Catherine Helen Spence
CHAPTER I. EARLY LIFE IN SCOTLAND. CHAPTER II. TOWARDS AUSTRALIA. CHAPTER III. A BEGINNING AT SEVENTEEN CHAPTER IV. LOVERS AND FRIENDS. CHAPTER V. NOVELS AND A POLITICAL INSPIRATION. CHAPTER VI. A TRIP TO ENGLAND. CHAPTER VII. MELROSE REVISITED. CHAPTER VIII. I VISIT EDINBURGH AND LONDON. CHAPTER IX. MEETING WITH J. S. MILL AND GEORGE ELIOT. CHAPTER X. RETURN FROM THE OLD COUNTRY. CHAPTER XI WARDS OF THE STATE. CHAPTER XII. PREACHING, FRIENDS, AND WRITING. CHAPTER XIII. MY WORK FOR EDUCATION. CHAPTER XIV. SPECULATION, CHARITY, AND A BOOK. CHAPTER XV. JOURNALISM AND POLITICS. CHAPTER XVI. SORROW AND CHANGE. CHAPTER XVII. IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA. CHAPTER XVIII. BRITAIN, THE CONTINENT, AND HOME AGAIN. CHAPTER XIX. PROGRESS OF EFFECTIVE VOTING. CHAPTER XX. WIDENING INTERESTS. CHAPTER XXI PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION AND FEDERATION. CHAPTER XXII. A VISIT TO NEW SOUTH WALES. CHAPTER XXIII. MORE PUBLIC WORK. CHAPTER XXIV. THE EIGHTIETH MILESTONE AND THE END.
EARLY LIFE IN SCOTLAND.
Sitting down at the age of eighty-four to give an account of my life, I feel that it connects itself naturally with the growth and development of the province of South Australia, to which I came with my family in the year 1839, before it was quite three years old. But there is much truth in Wordsworth's line, "the child is father of the man," and no less is the mother of the woman; and I must go back to Scotland for the roots of my character and Ideals. I account myself well-born, for My father and my mother loved each other. I consider myself well descended, going back for many generations on both sides of intelligent and respectable people. I think I was well brought up, for my father and mother were of one mind regarding the care of the family. I count myself well educated, for the admirable woman at the head of the school which I attended from the age of four and a half till I was thirteen and a half, was a born teacher in advance of her own times. In fact. like my own dear mother, Sarah Phin was a New Woman without knowing it. The phrase was not known in the thirties.
I was born on October 31, 1825, the fifth of a family of eight born to David Spence and Helen Brodie, in the romantic village of Melrose, on the silvery Tweed, close to the three picturesque peaks of the Eildon Hills, which Michael Scott's familiar spirit split up from one mountain mass in a single night, according to the legend. It was indeed poetic ground. It was Sir Walter Scott's ground. Abbotsford was within two miles of Melrose, and one of my earliest recollections was seeing the long procession which followed his body to the family vault at Dryburgh Abbey. There was not a local note in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" or in the novels. "The Monastery" and "The Abbot," with which I was not familiar before I entered my teens. There was not a hill or a burn or a glen that had not a song or a proverb, or a legend about it. Yarrow braes were not far off. The broom of the Cowdenknowes was still nearer, and my mother knew the words as well as the tunes of the minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. But as all readers of the life of Scott know, he was a Tory, loving the past with loyal affection, and shrinking from any change. My father, who was a lawyer (a writer as it was called), and his father who was a country practitioner, were reformers, and so it happened that they never came into personal relations with the man they admired above all men in Scotland. It was the Tory doctor who attended to his health, and the Tory writer who was consulted about his affairs.
I look back to a happy childhood. The many anxieties which reached both my parents were quite unknown to the children till the crisis in 1839. I do not know that I appreciated the beauty of the village I lived in so much with my own bodily eyes as through the songs and the literature, which were current talk. The old Abbey, with its 'prentice window, and its wonders in stonecarving, that Scott had written about and Washington Irving marvelled at—"Here lies the race of the House of Yair" as a tombstone—had a grand roll in it. In the churchyard of the old Abbey my people on the Spence side lay buried. In the square or market place there no longer stood the great tree described in The Monastery as standing just after Flodden Field, where the flowers of the forest had been cut down by the English; but in the centre stood the cross with steps up to it, and close to the cross was the well, to which twice a day the maids went to draw water for the house until I was nine years old, when we had pipes and taps laid on. The cross was the place for any public speaking, and I recalled, when I was recovering from the measles, the maid in whose charge I was, wrapped me in a shawl and took me with her to hear a gentleman from Edinburgh speak in favour of reform to a crowd gathered round. He said that the Tories had found a new name—they called themselves Conservatives because it sounded better. For his part he thought conserves were pickles, and he hoped all the Tories would soon find themselves in a pretty pickle. There were such shouts of laughter that I saw this was a great joke.
We had gasworks in Melrose when I was 10 or 11, and a great joy to us children the wonderful light was. I recollect the first lucifer matches, and the wonder of them. My brother John had got 6d. from a visiting, uncle as a reward for buying him snuff to fill his cousin's silver snuffbox, and he spent the money in buying a box of lucifers, with the piece of sandpaper doubled, through which each match was to be smartly drawn, and he took all of us and some of his friends to the orchard, we called the wilderness, at the back of my grandfather Spence's house, and lighted each of the 50 matches, and we considered it a great exhibition. 'MY grandfather (old Dr. Spence) died before the era of lucifer matches. He used to get up early and strike a fire with flint and steel to boil the kettle and make a cup of tea to give to his wife in bed. He did it for his first wife (Janet Park), who was delicate, and he did the same for his second wife until her last fatal illness. It was a wonderful thing for a man to do in those days. He would not call the maid; he said young things wanted plenty of sleep. He had been a navy doctor, and was very intelligent. He trusted much to Nature and not too much to drugs. On the Sunday of the great annular eclipse of the sun in 1835, which was my brother John's eleventh birthday, he had a large double tooth extracted—not by a dentist, and gas was then unknown or any other anaesthetic, so he did not enjoy the eclipse as other people did. It took place in the afternoon, and there was no afternoon church.
In summer we had two services—one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon. In winter we had two services at one sitting, which was a thing astonishing to English visitors. The first was generally called a lecture—a reading with comments, of a passage of Scripture—a dozen verses or more—and the second a regularly built sermon, with three or four heads, and some particulars, and a practical summing up.
Prices and cost of living had fallen since my mother had married in 1815, three months after the battle of Waterloo. At that time tea cost 8/0 a lb., loaf sugar, 1/4, and brown sugar 11 1/2d. Bread and meat were then still at war prices, and calico was no cheaper than linen, and that was dear. She paid 3/6 a yard for fine calico to make petticoats. Other garments were of what was called home made linen. White cotton stockings at 4/9, and thinner at 3/9 each; silk stockings at 11/6. I know she paid 36/ for a yard of Brussels net to make caps of. It was a new thing to have net made in the loom. When a woman married she must wear caps at least in the morning. In 1838 my mother bought a chest of tea (84 lb.) for 20 pounds, a trifle under 5/0 a lb.; the retail price was 6/0—it was a great saving; and up to the time of our departure brown sugar cost 7 1/2d., and loaf sugar 10d. It is no wonder that these things were accounted luxuries. When a decent Scotch couple in South Australia went out to a station in the country in the forties and received their stores, the wife sat down at her quarter-chest of tea and gazed at her bag of sugar, and fairly wept to think of her old mother across the ocean, who had such difficulty in buying an ounce of tea and a pound of sugar. My mother even saw an old woman buy 1/4oz. of tea and pay 11/2d. for it, and another woman buy 1/4lb. of meat.
We kept three maids. The cook got 8 pounds a year, the housemaid 7 pounds, and the nursemaid 6 pounds, paid half-yearly, but the summer half-year was much better paid than the winter, because there was the outwork in the fields, weeding and hoeing turnips and potatoes, and haymaking. The winter work in the house was heavier on account of the fires and the grate cleaning, but the wages were less. My mother gave the top wages in the district, and was considerate to her maids, but I blush yet to think how poorly those good women who made the comfort of my early home were paid for their labours. You could get a washerwoman for a shilling or 1/6 a day, but you must give her a glass of whisky as well as her food. You could get a sewing girl for a shilling or less, without the whisky. And yet cheap as sewing was it was the pride of the middle-elms women of those days that they did it all themselves at home. Half of the time of girls' schools was given to sewing when mother was taught. Nearly two hours a day was devoted to it in my time.
A glass of whisky in Scotland in the thirties cost less than a cup of tea. I recollect my father getting a large cask of whisky direct from the distillery which cost 6/6 a gallon, duty paid. A bottle of inferior whisky could be bought at the grocer's for a shilling. It is surprising how much alcoholic beverages entered into the daily life, the business, and the pleasures of the people in those days. No bargain could be made without them. Christenings, weddings, funerals—all called for the pouring out of strong drink. If a lady called, the port and sherry decanters were produced, and the cake basket. If a gentleman, probably it was the spirit decanter. After the 3 o'clock dinner there was whisky and hot water and sugar, and generally the came after the 10 o'clock supper. Drinking habits were very prevalent among men, and were not in any way disgraceful, unless excessive. But there was less drinking among women than there is now, because public opinion was strongly against it. Without being abstainers, they were temperate. With the same heredity and the same environment, you would see all the brothers pretty hard drinkers and all the sisters quite straight. Such is the effect of public opinion. Nothing else has been so powerful in changing these customs as the cheapening of tea and coffee and cocoa, but especially tea.
My brothers went to the parish school, one of the best in the county. The endowment from the tiends or tithes, extorted by John Knox from the Lords of the congregations, who had seized on the church lands, was more meagre for the schoolmasters than for the clergy. I think Mr. Thomas Murray had only 33 pounds in Money, a schoolhouse, and a residence and garden, and he had to make up a livelihood from school fees, which began at 2/ a quarter for reading, 3/6 when writing was taught, and 51 for arithmetic. Latin, I think, cost 10/6 a quarter, but it included English. Mr. Murray adopted a phonic system of teaching reading, not so complete as the late Mr. Hartley formulated for our South Australian schools, and was most successful with it. He not only used maps, but he had blank maps-a great innovation. My mother was only taught geography during the years in which she was "finished" in Edinburgh, and never saw a map then. She felt interested in geography when her children were learning it. No boy in Mr. Murray's school was allowed to be idle; every spare minute was given to arithmetic. In the parish school boys of all classes were taught. Sir David Brewster's sons went to it; but there were fewer girls, partly because no needlework was taught there, and needlework was of supreme importance. Mr. Murray was session clerk, for which he received 5 pounds a year. On Saturday afternoons he might do land measuring, like Goldsmith's schoolmaster in "The Deserted Village"—
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, And even the rumour ran that he could gauge.
My mother felt that her children were receiving a much better education than she had had. The education seemed to begin after she left school. Her father united with six other tenant farmers in buying the third edition of "The Encyclopedia Britannica," seven for the price of six. Probably it was only in East Lothian that seven such purchasers could be found, and my mother studied it well, as also the unabridged Johnson's Dictionary in two volumes. She learned the Greek letters, so that she could read the derivations, but went no further. She saw the fallacy of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund when her father believed in it. To borrow more than was needed so as to put aside part on compound interest, would make the price of money rise. And why should not private people adopt the same way of getting rid of debts? The father said it would not do for them at all—it was only practicable for a nation. The things I recollect of the life in the village of Melrose, of 700 inhabitants, have been talked over with my mother, and many embodied in a little MS. volume of reminiscences of her life. I hold more from her than from my father; but, as he was an unlucky speculator, I inherit from him Hope, which is invaluable to a social or political reformer. School holidays were only a rarity in harvest time for the parish school. At Miss Phin's we had, besides, a week at Christmas. The boys had only New Year's Day. Saturday was only a half-holiday. We all had a holiday for Queen Victoria's coronation, and I went with a number of school fellows to see Abbotsford, not for the first time in my life.
Two mail coaches—the Blucher and the Chevy Chase—ran through Melrose every day. People went to the post office for their letters, and paid for them on delivery. My two elder sisters—Agnes, who died of consumption at the age of 16, and Jessie, afterwards Mrs. Andrew Murray, of Adelaide and Melbourne, went to boarding school with their aunt, Mary Spence, lit Upper Wooden, halfway between Jedburgh and Kelso. Roxburghshire is rich in old monasteries. The border lands were more safe in the hands of the church than under feudal lords engaged in perpetual fighting, and the vassals of the abbeys had generally speaking, a more secure existence. Kelso. Jedburgh, and Dryburgh Abbeys lay in fertile districts, and I fancy that when these came into the hands of the Lords of the congregation, the vassals looked back with regret on the old times. I was not sent to Wooden, but kept at home, and I went to a dayschool called by the very popish name of St. Mary's Convent, though it was quite sufficiently Protestant. My mother had the greatest confidence in the lady who was at the head of it. She had been a governess in good situations, and had taught herself Latin, so that she might fit the boys of the family to take a good place in the Edinburgh High School. She discovered that she had an incurable disease, a form of dropsy, which compelled her to lie down for some time every day, and this she considered she could not do as a governess. So she determined to risk her savings, and start a boarding and day school in Melrose, a beautiful and healthy neighbourhood, and with the aid of a governess, impart what was then considered the education of a gentlewoman to the girls in the neighbourhood. She took with her her old mother, and a sister who managed the housekeeping, and taught the pupils all kinds of plain and fancy needlework. She succeeded, and she lived till the year 1866, although most of her teaching was done from her sofa. When my mother was asked what it was that made Phin so successful, and so esteemed, she said it was her commonsense. The governesses were well enough, but the invalid old lady was the life and soul of the school. There were about 14 boarders, and nearly as many day scholars there, so long as there was no competition. When that came there was a falling off, but my young sister Mary and I were faithful till the day when after nine years at the same school, I went with Jessie to Wooden, to Aunt Mary's, to hear there that my father was ruined, and had to leave Melrose and Scotland for ever, and that we must all go to Australia. That was in April, 1839.
As I said, I had a very happy childhood. The death of my eldest sister at 16, and of my youngest sister at two years old, did not sink into the mind of a child as it did into that of my parents, and although they were seriously alarmed about my health when I was 12 years old, when I developed symptoms similar to those of Agnes at the same age, I was not ill enough to get at all alarmed. I was annoyed at having to stay away from school for three months. When the collapse came Jessie had a dear friend of some years' standing, and I had one whom had known only for some months, but I had spent a month with her in Edinburgh at Christmas, 1838, and we exchanged letters weekly through the box which came from Edinburgh with my brother John's, washing. It was too expensive for us to write by the post. Well, neither of our friends wrote a word to us. With regard to mine it was not to be wondered at much—she was only 13—but the other was more surprising. It was not till 1865 that an old woman told me that when Miss F. B. came to return some books and music to her to give to my aunt in Melrose, "she just sat in the chair and cried as if her heart would break." She was not quite a free agent. Very few single women were free agents in 1839. We were hopelessly ruined, our place would know us no more.
The only long holidays I had in the year I spent at Thornton Loch, in East Lothian, 40 miles away. I did not know that my father was a heavy speculator in foreign wheat, and I thought his keen interest in the market in Mark lane was on account of the Thornton Loch crops, in which first my grandfather and afterwards the three Maiden aunts were deeply concerned. My mother's father, John Brodie, was one of the most enterprising agriculturists in the most advanced district of Great Britain. He won a prize of two silver salvers from the Highland Society for having the largest area of drilled wheat sown. He was called up twice to London to give evidence before Parliamentary committees on the corn laws, and he naturally approved of them, because, with three large farms held on 19 years' leases at war prices, the influx of cheap wheat from abroad would mean ruin. He proved that he paid 6,000 pounds a year for these three farms—two he worked himself, the third was for his eldest son; but he was liable for the rent. On his first London trip, my aunt Margaret accompanied him, and on his second he took my mother. That was in the year 1814, and both of them noted from the postchaise that farming was not up to what was done in East Lothian.
My grandfather Brodie was a speculating man, and he lost nearly all his savings through starting, along with others, an East Lothian Bank, because the local banker had been ill used by the British Linen Company. He put in only 1,000 pounds; but was liable for all, and, as many of his fellow shareholders were defaulters, it cost 15,000 pounds before all was over, and if it had not been that he left the farm in the capable hands of Aunt Margaret, there would have been little or nothing left for the family. When he had a stroke of paralysis he wanted to turn over Thornton Loch, the only farm he then had, to his eldest son, but there were three daughters, and one of them said she would like to carry it on, and she did so. She was the most successful farmer in the country for 30 years, and then she transferred it to a nephew. The capacity for business of my Aunt Margaret, the wit and charm of my brilliant Aunt Mary, and the sound judgment and accurate memory of my own dear mother, showed me early that women were fit to share in the work of this world, and that to make the world pleasant for men was not their only mission. My father's sister Mary was also a remarkable and saintly woman, though I do not think she was such a born teacher as Miss Phin. When my father was a little boy, not 12 years old, an uncle from Jamaica came home for a visit. He saw his sister Janet a dying woman, with a number of delicate-looking children, and he offered to take David with him and treat him like his own son. No objections were made. The uncle was supposed to be well-to-do, and he was unmarried, but he took fever and died, and was found to be not rich but insolvent. The boy could read and write, and he got something to do on a plantation till his father sent money to pay his passage home. He must have been supposed to be worth something, for he got a cask of rum for his wages, which was shipped home, and when the duty had been paid was drunk in the doctor's household. But the boy had been away only 21 months, and he returned to find his mother dead, and two or three little brothers and sisters dead and buried, and his father married again to his mother's cousin, Katherine Swanston, an old maid of 45, who, however, two years afterwards was the mother of a fine big daughter, so that Aunt Helen Park's scheme for getting the money for her sister's children failed. In spite of my father's strong wish to be a farmer, and not a writer or attorney, there was no capital to start a farm upon, so he was indentured to Mr. Erskine, and after some years began business in Melrose for himself, and married Lelen (Helen?) Brodie. His elder brother John went as a surgeon in the Royal Navy—before he was twenty-one. The demand for surgeons was great during the war time. He was made a Freemason before the set age, because in case of capture friends from the fraternity might be of great use. He did not like his original profession, especially when after the peace he must be a country practitioner like his father, at every one's beck and call, so he was articled to his brother, and lived in the house till he married and settled at Earlston, five miles off. Uncle John Spence was a scholarly man, shy but kindly, who gave to us children most of the books we possessed. They were not in such abundance as children read nowadays, but they were read and re-read.
In these early readings the Calvinistic teaching of the church and the shorter catechism was supported and exemplified. The only secular books to counteract them were the "Evenings at Home" and Miss Edgeworth's "Tales for Young and Old!" The only cloud on my young life was the gloomy religion, which made me doubt of my own salvation and despair of the salvation of any but a very small proportion of the people in the world. Thus the character of God appeared unlovely, and it was wicked not to love God; and this was my condemnation. I had learned the shorter catechism with the proofs from Scripture, and I understood the meaning of the dogmatic theology. Watts's hymns were much more easy to learn, but the doctrine was the same. There was no getting away from the feeling that the world was under a curse ever since that unlucky appleeating in the garden of Eden. Why, oh! why had not the sentence of death been carried out at once, and a new start made with more prudent people? The school in which as a day scholar I passed nine years of my life was more literary than many which were more pretentious. Needlework was of supreme importance, certainly, but during the hour and a half every day, Saturday's half-holiday not excepted, which was given to it by the whole school at once (odd half-hours were also put in), the best readers took turns about to read some book selected by Miss Phin. We were thus trained to pay attention. History, biography, adventures, descriptions, and story books were read. Any questions or criticisms about our sewing, knitting, netting, &c., were carried on in a low voice, and we learned to work well and quickly, and good reading aloud was cultivated. First one brother and then another had gone to Edinburgh for higher education than could be had at Melrose Parish School, and I wanted to go to a certain institution, the first of the kind, for advanced teaching for girls, which had a high reputation. I was a very ambitious girl at 13. I wanted to be a teacher first, and a great writer afterwards. The qualifications for a teacher would help me to rise to literary fame, so I obtained from my father a promise that I should go to Edinburgh next year; but he could not keep it. He was a ruined man.
Although my mother's family had lost heavily by him, her mother gave us 500 pounds to make a start in South Australia. An 80-acre section was built for 80 pounds, and this entitled us to the steerage passage of four adults. This helped for my elder sister and two brothers (my younger brother David was left for his education with his aunts in Scotland), but we had to have another female, so we took with us a servant girl—most ridiculous, it seems now. I was under the statutory age of 15. The difference between steerage and intermediate fares had to be made up, and we sailed from Greenock in July, 1839, in the barque Palmyra, 400 tons, bound for Adelaide, Port Phillip, and Sydney. The Palmyra was advertised to carry a cow and an experienced surgeon. Intermediate passengers had no more advantage of the cow than steerage folks, and except for the privacy of separate cabins and a pound of white biscuit per family weekly, we fared exactly as the other immigrants did, though the cost was double. Twice a week we had either fresh meat or tinned meat, generally soup and boudle, and the biscuit seemed half bran, and sometimes it was mouldy. But our mother thought it was very good for us to endure hardship, and so it was.
There were 150 passengers, mostly South Australian immigrants, in the little ship. The first and second class passengers were bound for Port Philip and Sydney in greater proportion than for Adelaide There was in the saloon the youthful William Milne, and in the intermediate was Miss Disher, his future wife. He became President of the Legislative Council, and was knighted. There was my brother, J. B. Spence, who also sat in the Council, and was at one time Chief Secretary. There was George Melrose, a successful South Australian pastoralist; there was my father's valued clerk, Thomas Laidlaw, who was long in the Legislative Council of New South Wales and the leading man in the town of Yass. "Honest Torn of Yass" was his soubriquet. Bound for Melbourne there were Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, of Melrose, and Charles Williamson, from Hawick, who founded a great business house in Collins Street. There were Langs from Selkirk, and McHaffies, who became pastoralists. Our next cabin mate, who brought out a horse, had the Richmond punt when there was no bridge there. All the young men were reading a thick book brought out by the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge about sheep, but they could dance in the evenings to the strains of Mr. Duncan's violin, and although I was not 14, I was in request as a partner, as ladies were scarce. Jessie Spence and Eliza Disher, who were grown up, were the belles of the Palmyra. Of all the passengers in the ship the young doctor, John Logan Campbell, has had the most distinguished career. Next to Sir George Grey he has had most to do with the development of New Zealand. He is now called the Grand Old Man of Auckland. He had his twenty-first birthday, this experienced surgeon(!) in the same week as I had my fourteenth, while the Palmyra was lying off Holdfast Bay (now Glenelg) before we could get to the old Port Adelaide to discharge. My brother saw him in 1883, but I have not set eye on him since that week in 1839. We have corresponded frequently since my brother's death. In his book "Poenama," written for his children, there is a picture of the Palmyra, with an account of the voyage and the only sensational incident in it. We had a collision in the Irish Sea, and our foremast was broken, so that we had to return to Greenock for repairs, and then obtained the concession of white biscuit for the second class for one day in the week. Sir John Campbell's gift of a beautiful park to the citizens of Auckland was made while my brother John was alive. Just recently he has given money and plans for building and equipping the first free kindergarten in Auckland—perhaps in New Zealand—and as this includes a training college for the students it is very complete. These Palmyra passengers have made their mark on the history of Australia and New Zealand. It is surprising what a fine class of people immigrated to Australia in these days to face all the troubles of a new country.
The first issue of The Register was printed in London, and gave a glowing account of the province that was to be—its climate, its resources, the sound principles on which it was founded. It is sometimes counted as a reproach that South Australia was founded by doctrinaires and that we retain traces of our origin; to me it is our glory. In the land laws and the immigration laws it struck out a new path, and sought to found a new community where the sexes should be equal, and where land, labour, and capital should work harmoniously together. Land was not to be given away in huge grants, as had been done in New South Wales and Western Australia, to people with influence or position, but was to be sold at the high price of 20/ an acre. The price should be not too high to bring out people to work on the land. The Western Australian settlers had been wellnigh starved, because there was no labour to give real value to the paper or parchment deeds. The cheapest fare third class was from 17 pounds to 20 pounds, and the family immigration, which is the best, was quite out of the reach of those who were needed. The immigrants were not bound to work for any special individual or company, unless by special contract voluntarily made. They were often in better circumstances after the lapse of a few years than the landbuyers, and, in the old days, the owner of an 80-acre section worked harder and for longer hours than any hired man would do, or could be expected to do.
In the South Australian Public Library there is a curious record—the minutes and proceedings of the South Australian Literary Society, in the years 1831-5. As the province was non-existent at that time, this cultivation of literature seems premature, but the members, 40 in number, were its founders, and pending the passage of the Bill by the Imperial Parliament, they met fortnightly in London to discuss its prospects, and to read papers on exploration and on matters of future development and government. The first paper was on education for the new land, and was read by Richard Davies Hanson. The South Australian Company and Mr. George Fife Angas came to the rescue by buying a considerable area of land and making up the amount of capital which was required. It is interesting to note that the casting vote in the House of Lords which decided that the province of South Australia should come into existence was given by the Duke of Wellington. Adelaide was to have been called Wellington, but somehow the Queen Consort's name carried the day. The name of the conquerer of Waterloo is immortalized in the capital of the Dominion of New Zealand, in the North Island, which, like South Australia, was founded on the Wakefield principle of selling land for money to be applied for immigration. The 40 signatures in the records of the South Australian Literary Society are most interesting to an old colonist like myself, and the names of many of them are perpetuated in those of our rivers and our streets:—Torrens, Wright, Brown, Gilbert, Gouger, Hanson, Kingston, Wakefield, Morphett, Childers, Hill (Rowland), Stephens, Mawn, Furniss, Symonds. The second issue of The Register was printed in Adelaide. It was also The Government Gazette. It gave the proclamation of the province, which was made under the historic gum tree near Holdfast Bay, now Glenelg. It also records the sales of the town acres which had not been allotted to the purchasers of preliminary sections. These were of 134 acres, and a town acre, at the price of 12/6 an acre. This was a temptation to invest at the very first, because afterwards the price was 20/ an acre, without any city lot. From this cheap investment came the frequent lamentation, "Why did not I buy Waterhouse's corner for 12/6?" But there was more than 12/6 needed. The investment was of 80 pounds, which secured the ownership of the corner block facing King William street and Rundle street, and besides 134 acres of valuable suburban land.
There were connected with The Register from the earliest days the enterprising head of the house. Robert Thomas, who must have been well aided by his intelligent wife. The sons and daughters took their place in colonial society. Mr. George Stevenson left the staff of The Globe and Traveller, a good old London Paper, to try his fortunes in the new Province founded on the Wakefield principle, as Private Secretary to the first Governor (Capt. John Hindmarsh, R.N.). It is matter of history how the Governor and the Commissioner of Lands differed and quarrelled, the latter having the money and the former the power of government, and it was soon found that Mr. Stevenson could wield a trenchant pen. He had been on the "Traveller" branch of the London paper what would be called now a travelling correspondent. The Governor was replaced by Col. Gawler, and Mr. Stevenson went on The Register as editor. Mrs. Stevenson was a clever woman, and could help her husband. She knew Charles Dickens, and still better, the family of Hogarth, into which he married. My father and mother were surprised to find so good a paper and so well printed in the infant city. Then there were A. H. Davis, of the Reedbeds, and Nathaniel Hailes, who wrote under the cognomen of "Timothy Short," who had been publisher and bookseller. There was first Samuel Stephens, who came out in the first ship for the South Australian Company, and married a fellow passenger, Charlotte Hudson Beare, and died two years after, and then Edward, manager of the South Australian Bank, and later, John Stephens who founded The Weekly Observer, and afterwards bought The Register. These all belonged to a literary family.
People came out on the smallest of salaries with big families—H. T. H. Beare on 100 pounds a year as architect, for the South Australian Company, and he had 18 children by two wives. I do not know what salary Mr. William Giles came out on with nine children and a young second wife, but I am sure it was less than 300 pounds. His family in all counted 21. But things were bad in the old country before the great lift given by railways, and freetrade, which made England the carrier for the world; and the possibilities of the new country were shown in that first issue of The Register in London in the highest colours. Not too high by any means in the light of what has been accomplished in 73 years, but there was a long row to hoe first, and few of the pioneers reaped the prizes. But, in spite of hardships and poverty and struggle, the early colonial life was interesting, and perhaps no city of its size at the time contained as large a population of intelligent and educated people as Adelaide.
Mrs. Oliphant, writing in 1885 at the age of 57, says that reading the "Life of George Eliot" made her think of an autobiography, and this was written at the saddest crisis of her life. She survived her husband and all her children, and had just lost the youngest, the posthumous boy. For them and for the family of a brother she had carried on the strenuous literary work—fiction, biography, criticism, and history—and when she died at the age of 69 she had not completed the history of a great publishing house—that of Blackwood. Her life tallies with mine on many points, but it is not till I have completed my 84 years that her sad narrative impels me to set down what appears noteworthy in a life which was begun in similar circumstances, but which was spent mainly in Australia. The loss of memory which I see in many who are younger than myself makes me feel that while I can recollect I should fix the events and the ideals of my life by pen and ink. Like Mrs. Oliphant, I was born (three years earlier) in the south of Scotland. Like her I had an admirable mother but she lost hers at the age of 60, while I kept mine till she was nearly 97. Like Mrs. Oliphant, I was captivated by the stand made by the Free Church as a protest against patronage, and like her I shook off the shackles of the narrow Calvinism of Presbyterianism, and emerged into more light and liberty. But unlike Mrs. Oliphant, I have from my earliest youth taken an interest in politics, and although I have not written the tenth part of what she has done, I have within the last 20 years addressed many audiences in Australia and America, and have preached over 100 sermons. My personal influence has been exercised through the voice more strongly than by the pen, and in the growth and development of South Australia, to which I came with my parents and brothers and sisters when I was just 14, and the province not three years old, there have been opportunities for usefulness which might not have offered if I had remained in Melrose, in Sir Walter Scott's country.
A BEGINNING AT SEVENTEEN
Perhaps my turn for economics was partly inherited from my mother, and emphasized by my father having been an unlucky speculator in foreign wheat, tempted thereto by the sliding scale, which varied from 33/ a quarter, when wheat was as cheap as it was in 1837, to 1/ a quarter, when it was 70/ in 1839. It was supposed that my father had made his fortune when he took his wheat out of bond but losses and deterioration during seven years, and interest on borrowed money—credit having been strained to the utmost—brought ruin and insolvency, and he had to go to South Australia, followed by his wife and family soon after. It seems strange that this disaster should be the culmination of the peace, after the long Napoleonic war. When my father married in 1815 he showed he was making 600 pounds a year, with 2,000 pounds book debts, as a writer or attorney and as agent for a bank. But the business fell off, the book debts could not be collected; the bank called up the advances; and for 24 years there was a struggle. My mother would not have her dowry of 1,500 pounds and other money left by an aunt settled on herself—neither her father nor herself approved of it—the wife's fortune should come and go with her husband's. My father first speculated in hops and lost heavily. He took up unlucky people, whom other business men had drained. I suppose he caught at straws. He had the gentlest of manners—"the politest man in Melrose," the old shoemaker called him. My paternal grandfather was Dr. William Spence, of Melrose. His father was minister of the Established Church at Cockburn's Path, Berwickshire. His grandfather was a small landed proprietor, but he had to sell Spence's mains, and the name was changed to Chirnside. So (as my father used to say) he was sprung from the tail of the gentry; while my mother was descended from the head of the commonalty. The Brodies had been tenant farmers in East Lothian for six or seven generations, though they originally came from the north. My grandfather Brodie thought abrogation of the Corn Laws meant ruin for the farmers, who had taken 19 years' leases at war prices. But during the war times both landlords and farmers coined money, while the labourers had high prices for food and very little increase in their wages. I recollect both grandfathers well, and through the accurate memory of my mother t can tell how middle-class people in lowland Scotland lived and dressed and travelled, entertained visitors, and worshipped God. She told me of the "dear years" 1799 and 1800, and what a terrible thing a bad crop was, when the foreign ports were closed by Napoleon. She told me that but for the shortlived Peace of Amiens she never heard of anything but war till the Battle of Waterloo settled it three months before her marriage. From her own intimate relations with her grandmother, Margaret Fernie Brodie, who was born in 1736, and died in 1817, she knew how two generations before her people lived and thought. So that I have a grasp on the past which many might envy, and yet the present and the future are even more to me, as they were to my mother. On her death in 1887 I wrote a quatrain for her memorial, and which those who knew her considered appropriate—
HELEN BRODIE SPENCE Born at Whittingham, Scotland, 1791. Died at College Town, Adelaide, South Australia, 1887.
Half a long life 'mid Scotland's heaths and pines, And half among our South Australian vines; Though loving reverence bound her to the past, Eager for truth and progress to the last.
Although my mother had the greatest love for Sir Walter Scott, and the highest appreciation of his poems and novels, she never liked Melrose. She liked Australia better after a while. Indeed, when we arrived in November, 1839, to a country so hot, so dry, so new, we felt like the good old founder of The Adelaide Register, Robert Thomas, when he came to the land described in his own paper as "flowing with milk and honey." Dropped anchor at Holdfast Bay. "When I saw the place at which we were to land I felt inclined to go and cut my throat." When we sat down on a log in Light square, waiting till my father brought the key of the wooden house In Gilles street, in spite of the dignity of my 14 years just attained, I had a good cry. There had been such a drought that they had a dearth, almost a famine. People like ourselves with 80 acre land orders were frightened to attempt cultivation in an unknown climate, with seed wheat at 25/ a bushel or more, and stuck to the town. We lived a month in Gilles street, then we bought a large marquee, and pitched it on Brownhill Creek, above where Mitcham now stands, bought 15 cows and a pony and cart, and sold the milk in town at 1/ a quart. But how little milk the cows gave in those days! After seven months' encamping, in which the family lived chiefly on rice—the only cheap food, of which we bought a ton—we came with our herd to West terrace, Adelaide. My father got the position of Town Clerk at 150 pounds a year twelve months after our arrival, and kept it till the municipal corporation was ended, as the City of Adelaide was too poor to maintain the machinery; but 75 pounds was the rent of the house and yards. We sold the cows, and my brothers went farming, and we took cheaper quarters in Halifax street.
The Town Clerkship, however, was the means of giving me a lesson in electoral methods. Into the Municipal Bill, drawn up under the superintendence of Rowland Hill (afterward the great post office reformer, but then the Secretary of the Colonization Commissioner for South Australia), he had introduced a clause providing for proportional representation at the option of the ratepayers. The twentieth part of the Adelaide ratepayers by uniting their votes upon one man instead of voting for 18, could on the day before the ordinary election appear and declare this their intention, and he would be a Councillor on their votes. In the first election, November, 1840, two such quorums elected two Councillors. The workmen in Borrow and Goodear's building elected their foreman, and another quorum of citizens elected Mr. William Senden; and this was the first quota representation in the world. My father explained this unique provision to me at the time, and showed its bearings for minority representation.
After the break up of the municipality and the loss of his income my father lost health and spirits. The brothers did not succeed in the country. My sister had married Andrew Murray, an apparently prosperous man, in 1841, but the protecting of the Government bills bought for remitting to England, and other causes, brought down every mercantile firm in Adelaide except A. L. Elder, who had not been long established; and Murray & Greig came down too. Mr. Murray was a ready writer, and got work on The South Australian, the newspaper which supported Capt. Grey's policy of retrenchment and stoppage of public works; so, with a small salary, he managed to live. When I left Scotland I brought with me a letter of recommendation from my teacher, Miss Sarah Phin, concerning my qualifications and my turn for teaching. I don't know if it really did me any good, for the suspicious look and the question about how old I was at the time embarrassed me. Of course I was only 13 1/2 and probably my teacher over-estimated me a little, but here is, the letter, yellow with the dust of over 70 years.
Melrose. June 20, 1839.
My dearest Catherine—Our mutual friend, Mrs. Duncan, told me that you were not to sail for Australia till next month, and I have been thinking if my poor testimonial to your worth and abilities could be of any service to you I ought to give it but how can I trust myself?—for could any one read what I feel my heart dictates it would be thought absurd. You were always one of the greatest ornaments of my school, best girl and the best scholar, and from the time you could put three letters together you have evinced a turn for teaching—so clear-headed and so patient, and so thoroughly upright in word and deed, and your knowledge of the Scriptures equal to that of many students of Divinity, so should you ever become a teacher you have nothing to fear. You will be able to undertake both the useful and the ornamental branches of education—French, Italian, and Music you thoroughly understand. I feel conscious that you will succeed. Please to remember me to your excellent mother, and with love to Miss Spence and my darling Mary, believe me, my beloved Catherine, your affectionate friend and teacher. Sarah Phin.
My knowledge of music was not great, even in those days, but I could teach beginners for two or three years with fair success. We thought that my mother and the two eldest girls could start a school, and brought out with us a good selection of schoolbooks, bought from Oliver J. Boyd. Edinburgh, superior to the English books obtainable here, which we used up in time; but we dared not launch out into such a venture in 1840, and my sister Jessie had no desire to teach at all. The years at Brownhill Creek and West terrace were the most unhappy of my life. I suffered from the want of some intellectual activity, and from the sense of frustrated ambition and religious despair. The few books we had, or which we could borrow, I read over and over again. Aikin's "British Poets," a gift from Uncle John Spence, and Goldsmith's complete works, a school prize of my brother William's, were thoroughly mastered, and the Waverley novels down to "Quentin Durward" were well absorbed. I read in Chambers's Journal of daily governesses getting a shilling an hour, and I told my friend, Mrs. Haining, that I would go out for 6d. an hour. Although she disliked that way of putting it, it was really on that basis that I had made my beginning when I reached the age of 17. In the meantime I had taught my younger sister Mary (afterwards Mrs. W. J. Wren) all I knew, and in the columns of The South Australian I wrote an occasional letter or a few verses. Through Mr. George Tinline we made the acquaintance of Mrs. Samuel Stephens her brother, Thomas Hudson Beare, and his family, who had all come out in the Duke of York, and lived six months on Kangaroo Island before South Australia was proclaimed a British province. I have been mixed up so much with this family that it is often supposed that they were relatives, but it was not so. Samuel Stephens had died from an accident two years after his marriage to a lady much older and much richer than himself, and she was living on two acres in North Adelaide, bought with her money at the first sale of city lands in 1837, and Mr. Tinline boarded with her till his marriage. The nephews, and especially the nieces, of the old lady interested me—Lucy, the eldest, a handsome girl, was about two years younger than myself; Arabella, about the age of my sister Mary; Elizabeth, the baby Beare, who was the first white person to set foot on South Australian soil after the foundation of the province, died from a burning accident when quite young. The only survivor of that first family now is William L. Beare (84), held in honour as one of our earliest pioneers. By a second marriage there were nine more children. Several died young, but some still survive.
It was not till 1843 that I went as a daily governess at the rate of 6d. an hour, and gave two hours five days a week to the families of the Postmaster-General, the Surveyor-General, and the Private Secretary. Thus I earned three guineas a month. I don't recollect taking holidays, except a week at Christmas. I enjoyed the work, and I was proud of the payment. My mother said she never felt the bitterness of poverty after I began to earn money, and the shyness which, in spite of all her instructions and encouragement, I had felt with all strangers, disappeared when I felt independent. When a girl is very poor, and feels herself badly dressed, she cannot help being shy, especially if she has a good deal of Scotch pride. I think mother felt more sorry for me in those early days than for the others, because I was so ambitious, and took religious difficulties so hard. How old I felt at 17. Indeed, at 14 I felt quite grown up. In 1843 I felt I had begun the career in Australia that I had anticipated in Scotland. I was trusted to teach little girls, and they interested me, each individual with a difference. I had seen things I had written in print. If I was one of the oldest in feeling of the young folk in South Australia in my teens, I am the youngest woman in feeling in my eighties; so I have had abundant compensation.
LOVERS AND FRIENDS.
It is always supposed that thoughts of love and marriage are the chief concerns in a girl's life, but it was not the case with me. I had only two offers of marriage in my life, and I refused both. The first might have been accepted if it had not been for the Calvinistic creed that made me shrink from the possibility of bringing children into the world with so little chance of eternal salvation, so I said. "No" to a very clever young man, with whom I had argued on many points, and with whom, if I had married him, I should have argued till one of us died! I was 17, and had just begun to earn money. I told him why I had refused him, and that it was final. In six weeks he was engaged to another woman. My second offer was made to me when I was 23 by a man aged 55, with three children. He was an artist, whose second wife and several children had been murdered by the Maoris near Wanganui during the Maori insurrection of the forties, and he had come to Adelaide with the three survivors. The massacre of that family was only one of the terrible tragedies of that time, but it was not the less shocking. The Maoris had never been known to kill a woman, and when the house was attacked, Mr. Gilfillan got out of a back window to call the soldiers to their help. Though struck on the back of the head and the neck and scarred for life—owing to which he was always compelled to wear his hair long—he succeeded in his mission. His wife put her own two children through the window, and they toddled off hand in hand until they met their father returning with the soldiers. The eldest daughter, a girl of 13, escaped with a neighbour's child, a baby in arms. She was seen by the Maoris, struck on the forehead with a stone axe, and left unconscious. The crying of the baby roused her, and she went to the cowyard and milked a cow to get milk for the hungry child, and there she was found by the soldiers. She was queer in her ways and thoughts afterwards, and, it was said, always remained 13 years old. She died in November last, aged 74. Her stepmother and the baby and her own brother and sister were murdered one by one as they tried to escape by the same window that had led the rest of the family to safety. One of the toddling survivors still lives in New Zealand. Now, these are all the chances of marriage I have had in my life. Dickens, in "David Copperfield," speaks of an old maid who keeps the remembrance of some one who might have made her an offer, the shadowy Pidger, in her heart until her death. I cannot forget these two men. I am constantly meeting with the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the first. As for the other, Andrew Murray gave me a fine landscape painted by John A. Gilfillan as a slight acknowledgment of services rendered to his newspaper when he left it to go to Melbourne, and it hangs up in my sitting room for all to see. Mr. Gilfillan had a commission to paint "The Landing of Capt. Cook" with the help of Portraits and miniatures of the principal personages, and some sketches of his of Adelaide in 1849 are in the Adelaide Art Gallery. If the number of lovers has been few, no woman in Australia has been richer in friends. This narrative will show what good friends—men as well as women—have helped me and sympathized in my work and my aims. I believe that if I had been in love, especially if I had been disappointed in love, my novels would have been stronger and more interesting; but I kept a watch over myself, which I felt I knew I needed, for I was both imaginative and affectionate. I did not want to give my heart away. I did not desire a love disappointment, even for the sake of experience. I was 30 years old before the dark veil of religious despondency was completely lifted from my soul, and by that time I felt myself booked for a single life. People married young if they married at all in those days. The single aunts put on caps at 30 as a sort of signal that they accepted their fate; and, although I did not do so, I felt a good deal the same.
I went on with daily teaching for some years, during which my father's health declined, but before his death two things had happened to cheer him. My brother John left Myponga and came to town, and obtained a clerkship in the South Australian Bank at 100 pounds a year. It was whilst occupying a position in the bank that he had some slight connection with the notorious Capt. Starlight, afterwards the hero of "Robbery Under Arms," for through his hands much of the stolen money passed. In 1900, when Mrs. Young and I were leaving Melbourne on our visit to Sydney, we were introduced to "Rolf Boldrewood," the author of that well-known story. His grave face lit up with a smile when my friend referred to the author of her son's hero. "Ah!" and he shook his head slowly. "I'm not quite sure about the wisdom of making heroes of such sorry stuff," he replied. I thought I could do better with a school. I was 20, and my sister Mary nearly 16, and my mother could help. My school opened in May, 1846, a month before my father's death, and he thought that our difficulties were over. My younger brother, David Wauchope, had been left behind for his education with the three maiden aunts, but he came out about the end of that year, and began life in the office of the Burra Mine at a small salary. My eldest brother William, was not successful in the country, and went to Western Australia for some years, and later to New Zealand, where he died in his eightieth year, soon after the death of my brother John in his seventy-ninth, leaving me the only survivor of eight born and of six who grew to full age. My eldest sister Agnes died of consumption at the age of 16; and, as my father's mother and four of his brothers and sisters had died of this malady, it was supposed to be in the family. The only time I was kept out of school during the nine years at Miss Phin's was when I was 12 when I had a cough and suppuration of the glands of the neck. As this was the way in which Agnes's illness had begun, my parents were alarmed, though I had no idea of it. I was leeched and blistered and drugged; I was put into flannel for the only time in my life; I was sent away for change of air; but no one could discover that the cough was from the lungs. It passed away with the cold weather, and I cannot say that I have had any illness since. My father died of decline, but, if he had been more fortunate, I think he would have lived much longer. Probably my mother's life was prolonged beyond that of a long-lived family by her coming to Australia in middle life; and if I ever had any tendency to consumption, the climate must have helped me. There were no special precautions against infection in those days: but no other member of the family took it, and the alarm about me was three years after Agnes's death.
But to go on to those early days of the forties. There were two families with whom we were intimate. Mr. George Tinline (who had been clerk to my fathers' old friend, William Rutherford, of Jedburgh), who was in the bank of South Australia when in 1839, my father went to put our small funds in safety, introduced us to a beautiful young widow, Mrs. Sharpe, and her sisters Eliza and Harriet, and her brother, John Taylor. Harriet afterwards married Edward Stirling, a close friend of my brother-in-law, Andrew Murray, and I was a great deal interested in the Stirlings and their eight children. Mr. William Bakewell, of Bartley & Bakewell, solicitors, married Jane Warren of Springfield, Barossa, and I was a familiar friend of their five children. In one house I was "Miss Spence, the storyteller," in the other "Miss Spence, the teller of tales!" Some of the tales appeared long after as Christmas stories in The Adelaide Observer, but my young hearers preferred the oral narrative, with appropriate gestures and emphasis, and had no scruple about making faces, to anything printed in books. I took great liberties with what I had read and sometimes invented all. It was a part of their education, probably—certainly, it was a part of mine, and it gave me a command of language which helped me when I became a public speaker. My brother-in-law's newspaper furnished an occasional opportunity to me, though no doubt he considered that he could fill his twice-a-week journal without my help. He was, however, helpful in other ways. He was one of the subscribers to a Reading Club, and through him I had access to newspapers and magazines. The South Australian Institute was a treasure to the family. I recollect a newcomer being astonished at my sister Mary having read Macaulay's History. "Why, it was only just out when I left England," said he. "Well, it did not take longer to come out than you did," was her reply. We were all omnivorous readers, and the old-fashioned accomplishment of reading aloud was cultivated by both brothers and sisters. I was the only one who could translate French at sight, thanks to Miss Phin's giving me so much of Racine and Moliere and other good French authors in my school days.
But more important than all this was the fact that we took hold of the growth and development of South Australia, and identified ourselves with it. Nothing is insignificant in the history of a young community, and—above all—nothing seems impossible. I had learned what wealth was, and a great deal about production and exchange for myself in the early history of South Australia—of the value of machinery, of roads and bridges, and of ports for transport and export. I had seen the 4-lb. loaf at 4/ and at 4d. I had seen Adelaide the dearest and the cheapest place to live in. I had seen money orders for 2/6, and even for 6d., current when gold and silver were very scarce. Even before the discovery of copper South Australia had turned the corner. We had gone on the land and become primary producers, and before the gold discoveries in Victoria revolutionized Australia and attracted our male population across the border, the Central State was the only one which had a large surplus of wheat and hay to send to the goldfields.
Edward Wilson of The Argus, riding overland to Adelaide about 1848, was amazed to see from Willunga onward fenced and cultivated farms, with decent homesteads and machinery up to date. The Ridley stripper enabled our people to reap and thresh the corn when hands were all too few for the sickle. He said he felt as if the garden of Paradise must have been in King William street and that the earliest difference in the world—that between Cain and Abel—was about the advantages of the 80-acre system. Australia generally had already to realize the fact that the pastoral industry was not enough for its development, and South Australia had seemed to solve the problem through the doctrinaire founders, of family immigration, small estates, and the development of agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture. We owed a great deal in the latter branches to our German settlers—sent out originally by Mr. G. F. Angas, whose interest was aroused by their suffering persecution for religious dissent—who saw that Australia had a better climate than that of the Fatherland. We owed much to Mr. George Stevenson, who was an enthusiastic gardener and fruitgrower, and lectured on these subjects, but the contrast between the environs of Adelaide and those of Sydney and Melbourne were striking, and Mr. Wilson never lost an opportunity of calling on the Victorian Legislature and the Victorian public to develop their own wonderful resources. When you take gold out of the ground there is less gold to win. When you grow golden grain or ruddy grapes this year you may expect as much and as good next year. My brother David went with the thousands to buy their fortunes at the diggings, but my brother John stuck to the Bank of South Australia. My brother-in-law's subscribers and his printers had gone off and left him woefully embarrassed. He went to Melbourne. My friend John Taylor left his sheep in the wilderness and came to Adelaide to the aid of The Register. He had been engaged to Sophia Stephens, who died, and her father John Stephens also died soon after; and Mr. Taylor shouldered the management of the paper until the time of stress was over.
When Andrew Murray obtained employment on The Argus as commercial editor, he left his twice-a-week newspaper in the charge of Mr. W. W. Whitridge, my brother John, and myself. If anything was needed to be written on State aid to religion I was to do it, as Mr. Whitridge was opposed to it. This lasted three months. The next quarter there were no funds for the editor, so John and I carried it on, and then let it die. At that time I believed in State aid, which had been abolished by the first elected Parliament of South Australia, although that Parliament consisted of one-third nominees pledged to vote for its continuance.
NOVELS AND A POLITICAL INSPIRATION.
It was the experience of a depopulated province which led me to write my first book, "Clara Morison—A Tale of South Australia during the Gold Fever." I entrusted the M.S. to my friend John Taylor, with whom I had just had the only tiff in my life. He, through his connection with The Register, knew that I was writing in The South Australian, trying to keep it alive, till Mr. Murray decided to let it go, and he told this to other people. At a subscription ball to which my brother John took me and my younger sister Mary, she found she had been pointed out and talked of as the lady who wrote for the newspapers. I did not like it even to be supposed of myself, but Mary was indignant, and I wrote an injured letter to my friend. He apologized, and said he thought I would be proud of doing disinterested work, and he was sorry the mistake had been made regarding the sister who did it. Of course, I forgave him. He was the last man in the world to give pain to anyone, and I highly admired him for his disinterested work on The Register. He reluctantly accepted 1,000 pounds when the paper was sold. He must have lost much more through neglect of his own affairs at such a critical time. He was taking a holiday with his sister Eliza in England and France, where the beautiful widowed sister was settled as Madam Dubois, and I asked him to take "Clara Morison" to Smith, Elder & Co.'s, in London, and to say nothing to anybody about it; but before it was placed he had to return to Adelaide, and in pursuance of my wishes, left it with my other good friend, Mr. Bakewell, who also happened to be visiting England with his family at the time—1853-4. I had an idea that, as there was so much interest in Australia and its gold, I might get 100 pounds for the novel. Mr. Bakewell wrote a preface from which I extract a passage:—"The writer's aim seems to have been to present some picture of the state of society in South Australia in the years 1851-2, when the discovery of gold in the neighbouring province of Victoria took place. At this time, the population of South Australia numbered between seventy and eighty thousand souls, the greater part of whom were remarkable for their intelligence, their industry, and their enterprise, which, in the instance of the Burra Burra, and other copper mines had met with such signal success. When it became known that gold in vast quantities could be found within 300 miles of their own territory, they could not remain unmoved. The exodus was almost complete, and entirely without parallel. In those days there was no King in Israel, and every woman did what was right in her own sight." Another reason I had for writing the book. Thackeray had written about an emigrant vessel taking a lot of women to Australia, as if these were all to be gentlemen's wives—as if there was such a scarcity of educated women there, that anything wearing petticoats had the prospect of a great rise in position. I had hoped that Smith, Elder, & Co. would publish my book, but their reader—Mr. Williams, who discovered Charlotte Bronte's genius when she sent them "The Professor," and told her she could write a better, which she did ("Jane Eyre")—wrote a similar letter to me, declining "Clara Morison," as he had declined "The Professor," but saying I could do better. J. W. Parker & Son published it in 1854, as one of the two-volume series, of which "The Heir of Redcliffe" had been most successful. The price was to be 40 pounds; but, as it was too long for the series, I was charged 10 pounds for abridging it. It was very fairly received and reviewed. I think I liked best Frederick Sinnett's notice in The Argus—that it was the work of an observant woman—a novelist who happened to live in Australia, but who did not labour to bring in bushrangers and convicts, and specially Australian features. While I was waiting to hear the fate of my first book, I began to write a second, "Tender and True," of which Mr. Williams thought better, and recommended it to Smith, Elder, and Co., who published it in two volumes in 1856, and gave me 20 pounds for the copyright. This is the only one of my books that went through more than one edition. There were two or three large editions issued, but I never got a penny more. I was told that nothing could be made out of shilling editions; but that book was well reviewed and now and then I have met elderly people who read the cheap edition and liked it. The motif of the book was the jealousy which husbands are apt to feel of their wives' relations. As if the most desirable wife was an amiable orphan—if an heiress, so much the better. But the domestic virtues which make a happy home for the husband are best fostered in a centre where brothers and sisters have to give and take; and a good daughter and sister is likely to make a good wife and mother. I have read quite recently that the jokes against the mother-in-law which are so many and so bitter in English and American journalism are worn out, and have practically ceased; but Dickens and Thackeray set the fashion, and it lasted a long time.
While "Clara Morison" was making her debut, I paid my first visit to Melbourne. I went with Mr. and Mrs. Stirling in a French ship consigned to him, and we were 12 days on the way, suffering from the limited ideas that the captain of a French merchantman had of the appetites of Australians at sea. I intended to pay a six weeks' visit to my sister and her family, but she was so unwell that I stayed for eight months. I found that Melbourne in the beginning of 1854 was a very expensive place to live in, and consequently a very inhospitable place. Mr. Murray's salary sounded a good one, 500 pounds a year, but it did not get much comfort. His sister was housekeeper at Charles Williamson & Co.'s, and that was the only place where I could take off my bonnet and have a meal. From the windows I watched the procession that welcomed Sir Charles Hotham, the first Governor of the separated colony of Victoria. He was received with rejoicing, but he utterly failed to satisfy the people. He thought anything was good enough for them. One festivity I was invited to—a ball given on the opening of the new offices of The Argus in Collins street—and there I met Mr. Edward Wilson, a most interesting personality, the giver of the entertainment. He was then vigorously championing the unlocking of the land and the developing of other resources of Victoria than the gold. It had surprised him when he travelled overland to Adelaide to see from Willunga 30 miles of enclosed and cultivated farms, and it surprised me to see sheepruns close to Melbourne. With a better rainfall and equally good soil, Victoria had neither the farms nor the vineyards nor the orchards nor the gardens that had sprung up under the 80-acre section and immigration systems of South Australia. It had been an outlying portion of New South Wales, neglected and exploited for pastoral settlement only. The city, however, had been well planned, like that of Adelaide, but the suburbs were allowed to grow anyhow. In Adelaide the belt of park lands kept the city apart from all suburbs. Andrew Murray was as keen for the development of Victoria agriculturally and industrially as Mr. Wilson, and they worked together heartily. Owing to the state of my sister's health I was much occupied with her and her children; but in August she was well, and I returned with Mr. Taylor and his sister in the steamer Bosphorus, when it touched at Melbourne on the way home. He brought me 30 pounds for my book, and the assurance that it would be out soon, and that I should have six copies to give to my friends. Novel writing had not been to me a lucrative occupation. I had given up teaching altogether at the age of 25, and I felt that, though Australia was to be a great country, there was no market for literary work, and the handicap of distance from the reading world was great.
My younger sister married in 1855 William J. Wren, then an articled clerk in Bartley & Bakewell's office, and afterwards a partner with the present Sir James Boucaut. Mr. Wren's health was indifferent, and caused us much anxiety. My brother John married Jessie Cumming in 1858, and they were spared together for many years. As the Wrens went on a long voyage to Hongkong and back for the sake of my brother-in-law's health, my mother and I had the charge of their little boy. But in that year, 1859, my mind received its strongest political inspiration, and the reform of the electoral system became the foremost object of my life. John Stuart Mill's advocacy of Thomas Hare's system of proportional representation brought back to my mind Rowland Hill's clause in the Adelaide Municipal Bill with wider and larger issues. It also showed me how democratic government could be made real, and safe, and progressive. I confess that at first I was struck chiefly by its conservative side, and I saw that its application would prevent the political association, which corresponded roughly with the modern Labour Party, from returning five out of six members of the Assembly for the City of Adelaide. But for blunders on ballot papers the whole ticket of six would have been elected. They also elected the three members for Burra, and Clare. I had then no footing on the Adelaide press, but I was Adelaide correspondent for The Melbourne Argus—that is to say, my brother was the correspondent, but I wrote the letters—he furnished the news. I read Mill's article one Monday night, and wrote what was meant for a leader on Tuesday morning, and went to read it to my brother at breakfast time, and posted it forthwith. I knew The Argus had been dissatisfied with the recent elections, and fancied that the editor would hail with joy the new idea; but I received the reply that The Argus was committed to the representation of majorities; and, though the idea was ingenious, he did not even offer to print it as a letter. About two years later Mr. Lavington Glyde, M.P., brought forward in the Assembly Mr. Fawcett's abstract of Hare's great scheme, and I seized the opportunity of writing a series of letters to The Register, signed by my initials. Mr. Glyde, seeing the House did not like his suggestions, dropped the matter, but I did not. I was no longer correspondent to The Argus—the telegraph stopped that altogether. My wonderful maiden aunts made up to me and my mother the 50 pounds a year that I had received as correspondent, and did as much for their brother, Alexander Brodie, of Morphett Vale, from 1,000 pounds they had sent to invest in South Australia. It was as easy to get 10 per cent. then as to get 4 per cent. now; indeed I think the money earned 12 per cent. at first. My brother John was accountant to the South Australian Railways, then not a very great department—I think the line stretched as far as Kapunda to the north from Port Adelaide. He was as much captivated by Mr. Hare's idea as I was, and he said that if I would write a pamphlet he would pay for the printing of 1,000 copies, to be sent to all the members of Parliament and other leading people in city and country. I called my pamphlet "A Plea for Pure Democracy," and when writing it I felt the democratic strength of the position as I had not felt it in reading Hare's own book. It cost my brother 15 pounds, but he never grudged it.
While the pamphlet was in the press, I heard of the dangerous illness of my friend Lucy Anne Duval (nee Beare), one of the original passengers in the Duke of York, the first ship which arrived here. I went to consult Mr. Taylor and Mr. Stirling at their office. I saw only Mr. Stirling. I said, "I should like to go and nurse her," and he said. "If you will go, I'll pay your expenses;" and I went and stayed with her for three weeks, till she died, and left five children, three of them quite young. There were Duvals in England in good circumstances, and I wrote pleading for the three little ones, though every one said it was quite useless; but an uncle by marriage was touched, and sent 100 pounds a year for the benefit of the three children, and I was constituted the guardian. The youngest died within two years, but the allowance was not decreased, and I was able to get some schooling for an elder boy. This was my first guardianship.
My pamphlet did not set the Torrens on fire. It did not convert The Register, but Mr. Fred Sinnett, who was conducting The Telegraph, was much impressed, especially as he had the greatest reverence for John Stuart Mill, and thought him a safe man to follow. I had another novel under way at the time, and Mr. Sinnett thought it would help The Telegraph to bring it out as a serial story in the weekly edition; and I seized my opportunity to bring in Mr. Hare and proportional representation. In England Mr. Hare, Mr. Mill, Rowland Hill, and his brother, and Professor Craik, all considered my "Plea for Pure Democracy" the best argument from the popular side that had appeared. I got the kindest of letters from them, and my brother considered my labour and his money well spent. Professor Craik, writing to Miss Florence Davenport Hill about the "Plea for Pure Democracy," says—"It is really a pity that the pamphlet should not be reproduced in this country—modified, of course, to the slight extent that would be necessary. It is really a very remarkable piece of exposition—the best for popular effect by far on this subject that has come in my way. I rejoice to hear that there is a chance of Mr. Hare's plan being adopted in South Australia." I may be allowed to observe that there is still a chance, but not yet a reality. My aunts at Thornton Loch were applied to by my English admirers to see if they would be at the cost of an English edition; but, though they were goodness itself to our material needs, they thought it was throwing money away to bring out a pamphlet on an unpopular subject that would not sell. Why, even in South Australia, though the price was marked at one shilling, not a single shilling had been paid for a single copy; and in South Australia I was known! Not so well known, however. I wrote under initials only, and many thought my letters and pamphlets were the work of Charles Simeon Hare, one of the tallest talkers in South Australia, who said Mr. Thomas Hare was his cousin. My novels were anonymous up to the third, which was not then written. If my name would have done the cause any good it would have been given, but it was too obscure then.
The original title of my third book was "Uphill Work," and it took up the woman question as it appeared to me at the time—the difficulty of a woman earning a livelihood, even when she had as much ability, industry, and perseverance as a man. My friend Mrs. Graham, who had been receiving 100 pounds a year and many presents and much consideration from the Alstons, of Charles Williamson & Co., had to return to Scotland to cheer her father's last years. After his death she became housekeeper to the Crichton Asylum for the Insane, with 600 or 700 patients, at a salary of 30 pounds a year. This started me on the story of two girls educated well and soundly by an eccentric uncle, but not accomplished in the showy branches, who, fearing that the elder and favourite niece would marry a young neighbour, and that the other might be a confirmed invalid, disinherited them, and left his estate to a natural son with a strict proviso against his marrying either of his cousins. In that case the property was to go to a benevolent institution named. Jane Melville applied for the situation of housekeeper to this institution at 30 pounds a year, but was refused because she was too young and inexperienced. After all sorts of disappointments she took a situation to go out to Australia, and her sister accompanied her as a lady's maid in the same family. You may wonder how I brought in proportional representation, but I managed it. I think, on the whole, it is a stronger book than either of the others. The volume has two interesting associations, one which connects it with Mrs. Oliphant. My friend Mrs. Graham knew I had sent it to England for publication, and when she read the anonymous "Doctor's Family" she was sure it was mine, and was delighted with it. When I read of the brave Australian girl Nettie, taking on herself the burden of the flabby sister and her worthless husband and their children, I wished that I had written such a capital story. In a subsequent tale of Mrs. Oliphant's, "In Trust," a father disinherits the elder girl from a fear of an unworthy marriage, but he leaves a letter to be opened when Rosy is 21, which—should Anne not marry Cosmo Douglas—restores her to her own mother's fortune, which was in his power. There was no saving clause in my book. The nieces were left only 20 pounds a year each. Mr. Williams did not think "Uphill Work" as good as "Tender and True," and it was hung up till circumstances most unexpectedly brought me to England, and I tried Bentley, and found that his reader approved, but wished me to change the name, as the first critic would say it was uphill work to read it. Then let it be "Mr. Haliburton's Will." That would clash with "Mrs Haliburton's Troubles." So the name was changed to Hogarth, and the title became "Mr. Hogarth's Will." It was well reviewed, and I got 35 pounds as my half-share of the profits on a three-volume edition, besides 50 pounds from The Telegraph. But the book was to have more effect in unexpected quarters than I could imagine. When staying with my aunts in Scotland I had a letter from Mr. Edward Wilson's secretary, saying that he had wished to write an article for The Fortnightly on "The Representation of Classes," which was his cure for the excesses of democracy; but, as he could not see, and his doctor had forbidden him even to dictate, he had reluctantly abandoned the idea. He had, however, heard that I was in Scotland, and, though my idea was different from his, he believed that I could write the article from some letters reprinted from The Argus and a few hints from himself, and that I could adapt them to English conditions. I gladly undertook the work, and satisfied Mr. Wilson. Just before I left for Australia I went to Mr. Wilson's, and we went through the proofs together. Mr. Wilson, being a wealthy man, did not ask any payment from The Fortnightly, but he gave me 10 pounds and thanked me for stepping in to his assistance when he needed it. He said that my novel had been the subject of a great deal of discussion in his house. I asked, "Why?" He replied, "The uncle and the nieces, of course." I thought no more of it till the death of Mr. Wilson revealed that he had left his estate to the charities of Melbourne. Then my brother told me that when he was in England in 1877 Mr. Wilson had told him that it was seldom that a novel had any influence over a man's conduct, but that reading his sister's novel had set him thinking, and had made him alter his will. He did not think it to the advantage of his nieces to be made rich, and he would leave his money to Victoria and Melbourne, where he had made it. I was the innocent cause of disappointing the nieces, for I think I made it clear that the uncle did very wrongly. But when I see 5,000 pounds a year distributed among Melbourne charities, and larger gifts for the building of a new hospital, I cannot help thinking that these are the results of Mr. Wilson reading "Mr. Hogarth's Will" and it may be that other similar trusts are the results of Mr. Wilson's action.
Another literary success I had during that visit to England. I went to Smith, Elder, & Co. to ask if I could not get anything for the shilling edition of "Tender and True," and was answered in the negative; but I had not talked ten minutes with Mr. Williams before he said that if I would put these ideas into shape, he thought he could get an article accepted by The Cornhill Magazine. "An Australian's Impressions of England" was approved by the editor, and appeared in The Cornhill for January 1866, and for that I received 12 pounds, the best-paid work I had ever had up to that time. The Saturday Review said of "Mr. Hogarth's Will" that there was no haziness about money matters in it such as is too common among lady writers. Mr. Bentley advised me to give my name, and not to sell my copyright; but the latter has been of no value to me; 500 copies of a three-volume novel exhausted the likely demand. I got 12 copies to give to friends, and one copy I gave to Mr. Hare. His daughters were a little amused to see their father in a novel, and as the book was in the circulating library their friends and acquaintances used to ask, "Is that really your papa that it is intended for?" I did not at the time think of facing anybody in England, but I had been both amused and annoyed with the portraits I was supposed to have drawn from real people in and about Adelaide—often people I had never seen and had not beard of. "But Harris is Ellis to the life," said my old Aunt Brodie of Morphett Vale. "Miss Withing is my sister-in-law," said another. Neither of these people had I seen. Of course, Mr. Reginald was Mr. John Taylor, the only squatter I knew, but I myself was not identified with my heroine Clara Morison. I was Margaret Elliott, the girl who was studying law with her brother Gilbert; but my brother and my cousin Louisa Brodie were supposed to be figuring in my book as lovers. In a small society it was easy to affix the characteristics to some one whom it was possible the author might have met; but I shrank from the idea that I was capable of "taking off" people of my acquaintance, and for many reasons would have liked if the book had not been known to be mine in South Australia. There must, however, have been some lifelike presentment of my characters, or they could not have been recognised. About this time I read and appreciated Jane Austen's novels—those exquisite miniatures, which no doubt her contemporaries identified without much interest. Her circle was as narrow as mine—indeed, narrower. She was the daughter of a clergyman in the country. She represented well-to-do grownup people, and them alone. The humour of servants, the sallies of children, the machinations of villains, the tricks of rascals, are not on her canvas; but she differentiated among equals with a firm hand, and with a constant ripple of amusement. The life I led had more breadth and wider interests. The life of Miss Austen's heroines, though delightful to read about, would have been deadly dull to endure. So great a charm have Jane Austen's books had for me that I have made a practice of reading them through regularly once a year.
As we grew to love South Australia, we felt that we were in an expanding society, still feeling the bond to the motherland, but eager to develop a perfect society, in the land of our adoption.
A TRIP TO ENGLAND.
I have gone on with the story of my three first novels consecutively, anticipating the current history of myself and South Australia. There were three great steps taken in the development of Australia. The first was when McArthur introduced the merino sheep; the second when Hargreaves and others discovered gold; and the latest when cold-storage was introduced to make perishable products available for the European markets. The second step created a sudden revolution; but the others were gradual, and the area of alluvial diggings in Victoria made thousands of men without capital or machinery rush to try their fortunes—first from the adjacent colonies, and afterwards from the ends of the earth. Law and order were kept on the goldfields of Mount Alexander, Bendigo, and Ballarat by means of a strong body of police, and the high licence fees for claims paid for their services, so that nothing like the scenes recorded of the Californian diggings could be permitted. But for the time ordinary industries were paralysed. Shepherds left their flocks, farmers their land, clerks their desks, and artisans their trades. Melbourne grew apace in spite of the highest wages known being exacted by masons and carpenters. Pastoralists thought ruin stared them in the face till they found what a market the goldfields offered for their surplus stock. Our South Australian farmers left their holdings in the hands of their wives and children too young to take with them, but almost all of them returned to grow grain and produce to send to Victoria. It was astonishing what the women had done during their absence. The fences were kept repaired and the stock attended to, the grapes gathered, and the wine made. In these days it was not so easy to get 80 acres or more in Victoria; so, with what the farmers brought from their labours on the goldfields, they extended their holdings and improved their homes. For many years the prices in Melbourne regulated prices in Adelaide, but when the land was unlocked and the Victorian soil and climate were found to be as good as ours it was Mark lane that fixed prices over all Australia for primary products. After the return of most of the diggers there was a great deal of marrying and giving in marriage. The miners who had left the Burra for goldseeking gradually came back, and the nine remarkable copper mines of Moonta and Wallaroo attracted the Cornishmen, who preferred steady wages and homes to the diminishing chances of Ballarat and Bendigo where machinery and deep sinking demanded capital, and the miners were paid by the week. These new copper mines were found in the Crown leases held by Capt. (afterwards Sir Walter) Hughes. He had been well dealt with by Elder, Smith, & Co., and gave them the opportunity of supporting him. At that time my friends Edward Stirling and John Taylor were partners in that firm, and they shared in the success. Mr. Bakewell belonged to the legal firm which did their business, so that my greatest friends seemed to be in it. I think my brother John profited less by the great advance of South Australia than he deserved for sticking to the Bank of South Australia. He got small rises in his salary, but the cost of living was so enhanced that at the end of seven years it did not buy much more than the 100 pounds he had begun with. My eldest maiden aunt died, and left to her brother and sister in South Australia all she had in her power. My mother bought a brick cottage in Pulteney street and a Burra share with her legacy—both excellent investments—and my brother left the bank and went into the aerated water business with James Hamilton Parr.
We made the acquaintance of the family of Mrs. Francis Clark, of Hazelwood, Burnside. She was the only sister of five clever brothers—Matthew Davenport, Rowland, Edwin, Arthur, and Frederick Hill. Rowland is best known, but all were remarkable men. She was so like my mother in her sound judgment, accurate observation, and kind heart, that I was drawn to her at once. But it was Miss Clark who sought an introduction to me at a ball, because her uncle Rowland had written to her that "Clara Morison," the new novel, was a capital story of South Australian life. She was the first person to seek me out on account of literary work, and I was grateful to her. I think all the brothers Hill wrote books, and Rosamond and Florence Davenport Hill had just published "Our Exemplars." My friendship with Miss Clark led to much work together, and the introduction was a great widening of interests for me. There were four sons and three daughters—Miss Clark and Howard were the most literary, but all had great ability and intelligence. They were Unitarians, and W. J. Wren, my brother-in-law, was also a Unitarian, and had been one of the 12 Adelaide citizens who invited out a minister and guaranteed his salary. I was led to hear what the Rev. J. Crawford Woods had to say for that faith, and told my old minister (Rev. Robert Haining) that for three months I would hear him in the morning and Mr. Woods in the evening, and read nothing but the Bible as my guide; and by that time I would decide. I had been induced to go to the Sacrament at 17, with much heart searching, but when I was 25 I said I could not continue a communicant, as I was not a converted Christian. This step greatly surprised both Mr. and Mrs. Haining, as I did not propose to leave the church. The result of my three months' enquiry was that I became a convinced Unitarian, and the cloud was lifted from the universe. I think I have been a most cheerful person ever since. My mother was not in any way distressed, though she never separated from the church of her fathers. My brother was as completely converted as I was, and he was happy in finding a wife like minded. My sister, Mrs. Wren, also was satisfied with the new faith; so that she and her husband saw eye to eye. It was a very live congregation in those early days. We liked our pastor, and we admired his wife, and there were a number of interesting and clever people who went to the Wakefield Street Church.
It was rather remarkable that my sister's husband and my brother's wife arrived on the same day in two different ships—one in the Anglier from England, and the other in the Three Bells from Glasgow—in 1851; but I did not make the acquaintance of either till 1854 and 1855. Jessie Cumming and Mary Spence shook hands and formed a friendship over Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus." My brother-in-law (W. J. Wren) had fine literary tastes, especially for poetry. The first gift to his wife after marriage was Elizabeth Browning's poems in two volumes and Robert Browning's "Plays and Dramatic Lyrics" in two volumes, and Mary and I delighted in them all. In those days I considered my sister Mary and my sister-in-law the most brilliant conversationalists I knew. My elder sister, Mrs. Murray, also talked very well—so much so that her husband's friends and visitors fancied she must write a lot of his articles; but none of the three ladies went beyond writing good letters. I think all of them were keener of sight than I was—more observant of features, dress, and manners; but I took in more by the ear. As Sir Walter Scott says, "Speak that I may know thee." To my mind, dialogue is more important for a novel than description; and, if you have a firm grasp of your characters, the dialogue will be true. With me the main difficulty was the plot; and I was careful that this should not be merely possible, but probable. I have heard scores of people say that they have got good plots in their heads, and when pressed to tell them they proved to be only incidents. You need much more than an incident, or even two or three, with which to make a book. But when I found my plot the story seemed to write itself, and the actors to fit in.