[PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION.]
SIX LETTERS FROM THE COLONIES.
BY R. C. SEATON.
HULL: WILDRIDGE & CO.
I was absent from England eleven months, from November, 1884, to October, 1885. The first three of these Letters are reprinted, with slight alterations, from the Eastern Morning News. The last three were written after my return to England. As I have not cared to keep up the fiction of having written them from Australia, they may contain some references to events subsequent to my return. It is often objected, and truly enough, that travellers, who spend only so short a time as I have in fresh countries, are not justified in expressing deliberate opinions about them; but this does not apply where a writer gives his impressions as such, and not as matured opinions, or where he expresses the opinions of other people who, by long residence or otherwise in a particular country, have had every opportunity of forming them. I think it will not be found that I have offended in this particular.
I.—VOYAGE OF THE HAMPSHIRE 7
IV.—SOUTH AUSTRALIA 47
VI.—AUCKLAND AND SYDNEY 75
The Voyage of the Hampshire.
A Voyage to Australia has in these days become so ordinary an affair that it may seem to require an apology to attempt to describe one, but a voyage in a sailing ship is so different from that in a steamer that it may interest some people. It is, as a rule, only those who go abroad for their health who prefer a sailing ship, on account of the great length of the voyage, in allusion to which steam people call sailing ships "wind jammers," while the sailors retort on steamers by dubbing them "iron tanks" and "old coffins." There is no doubt that the picturesqueness of a sea voyage is quite destroyed by a steamer. There are no, or very few, regular sailors on board; so much of the work is now done by steam. There are no "chanties" or sailors' songs, which help the work to go easily. In a steamer there is no interest in noting the course—they go straight on, and the distance covered does not vary, or only slightly, from day to day. The movement of a sailing ship through the water at 12 knots per hour is quite exhilarating; the ship hurries on by "leaps and bounds." Contrast with this the labouring plunges of a screw-steamer at the same rate. In short, romance is perishing from the sea with the universal invasion of steam. Could the poet have thus written of the Pirate—
"O'er the glad waters of the deep blue sea, Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,"
if the Pirate was master of a steamer? I think not. However, I do not deny that a steamer has many and great advantages over a ship. The chief advantage, and the only one to which I need allude, is the prosaic but not unimportant one of better food, and this with many people would decide in favour of a steamer. Perhaps we were exceptionally unfortunate in this respect. The Hampshire is a barque of 1,100 tons, and belonging to Captain Hosack, of Liverpool. She is most commodious; the cabins are much larger than is usual in a vessel of this size. Mine was not a large one, but it measured 8ft. by 10ft. 6in. There is, too, a poop deck 70ft. long, which is scarcely ever touched, even by a heavy sea. When people are constantly in each other's society for so long they gradually throw off many of the artificial restraints of society, and exhibit themselves as they would in their own homes. The result is curious. A constant process of natural selection goes on, by which like seeks like, and the estimation in which a particular person is held by his fellow-passengers is often very different at the close of the voyage from what it was at the beginning. Taking all things into consideration, however, I think the saloon passengers on the Hampshire must be considered to have borne the ordeal very well. We were 24 in number—rather too many for comfort—all (with two exceptions) young men, going out to the colonies for various reasons—some for health, some for business. The two exceptions were a Canon of the Church of England and his wife, and another gentleman who was travelling with his nephew. The Canoness was the only lady on board, the result of which probably was that, though the civilising influence imparted by the presence of ladies was lost, yet many jealousies, that might have been thereby occasioned, were avoided.
The Hampshire left the East India Dock early on Thursday morning, the 27th November, commanded by Captain John Mathias. She was towed as far as Beachy Head, but laid up at Deal during the night. At St. Alban's Head we parted with the pilot. On the Monday we left the Lizard behind. The next ten days were the most unpleasant of the whole voyage. We were tossed about in the Bay of Biscay, making scarcely any progress. One day we even made 16 miles leeway. It was, perhaps, well that this happened so early on, as all seasickness was thus comfortably got over. Since that time the weather may be shortly dismissed. Captain Mathias, the officers, and crew all declare they have never had so fine a voyage to Australia. For days and days the sea was only slightly ruffled, and hardly any motion could be felt. Of course, one result has been that we had a long passage. We were exactly 100 days from dock to dock, or 96 days from the Lizard to Cape Otway. The longest run in the 24 hours was in the Southern Ocean—254 knots. During the latter part of the voyage we usually made over 200. During the week ending February 15th the distance covered was 1,408 knots; that ending February 22nd only 945 knots, the wind having fallen light; the following week, however, it was 1,503 knots. About 16th December Madeira was passed about 30 miles on our left-hand. On the 26th we passed San Antonio, the most westerly of the Cape Verde Islands, at a distance of about 40 miles. The line was crossed on the 7th January, about 5-30 p.m. All through the tropics the heat was not so great as I had anticipated. It was never more than 87 degs. in the shade and 105 degs. in the sun. The temperature remained about the same night and day. The sea was about 6 degs. cooler than the air. The daily routine was about somewhat as follows:—About six the hose was used for cleaning the deck, and then such of the passengers as chose came on deck and submitted themselves to it—others meantime pumping for them. Those who had the hose thereby acquired a right to porridge, which was distributed about a quarter to seven, but, when the weather was colder, even the porridge was not sufficient attraction to keep up the number of "hosees." Breakfast was at 8-45, lunch at 1, dinner at 6. The captain, chief officer, and doctor occupied the chief seats at the tables. They changed their seats from time to time to prevent jealousy, as the captain's company was much in request. Indeed, any inconveniences we had to put up with were so much alleviated by the kindness and consideration of Captain Mathias, that he will ever be gratefully remembered by the passengers on this voyage. The address of thanks to him at the end of the voyage was no mere lip-service, but the genuine expression of our sincerest thanks. On all occasions he managed to combine the courtesy of a gentleman with the frankness of a sailor. After passing the equator we had to sail very much to the west, to catch the south-east trades, and were within 100 miles of the coast of Brazil. On the 60th day out the meridian of Greenwich was crossed in lat. 38 degs. south. "The meridian of the Cape of Good Hope," says the captain's log, "was crossed on the 65th day out, in lat. 35-1/2 degs. south, and the longitude was run down in the parallel of 42 degs. south. Light winds stuck to the barque persistently, and as an illustration of the tedious weather, it may be mentioned that not a topgallant sail was taken in from Biscay to St. Paul's, and the average running in crossing the Southern Ocean was only 161 miles per day." The last land sighted was the Island of Trinidad—an uninhabited rock—in lat. 20 deg. 45' south, long. 29 deg. 48' west. This was on the 16th January and for seven "solid" weeks from then we were out of sight of land. This time was redeemed from monotony by tournaments of chess and whist, which filled up the evenings. There were frequent small quarrels, with reconciliations more or less sincere, which also afforded distraction. After one the captain let off a rocket, also one of Holmes's patent "flare-ups." This is a contrivance for saving life during the dark. It consists of a box filled with potassium, which is pierced at both ends and thrown into the sea fastened to a life-buoy. In contact with the water the metal ignites, and for about half-an-hour sheds a radiance for a long way. It is visible for miles off. If a man falls overboard he knows then where to look out for the life-buoy.
The Canon was an adept at shorthand, and a class was formed on board of 12 of the saloon passengers, who prosecuted it most vigorously, and really made much progress. An examination was held at the end of the course of lessons, and prizes awarded. Several entertainments—musical and dramatic—were given, nearly all of which proved successful, the very causes of failure on land being often at sea the cause of success. The prompter was, I remember, on one occasion much more audible than the actor. Another time the stage (the main deck) was flooded with sea water, which increased rather than diminished with every roll. A chorus of youths and maidens endeavouring to sing and keep their balance is amusing if not aesthetic. Everything, in fact, suffers a "sea change," if not into something "rich and strange," often into something expensive. The first time a passenger ventures on the forecastle or up the rigging—the peculiar realms of the sailor—Jack chalks him, which means that he must pay his footing, by sending a bottle of whisky for'ard. It is seldom that a stranger long escapes "spotting" under these circumstances. As a curiosity I may mention that one passenger paid 8s. for a few things being washed; this was at the moderate price of 6d. each article, no matter whether it was a collar or a shirt. I should strongly advise anyone going a long voyage to take a spirit lamp, as it is often difficult to get hot water unless the thirst of the cook is constantly allayed. Deck shoes are very convenient, more especially in the tropics, where one leads a lotus-eating existence. This is the most delightful part of the voyage in my opinion, though some prefer the more bracing air of the Southern Ocean. Without being malicious, however, it is difficult not to fancy that the pleasure of finding midsummer weather in January is heightened by the contrast with London fogs and frost, which we know those at home are suffering from. The greatest resource of all is reading, and some of us get through a good deal of it, but it is too tempting, and often interferes with taking regular exercise, which, though irksome, is almost essential to good health at sea.
Christmas Day seemed strange enough. The orthodox fare—turkey and plum-pudding—were on the table, but ice would have been an agreeable addition. The toasts drunk were "The Queen," "The Captain," and "Absent Friends." The next day, as we had then been a month at sea, the sailors "buried the dead horse." As they receive a month's wages in advance, they do not begin to earn anything until they have been a month at sea. During this period they are said to be "working off the dead horse." A barrel covered with matting formed the body, and appendages for the requisite number of legs and the tail were put on. The animal was then dragged round the deck to the accompaniment of a melancholy song—the refrain of which is "poor old horse." The horse is next put up for sale, and on the present occasion was knocked down to one of the saloon passengers for 16s. The money was not really paid, but a collection was made which came to more than the sum bid. Next, amid the lamentations of the sailors and the glare of blue lights, the animal was hoisted up to the main-yard with a sailor on its back, who, dexterously disengaging himself, let the beast fall with a dull thud into the water. The sea was so calm that some apprehension was expressed lest the carcass should be seen the next morning not far to leeward, but this anti-climax was averted. We have all read of the coming on board of Neptune at the time of crossing the line, but on our voyage no notice was taken of it, the reason being, as was supposed, that the sailors were dissatisfied with the result of the sale of the dead horse. Well, though it might have been amusing, it was doubtless more their loss than ours, because when the thing is analysed, all sailors' doings fundamentally resolve themselves into an appeal for subscriptions from good-natured passengers. About 15th January we crossed the sun, which for a short time was vertical at noon. Peter Schlemihl could then have walked about without detection, for no one had a shadow.
On our journey we met several ships and steamers, and as the captain never missed an opportunity of signalling, the course of our voyage was known from various quarters. First, the number of the Hampshire, JNBV, is displayed by the flags, each flag representing a letter. A complete code of arbitrary signals is in use, by which almost any intelligence can be interchanged. We then told the port we sailed from, London, and our destination, Melbourne. From one barque, the County of Anglesea, on her way from Cardiff to Rangoon, which we fell in with early on the voyage, the captain came on board the Hampshire to lunch, and afterwards several of our passengers returned the visit. One of them brought back a small cur, which made the fourth dog on board—rather too many, as they were always in the way. Their number was soon reduced 50 per cent. One day what was known as the "sailor's dog" mysteriously disappeared. Some thought it had been thrown overboard, but it probably fell over accidentally, as the dog was universally held to be the least objectionable. Another, the strange dog, had to be poisoned. On the 10th January we met a German ship bound for Barbadoes from Buenos Ayres. Here an opportunity for sending letters was gratefully embraced. The captain promised to hand them over to the British Consul at Barbadoes. One day, during a calm, the boats were lowered, and several of us rowed about to look at the Hampshire from a little distance, while some bathed in a tropical sea. There was no danger of sharks, which keep away when several bathe together, or even one, if he splashes about enough. The boatswain caught a turtle, from which we had some capital soup. Turtles are very tenacious of life. A knife was thrust into its throat, and its jugular vein severed, but if it had not been cut up soon after it would have lived many hours. Indeed, the heart alone kept beating long after it was severed from the body.
I must say we were badly treated by the "monsters of the deep." They never came out when wanted. We all expected to catch a shark some day, but only once was one even seen, and then it was some distance off, with its knife-like fin just showing above the water. It was Sunday, too, when no fishing was allowed—a fact of which he was evidently aware. These fellows are proverbially stupid, and will go at a bait again and again, even though they must know it to be a lure. Only once, too, did we catch an albatross, the bird of the Southern Ocean. That was by a line baited with a small piece of pork. This was fastened to a round ring of iron, in which the hooked beak of the bird caught, and so it was dragged on board. The captain knocked it on the head, and it was then cut up. It measured 13 feet across the wings, but many are larger than this. The beak was about 6 inches long, curved, and of great power. Sailors have no "ancient mariner" sentiment as to killing the albatross—in fact, it would be misplaced. The captain told us of a case he knew of where a man had fallen overboard, when the albatrosses swooped down upon him, and pecked out his eyes and brains. The sailors begged the captain to shoot him and so end his sufferings. The quills of the albatross make excellent pipe stems, and the skin of the webbed feet is used for tobacco pouches. But the chief thing about the bird is, of course, the snowy down on the breast, of which ladies' muffs are made. The Zoological Society in Regent's Park offer a reward of L100 for a live albatross or black cockatoo, but it has never been earned, though the attempt to carry them to England has often been made, for the albatross cannot live through the tropics.
During the last fortnight of the voyage the weather became very cold for the latitude we were in. The point reached furthest south was 42 deg. 42' which is about the same as the north of Spain, but the thermometer was 49 degrees all day. It is, however, well known that for various reasons the same latitude is much colder south of the equator. On the night of Monday, the 2nd of March, a beautiful lunar rainbow, extending right across the sky, was seen. This is not a common sight. By this time the benefits of the voyage were visible in the faces of all the passengers. If it had not been for some shortcomings in the provisions there would have been no drawback. Cape Otway was sighted on the morning of Saturday, the 7th March. At 4-30 p.m. we were off Port Philip Roads, and here the pilot came on board. He brought papers, and the first news we read was that of subscriptions for a statue to General Gordon, of whose death we were thus informed; the second news was the despatch of troops from Sydney to the Soudan, of which everybody was then talking. At 10-30 p.m. the Hampshire was anchored off Williamstown, but could not come alongside Sandridge Pier, till Monday morning. It was rather hard getting up on a Saturday night, as all were anxious to see their letters. Many of us went to Melbourne on the Sunday, but in most cases returned to the ship to sleep, as the luggage could not be landed till Monday. On that day a general dispersion took place, and many who will probably never see each other again will have their voyage on the Hampshire to look back upon with pleasure.
When I arrived in Melbourne early in March, everybody was enthusiastic in praise of the New South Wales Government, who had just despatched their contingent to the Soudan. Gradually this feeling subsided, and it was afterwards said to be doubtful whether the Victorian Government would renew their offer later on. The truth is the Victorians are plus royalistes que le roi. Indeed I cannot help thinking they would feel much less respect for the "British Constitution" if they had a nearer view of some of the proceedings at Westminster. But they are human and can scarcely submit with patience to the repeated snubs they have had from the Home Government. The inconceivable bungling about New Guinea especially rankles in their breasts. No one is now so unpopular here as Mr. Gladstone and Lord Derby. Moreover, as a late Minister in South Australia said to me—Why should we send out our tradesmen, our artisans, our clerks, as volunteers, while you send out regular soldiers? We deplete the colony for what is in reality only a handful of men, while it means much to us. If we wish to assist the mother country we can do it better by taking care of our own defences, and by subscribing money, if necessary, to send to England. But this view, of course, leaves out of sight the immense moral effect which has, in fact, been produced by this display of attachment to the mother country. Such things will do more to bring about Imperial federation than any number of articles in newspapers and reviews discussing the merits of various schemes. If the true spirit is there—the desire for federation—it will put itself into practice in some form or other. The preliminary step is federation among the colonies. This is at present much hindered by their mutual jealousies. "The proper way," said to me a prominent statesman here who has been twice a Minister of the Crown, "is for England to take the initiative. Let her send out some leading man who would not be regarded as the representative of a party—such as Lord Dufferin—and let him make proposals to the various colonies in which they might acquiesce, without one seeming to lead the others." Anyhow here, "as at home" (as England is always called), there is a widespread notion that federation in some form is a necessity for the future, if England is to continue to hold her own by the side of such immense states as Russia and the United States. Providence seems now to be on the side of the "big nations." I am confident that even now, people in England fail to realise the importance of these homes beyond the sea. They enjoy a lovely climate, have boundless capacities for expansion, and are inhabited by Englishmen who differ from ourselves only in the fact that they live at a distance. With the present means of communication, Melbourne is now as near to London as the North of Scotland was to the South of England less than a century ago. People look, perhaps, at the present population of Victoria, which is rather under a million; and then, observing that it is about the same as that of Liverpool and Manchester together, they infer that it is of no greater importance. There could not be a greater mistake. It is a commonplace to say that their importance is in the future, yet even commonplaces sometimes need repeating. There is no reason why, within the memory of men now living, this colony should not be as populous as England is now. At lunch, some few weeks ago—I remember it was at Dr. Bromby's, the much-respected late head master of the Church of England Grammar School—a clergyman narrated some of his experiences while travelling in England a few years back:—"I was at the house of a Yorkshire squire, who was speaking of Australia, and said 'Ah! we used to have a few Australian sovereigns here, but now we see very few.' I requested those present to examine the sovereigns they had about them. If you find an 'M' under the Queen's head, it was coined at Melbourne; if an 'S,' at Sydney. Singularly enough nearly all the sovereigns they produced had the 'M' or the 'S.' I was satisfied. It was a dangerous coup, but perfectly successful, and gave the company a much greater idea of the importance of Australia than anything I could say." In rapidity and at the same time solidity, of growth there is no city of modern days, I believe, to be placed beside Melbourne. Fifty years ago it did not exist. Now with the suburbs the population is 300,000, and in such a liberal manner have the streets and roads been laid out, that on the present area there is at least room for a million. Since 1842 Melbourne has had municipal institutions. In 1851, Victoria was separated from New South Wales, with Melbourne for the seat of government. Such rapid increase has been equalled only in America, but there is nothing American about Melbourne. Many years ago there did come here a few Americans of "advanced ideas," among others the notorious George Francis Train, who bequeathed his "damages" against the British Government—5,000,000 dols. for his arrest in Cork harbour—to the Irish Republic. The legacy and the legatee have proved equally unsubstantial. But these men have now died out, or become respectable citizens. The colonials may be said to resemble the Americans only in one point, in their aptitude for business. Some people have come out here in the expectation of "taking in" the guileless colonist, but the biter has been bit. I have heard of one manufacturer of pills who soon found out his mistake.
In fact, in face of the nonsense that is sometimes talked to encourage those who fail in England to come here to make their fortunes, it seems to me they are far more likely to lose what money they have. As a rule the same qualities of mind and character that bring a man success in England will make him successful here, and for certain people it is better to stay in England. The class that really suffer in Melbourne is that comprising the man of good education, who has perhaps taken his degree at one of our Universities, but who has not any fitness for any particular calling. Numbers of this class are, I am told, in poverty, if not actual want. There is here not the same demand for "culture." There is no outlet for purely literary capacities. The life that is led here, and which will be led for some time yet, is a somewhat hard and fast life, and it is most difficult even for one who desires ease to find it in this feverish atmosphere. The country has scarcely yet settled down. Among the population there is little beauty of face or grace of movement. The first settlers were, as a rule, rough people who had to make their living, and little time to think of anything beyond, but we are indebted to them, for they are everywhere the necessary pioneers of civilisation—the mass whose dead bodies form a bridge for their more fortunate successors. Then the gold discoveries brought out a lower class. However, the second generation is a great improvement on the first, and, no doubt, the usual rule of amelioration of type will make itself felt in due course. In what I have just been saying I speak in the most general manner. There are many exceptions, of course, and brilliant ones. Now to return to Melbourne itself. The streets are very broad, usually 99 ft., and long and straight. One I know of is 100 yards broad. Some are planted with trees, while in the streets where there are shops, verandahs are almost universal along the pavement. The gutters are very wide—sometimes 5 feet or 6 feet, which is necessary to carry off the large amount of water coming down when it rains. At such times the mud is almost impassable. Melbourne proper is situated in the centre, and stands to the rest of the city somewhat as the City of London does to the various vestries. In Melbourne, however, each of the suburbs—15 in number—has a Mayor, Corporation, and Town Clerk of its own. Any municipality with a revenue of L25,000 or above, is styled a "city." There is, however, no body here like the Metropolitan Board of Works, consequently no united system of drainage and other works in which the whole community is interested. This is a great defect, and the want of some central authority is much felt. Each municipality manages its own district only. I remember, on landing the first time at Sandridge Pier, some of us drove from there into Melbourne. Someone complaining of the badness of the road to the driver, "Yes," he said pathetically, "they spend all the money in drainage."
In public buildings Melbourne can compare well with any other city of its size. The Public Library, the Law Courts, the Town Hall, the Post Office, the Exhibition building, are all architectural ornaments. In the streets there is a want of regularity in the size of the houses, which will be corrected in the course of time, and which is incidental to all new cities where people cannot at first afford to erect lofty structures. Most of the city is on the north side of the Yarra, which winds very much and empties itself into Hobson's Bay, about six miles from Melbourne. The intercolonial and local steamers start from wharves on the river, and passengers by them have, therefore, to endure the bad smells which always prevail. The Thames is bad enough sometimes, but the Yarra can only be compared to the Clyde at Glasgow. A large piece of the river will be cut off by a canal now in course of construction. Hobson's Bay is the north-eastern part of Port Philip Harbour, a noble expanse of water of 800 square miles, with a narrow entrance at the "Heads." There are sharks in it, so that bathing is carried on in parts that are fenced off. There used to be a reward offered by the Government for every shark-skin above 2ft. long. There is a tale of an old loafer round the Harbour called "Paddy Lynch," who having caught a shark of 1 ft. 11 in., stretched its skin the required inch. He is now commonly accosted by the question "Who stretched the shark?" The Public Library is probably one of the largest and completest of its kind to be found anywhere. It now contains about 120,000 volumes, and is rapidly increasing. A new wing is being built to make more room. The trustees have acted with a view to acquiring books of real worth, and no book is selected unless it has made its reputation. Consequently the amount of fiction is small. George Eliot's novels have only just been admitted. The library is not supported by a local rate, but by the Government. The same is the case with all the public libraries throughout the country. However small a township is, you will probably find a public library and a mechanics' institution. In the same building with the library are the Picture Gallery and the Museum. In the former are Miss Thompson's "Quatre Bras," Long's "Esther," and "A Question of Propriety," the latter bought off the easel, besides other good paintings. In the vestibule are plaster casts of some of the aboringines, labelled, "Martha, aged 14;" "Thames, aged 50;" and so on. They are all remarkably ugly, but vary in degree, some being actually repulsive. There are now only a few hundred natives in the whole of Victoria, and they are miserable creatures, not to be compared, for instance, with those in the north-west, where in some places the average height of the natives is 6ft. The library is open daily (except Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Some time ago the trustees did open the Library and Picture Gallery on the Sunday, but after five Sundays Parliament sat, and the Sabbatarians then immediately passed a vote prohibiting it, although the measure had been very popular. In fact, nothing is open on Sundays. Public-houses are shut, except to that remarkable animal—the bona fide traveller. A few weeks ago there was a deputation to the Premier, urging him to stop all Sunday trains. This was supported by some ministers who are themselves in the habit of using trains on Sunday, but they did not find the time ripe for such a change.
I had an interesting conversation with the learned and accomplished Town Clerk of Melbourne (Mr. Fitzgibbon) upon the condition of the legal profession here. The two branches, barristers and solicitors, are not amalgamated, but the tendency, as in England, is in that direction. Indeed, in the last session of Parliament a bill to amalgamate them, after passing the Legislative Assembly, was only lost by one vote in the Upper House. Still, even in places where a fusion has taken place, as in Tasmania, I found that, in fact, they are kept distinct, that is to say one man will devote himself to speaking in court, another to office-work. Barristers here have a distinct grievance against the Inns of Court at home. Here an English barrister can be at once called to the Victorian Bar merely by being introduced, whereas in England a Victorian barrister has to keep terms and pass an examination. Formerly he was in no better position than any other student, but by the exertions of Mr. Webb, Q.C., of Melbourne, the time of probation has been reduced from three years to one year for colonial barristers, and the examination has, I believe, been diminished also. There is a Chief Justice (at present absent on leave) and four puisne judges. Lately a paper controversy has been raging between one of the judges and the Bishop. The judge wrote a pamphlet, entitled "Religion without Superstition"—a crude rechauffe of the usual sceptical arguments which have been propounded a thousand times before and infinitely better expressed. The Bishop has not found it difficult to reply, but at best this contest between two dignitaries is an unseemly spectacle. Meanwhile the newspapers sarcastically ask how it is that the judges, who are said to be so overworked, have time for such amusements. Religious feeling runs high in Melbourne. The Presbyterian assembly has recently deposed Mr. Strong, the minister of the Scotch church, on account of the breadth of his doctrines. Mr. Strong has been publicly invited by the Unitarian minister to join their communion. In the State schools there is no religious instruction except at extra times, and by express desire. This is due to the action of the Catholics, who naturally object to their children being taught the Bible by Protestants. About Melbourne there is nothing provincial, and, although in point of size far inferior to London or Paris it is almost as cosmopolitan. At night, Bourke-street is as crowded as the Strand or Regent-street. The chief hotels are Menzies's, Scott's, the Oriental, and the Grand. The two first are at the business end of the town, the west end, and they charge about 12s. per day. The Oriental is at the east end of Collins-street, exactly opposite the Melbourne club. The charge there is 10s. per day, and at present it is extremely well managed by the proprietor in person. The only objection is that it is much frequented by betting-men, whose shop talk is, I think, more wearisome and less instructive than that of any other persons. The Adelaide Jockey Club have just been holding their annual meeting at Melbourne on account of an attempt by the South Australian Legislature to abolish betting! On the whole the prices of things in Melbourne may be said to be about the same as in London. Some things are much dearer, and not so good, as for instance, cloth clothes, boots and shoes. Again, house-rent is excessive. I can give two examples—one, a cottage of one story and four rooms, which lets for 22s. 6d. per week; another, what is called a seven-roomed house, but it really has only four rooms, the other three being merely of the size of dressing-rooms; this is in not at all a fashionable part, and the rent was lately L98. It has now been raised to L108. Every house, however, has a bath-room, and the old houses in which there is no bath have to be fitted with that convenience before they can be let. On the other hand, food, especially meat, is much cheaper, but the meat is not so good as at home, at least in my opinion, but I can scarcely expect this opinion to be accepted without objection. A fish called "garfish" is about the best fish here. It is something like a whiting, but has more taste. Another fish called "trevalli" is not particularly good. There is no sole or turbot or salmon. The colonial wine is, upon the whole, very good and wholesome, and is much drunk. At Geelong lately the heroic measure of destroying the vines has been taken to prevent the spread of phylloxera. There are several good clubs in Melbourne—the principal are the Australian at the west end of the town, and the Melbourne at the east end of Collins-street. On the introduction of a member (approved by the committee), strangers are admitted as honorary members for a month: then for the second month they pay L1, or L6 for six months; but strangers cannot be taken in casually by a member as is the case in many London clubs. Most of the clubs have bedrooms attached, which are much used by travellers in the colonies. They are, therefore, not merely more comfortable, but usually cheaper than hotels, because meals are paid for as taken, while at nearly all hotels the American system of so much a day prevails.
One day I accompanied a friend to the University to be present at the "annual commencement," when the degrees are conferred. The "commencement" here occurs about the middle of the term. With us at Cambridge it is at the end. The ceremony took place in the "Wilson Hall," which is used as a Senate House, and for other public functions in connection with the University. The ceremony itself was almost identical with that at one of our Universities, and it was similarly interrupted by noisy Undergraduates, whose humour consisted in rendering the proceedings inaudible without contributing anything amusing of their own. One lady who took a degree was much cheered. The Bishop of Melbourne (Dr. Moorhouse) is the Chancellor, and delivered an address to the "fractious children," and he then called on the Governor of the colony, who with Lady Loch was present, for a speech on the subject then foremost in every one's mind—"Our Defences." This seemed rather strange at a peaceful academical performance, but the Governor acquitted himself in a truly diplomatic style, by telling us nothing we did not know before. On another day I was shown over part of the University by a young gentleman who had taken his degree in law on the previous occasion. There are at present two colleges—Trinity and Ormond—at each of which about 35 Undergraduates are in residence, while there are about the same number at each non-resident. The bulk of the students, however, are unattached. There are 350 altogether, and their number is annually increasing. There is no University discipline outside of the Colleges, and in them the students take their meals together. The sitting-rooms are separate from the bedrooms, and more resemble studies at a public school than rooms at a University, being usually shared between two and furnished by the College. There are no fellowships at the University. At Sydney University on the other hand four fellowships of L400 a year each have been recently given to the University for the encouragement of scientific research—a munificent gift which should lead to much.
To strangers, the climate of Melbourne is trying at first. Suddenly, in the summer the wind will turn to the north, and in a short time the thermometer registers 100 degs. in the shade. The heat and dust are then almost insupportable. The dust rises like a cloud obscuring even the opposite side of the street. Then the wind will as suddenly veer to the south. In an hour the temperature falls 40 or 50 degs., and the air is cleared by a "southerly buster." In the winter the north wind is a cold wind. In spite of the climate, the Botanical Gardens are an admirable specimen of what may be effected by the skill of man. These gardens are on the south side of the river Yarra. On a hill in the centre of them is built the Government House. There are seen many varieties of trees and plants all carefully labelled. The fern tree bower is very ingenious. You see here the elk or staghorn fern, which grows as a parasite on the palm or the petosperum of New Zealand. The grass is kept beautifully fresh and green, and is a favourite resort. I have no further room to continue this letter, but, in my next, hope to say something of the government and the aspect of politics in Victoria.
The Government of Victoria is nearly a pure democracy. Both Houses are elected by the people, the Legislative Council as well as the Legislative Assembly. To vote for the former a slight property qualification is necessary, viz., L10 freehold, or L25 leasehold. The Assembly is practically elected by universal manhood suffrage, the only restriction being that a voter must have resided twelve months in the colony prior to the 1st January or 1st July in any year. Of course, there is a smouldering agitation for female suffrage, but it has not yet attained the dimensions of the similar agitation in England.
It is to me unintelligible how it is that so many people can be enthusiastic about the prospects of Democracy. As Sir James Stephen says, "We may be drifting down the stream, but that is no reason we should sing Hallelujah." There is no magic in the word. It is simply a form of government, just as monarchy or aristocracy are forms of government. Nor is it a new form of government. It has been tried over and over again, more than 2000 years ago, nor has it ever been a particularly successful or a long-continued form. People often talk as if liberty were more attainable under a Democracy than under any other government. Now, putting aside the question whether liberty is good or bad—for it is entirely a question of time, place, and circumstance—the opinion is unfounded, because the tyranny of a majority is just as galling, and usually less intelligent, than other tyrannies. It has rather cynically been said that governments are of two kinds—bamboo and bamboozle. A Democracy combines these two kinds. When political power is so minutely divided as it is among the voters of England, say, it is not worth having; and power, as a rule, resides in the hands of demagogues, instead of the hands of statesmen.
In Victoria, there is government by party, but there are no real lines of demarcation between them, and it is now merely a struggle for office between the ins and outs. Each party must be prepared with a programme to interest the masses, and to be able to go to the electors with a list of measures to be passed. If a measure is bad, the Government may be turned out. But the ministers are saddled with no responsibility in consequence. They simply wait their turn till the other side makes a mistake. This course has led to legislation which unduly interferes with liberty. There is now before Parliament a new Licensing Bill, the principle of which is Local Option. It is also intended to put down barmaids. Those who at present exist are to be allowed to remain, 346 in number, but no fresh ones are to come forward. The publicans are ranged on one side, some religious bodies on the other. Each side interpret facts in their own way. But every one knows that the fate of the bill will depend on the strength of the parties in the House, and not on argument. Again, the eight hours movement many years ago became law in Victoria. On the 21st of April in each year its anniversary is celebrated with a procession and flags and banners. This year the Governor took part in it, which was thought to be rather undignified on his part. It is a Socialistic measure, which reduces the good workman to the level of the ordinary one. All members of the Assembly receive L300 a year. Hence there are many professed politicians whose chief object appears to be to keep their seat. Lately there was an attempt in the House to vote a pension to a member whose circumstances had been reduced, but the proposal was defeated. Perhaps the time is not quite ripe for that yet. The present Ministry is the result of a coalition between Mr. Service and Mr. Berry. The former was at one time a schoolmaster up the country, but by his talents and energy has raised himself to the position of Premier. Mr. Berry is a well-known Radical politician. It is about six years ago since, in one day, he dismissed the greater number of the Civil servants in consequence of a disagreement between the two Houses. Most of them had to be quickly restored to their places, but public confidence was so much shaken by this arbitrary act that a large amount of capital was transferred to New South Wales—five or six millions, I believe—and even yet the country has not recovered from the shock. This period is known as the Berry-blight. The present Ministry seems likely to continue in power so long as they can provide sufficient sensational legislation.
In Victoria the railways all now belong to the State, and are well managed, but to stations beyond the suburban lines return tickets are not issued except on Saturdays, and except to such places as have a competing steam service, such as Warrnambool or Belfast. The speed is not high, and to our notions there are very few trains, but probably enough for the present traffic. Whenever the inhabitants of any particular district think they would like a railway, they get their representative to vote for it, and if he can persuade a sufficient number of other representatives to vote for it, the railway is made. For some time past the people of the small town of Buninyong thought they would like a line from Ballarat, from which it is distant seven miles. As it is not really required, in consequence of a good service of public conveyances between the two places, they did not succeed for some time. At length, during the last session, their representative managed to get 35 others to vote for it, and the line is now to be made. Each of these 35 may in their turn require the vote of the member for Buninyong on some similar occasion. But the actual management of the railways and of the Civil Service has been put beyond the reach of political influence by the appointment of Railway and Civil Service Commissioners, who are permanent officials. When a line is to be made the Railway Commissioners go over the ground and fix the spots for stations &c. Every porter has to pass on examination before he can be appointed. There are only first and second classes. On the suburban lines the first class are about as good as our second. As a fact, a number of second class carriages sent out from England are here used as first, the words "second class" being ingeniously concealed by a narrow strip of wood. Members of Parliament have a free pass over all lines. In Victoria the gauge is 5ft. 3in. In New South Wales it is the same as ours, viz., 4ft. 8-1/2in. Consequently travellers between Melbourne and Sydney have to change trains at the border.
In Victoria there is intense opposition to Free Trade. The people would rather make bad boots and shoes for themselves than import cheap and good ones from England. Of course I use Free Trade in the sense of the opposite of protection of native industries. Advocates of Protection appear to me to confound the end with the means, as if manufacturers existed for their own sake and not in order to produce. I have seen the commercial competition between various countries compared with a horse race. Just as some horses are handicapped, so customs duties must be levied on the productions of certain countries to give the others a fair chance! The comparison would be relevant if the object of a handicap were that the best horse should win, but the race itself is the object. Bastiat has reduced this view of commerce to an absurdity in his famous petition. It is a petition supposed to be presented by the dealers in oil, tallow, lamps, &c., in Paris, who request that all shutters, windows, and other apertures for light may be closed against the sun, which spoils their business by shining so brightly during the day. If wheat rained from heaven some people would tax it to protect the farmers. But Free Trade may be made an object of worship in itself, and can then do nothing but harm. It may be made a rule of life, not merely a rule of trade. The satisfaction of material needs is most necessary, and lies at the bottom of civilization, but it is not therefore the most important, and it is quite conceivable that the moral advantages to be derived by a community through reliance on their own energies, may more than compensate for the higher price of particular articles. It has been found not to be good for the human race to have things made too pleasant. The West Indian negroes, "who toil not, neither do they spin," but pick the fruits of the earth ready to their hands, are not the most exalted specimens of mankind. It may be a good thing for a man not to have things too cheaply, if owing to this he is stirred up to work, and can get money enough to live. Free Traders argue that free trade will prevent war, by making evident the inconveniences thereby occasioned to commerce, yet history has never shown that such considerations have been of much weight when strong national feelings are aroused. Nor is it, in my opinion, a desirable thing that they should have a decisive effect. With this class of arguments Free Traders are powerless to deal.
The absence of caste is a noticeable feature in Australian life. Any man, whatever his original position, can rise to the highest offices, and, as a matter of fact, the ministers are frequently tradesmen. None the worse for that, of course; but it was amusingly illustrated in the Assembly the other day, when one of the members—a "chartered libertine," in regard to speech, and they do speak very plainly—boasted that he was a member of a club to which none of the ministers could belong. "They are decent people," he said, "but not professional men, and the membership is limited to them." Domestic servants are particularly independent as a class, and many people do without them altogether rather than submit to pay very high wages for little work. An ordinary cook will receive about L1 a week. They rarely say "sir," but usually plain "mister," which is to most people not a pleasant way of being addressed. They seem to take a pride in addressing their employer (I must not say master or mistress) by their surname, as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So, as often as possible. What Emerson calls the "fury of expectoration" is very rife throughout the colonies. If a floor or carpet is particularly clean the temptation to spit upon it is too great to be resisted. In the Court-house at Adelaide is a special notice requesting people not to spit on the floor. I suppose this habit is connected with smoking, and smoking with drinking. All day long the hotel bars are besieged by crowds of men demanding "nobblers," like flies round a pot of honey, and I have heard that a hotel proprietor does not care to see his customers go beyond the bar, as so large a proportion of his profit is derived from it. In a debate in the Assembly, on the new Licensing Bill, one orator referred contemptuously to "miserable tea drinkers." "We do not want," he said, "to be Chinafied; the more men drink the better they are." He would find many outside the House of the same opinion. Per contra it was urged that total abstinence produced strength because "Samson was a teetotaller!"
Considering the comparatively small size of Victoria, it is much more thickly populated than any other colony. Its population is very nearly a million, on an area about as large as Great Britain, giving about 10 persons to the square mile. The chief towns after Melbourne are Ballarat, East and West, with a population of 37,000, and Sandhurst, with 28,000. Next comes Geelong, which, with its suburbs, has 21,000. For purposes of representation, the country is divided into 14 provinces, from each of which three members are returned to the Legislative Council. It is divided into 55 electoral districts, which return 86 members to the Legislative Assembly. The country is also divided into 37 counties, but what purpose this division serves I have not been able to ascertain. I have made two visits into the country, one to the neighbourhood of Ballarat to the north-west of Melbourne, the other into Gipp's Land, which is to the east. I went to Gipp's Land to pay a visit to a gentleman well known to the racing world, who has a large estate in the neighbourhood of Sale. Victorians are nothing if not fond of sport. We have a good many races at home, but I think they are exceeded in number by those in Victoria. My host had been engaged in horse-racing more than forty years, and in these circles he is much respected; because he always, as they say, runs his horses to win, and the high character he has thus deservedly acquired has done much to raise the morality of the turf in Australia. He told me that he was the second squatter in Gipp's Land. When he first went there in 1841, it took him eighteen days to return to Melbourne through the bush. For six days they had provisions, but for the rest of the time they subsisted on native bears—i.e., sloths. Now he owns about 20,000 acres of the best part of Gipp's Land. Gipp's Land is a large district about twice the size of Wales, which begins at a place called Bunyip, about fifty miles to the east of Melbourne. The train to Sale, the capital—there are two a day—takes about six hours, and the distance is 127 miles. As there are no engineering difficulties, the line did not cost more than L6000 a mile. In many places the gradients are very steep to avoid cuttings. By leaving Melbourne at 6-50 a.m. Sale is reached about 1, and a very tedious and dusty journey it is. Near Bunyip we pass the borders of an enormous swamp of 90,000 acres, called Koo-Wee-Rup, which is about to be drained, and will then form rich agricultural land. The ride soon becomes monotonous, by reason of the interminable gum trees. They look very peculiar, being all dead, and stripped of their leaves and bark, and in the moonlight show perfectly white. Most of them have been "ringed" near the bottom to kill them, but others have been killed by caterpillars. They stand so for a long time. At length they either fall or are burnt in a bush fire. The flames get inside the tree, run through it, and come out at the top, as if from a tall chimney. There are none of great height along the line, but some trees near Lilydale, about 30 miles north-east of Melbourne, are supposed to be the highest in the world, and are above 440 feet in height. In several places are seen groups of tree ferns some 20 feet high, which form a pleasant oasis. Gipp's Land did not look its best at the time of my visit. There had been a drought, more or less, for three years, and everything was dried up. The cattle appeared parched, with hard dry skins. Since then, however, there has been a good deal of rain. Sale itself is an uninteresting town of 3,000 inhabitants, with streets at right angles, and the usual Public Library and Mechanics' Institute. It also has an artesian well, which is not usual. Although it was late in the autumn the heat in the middle of the day was great. In the afternoon it is tempered by a steady sea breeze. The nights are cool. Along the roads are posts of about four feet high, painted red and white. These are to mark the road in case of a flood, which is not uncommon. From the verandah of my friend's house could be seen a vast extent of rolling upland, dotted pretty thickly with dead gum trees. Fifty years ago it was a dense forest. What may it be fifty years hence, with the increase of population? On the morning after my arrival I was taken a drive over part of the "cattle run." It is only a small run compared to some. The cattle, nearly all bullocks, have about 16,000 acres to wander over. Everywhere the want of water was apparent. I also saw the stables, where were several racehorses, but the best were in the stables at Flemington, near Melbourne. At the end of the week were the Sale races, but I was unable to stay for them, having already made arrangements for a trip to Tasmania.
About six weeks later I went to stay with some friends in the neighbourhood of Ballarat, between that town and Buninyong. I have previously referred to Ballarat as the next largest town to Melbourne. By rail it is 100 miles from Melbourne, though not more than 60 in a direct line. At present the rail goes round by Geelong. Between Geelong and Ballarat the line is double, and admirably constructed, at a cost of L32,000 per mile. It is as well made as any line in England, and the carriages run as smoothly. My friend's house is called "Moramana," a native name, signifying, I am told, "picking up sticks." Buninyong and Ballarat are both native names. It is a matter for discussion whether Ararat, a town some distance to the N.W. of Ballarat, is a native name, too, or whether it has any connection with the ark. I paid a visit to Buninyong, and two visits to Ballarat. Buninyong is properly the name of the mountain there, an extinct volcano, which forms a prominent object in the landscape. The small town takes the same name. It is remarkable chiefly for the fertility of the land in the immediate neighbourhood. It is older than Ballarat, which previous to the discovery of the gold there in 1851 did not exist. There are gold mines, too, at Buninyong, both alluvial and quartz, but chiefly the latter. The Salvation Army flourishes at Buninyong as well as at most places in the Colonies. I have since read in a paper that General Booth has given out that the Salvation Army is likely to become the State church of Victoria, and that Parliament will make it an annual grant of L1,000; or, if not, that Mr. Service will probably do so himself!
Ballarat is a busy town, and here Victorian energy is seen to its best advantage. It is, too, the centre of a large and fertile agricultural district. Gold mining is not now what it once was there. On all sides are the ruins of abandoned "claims," which give a most desolate appearance to the immediate neighbourhood. There is now more gold found at Sandhurst, further north. During the gold fever of 1851, and before there was a line from Geelong, as much as L70 per ton was paid for carriage from that town. The distance is about 60 miles, and the transit occupied ten days for heavy goods. "Until last year," said my friend, "there was a man walking the streets of Ballarat who was known by no other name than Jimmy. He would never beg and never lie down twice in the same spot to sleep if others got to know of it. People gave him food at the door, or, if not, he went to the Asylum for it. I used to see him taking a zig-zag path about the same time each day. When spoken to he would never reply. He had been in this condition since thirty years ago. Then he was a prosperous digger, but some others drugged him, and took away all his money. The drug spared his life, but took away his brains; and so he wandered about, always looking for something, he did not know what." There must be many similar tales of violence perpetrated during that wild time. Ballarat contains the widest street in the Colonies—one of the widest in the world—viz., Sturt-street, which is three chains wide, but its width is rather concealed by a line of trees in the middle. There are some fair buildings in it too. Lake Wendouree, formerly a swamp, now forms a pleasant resort for the people of Ballarat for boating, and being only four feet in depth, there is no danger of drowning. The drive round it too, of about five miles, is pretty. Of course Ballarat cannot do without an art gallery, but to that much praise cannot be given. Some of the pictures by local artists may be interesting as specimens, but the prices attached to them are purely imaginative. To commemorate the Duke of Edinburgh's visit a public hall was to be built, to which honour both East and West Ballarat—which are separate municipalities—laid claim. The difficulty was solved by building the hall over a small creek which separates the two towns, so that each has one end. As Ballarat is 1,400 feet above Melbourne, the temperature is much lower—10 degrees on an average. When I was there in May the weather was decidedly cold. In winter snow is frequent, while in Melbourne it is the rarest thing. From Ballarat I went to Adelaide, but that must be the subject of another letter.
It is some months since I last wrote about Australia, but it is a question whether something is not gained by a delay in putting together notes of travel. If much is lost in vividness and particularity, yet the whole and its parts are thrown into better proportion, slight incidents that at first seemed of much interest, are relegated to a more humble position, and really salient points have a better chance of receiving their due share of attention.
On the 20th May, I went to Adelaide from Melbourne by the steamer Adelaide, and, among the fine steamers of the Southern Hemisphere, there is none better appointed than this, in respect of food, ventilation, and general comfort. Like many others, it is fitted with the electric light. The captain is a well-known character. Some time before, he had been to blame in a collision with another steamer on the river Yarra. The Marine Board at Melbourne suspended his certificate for six months, but his employers, I was told, held him in such esteem that during that time he went on his own ship as purser, until he could resume command. I was confined in the cabin with a gentleman, who kindly informed me, beforehand, that he undertook this voyage in order to be seasick, on account of his health, and so he kept me in a continual state of expectation, like one who, in the night, every moment expects a cock to crow. At the end of the voyage he expressed his regret that he had not been ill, which I could scarcely share. The journey, by sea, takes about 48 hours; that is, from Port Philip Heads (the entrance to Melbourne Harbour) to Port Adelaide, and the steamers run twice a-week from each end. Soon there will be direct railway communication between Melbourne and Adelaide, but at present the land journey takes three days, and is much more expensive, as a good deal of it has to be done by coaching. The large mail steamers from Europe of the P. & O. and Orient lines stop for a few hours off Glenelg (about seven miles from Adelaide), to land the mails and cargo; but the intercolonial and other steamers come up, by a long detour, to Port Adelaide, which is also about seven miles from the city; but here they come alongside the wharf. Some of the other colonies have been utilized as penal settlements, or rather begun as such. South Australia was founded consciously and deliberately in 1836. No convict is allowed to land, and a tax of L10 is imposed on every Chinese. The site of Adelaide was chosen for that of the capital. From Port Adelaide to Adelaide the rail runs through a level tract, and the city itself is placed in the centre of a plain, bounded by hills on the north and east at about six miles distance. South Australia appears to be named on the lucus a non lucendo principle, because, as a fact, almost the whole of South Australia is to the north of Victoria; and, since 1863, it stretches right across the continent to the north coast of Australia, which is far away into the tropics. Indeed, this northern territory seems to be tacked on to South Australia, because it is not yet of sufficient importance to have a government of its own, and it is difficult to know what to do with it. It is separated by an enormous tract of country, and has nothing in common with South Australia proper. The Bishop told me he supposed he should have to make a visitation through it. If in time this district of the north becomes more populous, it is probable it will set up for itself, just as there have long been agitations for separating Northern Queensland from the Southern portion, and the Riverina from New South Wales, on the ground that their particular interests are not sufficiently represented at Brisbane and Sydney respectively.
The population of the whole of South Australia is now about 318,000, that of Adelaide and its suburbs being about 70,000. Adelaide is not only by far the largest town, but almost the only town of any size. The city is laid out with a regularity that is almost painful. It stands on a square mile of ground. At each side is a terrace, called respectively North, South, East, and West Terrace. There are squares laid out at regular intervals. As is usual in Australian towns, the streets are all at right angles, and generally of the same length and width. The Adelaide people claim to have the finest street in the Colonies, the finest post office, and the best hotel. King William Street is two chains wide—the widest streets in Melbourne are 1-1/2 chains—is a mile long, and contains the principal public buildings, the Town Hall, Post Office, Courts of Justice, &c. The Post Office is a handsome building, with a lofty tower, from which various signs are displayed notifying the arrival and departure of mails. At night the electric light from the top can be seen from a great distance. From King William Street start the various lines of tramway in every direction from the city. They run out to the various suburbs—Magill, Burnside, Kensington, Norwood, Stepney, &c., some of which names sound very familiar. The tramcars are as universally used as in Glasgow, and nowhere have I seen a better service than in Adelaide. It is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, to ride outside a tramcar in the bright atmosphere, to some suburb, and return after a ramble in the country. From beyond the North Terrace is a capital view over the city. Perhaps the best is from the house of Mr. Way, the Chief Justice. His villa, at which I had the pleasure of visiting him, is one of the most complete I have seen. Nothing is omitted that the arts of civilization can supply. His library contains the choicest modern works. His garden is delicious with cool grottos and fountains. In his aviaries is a collection of the rare birds of the country, all of which he knows. In a separate cage are two fine eagles. Among the flowers I noticed the "Sturt Desert Pea," just then in blossom, the loveliest wild flower of Australia. I have seen houses larger and finer, no doubt, and better collections of particular objects, but never any place so perfect of its kind. Some lines from the "Palace of Art" involuntarily occurred to me, but to no man does the moral of Tennyson's poem less apply than to the Chief Justice, for he is one of the most sympathetic and kind-hearted of men. I had intended staying at the Adelaide Club, and was provided with an introduction, but found on arrival that all the bedrooms were occupied. Besides, visitors are liable to give up their bedrooms to members, and as at this time some races were going on, and the rooms consequently likely to continue occupied, it was better at once to put up at a hotel. This was the "York," which was a comfortable house, and not particularly dear. It is a favourite with visitors by the mail steamers, who often run up from Glenelg for the few hours the steamer calls there.
Like all the other Australian Colonies (except Western Australia) South Australia has a Constitutional Government, established in 1856, consisting of two Houses of Parliament and the Governor. For the Lower House, which has 46 members, there is manhood suffrage. They are not paid as in Victoria, but a Bill for paying them narrowly escaped passing last session, and will probably be carried soon. While I was there there happened to be an election to the Legislative Council, the Upper House, the members of which retire in rotation. The election address of one candidate is the shortest I have ever seen. It was this: "Gentlemen,—My services are at your disposal as a candidate for re-election to the Legislative Council." Evidently his constituents were not troubled with burning questions. The position of a Governor in the Colonies is not altogether an enviable one. He has a high official and social position, but little real power, because, practically, he has to consent to any Bill passed by the two Houses. Any one can go to a Governor's reception, and their entertainments are necessarily extremely catholic in their nature. It is matter of common remark that people are seen there who are not seen anywhere else. A Governor's salary is not at all large for his position, and besides general entertaining, he is expected to entertain anyone of the least distinction who may happen to arrive. Adelaide is usually the first calling place for visitors to Australia, and so the Governor of South Australia is peculiarly liable to these calls upon his purse. Every law passed by the Colony has to be ratified at home, so we have a free people at home governing a free people abroad, which is an anomaly, and is daily seen more and more to be so.
South Australia exports wool, wheat, and copper, but the price of copper has fallen more than 50 per cent.; wheat is also very cheap, and has to compete with wheat from India; and in South Australia farming operations are too often conducted by mere "earth scratchers," who have no knowledge of agriculture. In 1851, considerable emigration to Victoria took place in consequence of the discovery of gold in that Colony. There was and is great depression of trade in South Australia, and we have recently heard of the failure of the "Commercial Bank of South Australia," but for all that the amount of the deposits in the South Australian Savings Bank is greater than in any other in proportion to the population. It is nearly L5 per head. It is true some of this is the result of compulsory savings under the provisions of the "Destitute Act."
After a few days at the hotel, I went to stay with a young relative of mine in the northern suburb, where, with one exception, I remained the rest of my time. His wife kept no servant, not so much on account of the expense as because, as she said, "They are more bother than they're worth," and indeed this is a universal complaint in the Colonies. I slept in a small room, and the last night but one observed in a corner of the ceiling, above the bed, what seemed to be a large spider. On mentioning this the next morning, I learnt that it was a tarantula, and was of use in catching insects. "Oh, but," I said, "doesn't it come down at night?" "Oh, no," said my friend, "it never comes below this," marking a spot about a yard above my head. This was not very reassuring, as there appeared nothing to prevent the animal from transgressing the prescribed limit, should it feel so disposed. It never troubled me however, but I was afterwards told that it had once come down too far and been killed. Such animals are unpleasant, and at times dangerous, but they may be expected in countries where the heat is as great as it is in Adelaide, which is considered to be one of the hottest places in the globe inhabited by man. One evening we went to hear the Bishop preach in the Cathedral. It is a very unpretending edifice, and in fact is only half built. It is all choir and no nave. In consequence of the great number of women who attend the services, or of the politeness of the men, or both, the Bishop has been obliged to set apart seats for men to protect them against the encroachment of what Mr. Swinburne calls the "stronger sex." Another evening we went to see a native dance or "corrobboree" as it is called. There are not many natives now left in South Australia, and what there are have become very degraded. The law forbids the sale to them of intoxicating liquors. Spirits not merely make them drunk, but drive them mad. As a sort of compensation they come down to Adelaide at stated times for blankets, which are distributed to them by the Government. On these occasions they are accustomed to exhibit themselves in their native antics and dances for a little gain. At this time was expected a large muster, and in order to accommodate as many visitors as possible, the Adelaide Cricket Club had induced the natives to hold their corrobboree on the cricket ground, of course themselves looking for a large money return. Certainly their anticipations must have been more than fulfilled, for there was a crowd at the entrance resembling that outside a London theatre on boxing night. Instead of 3,000 people, the number expected, there were nearer 15,000. Seats in the grand stand were 1s., outside the ring was 6d., but soon all distinction of place was lost. Presently about 50 natives, hideously decorated, and stained with red to represent gashes on the head and breast, filed into the enclosure in a long line. Small bonfires were lighted at intervals, and on these the performers leapt, one exactly following the steps of another. Then they imitated the bounds of the Kangaroo when pursued, but of dancing, or even posturing, in our sense of the word, there was none. Meantime the "lubras" (native women) seated on the ground in one mass, kept up a monotonous chant, varying their cadences with the beat of tom-toms. The night was dark, and the figures were indistinctly seen. Soon the vast crowd becoming impatient, burst through the barriers, and scattered the burning brands. A great scene of confusion ensued, and the performance came abruptly to an end. One of the blacks remarked, not without reason, "Me tink dis white fellows' corrobboree." It is a painful thing to see a race so degenerate as to be willing to show themselves for money before their supplanters, and to see the former "lords of the soil" begging a copper from the passer-by. One cannot but desire that their extinction in these parts, which is certain, may be also speedy. I cannot easily imagine two more pitiable objects than those I afterwards saw at Albany in Western Australia: a native man and woman begging, standing with their shrunken limbs in rags that barely covered them. The cricket ground is in the "reserve," a part between the north terrace and the northern suburb, which belongs to the community and cannot be built on. It is separated from the north terrace by the river Torrens. Like many Australian rivers, the Torrens starts up in various places and does not seem to have either a beginning or an ending. It might be compared to the "sullen mole that runneth underneath," between Letherhead and Dorking; but these Australian rivers, when they do appear, are inclined to stagnate. The municipality of Adelaide, however, have wisely dammed up the river, and converted it into a lake of about one and a half miles long, thus improving an eyesore into an ornament. It is spanned by a handsome bridge. Near the north terrace, too, are the Botanical Gardens, one of the best in Australia. The Zoological Gardens are close by, where there is a black cockatoo and a white peacock.
As I said before, Adelaide is the only town of any size. There are others, however. One day I went with my friend by train to the small town of Gawler, which is about 25 miles to the north. The train takes about one and a half hours. There we were met by a gentleman with a trap, who took us to see an ostrich farm about four miles from Gawler. It belongs to a company at Adelaide and we had an order from head quarters to be shown over it. Ostriches have been imported into South Australia from the Cape of Good Hope, and thrive here well enough. At length, seeing the risk of a sharp competition in ostrich feathers, the Cape authorities have laid an embargo of L100 on every ostrich exported, but this is locking the stable door when the horse has escaped, for there are now in South Australia quite sufficient birds to keep up the breed. The farm manager was a dry old Scotchman of much humour, and had made himself accustomed to their ways. The farm was about 170 acres in extent, and at this time there were about 100 ostriches upon it, a number having recently been sent away north to Port Augusta, where is another farm belonging to the same Company. Some of the birds had committed suicide on their way to the sea. They will run up against palings or wire, get their long necks entangled, and sometimes cut their throats in trying to extricate themselves. I noticed one that had his throat bandaged up on this account. The birds are kept in paddocks, three or four together, or more, if young and tame, but some are very savage. We drove through all the paddocks, but the manager kept a sharp look-out, lest any should "bounce" at us. An ostrich, in attacking, kicks forward with his legs, which give tremendous blows, and then, when he has kicked down his enemy, he will probably sit upon him, and his weight is about two hundredweight. An ostrich, therefore, cannot be considered a generous foe. The old manager had been a good deal knocked about by them himself. On one occasion a bird had kicked him twice, broken a rib or two, and got him up fast against the palings. However, he managed to seize hold of the bird's neck, and calling to some men on the other side, he handed the neck to them over the palings, to hold while he made his escape—which his ingenuity certainly deserved. I asked him what he did when they ran away. "Well," he said, "I sit down and wait till they stop; you can't catch them." The male takes turn with the female in sitting on the eggs, and when an ostrich has young ones she is very dangerous to approach. A good breeding couple are worth L300. The feathers are not taken off at any particular time of the year, but as they are ready, nor is cruelty exercised in taking them. I saw several ovens which had been used for hatching the eggs, but now they have enough birds to let them be hatched naturally, which is the safer way. An ostrich at close quarters is certainly an unpleasant looking beast; his neck, moving rapidly in all directions, surmounted by a small head, with bright wicked-looking eyes, reminds one of a snake. He has a fancy for anything bright, and will make for a button on your coat if it happens to gleam. I asked the age of ostriches, but could obtain no information. They look wiry enough to live for ever.
On our return to Gawler we called on the way to see an orange farm. The oranges were being picked. The trees, laden with fruit, seemed to have repaid the labour of the cultivator. Oranges require a great deal of water. This grove was in a sheltered valley, and water was supplied by a pump worked by wind. The man with us said you could not tell exactly what sort of oranges would come, because the same tree sometimes bears different kinds. Whether this is the case I do not know. Paramatta, near Sydney, is the chief place for oranges in Australia, but these of Gawler seemed to be as good as any we could desire, to judge from the taste. At Gawler we had tea at a friend's house. He said amongst other things—all interesting, but which I have forgotten—that he always gave tramps a meal (which seems to be the custom) and usually offered them work, but that none would work for less than 4s. 6d. a day. They preferred to do nothing. The Gawler Museum was close by. It contains native clubs, tom-toms, skins of fishes, and a valuable book of engravings from Hogarth. The last two or three days of my visit to South Australia I spent with an old friend, who has been about six years a Professor at the University. He lived about 20 miles to the east of Adelaide, beyond the Mount Lofty range, and the scenery by rail thither, across the mountains, is very striking. His comfortable house is about a mile from the station, and here he spends his leisure time with his family, in sensible pursuits. The University of Adelaide is yet in its early youth, and only quite lately have any buildings been erected for it, but the professorships are well endowed, and the number of students annually increases. From Adelaide I returned by steamer to Melbourne, and from there in a few days I went to Tasmania. On my subsequent return to England I spent a day at Adelaide, but then was in the company of friends the whole time.
The island of Tasmania is about 200 miles direct South of Victoria. Up to 1856 its name was Van Diemen's land. Then it was officially changed to Tasmania, a name which is more euphonious and at the same time more correct, for the island was discovered by the Dutch navigator, Tasman, who called it after his father-in-law, Van Diemen. The change of name does not seem at once to have been appreciated in England, for it is related of the first Bishop of Tasmania, Bishop Nixon that, having occasion to call at the Foreign Office, he left his card "F. R. Tasmania," and received a reply addressed to F. R. Tasmania, Esq.! This reminds one of the Duke of Newcastle, who, when Prime Minister, expressed his astonishment that Cape Breton was an island, and hurried off to tell the King. Tasmania may be reached direct from England by the Steamers of the Shaw Savill and Albion Line, which call at Hobart on their way to New Zealand once a month. The Steamers of the New Zealand Shipping Co. also call occasionally at Hobart for coal, but they are not to be relied on for stopping. Tasmania is however usually reached from Melbourne. Bass's Straits, the sea between Victoria and Tasmania is usually stormy, and many passengers who have never been seasick all the way from England have succumbed to Bass's Straits. What is more remarkable however, is that some for whom Bass's Straits have had no terrors, have been seasick on the narrow-gauge line from Launceston to Hobart! There are two ways of going from Melbourne to Hobart, one by Steamer to Launceston at the north of the Island, and 40 miles up the river Tamar, which takes about 24 hours, and thence by express train to Hobart which takes 5-3/4 hours, the other by Steamer all the way. There are two lines of Steamers, the Tasmanian S.S. Co., and the Union S.S. Co., of New Zealand, which calls at Hobart on the way to New Zealand. The Steamers of the latter Company are built by Messrs. Denny, of Dumbarton, and are fine, comfortable, and swift. To travel by one of them is in my opinion far the pleasantest way of reaching Hobart from Melbourne. Others to whom the shortest sea passage is preferable, will naturally go by Launceston, and will have a beautiful ride through the country, though they may be shaken to pieces.
Tasmania is about half the size of England, but its population is only 120,000. There are only two towns of any size—Hobart in the south and Launceston in the north. A great deal of the interior is marshy, and there are lakes of some considerable size, which in the winter are sometimes frozen. The north-west coast is very barren and sparsely inhabited. The doctors and clergy in these parts have often long journeys to make through the bush. In climate, Tasmania is preferable to Australia. The temperature is much more equable, and therefore not so trying to weak constitutions. Formerly, many Anglo-Indians visited the north-west coast; but this has not been so much the case latterly. Numbers of tourists come from Australia during the summer months. Compared to the larger island, Tasmania is well watered, and the rainfall is very much greater. The climate has often been compared to that of England, without its damps and fogs, but the lightness and clearness of the atmosphere rather resemble that of the South of France or Italy, and supply that gentle exhilaration to the spirits which can be so seldom known in England. Mount Wellington, which rises 4,000 feet above Hobart, is often covered with a wreath of mist, and in the winter with snow. Many English fruits and trees have been introduced, and flourish well. The sweet briar was brought in some years ago, and now in many parts the hedges are of nothing else. The native foliage is, however, the same as that of Australia. Everywhere the eucalyptus predominates, and in Tasmania grows to a great height. Some of the finest trees may be seen in driving from Hobart along the Huon Road.
Up to within the last five and thirty years, the history of Tasmania was that of a penal settlement. Much has been written of the convict life, which it is not necessary to repeat here. I have often heard that Marcus Clarke's powerful but repulsive tale, "His Natural Life" is strictly true, even in its most horrible details. To the evils inherent in the system, others seem to have been deliberately added by the authorities. The convicts were employed as servants, and it was even permitted to a free woman to marry a convict, and then if he displeased her, she might have him punished. The buildings of the settlement at Port Arthur are still standing, but are fast falling into ruin. On the ceiling of the chapel there are yet to be seen marks of blood from the floggings there inflicted. The old doors and bolts of cells are used by the people in their own houses. It was of frequent occurrence that convicts effected an escape, but they were usually compelled, through hunger, to give themselves up. In cases where several escaped, they became bushrangers, and rendered travelling in the interior unsafe, for, their lives being already forfeited, they had no motive to abstain from pillage and murder. It appears that one at least of the Governors of the convict establishments, took a malicious pleasure in taunting those under his care. At length he fell a victim to his own conduct. It may be a question whether it would not have been better to hang a man at once than to transport him to Van Dieman's Land; but there can be no question whatever that to class one who had been guilty of some petty theft, with the abandoned wretches that convicts speedily become, is a deed of which the wickedness can hardly be exaggerated. The system, too, had a bad effect upon the free inhabitants. While the convicts were no better than slaves, in the masters were engendered some of the autocratic habits of slave-owners. If a convict gave the slightest offence to his master or mistress, nothing was easier than to send him with a note to the nearest magistrate, requesting that the bearer might receive fifty lashes. The spirit of caste would soon be manifested. The free white population would despise the convicts, or children of convicts—perhaps also the poor free whites. These distinctions have long ceased, but the feelings associated with them are not so easily eradicated. Even now the descendants of convicts are sometimes secretly looked down upon, and a great many have, on that account, left the island. Much public work has been done by convict labour. If a road is particularly well made, it is a sure remark that it was made by the "Government stroke," but as a monument of human industry, slave labour does not impress the mind like free labour. One does not contemplate the pyramids of Egypt with the same satisfaction as St. Peter's or St. Paul's. An account of the present aborigines of Tasmania may be given with the same brevity as that of the snakes in Ireland—there are none. The last was an old woman who died about ten years ago. They were gradually reduced in numbers, partly by the invaders, partly by natural causes, and at last the remnant was deported to one of the neighbouring islands. In 1854 there were only 16 left. In the museum at Hobart are portraits of a good many, with unpronounceable names. By the Australians, Tasmania is sometimes called "sleepy hollow," and certainly, compared with their neighbours across the water, the Tasmanians do appear to be deficient in energy. The revenue of the country is, indeed, increasing, though slowly. There are now only about 400,000 acres under cultivation. A great many sheep are imported from Victoria. The principal manufacture is jam, but the customs duties of Victoria put difficulties in the way of a large export. Lately, the tin mines of Mount Bischoff, in the N.W., have been exceedingly productive, but there is an immense amount of mineral wealth in Tasmania not yet tapped. With the exception of Newfoundland, it is, I believe, the only Colony not represented at the present Colonial and Indian Exhibition, and this must be matter of regret to all wellwishers of the island, because it is certainly not due to want of materials for exhibition. There might be shown the varieties of the gum tree, the beautiful tree-ferns, the pretty shells which are made into necklaces, the skin of the black opossum, of which the finest opossum rugs are made (the black opossum has, however, become very rare, and brown skins are sometimes dyed black). There is, too, the Tasmanian devil, a small but formidable animal, something like a badger, and the ornithorhynchus, or duck-billed platypus, which figures on some of the postage stamps. This want of energy is a fact, however it may be accounted for. Probably the emigration to Australia of some of the convict families, as above mentioned, has withdrawn some useful members of society. Again, in 1851, the discovery of gold in Victoria attracted the most adventurous spirits from the other Colonies, and from Tasmania among the rest. It is true that much of the dangerous and criminal element in the population may thus have been removed, but, at the same time, the young blood went with it, and, as Pericles said, to take the young away from a city is like taking the spring out of the year, and now many of the young men go to Australia or elsewhere to seek their fortunes, a fact which may be considered as much an effect of the present stagnation as a cause of it. Throughout the island generally the usual proportion of the sexes is maintained, but in Hobart the female sex appears to have a decided preponderance. Tasmania, and especially Hobart, has had a reputation for the beauty of the women; Anthony Trollope and other writers mention it. Many men from Melbourne have brought their wives from across the straits. I am bound to say that my own observation scarcely bore out this tradition, but one must be very insensible not to admire the fresh and clear complexions both of women and men; they have the same complexions as we see in England, than which there cannot be higher commendation. Although the total population of Tasmania is so small, the machinery of government is large. There is a Governor, a Legislative Council of 16 members, and a Legislative Assembly of 32 members. Both houses are elective, though not with the same suffrage; but as even the lower house is not elected by manhood suffrage, the constitution is not so democratic as that of Victoria. During my visit the chief political question was the defence of the island against possible Russian attack. The artillery were daily practising at Kangaroo Point, which commands the entrance to Hobart. The present acting Chief Justice had been Premier and Attorney General for five years previously, and had brought the finances into a satisfactory state. Each minister has a salary of L700. The High Court of Justice consists of a Chief Justice and a Puisne Judge. The result of this is that there is virtually no appeal from the decision of a single judge; because, if even on appeal the Court should be divided, the previous judgment must necessarily be confirmed. The only appeal, therefore, is to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a proceeding which would probably be attended with too much expense to be ever resorted to. The two branches of the legal profession—Barristers and Solicitors—are amalgamated, but in practice they are usually kept distinct. A jury consists of seven, of whom a majority of five can give a verdict.
Education is well endowed in Tasmania. There is as yet no University, though attempts have been made to found one, but the Council of Education confers the degree of Associate of Arts, and every year two scholarships, called the "Tasmanian Scholarships," of the value of L200 per annum, each for four years, to be held at any British university, are awarded if the candidates pass satisfactorily the required examination. This is indeed a splendid scholarship. There are various other scholarships for boys and girls under the age of 12, and others for those under 15, so that it is possible for a boy to rise "from the gutter to the University." The recent success of girls has brought forward the question whether they too should not be allowed to compete for the Tasmanian Scholarship. Newspapers may be sent post free to Great Britain or the other colonies, to promote, I presume, knowledge of the country. The telephone is much more in use than in England, and is frequently used in place of the telegraph. The cost of it is only L6 per annum. Nor in railway communication is Tasmania behind. I mean that there are enough railways to keep up with the requirements of the country, but new lines are being made, and they of course will create fresh requirements. The principal line is that connecting Launceston with Hobart. It belongs to a private company, but the Government guaranteed 5 per cent. on the cost of construction up to L650,000. That sum was not sufficient, and subsequently L100,000 and L50,000 had to be borrowed to complete the line. The present income is about L70,000—a large amount for the small population at each end and on the way. Therefore when the chairman at the recent meeting of shareholders in London anticipated an income of L150,000, he was rather in the clouds. The line is 133 miles in length, and has a gauge of 3ft. 6in. It passes through some beautiful scenery, especially towards the Hobart end, and the numerous bends of the line give travellers an excellent opportunity for seeing the country. To one not used to it, however, the jolting is most unpleasant, and the pace kept up round the curves is too great for safety. Indeed, there have lately been some fatal accidents on that very account. Among the stations are Jerusalem and Jericho, before which the line skirts the Lake of Tiberias. Not far off is Bagdad—which also has its Caliph. There is one express train a day each way, which keeps up an average speed of 23 miles per hour. Launceston has about 15,000 inhabitants, and is a more business-like town than Hobart. Otherwise it is not particularly interesting. Hobart, which up to 1881 was called Hobart Town, has a most enchanting situation. The scenery is of that ideal nature which, especially when the afternoon sun gleams on the water and the hills, reminds the spectator (if it is not contradictory to say so) of the "Light that never was on sea or land."