my hopes, then, in living again in a settled home, for we do not know how our lots may next be cast. In this I particularly, have been well instructed, for, for three years I lived the greater part away, and then when I would not willingly have gone again, the offer of this affair made it evident that on all accounts I must, and so I left for longer than ever, but is it not sure that he felt much more sorrow in sending me than I perhaps in going? In all probability then, we must be contented with two things: 1st, we must treasure up the remembrances of home as it was long ago ‘of old,’ and this I am sure will remain with me, more than with most men, the happiest recollection of my life; 2d, we must still keep up a sort of ideal home formed of the mutual affections of brothers and sisters, though distantly separated, and surrounded by the kindness of other relations and friends, and this home must take the place for the younger ones, who most require it, of that more actual and complete one that they have lost. Even as to this, who can deny that it will even have a sort of completeness in feeling, for how can we ever think of each other and not of our father as well as our mother who died while yet I as well as the little ones stood in need of her love and care, which was supplied in feeling much in the way I speak of; and, as we know, chiefly through yourself?
“Dearest Lucy, when I think of these things I begin to feel as if I had a right to lament his death more than any of you, for I have been away more, and was away during the last year. Hence I almost think I must be actually less acquainted with him than I should otherwise have been, and it is after such a loss that we best learn the value of that loss. But you would never think or believe at any time that because I less knew and saw him, and was far away on my own affairs towards his end, I any the less knew his value, feel his loss, and now feel sorrow at his death.”
To his sister Henrietta.
15th February 1856.
“One of the things I said in my letters, and which was repeated again from home, was a sort of wish that home should remain the same as it was when I left it, so that my idea of it then should remain continually true, but how far otherwise has it turned out in less than a year and a half. True it was not positive hope, for every one is aware of the uncertainty of life, if he have it not continually before his eyes; and as to papa, we know that he had already lived many years, for which we have so much reason to be thankful. Therefore I was not unprepared for letters such as yours and the others, and I cannot doubt that in parting from me he strongly felt the possibility, almost probability, that he should never see me more on earth. That parting day, when I think of it, brings tears into my eyes more quickly than any other circumstance; not now alone, but each time that it has come into my mind since I left, I have felt the manner of that parting to be most touching. A whole afternoon, my last one I believe in England, he stayed at home with me, and near me, disregarding his usual business, and most unmistakably showing the great difficulty he felt in allowing me to go so far away and for such a time. And when beforehand one is sure of a father's love, is it not the highest proof and trial of its nature that it can thus allow its object to remove and stay at such a distance, and with such a possibility at his age of never being together again? That parting will always form my last personal recollection of his love and goodness, and you can imagine that a book which he gave me that day, his own library copy of my grandfather Roscoe's life, and which he must have set the greatest value on, will have with me now an accumulated value, and shall always remain my own, though before I felt as if it properly belonged to the house and not to me alone.
“Dearest Henny, for I am afraid I am writing in too distant a manner, and not enough filled with others' sorrow, I will address this letter more fondly to yourself. I am glad you are now just of an age to comprehend and distinguish, as well as instinctively to feel, papa's goodness, love, and worth; and though your sorrow may thus be all the deeper and more lasting, it will be full of meaning and understanding. In this way the death of a father may well be made to form one of the greatest and deepest lessons of our lives. The ordinary course of affairs (in which let us hope that pleasure always predominates) is disturbed, the question of life seems forcibly laid open to us, and one then perceives, if ever, its inexplicable nature, its incompleteness. This course of thought it is which leads us most irresistibly to believe in a future life to come, for this life being unfinished, the object unattained, we cannot but look forward to a future existence in a more perfect state, certainly in an incomparably happier one.”
To his brother Tom.
2d May 1856.
“I daresay you will hardly think how much I am interested in your proceedings in London. It is from the great wish I have that you should, in the best meaning of the word, be successful, and obtain all the possible good from the new course of life you are beginning. Being the youngest, you were the one of us about whom my father had the fondest hopes; and, now he is gone, all the rest of us look forward just the same to seeing those hopes fulfilled. Moreover, I feel a great interest in a younger brother going through exactly the same sort of life which I remember myself with so much pleasure, and you must therefore write me now and then a good long letter about everything you are doing at school, everything you see in London, and what you are intending to do.
“People, at all events many people, do not like to be beaten, i.e. surpassed, but this feeling may in some circumstances be overcome by better feelings. Therefore it is that I hope after you have been in London a year or two, that you will leave me nothing to speak of, as to prizes and the like; but whatever you do I do not doubt you will do it with the best of motives, i.e. to gain real good and worth, and not in the least for show or the name of the thing. Stick to the real solid desire of improving yourself, and in some way or other, more or less direct, rendering yourself useful, and then you need not care a straw about other persons' opinion of you. It is the most comfortable thing in the world to know yourself to be better than people think you, and it gives you the truest ease of mind; and this I have no doubt is worth all the pleasure one can have in being considered a clever fellow, or a very jolly fellow, or even a very good fellow, which are the commonest ways in which a fellow's worth is measured and expressed in society. In short, do not look to others' approbation merely. … I did not think you would have taken so high a place as to classes. But do not think too much of the place you have got in the school. In this (as I believe in most other things), the rate of rise or improvement is far more to be considered than the point actually attained. I was rather surprised, and, I must own agreeably, to find you say ‘All the masters mentioned Stanley, Mr. Key himself included,’ and I shall take an interest in all you tell me about the old school. How do you like old Mr. Travers? I think he liked me better than any, and he was rather grieved at not giving me his first prize, but he gave me first mention, and a place equal with the first boy, instead. London is a fine place, and while you are in it make the best of it. You will do no harm in going to plenty of exhibitions, all sorts of sights and the like; and they are no loss of time or money, provided they do not interfere directly with your lessons. I remember I used to think the Queen opening Parliament, etc., the best fun possible, and used to try how often I could manage to see her.
“When you are a little older I think you will find it very well worth while to take walks through London just as you would through a pretty country. The portions of London are as distinct in appearance and character as the nations of Europe, and they are large enough to take long excursions among them. I will leave all cautions to Lucy, who is great at them.
“Living as you are with Aunt Richard, and among company, I am afraid you will grow too fond of parties and suchlike, but my real honest opinion of them is that they are of very little good; and, though you have no occasion to be like me, you would hardly think how much time is lost by going out one night here and another there. Of home, where you will be, I suppose, when you get this, I cannot say much, as nothing was settled even at the latest dates I have heard news of. I daresay you, most of you, think me a lucky fellow, for a good sum of money goes a long way, but how I should like to be among things again, something like the ‘lags’ (convicts) of Botany Bay in former days must have wished to be at their old practices. However, I amuse myself as I best can, and always with a view to my term expiring.”
To his sister Henrietta.
Sydney, 3d May 1856.
“… My opinions go in the same direction, but rather farther than yours. All the religions and religious opinions on the earth I regard only as so many different exteriors, one may say costumes, thrown over a few simple and eternal truths or principles which are more what would be commonly called ‘moral truths.’ The exterior religion has varied with different times and people, from the most barbarous (examples it is unnecessary to name), in which the inward meaning was often quite lost sight of or misrepresented, down to the most simple and truthlike, which I have no hesitation in saying is, among creeds, the Unitarian.
“I will venture even to say that a man who has a really serious mind, such as would reflect on the nature of the world, and on the way in which we are temporarily placed in it with the evident design of seeking the purest and greatest possible pleasure, is sure to gain certain principles or feelings, such as a trust in the course of things (i.e. Providence), a persuasion that we have all duties to perform to each other, without which society could not be endurable, and also something of the nature of sympathy with the feelings of others, out of which arises love, etc., and that these are the essence of all true religion. The man may even be said to be religious though he never heard of God by any name, and has never been used to put his feelings into the form of any creed or set opinions. God is but the embodiment of the first and greatest principle of the world—viz. universal good, order tending towards good, design—all coming under the comprehensive term Providence; and Christ I conceive to be an example of a Perfect Man, and of the relation which such a character must bear to God.”
To his sister Lucy.
3d July 1856.
“How much would I give to be one of your party; how I should like to live in London again, and in my sister's company, how much pleasanter would it not be than here! I should feel sad, I believe, at being shut up here and far away if I did not feel sure that you thought of me as if I were still among you, and that you only looked upon me as fulfilling a part which chance or Providence, as you may choose, has marked out for me, which being completed, I may again be free to follow my inclinations.
“While in this serious strain I cannot help mentioning that few things said in a letter could have affected or truly pleased me more than the words you remember papa saying, that ‘Stanley never gave him anything but happiness.’ This is what I have long hoped and trusted was the case more or less, in fact his letters, which I have been lately reading, often express it; but to hear it thus distinctly stated is a fresh proof, and will always raise a delightful impression in connection with my remembrance of his character and love towards me.”
In his diary he writes, 29th July 1856:—“My principle of action, indeed of life, is this, and it has been growing more and more defined for some time: I aim at qualifying myself for any object I desire in life, I aim not at it and try no means to obtain it but those of being fit for and worthy of it. Witness my almost total and partially intentional neglect of ties of acquaintanceship and interest and my habit of total reserve. It originated a deal, no doubt, in mere bashfulness, or a nervous want of confidence (which I really have no want of); but I now begin almost to esteem this property in myself, and should feel utterly wretched if I knew another to think me better than I was. Persons older and more experienced than myself might perhaps shake their heads and say it would never do; I, however, feel inclined to regard worth as synonymous with success, and though not independent of the chance and unavoidable and inexplicable evil of this world, still by far the best armour against it.
“Speaking of experience of life as we find it in old people, is it indeed at all a desirable thing, and is it not the absence of it that makes youth daring, enterprising, and happy? Is not the old man speaking to and warning the youth something like a dull, worn-out, old carpenter's chisel with a rounded edge speaking to a new and fine one just sharpened, and in the Carpenter's (God's) hand about to enter on its tough and woody work, saying, ‘Oh, it is of no use your beginning your work with such a fine edge as all that; I was just as sharp when I was as new as you, and you will be just as dull and useless as I am before you have been long at it?’ It is perhaps true that a chisel dull all its days might be contented and happy, nay, even as happy as the sharp, and therefore always busy chisel, just as a quiet country life may be pleasanter than a busy public one; but when would God's work or the carpenter's either be done if men and chisels were always dull?”
To his sister Lucy.
Monday, 22d September 1856.
“A letter from you had been long looked for, and two or three mails in succession had arrived without a sign of one,—a disappointment which I now find is owing to the irregularity of the mail ships, since I to-day received the expected letter 113 days old. The pleasure of such kind, long, and interesting letters, too, from each of you, was almost more than I had hoped for; and after reading and considering them, I have felt that there is a deeper meaning in them, especially yours and the one of Henny's, than almost any letters I have had before. The reason soon suggests itself to me—viz., that while my father lived he was properly the subject of all our most serious thoughts, and the one in whom to confide them; now, however, that this centre is removed, we are all in all to each other; and our common love resumes a degree of immediate importance and interest which it did not need to have before, though perhaps it was equally strong. If you knew (as perhaps you may imagine) how entirely the letters I write home are the only way in which I express my feelings, being as I am completely among strangers, and without one I care to confide them to, you would understand the necessity I feel to answer such as these, and the real encouragement they give me. If it is quite true that I have often, especially of late, felt a certain degree of real loneliness, I do not mean want of society, since that is what I never did or shall want, but the feeling of an accumulation of private and personal thoughts and objects which come at last to weigh too heavily. Perhaps I am not quite right in being so exclusive, and caring so little for other people's society: it began no doubt in a habit or infirmity of what is called bashfulness, and though that operates still, I do not think it is the whole cause and reason of my character in this respect. If I were, on the whole, like other people, I should no doubt resemble them in this also, and I cannot help feeling that the real difference there is between me and others in many respects, and which I can mention without any fear of egotism, is partly the reason of my caring little for the society of the generality of people. My life always was, and is now more especially, a laborious one, and I have always looked more to the future than to the enjoyment of the present; what that future, or the end itself may be, God only knows, but I am convinced that if only moderately good, it will fully justify me for somewhat in appearance disregarding most other people, and prove me not in the least selfish, as perhaps some might think me. I give you these thoughts simply because they are what are uppermost. While my father lived they did not arise so distinctly, and were chiefly absorbed in a plain feeling of duty to him. Now one's objects and views are more one's own, regulated only by general ideas of what is right, or modified by the remaining love and interest among ourselves. My father's death has with me, as with the rest of you, never taken the form of regret; it was no loss or unhappiness to him, for he died with as much pleasure, of the truest as well as of a more material kind, surrounding him as almost ever happens on this earth; it is with each of us that the loss occurs, felt on my part in a manner that I tried to express in my first letter. For yourself, dear Lucy, it must be a satisfaction for you to consider, both how plainly marked and unmistakable your part has been, and how completely and lovingly you have always performed it to its utmost extent, viz. that of attending and supporting my father while he lived, and also of taking care of all the rest of us more or less, as I may say. Now more than ever it seems to me that you are necessary to us, not only in directly bringing up Henny and Tommy, but in keeping the whole of us together, in a manner that is sure to produce better feelings in each, and, as far as I am concerned, to prevent that feeling of loneliness and objectlessness of life that I have alluded to before, and which I so fear.”
To his brother Herbert.
Monday, 22d September 1856.
“The mint goes on steadily, but without much work. Our sovereigns, you will probably know, have obtained a very good character in England; I see no possible objection, therefore, to their sending us out some proper dies, and making our coinage imperial, and therefore current in England and everywhere.
“Assaying goes on all right, and I am comfortable enough in my private office and laboratory. I am generally engaged more or less with attempted improvements or some little experiments, but it is no easy thing to introduce substantial and practicable improvements in a thing like the gold assay process, that so many have tried their hands at.
“Sydney was rather alarmed last week to hear of the capture of an immense shark in the harbour. I went to see it, and there is no mistake about the fact; it is twelve or thirteen feet long, and nine feet in circumference, and with an immense mouth about eighteen inches across, so you may imagine what a really alarming fact it must be for those who are fond of bathing about the harbour. It is said to have been long known to boatmen under the name of ‘Big Ben,' and I have myself seen sharks’ fins appearing above water in Darling Harbour.
“A short time since I went a walk on Sunday morning on a bush road past Cook's River, and was surprised to meet a large black snake, nearly five feet long, as deadly a sort as the devil. I had no idea of attacking it with a short walking-stick, and could not kill it with big stones before it escaped into some scrub. Unpleasant sort of acquaintances these sharks and snakes.
“I am kept pretty busily engaged at home now by my meteorological observations. I have lately commenced sending a weekly report to the Empire, and I send you two papers containing my reports. Mr. Parkes has given them a very good place in the paper, and printed them exceedingly well, but this confounded Government service prevents me either asking or receiving any money any other way, and I therefore do it more for fun. It takes about two hours a week to calculate and make it out, but this is little more than I should do for my own satisfaction. I am engaged now too in copying out, correcting, and calculating my two daily observations for the last twenty months, which I had allowed to accumulate; it is a work of some forty or fifty thousand figures, independent of continual calculations, drawing of means, and other work. I am beginning, however, to get some results out to repay me.”
To his sister Henrietta.
1st October 1856.
“… I have felt indeed for some weeks some degree of a slight melancholy, of which I do not know the cause. I do not think it arises from anything disagreeable, for I never got on better with work of all sorts than I think I have lately, but it seems to be a tendency to take everything in a serious point of view. If there is any other cause, it is the thought that I have only been two years in the colony, and that three similar ones must probably be passed before I could follow with satisfaction to myself or others my strongest desires. Everything I do or think has reference to my being again in England sooner or later, and for better or worse, and this not only in order to see and be with you and the rest again, but because I think it is the only place where I could be what I should wish. You did not overestimate the chances of a man in my position marrying and staying here. An income of £700, a light and not uninteresting business, a pretty country and cheerful town, a few not unpleasant acquaintances, plenty of employments, scientific, musical, or otherwise, and finally a house of one's own, and a home here is what few I flatter myself, would resist and give up; but if you ever thought seriously of such a thing, all I can say is that you did not count rightly upon me. The strongest inducement to such a life as that, supposing such were to occur, as you may imagine, would be insufficient to change my views, such as they are, though I cannot help feeling that such a determination throws any prospect of quiet and settled happiness a long way into the future. My life has never yet been an easy though a happy one; I have always worked and thought of the future instead of enjoying the present; the feeling too that it probably always will be so, is perhaps the reason of my present tone of mind, joined as it is with a suspicion that life may not always be so easy and successful as at the present and past, and that to go again to London in search of new employment and new ends is, in fact, voluntarily entering again the battle of life after having once found a quiet and secure shelter. It seems, however, natural and unavoidable, and therefore must be so.”
To his sister Lucy.
1st January 1857.
“I started about five o'clock on Christmas Eve by the Parramatta Railway, and reaching Parramatta in about three-quarters of an hour, took the coach for Windsor. This was a very old omnibus, and as I was inside and it soon became dark, I cannot describe the beauties, if any, of the country through which we passed. I may mention, however, to give you people a delicious idea of it, that we passed through the largest orangery of the colony, of many acres extent. After travelling twenty miles in four hours we found ourselves at the door of an inn in Windsor about 10.30 p.m. I never experienced, nor never will again, such a high temperature on a Christmas Eve—four fellows in a small attic—thick mosquito curtains—evening of a very hot day—-windows wide open, but no perceptible effect. However, I arose on Christmas Day quite solid, and walked all morning about the cultivated plains and banks of the River Hawkesbury near Windsor. The country is fine in an agricultural sense, but not over picturesque. I sought for a dinner later on in Windsor, and while eating it thought how much amused you would have been to see me eating my Christmas turkey and passable plum pudding with a fat old landlord and his growing-up family, including a rather showy young lady, and two or three more travellers, at one end of a long table in the deserted ball-room of the hotel. Dinner done, however, I soon quitted Windsor with no pleasant reminiscences, for as a rule I detest all Australian towns. … Passing through ordinary woody country, I reached Richmond towards evening. The prettiest of towns in New South Wales, so they say, but with no pretension to beauty but a few pretty cottages with exotic-looking gardens and green creepers. In passing on a few miles farther I crossed the River Hawkesbury by Richmond Point, and put up at an inn on the opposite bank in a lonely situation. The river is a broad deep fine stream, the Thames of New South Wales, but bordered by very tall steep alluvial banks, which the river is said to overflow in times of flood, occurring every few years. It was bordered by gardens and orchards, though rather too bare of trees, but the bushy hills surrounding the plains on all sides, and especially the ranges of bushy mountains in the distance, which I hoped to explore on the morrow, rendered the scene very beautiful when aided by a true Australian evening, delicious cool airs, and a calm clear sky, succeeding the dry winds and powerful sun of the day. Tea of damper and remains of Christmas goose; large solitary bedroom. So ended my third Christmas Day in Australia.
“Next morning I started walking through the mists soon after six in the morning, and by eight o'clock entered a most beautiful, open, and very hilly country. It was considerably cultivated, and every half mile or so was a log cottage, of which the inhabitants were very friendly, and gave me all the directions and supplies of drinkables that they could. It was not, however, till I found an old bush-man that I could get any information of a track across the mountains in the direction I wished to go. He directed me to go back the way I had come a considerable distance, and then cross the Grose river at Ben Carver's, and with the magical name of Ben Carver I with infinite trouble sought out my way at last and reached the Grose. Here I found the bed of a mountain torrent which drains the Blue Mountains, but its banks had the chief attractions, for I was botanising, and I found here several remarkable flowering shrubs, which I have seen no trace of elsewhere, and also blackberries or brambles, and a single delicate and truly modest violet, the only one exactly like those at home that I have seen. There was also a small geranium, and the common sarsaparilla plant. As I had twelve miles before me to the next town, I started again without much delay and proceeded about five miles without much worth relating. The country was not here mountainous, but only hilly, woody land rising from the River Nepean, to which I afterwards found I was close, but as I was approaching some steep long ranges, I detected with my meteorologic eye a fine specimen of thunder-cloud rising up from behind them as being peculiar; low rumbling thunder soon confirmed my worst fears, and I gave myself up for a drenching. However, I had seen at intervals cleared spaces and railings, and I now came in sight of a well-established little farm and cottage, where I even applied for shelter, and was well received by an old woman. While the storm was brewing—and it was a rare one, with long forked flashes of lightning extending across the greater part of the sky, and sudden stormy squalls of warm air, though it was worse to the northward near Richmond—the old woman made some tea, and set out dinner for me, herself, and little boy, the viands being as usual the remains of the Christmas goose and pudding. I evidently shocked the religious feeling of the old lady by drinking my tea, the usual accompaniment of an Australian bush dinner, before she had said grace, which we hardly think of doing in New South Wales, though I was probably more really thankful for that cup of tea than for any other I ever drank.
“The dinner done, my prospect was not improved. The storm, instead of passing over in a definite small body, seemed extending everywhere. The whole sky was covered by dark heavy masses of cloud, which seemed determined to catch me wherever I went, and I looked forward with no pleasure to the six miles yet to be walked. Soon losing the path the old woman pointed out, I trusted to my senses to reach the top of the nearest range, upon the point of which I fortunately discovered the track, and at the same time gained a fine view of the plains and winding river, which, although a second heavy shower came on, I was longing for you to sketch. Then I set off as hard as circumstances would allow me to walk, following up the path, which was the faintest track imaginable, even covered by bushes, in pushing by which the rain-drops continually drenched my legs and knees. But do you know that I have a secret satisfaction in walking any number of miles through these uninhabited, monotonous, but rugged, bushy, or thicklywooded mountains? They are not picturesque, for the only other things seen are other similar ranges separated by long gullies, but they are wild and natural, and except a faint path, and a tree cut down or barked here and there, there are no traces of man. The old large gum-trees too have often a very picturesque appearance, or rather a desolate wild look—shattered by lightning, burned by the bush fires, or when blown over, sometimes falling into each other's arms, or with broken branches of large size supported in the most fantastic ways.
“After a long weary walk the path became more distinct, then began to widen into a good road, and after passing a few deserted huts, a tent or two, and such-like signs of life, I reached the broad main road from Penrith to Hartley, close to Springwood Inn, but nearer to a small eating-house at which I got some tea. On going away, the old woman addressed to me the question: ‘Is it jewellery, or what is it?’ which it struck me at last referred to my old botanical collecting box. I enlightened her on that point, but remained much disgusted, when I remembered similar remarks of the innkeeper at Windsor, which I had not understood at the time. The assayer of Her Majesty's Australian Mint to be taken for a wandering dealer in false jewellery! I had indeed hoped that my appearance, though in a now very dirty light suit of clothes and a cabbage-tree hat, would have saved me from such a fate. I made, however, the rather complimentary reflection that tourists, especially pedestrians and scientific ones, are unknown objects in Australia as yet.
“A few miles down the road brought me to the old Pilgrim Inn, a very good house for such a place, just as ‘the shades of evening,’ etc., and as the rain was beginning to come down again. A hot cobbler of brandy and a comfortable early bed soon set me up again, although I had been out more than twelve hours, and walked somewhere near thirty miles under such circumstances.”
The account of this excursion is written out more fully in the journal, and he there relates the following incident, which occurred the next morning:—
“27th December.—Getting out about six o'clock, I could have enjoyed sitting in the verandah for any length of time, looking round on the woods and on the mist only just rising out of the hollows. This is to me, a meteorologist, a distinct pleasure; to others it might only suggest damp disagreeable travelling. So probably thought the gold escort which now drove up in the little mail coach from Penrith. It consisted of four fine tall well-armed troopers, with their sergeant, the seats being filled up by two passengers, a lanky strange-looking Chinaman, and a little delicate and not bad-looking girl.
“I knew myself what it was to start about 4 a.m., of a cool, damp, misty morning, and ascend these wild mountainous roads on a jolting and altogether most uncomfortable open car, and the wearied, pale, half-sleepy appearance of this little girl as she timidly sat in her seat and watched the troopers enjoying a cup of coffee in the inn, excited my pity and moved me to the only gallant act I ever did, which was to send her a cup by one of the waiting girls. Her satisfaction and gratitude were evident, even as she scalded her mouth by trying to swallow rapidly the hot but reviving drink, and I felt in this as in many more things in this country, how the natural courtesy, true civility, and good nature which always seem to prevail amid nature, excel the studied etiquette and the miscalled politeness of towns. I allude, however, more particularly to the universal habit up the country of speaking to each person you meet solitarily, even if it be only to say good evening or good morning, and of freely asking or giving all directions or information about roads, distances, other travellers, or straying cattle or horses. Once when I omitted to say good-morning on passing a remote cottage they bawled it out after me, and I am sure that if I passed many weeks in travelling in this manner I should become the most communicative of persons. … Gained Penrith by the usual road, and dining at Perry's Inn, took a place in the Parramatta coach afterwards, and reached home about 7.30 p.m.”
To his sister Henrietta.
Sunday 4th January 1857.
“Within three years, all being well, I will throw up all that I have here, both with the hope of seeing you all again and with the intention of following more freely my own views, but not without the fear of meeting a far less easy or perhaps successful life in England. …
“But I see no reason why I should not inform you and the others at home of another step, and a rather long one too, which I intend to take before reaching home. Within a year I have been three trips about the colony of New South Wales which to me are full of amusement and instruction, though to most others I believe they would be unendurable; but in these I am merely stretching my wings for a much longer flight round the globe. How many miles I shall go, or by what path, I have not in the least decided. I mean, in short, after leaving here for good to travel at discretion, and not to terminate my wanderings at home until I have fulfilled the purposes I have in view, equally as I am doing now in another way. Though in this I may run some dangers, may spend some hundreds of pounds, and spend something under another precious year (spend it, too, away from home), you at least will approve of it.
“I am at present even more engaged than ever in various ways; my duties (self-imposed) of meteorological reporter to the ‘Empire Journal,’ I find quite onerous, and I am now, I believe, the sole acting meteorologist in Sydney. I have just lately been making up my meteorological accounts for the last year, for you must know that I keep quite a series of books which I have to attend to daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, and they take a large portion of my time; but I intend after a bit rather to drop than increase my meteorological work, not, however, ceasing altogether. One's subjects may be changed from time to time, provided it be done consistently and with a uniform ultimate object. I have lately started again at botany, though I feel it is almost one thing too much; but I do it with almost a greater pleasure than anything else, because it was my first subject, and one which I remember my mother always favouring. I have preserved a few plants out of our wood, as well as some which I gathered up the country, and am re-establishing my old herbarium in better style.
“You speak much in your letter about Unitarianism, and if I am to answer it and speak openly of such a subject, I must confess that I am never at all troubled by such religious differences as you refer to. My own views are so liberal and simple that the whole vast mass of different sects, including even the most of Unitarians, vanishes in the distance, and appearing only as a small object upon my religious horizon, draws a corresponding small share of attention from me; and though a curious, interesting, and certainly very complicated construction when closely examined, it is not to me of any importance compared with the other broad and vital questions which lie around. If I may call myself a Unitarian it is for this one reason, that of all sects I believe they alone are charitably disposed towards others. … If I gave any creed for my own belief, I should give it from the Bible, and say that I have faith, hope, and charity, but most of charity; and it is to me a horrible thing to consider how completely the whole system of Christianity, I may say, is opposed to this sentiment as well as to the general tenor of Christ's teaching. My charity indeed goes thus far, that I think it as absurd to say that any one will be unhappy after this life as to say that two and two make five. To define what you mean by God, and then to say He created anybody to be damned, is a simple contradiction in terms.”
On 28th January 1857 he writes in his journal:—“I have been not a little disturbed lately by my reflections on religious subjects. This has been caused partly by a little religious talk I have had here, very wide of my own opinions certainly, but chiefly by an attempt I made to explain the general character of my opinions to Henny, when they appeared to me so cold and abstract compared with her heartfelt realities. But how can I help it? I was brought up in perfect freedom of opinion, for though I can remember my mother teaching me my prayers, I was then very young, and what religion I have since been taught at school or elsewhere only led me to inquire whether the whole was true. Natural science was my chief study, and I may say that I have become so impressed with the general character of natural laws of fact, and have become so accustomed to habits of severe and exact thought, that I must have a solid foundation for my religion or I shall have none.
“My father never so much as communicated his opinions to me in any way, nor do I know them now; whatever they were, they were founded in the truest and tenderest humanity.
“Revealed religion I had long since dispensed with; I know not how my doubts about it first began. It appears to me such a confession of imperfection in God's works to suppose that it was necessary to break their order to reveal Himself to us. God is seen, if anywhere, in the wonderful order and simplicity of Nature, in the adaptation of means to ends, and in the creation of man, to which everything refers, with powers capable of indefinite improvement. To suppose all this inadequate, to suppose Him leaving man confessedly without means of enlightenment for ages, and then to suppose Him only revealing Himself by breaking the order of His own creation and speaking through the mouth of a man, appears to me a most awkwardly-constructed belief.
“I see no evidence whatever of the inspiration of the Bible. The humane and perfect philosophy of Christ is indeed astonishing amid so much corruption, but one very probable suggestion explains it all. Christ was, no doubt, a great genius; and just as Newton was a genius of natural science, Mozart of music, Bacon of general learning, Shakespeare of humanity, etc., so Christ devoted his powers to morality, and wonderfully pure his teachings no doubt were. I feel no conviction of anything because it is in the Bible, and I examine matter and mind in order to found my conception of God.
“I perfectly comprehend everything that may be deduced from Nature as to design, order, unity of conception, etc., of the universe, and I confess that both the theory of chances and that of conditions of existence are perfectly inadequate as explanations. The world is evidently but one vast organism full of motion and intelligence; it is not mere matter, for the very order and form of it express intention and mind. God is identified and inseparable from His works. But again I confess I do not see that as far as man's condition is concerned the world is perfectly adapted. Evil exists, and I see no way of completely reconciling it with any religious theory. A man falls from a cliff, a branch of a tree falls on him, or perhaps a man advanced in civilisation falls into a course of those refined evils which always accompany it How is creation perfect here, or how can any recompense hereafter remove this imperfection, however slight, which now exists?
“I have been led to these remarks by reading two books, Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences and San-tine's Story of Picciola. The first proceeds systematically and profoundly through all the ideas of the mind, all the subjects of Natural Science, and having sufficiently grounded all this on the natural properties of man's reason, so that if man's existence be a reality, his deductions are equally real, he at last touches on the puzzling question of geology and Scripture. How disappointed I here was to observe his change of tone! Instead of what is what must be, what it is in the nature of man to believe, he here tells us what ought or should be. We must believe Scripture till its plain and evident interpretation is contradicted by demonstrated facts, but one must not put these forward too rashly, and we should endeavour to reconcile, etc. He is, no doubt, obliged to prove to others that his book leads to no unorthodox conclusions, but to those who are already not orthodox its conclusiveness and value just ceases where he leaves the thread of his demonstration and attempts to show this.
“In Santine's Picciola, read just by chance, I was surprised to find an instance of a man, full of science and knowledge, who, like me, felt that chance and evil exist in the world. The story is very pretty and very excellent The demonstration of the order and adaptability of the creation proceeds in a very nice and clear manner merely from the observation of a single plant, and I thought myself almost as surely saved from dark cheerless thoughts as Charney himself, when, alas, one paragraph ended all my hopes, and formed as bad a conclusion to Santine's prettily managed tale as Whewell's concluding chapter did to his great philosophical work. It is the following: ‘Do not accuse God either of the errors of man or the eruption of a volcano.’ [Why not?] ‘He has imposed on matter eternal laws; and his work is accomplished without his being anxious if a vessel sinks in the midst of a tempest or a town disappears under an earthquake. What matter to him a few existences more or less! Thinks he then of death? No! but to our soul he has left the care of regulating itself, and what proves it is the independence of our passions. I have shown you animals obeying in all things the instinct which directs them, having only blind impulses, possessing only qualities inherent in their species; man alone forms his virtues and his vices; he alone has free will; for him alone the earth is a world of trials. The tree of happiness which we cultivate here below, with so many efforts, will only flourish for us in heaven. Oh, do not think that God can change the heart of the wicked, and will not; that he can leave the just in sorrow without reserving for him a recompense. What could he then have willed in creating us?’ If Santine had intended to write a sort of parody or caricature of such demonstrations, he could not have written otherwise. What matter a few existences more or less to God? But what matter they rather to the possessors? And we are told from a much more humane authority that not a sparrow falls to the ground without God's heed. Again, ‘do not think that God can turn the heart of the wicked and will not.’ Why doesn't he, then? For there are certainly many wicked people in the world, and they cause much evil. If he does it finally, why does he delay? To explain it by free will and so on is mere prevarication, for in granting that instrument of good or harm he grants it with perfect knowledge, and is certainly to be accused with all consequences, just as a man that would knowingly lend a pistol to a murderer would be implicated in the crime.”
No, the paragraph is indeed lame if intended for a proof, clever if a parody; and, at all events, it has done more than neutralise the good effect of the rest of the book.
“But though I find not God in this way, I find goodness in the human heart. I am susceptible of sympathy and love; I feel the dignity of man, the height he may attain, the pure happiness he may enjoy if he seeks it from a proper source; and those, if not standing in place of a distinct conception of God, produce equivalent good effects on my actions and intentions.”
To his brother Herbert.
9th March 1857.
“I am very happy to be able to write by this mail from our new house, for I have a very pleasant account to give you of it. Our house having been furnished for a short time, we bid good-bye last Monday to the dry monotonous country' of Petersham, and the frightfully dusty Parramatta Road, and I am now completely settled in my new apartments.
“The situation here is most delightful. You must imagine to yourself a small circular bay of blue waters, bounded on either side by rocky ridges, either covered by the original bush or ornamented by handsome houses or pretty Australian villas. The view out of the bay to the north extends across the harbour to the jutting heads of the north shore, which terminates in a perpendicular cliff, the Middle Head, and beyond which we have just a distant view of the North Harbour. On the south side of the bay is a circular white sandy beach rising with a moderate inclination to a few feet above high-water mark, whence a narrow alluvial plain or flat of fertile sandy land extends into the country about a mile and a half, between the steep and bushy sandstone ridges which form the country here.
“Just on the edge of the beach and of this flat our house is built; on our left hand is a pretty little villa, in which the old father of Mr. Daniel Cooper, the owner of the whole neighbourhood, lives; to the front, of course, is the view of the bay and harbour; and on every other side is as yet the original bush, which is uncleared except within a few feet of the house. It is here real picturesque bush rising about ten feet high with a large variety of the peculiar narrow-leaved shrubs of N. S. W., and a thick undergrowth of fern and grass trees. The house is a very comfortable, suitable, but unassuming one, and it is, of course, doubly agreeable since it is our own. Just outside my window is the thermometer case—a wooden erection of singular appearance, designed to shelter the thermometer from the sun by sides formed of three separate boards. The weather now is very close and hot, and while I write the thermometer is at 88° … Except when other winds are blowing, a sea breeze sets in nearly every day, and has been lately particularly fresh. Most people at home do not know what a sea breeze is, I expect, but they would soon understand it here. It sets in a little before noon from the N.E., or nearly directly up the bay, increases till about sunset, and drops off again about 9 p.m. We scarcely felt it at the Petersham house, where, however, we had the more truly Australian climate, which my observations here will not so well represent.
“This place, too, is like a perpetual watering-place, for nothing could be better adapted than this beach for bathing. I have bathed the last four mornings between 6 and 7 a.m., and it is very delightful. Being within a few yards of the water, one can almost turn into it out of bed, and twice I have turned back again into bed after it, which is still more delightful. The only drawback are some weeds, which a little spoil the clearness of the water. By the by I was nearly forgetting the sharks, of which, undoubtedly, there are many in the harbour, since their fins are often seen above water, and a large monster of fourteen feet length, and a ton weight or so, was lately caught. But somehow or other no accidents occur, though hundreds of people bathe even off the most exposed rocks about the harbour. They keep, I suppose, in the deep waters, and are never known to come into a shallow bay like ours. Lucy, therefore, may be quite at her ease whether as to sharks or any other dangers which do not exist.
“The country about here is very different from the usual Australian bush, consisting of low scrub, or thick bushy shrubs instead of the eternal gum-tree woods which cover all the rest of the country. The strip of land two or three miles from the coast consists of nothing but long ranges of hills covered by drifted sand with thin scrub growing on it, and with multitudes of grass-trees which give a most peculiar appearance to the vegetation. These are as in the drawing, and are about six or eight feet in height, the flower and stalk being not unlike an enormous bullrush, springing from hard spiny grass. I anticipate many delightful walks about the country, and I have, moreover, got a little research in hand, concerning certain ancient raised sea cliffs, which I have discovered round the harbour, as well as the alluvial flats which are connected with them. They struck me first near Petersham, where I found parallel lines of rocks in the middle of the bush, and proved them to be always at the level of about forty feet above the sea. At the head of the flat of Rushcutter's Bay I find them again very perpendicular, and, as I think, at the same height. Yesterday, in a walk I took with O'Connel, I discovered unmistakable signs of a second higher series of cliffs, perhaps 120 or 150 feet above the sea, of which a portion is to be seen distinctly at the north shore on a projecting head. The question is a very interesting one, being connected with the curious subject of the formation of Australia, and I do not know that these cliffs have ever been noticed before, being indeed seldom very noticeable objects. It is a pleasant subject too, from leading me long walks in the bush.
“In our walk yesterday we got to the highest point about, called Bellevue Hill, a name for once appropriate, as the view is, I have little hesitation in saying, the finest I ever saw, and quite beats anything else I have seen here. The circular white beach of Rose Bay lies almost at your feet, surrounded by dark masses of bush; the harbour, North Harbour, Watson's Bay, all the Heads, a succession of singular bold heads along the coast, the North Shore, Sydney in a favourable point of view, forty miles of flat bushy country, forming the county of Cumberland. The Blue Mountains rising distinctly beyond, and to the south the thin flat line of water representing Botany Bay, with flat barren-looking shores and high hills or ridges on the coast beyond, form a magnificent panorama; and to crown all, on the other side the blue waters of a real and the largest ocean, the Pacific, give the additional feeling of grandeur to the view.
“There is one advantage of Double Bay I was almost forgetting to mention: it is eminently aristocratic, in fact quite the fashionable neighbourhood. Besides having the father of the Honourable the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly next door (and next door but one a fisherman's hut), the great auctioneer, Mr. Mort, the next richest man in the colony, has his house close to, and all the rest of the ‘nobs’ have villas or diminutive palaces variously disposed along the New S. H. Road. This road too, which leads us into town, is about the most picturesque one I know, winding over the ridges and crossing the flats of the bays, and giving one new glimpses at every point of the harbour,—quite a contrast to the dusty Parramatta Road, crowded with wood carts, bullock drays, and herds of wild cattle, and in character something like a railway cutting.
“You will be perhaps rather surprised when I tell you I have a sort of feeling of unsettledness very often if not continually. I feel as if I should not care if the mint were moved to Melbourne, or given up altogether, even though my home here is so entirely comfortable, and my little study and bedroom so perfectly satisfactory; I feel in fact as if I should like to take another short step across the world before long, and without doubt I shall sooner or later.”
To his sister Lucy.
Double Bay, Sydney, 7th May 1857.
“You suspect me of being ‘home-sick,’ and I cannot absolutely deny it Yet I think you have not chosen your term with exact propriety, for having been far away from home now for three years, and having never experienced its delights for more than a few months together for three years even before that, I cannot call myself ‘home-sick.’ I can indeed scarcely realise the happiness of living permanently at home with a steady, busy employment, and yet surrounded by those I trust and love. During such times, too, as I did spend at home, I used to be without regular occupation, and not always of a cheerful temper—everything did not always run smoothly. I am quite aware that ‘distance lends enchantment,’ etc., and that in the best-regulated home, even such as yours, no one can live in continual unruffled satisfaction and happiness. But when I consider how completely solitary my life has always been in reality, I cannot help feeling what a sacrifice it has been to live so much apart from those who would naturally form the best friends for me. You blame me for not interesting myself more in other people. You touch here upon a very wide question, which is by no means new to my thoughts. Though in London I was very fond of Harry Roscoe, and liked also a few fellow-students; and though these and a few others, at divers places, may have to some extent liked me, they have formed indeed but a limited acquaintanceship, and I must confess that I disclosed to none of them a very little depth below the ordinary surface of my thoughts. Even with you and the rest at home, and with my father even, I cannot help feeling I was very reserved; and, in short, I believe my own nature is still a secret within my own breast, and that most of my behaviour must be thought to arise from very trivial causes, or else appear an enigma. … You yourself say that every one must have some inmost thoughts and feelings entirely his own; and accordingly the greater part of my thoughts and feelings as to what I really am, do and must probably ever, remain my own, unless, indeed, as is most highly improbable, they all come to be developed into the actions with which they are concerned, and by which all may judge them.
“You will think all this mystification perhaps, and very strange, yet it is said with the greatest seriousness, and has been for many years a serious subject with me; I have always felt indeed the weight of my own continual thoughts, and have sometimes almost wished to be somebody else for a change. Have you ever had that peculiar feeling? You say that ‘it is not good for man to be alone,’ but with this I cannot agree but in a very partial way. I cannot say of course that my disposition for reserve and loneliness was originally intentional on my part; it probably originated in bashfulness, which other people think, and which, no doubt, is, a very silly thing. Yet I ascribe to this disposition almost everything that I am, and believe that a certain amount of reserve and solitude is quite necessary for the formation of any firm and original character. This is in fact almost self-evident, for if any one were brought up in continual intercourse with the thoughts of a number of other people, it follows almost necessarily that his thoughts will never rise above the ordinary level of the others, which, I think, is often practically exhibited in large families, especially of girls, when living very harmoniously together. Solitude, no doubt, produces one class of minds and characters, and society another; the latter may give quickness of thought and some other showy qualities, but must tend to interrupt longer and more valuable trains of thought, and gradually destroy the habit of following them, while solitude promotes reflection, self-dependence, and originality. These, I believe, I possess to a greater or less extent, and I therefore, on principle, do not altogether regret that my habits have been as you know them; still I do not intend to defend exclusive-ness to the extent that I carry it. If you would like to be informed as to the number and intimacy of my friends here, I shall have no hesitation in telling you the actual state of the case. Know, then, that I never go—in fact, with one slight exception, never have gone, to a party, and have at last succeeded in impressing upon all friends the fact that it is no use inviting me. … You see I am ‘unchanged’ as much as you could possibly expect, but still I am more altered perhaps than you might argue from what I have told you. I keep away from people now, more from my own actual intention than on account of bashfulness or anything of that sort; in fact I am very little afraid of the grandest people now, and believe that, if it were my wish, I might soon become accustomed to the largest amount of society. Yet I find few or none with whom I care to be very intimate, and I derive no pleasure from ordinary society. The reason perhaps is that I am really so entirely and so continually occupied with my own pursuits and thoughts that I cannot bear to have them interrupted. That others may see this is the case, as you do too perhaps, I have no doubt; and I daresay I am generally set down as of a selfish, exclusive disposition. Here, again, is a point that I am well accustomed to consider in my own mind, and I cannot say that it gives me much uneasiness. I do not in fact quite comprehend that to make oneself agreeable, to go out to parties, picnics, or to give most of one's time to society, is unselfish. To such agreeable people society is usually a pleasure, and in making themselves agreeable they are not always unselfish; I am myself by no means insensible to the pleasures even I might gain from society, and I fully believe my life would be more agreeable and pleasurable, if not more really happy, if I were as others. I cannot allow, in short, that I devote myself to continual work as I do merely from inclination, and to subject myself to the liability of being considered selfish, etc., when undeserved, is therefore, if anything, a sacrifice on my part.
“But lest I should really deserve to be called egotistical and selfish in my very letters, I must cease talking merely about myself.”
To his sister Lucy.
Double Bay, Sydney, 16th June 1857.
“Another month is past and gone, and I find myself quietly settling down in my little study about 10p.m. after spending rather a lazy evening, to employ the remaining couple of hours ‘ in a delightful duty. Life is chequered here as elsewhere. One is sometimes cheerful and pleased and contented with everything round you; sometimes a little dull and lonely; sometimes confident and hopeful of oneself; at other times less confident, if not disgusted and desponding. At present I must say there is nothing at all to disappoint or make me unhappy in the least, yet my hopes are so high that I cannot help feeling that they must be in the end disappointed. But in whatever mood I may be, there is one thing sure to please and make me happy, and that is my sisters’ letters. … I am thought here as well as at home remarkable, if not foolish, for avoiding people's company, or at all events extending my friendship to a very limited circle. Do not believe that I have really one whit the less love in me, though it may seem rather thickly covered up. To prove this to you I will tell you that I have lately arrived at the opinion that there is no foundation for any religion but in the feelings of the human heart. For some six or seven years past I have been chiefly engaged in learning science and taking the very evident views of things, and the consequence has been to show me greatness and wonderful order or design in nature, but no feeling or actual good; on the contrary, we find evil or pain prevailing everywhere almost equally with pleasure. It is in the human mind (made as we know after the image of God), but particularly in the feelings of love and friendship that I can find any indications of positive good. Evil is inseparable from nature, and no writer has ever explained satisfactorily why evil should exist at all. I can no more understand why it is to be found in material nature; but I discover in man certain properties and feelings which enable him in thought to triumph over evil, and form a conception or rather an expectation of a state free from it, and approaching, therefore, to perfection. How different are my opinions from those of many who call themselves Christian, yet are always talking of the original sin of man or their essentially sinful nature. I admit their weakness and the unhappiness thereby caused, yet place my faith in the fact I find to afford the possibility of perfection or superiority to evil, i.e. the sympathetic nature of the mind. It is perhaps well, at all events no harm, to talk thus seriously to those we can so well trust and love as a sister; but this is no reason why I should make a letter into a sermon or religious discussion, therefore to lighter and more cheerful subjects! …”
To his sister Henrietta.
17th June 1857.
“You wish me to direct and lecture you what to read and learn; I wish I were with you so that I could do it, and assist you over the difficulties of mathematics. The application of algebra to geometry is, I can remember, very disagreeable and difficult to understand. For my own part I have never had the courage to open the many mathematical books I brought with me; but what do you think I would do if I had opportunity ever again? Attend college and De Morgan's mathematical lectures! The utility of mathematics is one of the most incomprehensible things about it; but though I was never bright or successful in his class, in spite of working hard, I feel the greatest benefit from it. Mathematics are like the calisthenic exercises of the mind, and make it vigorous and correct in form and action; but it depends of course on other circumstances how you apply and use your mind as well as your body. To go figuring about with your arms or legs is not the object of calisthenics. I think, therefore, you cannot waste time or trouble spent over mathematics—the more the better, for the present at all events. … I do not mean you to enter on the study of meteorology, for it is a most troublesome, extensive, and to most an uninteresting subject. I have, however, involved myself in it to an awful extent, and must go on with it, I suppose, whilst I am here. It is a most complicated subject, requiring a knowledge more or less of heat, light, chemistry, electricity, etc.; and is, therefore, a sort of difficult scientific exercise rather than a science itself. But the subject I have been most of all concerned in for the last six months is political economy. You will not know what it means or is unless you have read about it; but to those who interest themselves in it, it, on the other hand, is deeply interesting.”
To his brother Tom.
… “It is often said that contentment is the chief essential to a happy life; I daresay this may be true in some respects, but I am very sure that it is far from being a correct maxim of life. A cat sitting and purring by the fireside seems to me a representation of this kind of happy life, but with this exception, that the cat can really manage to be quite contented, while if a man tries to be the same he will always encounter a succession of petty little things always enough to disturb his contentment. A man, therefore, should not aim at this kind of contentment at all; he should always look to something in the future; and the higher he looks the better, provided it be not so high that the impossibility of his attaining the point disgusts him. It is true the life of such a one must be made up in some sort of discontent; the few things already done, the short distance already passed over, appears disgusting; the present rate of travelling does not seem to promise anything more satisfactory, and when any position is at last attained it turns out to be only like a mountaintop from which a higher mountain is each time visible. Such a life of disappointment may seem hardly a very desirable one, but I have a lurking suspicion that the sum total of a person's enjoyment is generally equal to what we should call in mathematics a ‘constant quantity.’ The small discontents of the one probably balance, from their great number, the one large continuous discontent of the other. …
“It may seem rather curious and liable to misconstruction what I am going to say, but I think it will harm neither you nor myself. It is with respect to the quality cleverness, which is generally thought so much of. At school and college I used to think that I was rather deficient in it; though I got a fair share of prizes, etc., it was at the expense of a vast deal of trouble; and other people seemed to do as much or more than I with half the trouble. Now, however, I begin to think I am rather more clever than I expected; yet I can never think but that other people could do just as much as I do if they only took the trouble. Be convinced on your part that if you only take the trouble to try you will find yourself as clever as almost any people you may meet; but mind you, whatever cleverness you have will be a very useless or even injurious article unless it is well worn, and at the same time worn in the right use. If you only work hard now and then, you will never work well, and will have reason to be discontented. Talents are things which become rusty by being laid up, so that when you have use of them again you are disgusted to find them not ready to your hand, and are very likely inclined to put them by again for a little longer.”
To his sister Lucy.
Sunday Evening, 23d August 1857.
“It is not long since the last mail left with letters from me, and it is some weeks more before the mail will close. But a letter need not always contain the latest intelligence, and I know that anything I may feel inclined from time to time to write seriously to you will be read with more or less interest. I have always, indeed, much that I could say to you, and this evening more than ever; and though my reflections be upon a very painful subject, that is no reason, so far as I can see, that they should be untold. … Not to alarm you about myself personally, I will tell you at once that an awful shipwreck occurred the other night within a few miles of this, which, besides exciting a great sensation all over Sydney, has more particularly affected the circle of the mint from sympathy with one of the members. I have often mentioned to you Mr. Hunt of the mint I have always been inclined strongly to like him. … As to age, he is a few months older than I am, but was appointed from the Government School of Mines in London, just the same as I was from the University College, London. Rather more than a year ago he received the news of his father's death in Paris, and his mother having been dead for some time, he had few relations left except two sisters of the ages of eighteen and twenty, who were then, I believe, in school at Bordeaux. After remaining there a short time it was arranged that they should come out to him here by the ship Dunbar, and in the shipping intelligence by the last mail their names were duly inserted in the list of passengers. In Sydney, Hunt had long expected them with pleasure. Very lately he had been busy choosing a small house on the North Shore, furnishing it, and even engaging servants, and was only waiting for the telegraph to announce the arrival of the ship. He was continually coming into my room, which commands a good view of the flagstaff, and when disappointed by the flags, always discovering that the ship was in reality not quite due yet. Last Thursday night a storm began, with heavy rain, black clouds, and very strong gales from the east. The next morning he was unusually watchful of the telegraph signals, but who has not known hundreds of people uneasy in such cases? Towards the middle of the day the rumour, however, crept rapidly through the mint that there was a large wreck somewhere outside the Heads. This was doubtless unpleasant intelligence, but no one saw any reason to believe it was the Dunbar, and the shipping list, when appealed to, contained a number of ships much more likely to arrive than the Dunbar.
“That afternoon I was detained unusually late by assays, and had no time to go out to the South Head, where close beneath the lighthouse the wreck was said to have occurred. But at daybreak the next morning (yesterday) I got up and started with O'Connel for the Heads. After a five-mile walk through mud and rain we reached the lighthouse, and soon made our way to a low part of the cliffs, where a small number of persons, some from Sydney, by cabs and horses, the rest from the neighbourhood, were already collected. The place is called the Gap, being a partial break in the great line of cliffs opposite the part of the harbour called Watson's Bay, which, indeed, is produced by the same break. Here the cliffs fell to the height of less than 100 feet, and beneath there was a slight recess where a flat shelf of rocks, just a little above the sea level, ran out to a short distance. On looking down with the rest nothing was at first sight apparent but the huge waves of the Pacific Ocean, regularly rolling in, and each time entirely covering the lower rocks with a boiling sea of pure white foam, or now and then striking the projecting shelf, with a loud bursting noise, and throwing out a dense misty spray almost as high as the cliffs upon which we stood. But soon there was evidence of the wreck: small fragments of wood mingled with the sea-weed; portions of spars, or pieces of large timber, already quite rounded off by grinding on the rocks; bits of clothing, some apparently of silk, also long pieces of sheeting or bedding torn into shreds, and other clothing apparently tied up in bundles, were now and then seen. All these things were carried up on the top of one wave, lodged on the shelf of rock and exposed to view for a few moments till the succeeding wave enveloped them again in foam, and thus invisibly removed them. But as you will anticipate, there was now and then mingled with them objects of yet more fearful appearances. … But to leave descriptions perhaps of needless horror, we then walked along the cliff a few hundred yards to where the hull, or main part at least, of the vessel was yet supposed to lie, marked only by one or two fragments of spars yet attached by the rigging, or by loose rope ends now and then appearing at the surface. The ship appears to have run full on to the cliff almost below the lighthouse, some time during Thursday night, and to have gone to pieces and sunk almost immediately, unknown to any one on land, and possibly, we may hope, almost without the consciousness of any on board. The fragments of it had drifted with the wind and waves into the mouth of the harbour, and there gave the first indication of the wreck to a coasting steamer entering the following morning. A few articles such as I have described were retained in the Gap by an eddy, and would there be out of reach till the waves subsided. You will now comprehend the utter destruction of the ship and all on board, and the mystery which for a whole day surrounded its very name. The papers of the morning in question announced, however, that a mail bag marked No. 2 Dunbar had been found, with other evidence which left no doubt about it, and then followed the mournful list, in which the Misses Hunt of course appeared as passengers. The sensation in Sydney this day was really extraordinary, and arises partly from the fact that almost every person in the town has passed a voyage at sea, and entered the very Heads which this ship has been the first, as far as they know, to strike. … The excitement was curiously increased when a second edition of the papers announced the suspicion that one man, if not more, was yet alive in the crevices of the great cliffs, a thing which all thought so perfectly impossible that few, I expect, had ever troubled themselves to look carefully. An hour or two later a further edition announced that by ropes the man had been hoisted 200 feet up the cliffs, such as I have before drawn and described to you, and was alive and well. More I cannot tell you till the account of this man is published to-morrow; but I have told enough for you to imagine the effect upon our feelings here. A slight anxiety was, once out of a hundred times, converted into a horrible certainty. Hunt's sisters must have perished in the most frightful of circumstances the night before. … It is impossible to conceive the full intensity of the disappointment and sorrow.
“6th September.—Hunt stayed away from the mint until last Monday, having been busy in searching all the time for some relic or trace of his sisters. … When I just saw him on Monday his look struck me very painfully, and he seemed very much altered. You can easily conceive that I feel the more for him as I have two sisters, who, although I have brothers also, and many other relations, are quite as much to me as his sisters could have been to him; and the thought has not suggested itself to me now for the first time, that there are less terrible and unfrequent events that can separate people for ever than the shipwreck just described. There is no reason to fail in enjoying life because it may be taken away, or to avoid friendships because they may be broken; on the contrary, in my creed love is the most tangible form of immortality, and we can scarcely imagine its being in any way affected by death.”
To his sister Henrietta.
7th September 1857.
“… With respect to English composition, I can both understand your dread of such a formidable undertaking, and at the same time offer you some encouragement. But a year or two ago, since my living here, I can remember both my wish and despair of ever being able to write easily. But now I have become such a confirmed scribbler that I am half ashamed and sorry for my new acquisition. During yesterday (Sunday) and parts of the two previous evenings, would you believe that I wrote two long meteorological reports, one article on meteorology for the Empire, and great part of another for the same on railways, besides doing a deal of tedious and long meteorological work? As you observe, Parkes puts my letters often in large type, once reprinted an article, and has lately increased the type of all my reports, and an editor should be a good judge of what will take. But otherwise I should feel less assured about the quality than the quantity of productions that flow from my old silver penholder (which by the by is nearly worn out).”
To his Sisters.
17th November 1857.
“I have just received this evening two letters, one from each of you, besides a very pleasing little one from Tommy. I will not say that they are the most interesting or important letters I have ever had, or that I do not remember more interesting ones from you both, but there is something in them and something in my own state of feelings, which has filled me with most serious and overwhelming thoughts. I have a second nature within me hidden to the world, yet directing all my behaviour towards the world. Towards you this second nature tends strongly to disclose itself, to throw off every covering of reserve or false modesty. My letters lately have all exhibited this tendency; I have always felt that a word, a single word, would explain so much to you, and would relieve me of a great load of loneliness, which I have for a long time borne. I cannot, I really believe, exaggerate to you the intensity of the feelings of my second nature. They are a reality; I rise up with them before me, and go to bed with them still upon my mind, and never take any ordinary enjoyment but as a relaxation from this pursuit. Indeed, I really believe that if I were about to die, which I always look upon as a possible contingency within the years to which I look forward, I should not much care except that myself would die before ever it had appeared, unknown, unthought of, and without benefit, except to the peace of my own thoughts. But now it occurs to me strongly as it has before occurred partially, that there is no reason why I should be unknown to you. If I am over confident, foolish, or vain, it will not make me worse to confess it to you. The truth and sincerity of what I say will be tried in the saying, and in the perfect loneliness of my second nature, for it never knew a friend or the shadow of an acquaintance; I begin to consider it quite a privilege to have two sisters, whom I dare to consider such friends.
“But I must come to the point and tell you, while I yet have courage, what are these inmost thoughts. I remember them as long ago as my first living in London or even before. They have grown ever since, and every day become developed in more fulness and distinctness; I consulted them when I came out here, although I was then greatly influenced by my father's wishes, and I have consulted them in the determination that I have come to, to leave Sydney within a moderate time, to be numbered in months rather than years. My whole second nature consists of one wish, or one intention, viz. to be a powerful good in the world. To be good, to live with good intentions towards others, is open to all. To be unselfish, as they term it, to be a pleasant companion, or an agreeable fellow in the ordinary range of society, to marry a wife and make her comfortable, and so on, are all different ways of being good. But they seem to me to be very circumscribed and rather indulgent ways of doing it. To be powerfully good, that is to be good, not towards one, or a dozen, or a hundred, but towards a nation or the world, is what now absorbs me. But this assumes the possession of the power. To be as powerfully good as I could wish does not fall to the lot of one in a million; how slight indeed is the chance that my powers fall within the same narrow chance!
“My thoughts on this point shall be equally open to you, for I see no harm in speaking of oneself sincerely to those who will likewise listen to it sincerely. I used not to consider myself clever, in fact, I am almost sure I was not formerly above the average. As many boys as not could understand a thing as sharply as myself, but owing partly to my dislike of society, I have always given my attention so entirely to learning that I begin almost to hope that the result is appearing. You will easily understand that it is highly important for me to determine what my mind is, since it is the most important of the elements of the power I mean, and I really believe my conclusions are pretty impartial. I have scarcely a spark of imagination and no spark of wit. I have but a poor memory, and consequently can retain only a small portion of learning at any one time, which great numbers of other persons possess. But I am not so much a storehouse of goods as I am a machine for making those goods. Give me a few facts or materials, and I can work them up into a smoothly-arranged and finished fabric of theory, or can turn them out in a shape which is something new. My mind is of the most regular structure, and I have such a strong disposition to classify things as is sometimes almost painful. I also think that if in anything I have a chance of acquiring the power, it is that I have some originality, and can strike out new things. This consists not so much in quickness of forming new thoughts or opinions, but in seizing upon one or two of them and developing them into something symmetrical. It is like a kaleidoscope; just put a bent pin in, or any little bit of rubbish, and a perfectly new and symmetrical pattern will be produced. I should not like myself to estimate the comparative worth of different kinds of mind, but after forming the conclusions stated above, the following passage from one of Sir J. Herschel's essays was not unpleasing:—'As a conquering, contriving, adorning, and imaginative being, the vestiges left by man are innumerable and imperishable, but as a reflective and reasoning one, how few do we find which will bear examination and justify his claim!' The field for reflection and reasoning, then, is not filled, there is yet an infinite extent of new country to explore and bring to use.
“I know it is said that knowledge is power, and I think the faculty of producing or discovering knowledge must be power of a higher degree, but I am quite aware that in the sense in which I desire power other qualities may be desirable, if not necessary. One of these is personal power, the employment of manners, language, persuasion, to accomplish an end, and of these I am quite sure I possess nil. I do not blame myself much for their absence; it is owing to a great extent to my animal constitution, but I acknowledge that I have done, and am doing, nothing to make the animal bend to the mental constitution. There is here, doubtless, a great deficiency.”
To his sister Lucy.
11th January 1858.
“To come to my own affairs, life here is very quiet, not one evening in the month do I spend anywhere but in my own little study, to which I am becoming really attached. Fancy a little French-windowed room close to the 'sad sea waves.' A square centre table, covered by a neat walnut-marked oilcloth, from which an inkstand with a sort of little dock full of pens, pencils, paper-knives (most of them mementos), a couple of large observation books, a pile of two or three books in process of reading, and a miscellaneous collection of papers in process of writing, are never absent. Close at my back and right side is a neat and well-made escritoire and side-table, whose five drawers are filled by collections of almost everything that I ever scribbled (one drawer being indeed a secret and almost sacred repository by means of a Hobbes' lock), while the top of the table is loaded by a travelling-desk, a large atlas, a portfolio of your drawings and other precious things, as well as other books, etc., of less immediate use; at one side of the room is a large glazed bookcase crammed with my more valuable books (the two lowest rows particularly please me), the surplus finding a place either on a home-made series of cedar shelves fixed to another part of the wall, or hiding in various drawers or cupboards; the large chiffonier cupboard below the bookcase is now partly appropriated to photographic apparatus, while the mahogany camera, fixed on its three-legged stand, serves to fill, in a very knowing way, an adjoining nook which was always before distressing to me. Barometers or other instruments are either suspended or recline in the other corners and nooks of the room. Now, too, it is quite a picture gallery, and indeed you need not come here to see the pictures, for they are all your own presents, or sent through you. There are two or three scenes near West Kirby, Wales, etc., two or three which look like the Thames, one beautifully painted scene with bush and trees which you say you copied in Italy, but which pleases me amazingly; and lastly, but most particularly of all, a photograph of Pisa, and a wonderful photograph of Uncle Dick [Dr. Roscoe, his uncle]. My room is completed by the harmonium and a small neat music-stand filled with music. I have lately added a superb and most convenient music-holder of my own design and manufacture. But you must not think that, however much my life here is in most respects to my liking, I have any thoughts of prolonging my stay here beyond the shortest decent limits. I feel as if I could give up everything that I now enjoy, and enter in London, a life of labour, trouble and small gains, if it would be more likely in other ways to bring me nearer my desired end. I have explained to you before what I seek, and in seeking it one must not be too nice about ordinary common sense, prudence and so forth. I cannot stay here much longer, or my best years will be gone; I shall have suffered in mind from the want of other minds to communicate with, and in body I shall be unfitted to live again in a cold climate. I wish, too, to see a little of the world before I again settle in civilized old England, where there are no holidays; indeed, I contemplate travelling for at least a year in some quarter of the globe, and if I only stop a year longer at the mint I shall be about twenty-five years old before I can fairly start again in London. If I said, therefore, that I had determined to make this my last year at the mint I should not be far wrong. It is a serious step to take, I will allow, but none except yourself, or Henny and myself, can understand it or judge it; but whenever I am occupied in planning and projecting, one thing always occurs to me now, and that is the Dunbar. It is perfectly right to lay out one's life before one, to invest a large capital in it, as it were, even with the hope of very distant and uncertain returns; this indeed is the only way of using life with true economy and effect. But always remember that you cannot effect an insurance upon such capital; it is life itself, and life and every hope and every return, except the inner return of a peaceful mind, may any day suffer a sudden shipwreck. I have just begun to read Jane Eyre for the first time; I am only half through it, and will not yet express any opinion on it, but one passage struck me so much that I must copy it out for you, chap. vi. p. 55: ‘I hold another creed, which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention, but in which I delight, and to which I cling, for it extends hope to all, it makes eternity a rest—a mighty home, not a terror and abyss. Besides, with this creed I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first, while I abhor the last; with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low, I live in calm, looking to the end.’ I never before saw my creed written out, but here it is. This is what Helen Burns says, the schoolgirl who soon dies of consumption, but I suppose it is the creed of Charlotte Bronte, who wrote it, and, if so, it is enough to give me an interest in her. I recommend this to you. …”
To his sister Henrietta.
28th February 1858.
“You say that I seemed from my last letters not so much occupied with music. This can scarcely have been the case, for music is always to me the same, a condition of my existence, a part of me. I believe I could live a life of music. If our physical nature did not interfere I can almost conceive it possible that a man might play music ad infinitum and still never tire. Have you ever felt, when much pleased and interested by several different things in the same day, as if you would like to have a separate existence for each, something in the way that in vingt et un you can divide a pair of similar cards and play two or more separate hands? Now I think that nothing less than a lifetime would quite satisfy my musical thirst, while I find with concern that a single hour per day out of the twenty-four considerably interferes with other affairs equally or more important. Music, then, ought to be a rare but still legitimate and occasional delight. I greatly envy you with your music master, and lessons, and new pieces, and concerts, and other grand opportunities. Here, I come to a stand, surprised and pleased, if I hear a (supposed) young lady strumming in a second-floor room in a Sydney street. …
“The Philharmonic concerts, with their questionably-performed overtures and symphonies, have now ceased, because the concert-room has, in the most Gothic manner, been converted into an auction-room. Of musical as well as dramatic 'stars,' the Sydney sky from horizon to zenith has been quite clear for at least six months. You can understand then, the dull and miserable thing that it is to ramble through the beauties of all the chief oratorios, etc., and yet be beyond the reach of all those grand performances I hear of in London and Liverpool. If one of the Exeter Hall oratorios (at 3s.) took place here, and the price were raised to £10, I feel pretty nearly sure I should go. About two weeks ago I fell upon Beethoven's Mount of Olives and Pastoral Symphony, and instantly buying them at the price demanded, have since played scarcely anything else. Many pieces in the first I have mastered, I really think, better than anything before, most of the latter is beyond my power altogether, and I can only here and there catch an air. Of the Mount of Olives I can only say that it contains some things of the beauty and sublimity of which I had before formed no conception. It is like gaining a new insight into a thing. My two favourite passages I copy out; they are the simplest parts of the whole, but surpassingly beautiful and striking. Beethoven's music seems to me characterised by ‘being full of soul,’ every note seems to be a thought, or at least a part of an expression, while the whole seems to be an inspiration rather than an exertion of mere musical knowledge, art, or talent. Of all other composers Weber seems to me most nearly to resemble him in this; Haydn, Mendelssohn, Spohr follow next in this respect. Mozart and Handel, though perhaps greater than any, on the whole, are distinguished, especially the latter, by the preponderance of the musical art, pure or combined with the dramatic.
“These thoughts and criticisms I give quite freely, although I know I have no foundation or opportunity of judging, and I wish you would do the same of what you play. …
“I am glad you find political economy tolerable. The Wealth of Nations is perhaps one of the driest on the subject. You will perceive that economy, scientifically speaking, is a very contracted science; it is in fact a sort of vague mathematics which calculates the causes and effects of man's industry, and shows how it may best be applied. There are a multitude of allied branches of knowledge connected with man's condition; the relation of these to political economy is analogous to the connection of mechanics, astronomy, optics, sound, heat, and every other branch more or less of physical science, with pure mathematics. I have an idea, which I do not object to mention to you, that my insight into the foundations and nature of the knowledge of man is deeper than that of most men or writers. In fact, I think that it is my mission to apply myself to such subjects, and it is my intention to do so. You are desirous of engaging in the practically useful; you may feel assured that to extend and perfect the abstract or the detailed and practical knowledge of man and society is perhaps the most useful and necessary work in which any one can now engage. There are plenty of people engaged with physical science, and practical science and arts may be left to look after themselves, but thoroughly to understand the principles of society appears to me now the most cogent business. The Association for the Advancement of Social Science is a great step certainly, but it seems to me as yet scarcely founded on a sufficiently wide basis; I do not think also that it should be confined so much to details and practical suggestions.”
To his sister Henrietta.
18th April 1858.
“Thus1 have I spent a whole Sunday evening from teatime till nearly 1 a.m. Mrs. G. and other visitors have been here to-night, but I have been so buried in my subject that I could not tolerate their talk, and so scarcely saw them during ten minutes at tea and ten at supper. I often wonder whether my sisters will tolerate my abstractions when I live with them again (if ever), will they remonstrate and bother, or will they sit up and help and advise me in my work? Sometimes lately when I have got into a subject, I have worked up to 4 a.m. in the morning. As to this evening's work, I hope it will give you a fraction of the pleasure and interest it has given me. To be interested is to be happy, and I believe I am one of the happiest people alive, because there is scarcely a thing I could lay my hands on but I could spend an evening with it if need be. To prevent one thing from interfering with another is my only difficulty.”
To his sister Henrietta.
9th June 1858.
“… I think there are no characters one loves so much as great musical composers. Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn seem to be the intimate friends and benefactors of all who hear their music: what a privilege thus to delight millions of people for ages to come. Those three poor Germans will be known when Victoria is forgotten, and London perhaps will be distinguished as the place where the Messiah was first performed. But it is an interesting question with me whether musical writings will have the everlasting character of poetry, or whether it will become antique and superseded. David's psalms, Hqmer's Iliad, Shakespeare's plays, and Milton's Paradise Lost, will be read as long as there are readers. Will the Requiem, the Messiah, the Engedi, and Elijah or St. Paul be played, and perhaps rearranged for instruments of improved construction? Very probably it is so, and the last century scarcely yet terminated is a grand musical epoch that may never recur with such original beauty and grandeur.”
To his sister Lucy.
9th July 1858.
“My monthly despatches will this time be comprised within a small space, for the mail has not arrived, and I have consequently no letters to answer. Life here is as quiet as usual. There is nothing in the least striking to tell you of. It often occurs to me, is it well to live thus undisturbed? Will the future be better than the present to one who makes no present sacrifices? Granting that a given position is good, may it not be wisely relinquished if a happier one may be attained, even after much trouble? What man of sense that had a hundred acres of land would dig a single acre, and sowing it with potatoes, rest contented that he is not likely to starve, and owes no man anything? Will he not pinch himself and go through years of toil that his whole estate may be rendered a productive farm? It is just so with me. I have plenty of potatoes to live on, and might lie down in sunshine if I wanted nothing else. But may I not fairly believe that I have other capabilities, that my soil will bear other and better products if properly tilled? and am I to neglect this for the sake of the trouble? You already know so well what are my intentions that I need answer none of my own questions, but you will understand that self-proposed arguments, such as the above, are now and then necessary when transitory misgivings arise. It requires no little courage to do as I propose, and I am not naturally by any means courageous. To abandon a good income of potatoes will be thought madness by all those potato-growing friends who have no idea that corn, milk, and fruit might be raised off the same ground with a little extra trouble. … I do not know whether I have before explained why I desire at once to leave Sydney. It is because I believe my education is but now continuing, and that by staying here it is checked, and irretrievably deferred. I have gained many advantages by my residence at the Antipodes. If I could again be left to decide, quite unbiassed by the opinion of my father and others, whether I would accept the assayership, it is perhaps more likely than not that I should do so. But I feel sure that a few additional years' savings (surplus of potato crops) are far outbalanced by the irremediable injury to future fruits of greater value. I have done something here, but a change of life from easy to hard and busy, from Sydney to London, a better knowledge of the world both physical and human, the mixture with enlightened men and great objects, the abandonment of a pleasant but scarcely profitable seclusion from all society, and thus a diligent use of the advantages of London, are what I seek. Yet I fear these things will not increase my potato crop! … I am at present very busily occupied with meteorology. I left off my regular observations at the end of last month, and am now working out all the results and arranging all information I have concerning the climate of Australia, so as to publish it if I like. I shall then have pretty nearly finished with meteorology. I don't think more than a month more will be necessary for this. I have then plenty to do with assaying, photography, botany, and preparations for my travels, to occupy five months more, so that I expect the time will pass very quickly. … In working up the climate of Australia I have read a great many books of voyages and expeditions, and take quite a romantic view of wild primeval forests and cannibal blacks. Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Masterman Ready I used to think amusing but childish fiction, yet the true incidents which happen in Australia or the ‘Islands’ (by which we here denote Polynesia), are quite as singular and interesting, minus a little of the couleur de rose. England must be a very prosy conventional place, where there is no square yard that ‘the foot of white man has not crossed,’ and where the aboriginals were exterminated some 2000 years ago.”
To his sister Lucy.
14th October 1858.
“I have already posted one letter to you by this mail, but the letters of two mails from England having happily been delivered to-day, I have much more to say, and also an opportunity of sending it by a steamer which leaves here to-morrow on purpose to catch the mail at Melbourne. I have only received two letters, one from Herbert and one from—, the last a serious business letter. … As you may believe, it is no light matter for me in my place to receive such a letter, and I feel at the moment as if I had more upon my shoulders than ever before, even than in that dreadful week which passed a sentence of transportation upon me. It is one of those things which strike you with the chill of money, and which sums up all that is desirable, good, and necessary, in fact life itself, into a total income of £s. d. Show that you can provide this cold metallic coin, and virtue, worth, enlightenment may be followed as ornaments and accomplishments. Pleasure is measured simply as the expenditure of so much money, and he who lives at £1000 per annum is in the world's eye five times as happy as he who spends but £200. Is a man thus posted up in his cash-book? Is everything thus ‘closed with golden bars, and opened but with golden keys?’ … But I am very glad, while about to take a step which I can never retrace, that the most chilling view of things should be presented to me. Nothing could have come more in the nick of time than this letter, for only a day or two since I was hesitating whether to wait for the mail before giving notice of my intended resignation. Now I scarcely waver in my resolution, but I act with the greatest reluctance and heaviness of spirits. … I may find out my mistake some day, perhaps I may drawl away a wretched existence sometime, but I declare that in my present state of mind I am ready to throw myself into the battle of life for mortal combat, and to strip myself of everything for the purpose of paying debts of affection while I can, and then of providing as far as possible for a successful issue. I verily believe I do not, and will not, spare myself, but it must be a cause of increasing regret if I inflict anything upon others. … As to the college I do not now decide, but I am sure that another year's regular hard study, especially at my increased age, will be invaluable, and its loss would be regretted to the end of my life. I am often now much vexed at my want of knowledge which I should in another year obtain, and have already been impeded by it. It has occurred to me that in returning to England I may seem to disregard the opinions and wishes of my father, who certainly influenced me to come here, but I do not think it is so. Could he have foreseen things as they are, I believe he would not have sent me here—he could not have been aware, as I was both reserved and but little conscious of it myself, of my entire devotion to serious views and studies, and he had also a somewhat exaggerated idea of my prospects here. They have been better than could reasonably have been expected, but my father seemed in his letters slightly disappointed. It is not true, also, that he wished me to stay here. On the contrary, he distinctly said that he could not bear to let me go if, after some years, he did not hope to see me again. And now that he is gone, is the bond which connects me with home entirely dissolved? and are the circumstances entirely changed which in his opinion rendered a return judicious? But I am quite certain that if at the time I had stated my wish for further study and a different start in life, he would have immediately agreed. Am I wrong, then, in carrying out such views at present, or is it much worse to refuse a good salary after four or five years' benefit from it, than from the first? … I feel the cold weight of the decision I am making as I never felt it before, although it was always a serious subject.”
To his sister Lucy.
Sydney, 8th November 1858.
“… The weather has been too changeable here of late to admit of successful excursions, but I am still stiff in my limbs from the last, which was an out and out one. Mr. Hunt of the mint agreed to go photographing with me, and accordingly we started about 2 p.m. last Saturday in company with Mr. MacCutcheon (mint clerk and my successor) for Middle Harbour, intending to camp it out all night and photograph in the calm clear air of early morning. Hunt's boat is a beautiful light skiff or wager boat named the Terror, and accounted the third or fourth best boat in the harbour. Still, with Hunt's good management it is very safe, and it soon carried us, with a very large amount of luggage, round Middle Head. Here our photographic zeal was so incited by the bold water-worn cliffs that we decided on landing my lighter apparatus, and taking them off, as the phrase is. The sky being very cloudy, and the cliffs looking away from the sun, this was not easily done, nor, after spending an hour and a half over four trials, did we get at all a perfect photograph. When Hunt and I had again packed up we were surprised to see the boat drifting away with no one apparently in her; MacCutcheon, who had engaged to keep her afloat away from the swell on the rocks, having lain down in the bottom of the boat and gone to dreamland. Shouting was of no avail, and after some twenty minutes we were much relieved to see an arm appear above the gunwale, and then a fellow looking about as if he did not know where he was. We now proceeded through the panoramic scenery of Middle Harbour, passing a succession of small coves with white sandy beaches, rocky headlands, picturesquely covered with trees, evergreen shrubs, and staghorn ferns, and better than all, little shady dells, where a gentle stream trickles down among moss and lichen-covered stones, between which grew luxuriantly the most beautiful shrubs, creepers, ferns, and orchids, again over-arched by noble old gum-trees. The photographer cannot leave these alluring little scenes without a pang of disappointment, and yet if he attempt them he will find that he cannot convey to the plate an impress of one-tenth part of their beauty. As we were now bent on taking the Willoughby Falls, we went at once up Waterfall Bay, at the head of which the falls are. Before we got there the sun was set, and the place was examined more with an eye to the comfortable lodgings it could afford than to its picturesque-ness. At the falls there was plenty of water, but no sleeping-place. One overhanging rock near at hand, which would have done nicely, was already engaged by some occupant, of whom blankets, tin pots, candles, firewood, and matches were too plain a sign. As he was probably a black man, or, still worse, a drunken white man, and would probably arrive home some time in the night, we cleared away in the boat to the other side of the narrow bay, where we at last selected a small flat space of land upon a point, and just above the sea water. Fresh water we had brought with us from the falls, so we at once set to work in that co-operative busy manner which only those who are intensely and personally interested in the result employ, to erect the tent before dark, and cook the meal, for which we had so good an appetite. In a very short time we had a large sail forming a one-sided tent sloping towards a rock; at one side of this was our fire, lighted against an ancient log of wood blackened in some bush fire, or perhaps by a previous camping party. Water was soon boiled, and tea made, mutton chops were soon fried on forked sticks, and a quite elaborate meal was laid beneath the hut on the ground, well covered with oilskins and blankets. It was now dark, but candles and a lantern were forthcoming, which swung suspended from the tent pole and illumined our camp. Thus within our tent was civilised comfort, but stretching out your head, you looked around on a beautiful and perfectly natural scene of placid clear blue waters; on rocky shores sculptured by nature, and variously decked with shells and bright coloured sea-weeds; on high, bold, rocky slopes, forming a succession of picturesque headlands, and including in every angle small rustic dells, the interior beauties of which were present to the mind, but not the eye; and on the sky above. All was now wrapped in darkness, so that sea and land and sky were nearly indistinguishable, but the impressions of beauty all seem to me present to the mind, even when thus veiled over; sounds, too, which are unnoticed but in the dead of night, are then strangely suggestive of pleasant images, the gush of water at the waterfall, the roar of the great Pacific waves upon the coast not far distant, now diminishing, but again bursting out as the large seventh wave recurs, the rustle of the tree-tops, exposed to the motion of the upper air, the wash of the rippled water near at hand, the flickering crackle of the camp fire re-echoed from a neighbouring rock, and the various cries of animals, not wanting here, but less harmonious than elsewhere,—all these suggest through one sense, the beauty or power which another sense usually informs us of by day. I confess to sleeping with difficulty on the ground; I am not naturally sleepy, and a little excitement of my thoughts drives sleep away more than the want of a mattress, to which the sharp intolerable buzz of a persecuting crowd of mosquitoes, every now and then attacking you with their acutely-poisoned little daggers, strongly contributes. At last I could stand the tent no longer, but rising and making up the fire, now half out, and wrapping myself in my shawl (a bequest from you), I ascended to the top of the overhanging rock, and on that hard, but serial bed, I watched the stars until I slept. Daylight was not unwelcome, but it came half obscured in doubtful-looking clouds. We exerted ourselves early, however, commencing with a refreshing bathe in the deep clear water into which the boat with a single push floated. Then leaving MacCutcheon to prepare breakfast, Hunt and I proceeded to the waterfall, dragging up our apparatus by main force. By half-past six we took the first plate, but rain at the moment began to fall. After breakfast, however, at which we each consumed four eggs, the weather cleared up in some degree, and we made repeated trials on the same subject, until satisfied that a more satisfactory result could not be obtained. Hunt has since printed and mounted one of his plates, producing a really beautiful picture, and certainly the best he has taken. My plate is smaller, and has a slight defect, but otherwise ought to turn out even better. Our excursion was now in fact ended, for the day was hot, and the wind from the north-west, and the clouds wild and threatening, indicating unmistakably a 'southerly burster,' or squall, during the day, which would prevent us rounding Middle Head, unless we did it quickly. With little delay, therefore, we rowed home to Double Bay, reaching there by 1.30 p.m. Hunt and MacCutcheon then went homewards in his boat to the north shore. Before quite reaching it, however, the thunderstorm burst with a tremendous squall from the south, tremendous torrents of rain, and large hailstones; they were instantly drenched, but otherwise all right; I congratulated myself on the prudence which had brought us home just in time. The afternoon was fine, but a second white or cloudless squall followed in the evening: this storm was one of the most violent I have ever seen here, only lasting about half-an-hour; the rain which fell was, I think; an inch in depth, or nearly one-twentieth part of what falls in England during a whole year.”
To his sister Lucy.
9th December 1858.
“Another month is gone, and in a very few weeks I shall no longer belong to Sydney. The change is one of some magnitude, but seems to steal upon one very quietly. Perhaps it is in consequence of my slightly-increased years that I feel very cool under all circumstances. … It would now be one of the greatest disappointments possible to me, if circumstances prevented my immediate return home; but this has nearly happened.
“I will tell you that I might have a fair prospect of an income from; £1000 to £2000 a year in Melbourne. Mr. H—, a chemist, whom I knew here, has lately moved there, and in a few months established a gold-melting and assaying business which already pays nearly £2000. He much wants a partner, however, and proposed to Mr. Miller to join him. Miller got two weeks' leave of absence, and went to Melbourne to see how the truth stands. He returned yesterday very well satisfied with everything, but I do not think he will finally decide on leaving a fixed salary. H—is equally willing to take me, but told Miller that it must be for a permanency. This was my salvation. … I had almost made up my mind, that I could not refuse such a chance of making money if I could hold it for say two or three years. But a permanency, or even the nine years' partnership, which H—would require, is altogether out of the question. I would almost as soon hang myself at once, as the surest way of procuring a permanent settlement … I have thrown over the Melbourne idea almost entirely, and with no small relief to my spirits. It would indeed have been difficult to reconcile myself to a sudden change of plans which would defer for several years everything which of my own inclination I desire. I have no love of money, no love of an easy life, and no love of an ordinary consequential position, all which I might easily attain in these colonies. What I do, concerns myself alone, unless it is ‘positively injurious to others. … Now I have no fear that any of you will ever reproach me with this, but, to be on the safe side, I would freely engage that so far as my present or future possessions go, any necessary or reasonable assistance shall be yours, in short everything that I have should be yours, rather than that I should act selfishly. But I cannot believe that any of you would ever wish me to sacrifice everything that I hold dear after my love for yourselves. It is rather a grave business to refuse an almost certain fortune, such as I should doubtless obtain either here or especially in Melbourne, but so it must be, and upon my own shoulders will be the consequences. Life has run smoothly with me as yet, but I am quite aware that it may not always be so, and I hope that you also look upon it in this light. …”
The young man whom he took out as an assistant. He was a younger brother of Stanley's nurse, who remained a valued servant and friend to the family.
In writing a long criticism of Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven's Engedi.