Captain Goldsmith, AWOL seaman Geeves, and HMS Havannah

AWOL SEAMAN Henry Geeves, January 1851
H.M.S. HAVANNAH at Hobart etc December 1850-January 1851
AUTHOR Godfrey Charles MUNDY in Hobart 1850-1851

H.M.S. Havannah 1812
Source: Wikipedia

HMS Havannah was a Royal Navy 36-gun fifth-rate frigate [948 tons]. She was launched in 1811 and was one of twenty-seven Apollo-class frigates. She was cut down to a 24-gun sixth rate in 1845, converted to a training ship in 1860, and sold for breaking up in 1905.

Henry Geeves was an articled seaman, one of twenty-two (22) crew members who sailed from the Downs (UK) on 22nd August 1850 on board the barque Rattler, 522 tons, Captain Edward Goldsmith in command, arriving at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on 14th December 1850. Cabin passengers numbered seven, with four more in steerage. The return voyage of the Rattler to London would commence on 19th March 1851, after three months at Hobart while Captain Goldsmith attended to his construction of the twin vehicular ferry SS Kangaroo and the development of a patent slip at his shipyard on the Queen’s Domain.

Henry Geeves, however, had no intention of joining the crew on the Rattler‘s return voyage to London when he went absent without leave (AWOL) on 31st December 1850. He returned to the ship three days later for his clothes. Appearing as the plaintiff in the Police Magistrate’s Court on January 20th 1851, his complaint against Captain Goldsmith was for wages which he claimed were due to him because he felt he had been discharged by the Rattler‘s chief officer, having volunteered as an “old man-of-war’s man” to join the frigate H.M.S. Havannah when an officer from the Havannah boarded the Rattler seeking additional crew. Captain Goldsmith did not pursue the charge on the grounds that Geeves was never discharged from the Rattler‘s crew in the first instance, and as he had not been accepted by the Havannah, he was to return to the Rattler.

The “Rattler” at Hobart, December 1850

Henry Geeves listed among crew:
Signature of Captain Edward Goldsmith on list of crew and passengers per Rattler from London, at Hobart, 26 December 1850. Crew listed by name: 22; passengers listed by name: 12, one more than was reported in the Mercury, 18 Dec. 1850, a T. B. Watern [?]
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Cargo, Passenger and Crew Lists
Customs Dept: CUS36/1/442 Image 203

Arrived the barque Rattler, 522 tons, Goldsmith from the Downs 26th August, with a general cargo. Cabin – Mr. and Mrs Cox, Mr and Mrs Vernon, Matthew and Henry Worley, C. J. Gilbert; steerage, Mrs. Downer, John Williams, Wm. Merry, Charles Daly.

Source: The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) Wed 18 Dec 1850 Page 2 SHIPPING NEWS.

Customs House at London recorded on the Rattler‘s Entry and Cocket documents a staggering quantity of spirits, beer, wine and alcohol-related products for duty-free shipment to Hobart on this voyage cleared on 22 August 1850 at London Docks, in all, sixty-seven cockets were signed by exporters and 530 listed items were cleared. Aside from the predominant cargo of alcohol, there was a case for the Governor of VDL, Sir William Denison; a box for the Royal Society; iron and coal from the Welsh “Iron King” William Crawshay II; and drugs from Mr. Lucas of Cheapside. There were transhipments too from Rotterdam ex-Apollo of Geneva spirits, i.e. gin, the English word derived from jenever, genièvre, also called Dutch gin or Hollands, British plain malt spirits distilled from malt ex-The Earl of Aberdeen, and Mr Cheesewright’s cargo of Spanish and Portugal wine from Jersey in the Channel Islands. A quantity of this shipment of hogsheads of beer, casks and barrels of wine and spirits was bound for Captain Goldsmith’s licensed wholesale business conducted jointly with brewer John Leslie Stewart at their premises, Davey Street, Hobart.

Without doubt, however, the most unusual consignments of this voyage were the three 3yr old fillies purchased by John and James Lord from the bloodstock of the Duke of Richmond, Goodwood House, West Essex, UK, carefully tended by passengers Matthew and Henry Worley, immediate relatives of Hannah Lord nee Morley, the mother of John and James Lord. Their safe arrival was paramount, yet while the Rattler was hove to in the River Derwent waiting for the Pilot to board, the departing barque the Derwent, 404 tons, Harmsworth, master, was caught in a strong wind while attempting to “speak” the Rattler. The Derwent struck the Rattler, carrying away the larboard gallery at the stern near the rudder. The collision resulted in repairs to both vessels and especially to the Rattler which remained in Hobart at Captain Goldsmith’s shipyard below the “paddock”, the Queen’s Park/Domain, until ready again for the return voyage to London on 19th March 1851. The Cornwall Chronicle syndicated this report of the incident from the Advertiser:


The Rattler, Captain Goldsmith, arrived on Saturday, after an average passage of 110 days, having left on the 26th August. She consequently brings no additional items of intelligence, but several intermediate papers. Capt. Goldsmith has on board three very fine blood fillies purchased by Mr. John Lord, from the stock of the Duke of Richmond. The fillies are three years old, and have arrived in first rate condition, sufficiently evidencing the care and attention which have been paid to them on the passage. One was purchased for Mr. James Lord, and the other two for Mr. John Lord’s own stud. They will prove valuable additions to our stock, the Duke of Richmond’s stock comprising the best blood of England. Captain Goldsmith, to whom the colony is much indebted for many choice plants and flowers, has brought out with him seven cases of plants this voyage, all of which are in good order. On coming up the river, the Rattler got into collision with the Derwent, and had her larboard quarter gallery carried away. The Rattler was hove to waiting for the Pilot to come on board, and the Derwent coming down with a fair wind came rather too close, for the purpose of speaking her, and struck her on the larboard gallery, carrying it away. — Advertiser.

Three blood fillies for the Lord brothers on board the Rattler
Source: The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880) Thu 19 Dec 1850 Page 920 SHIP NEWS.

Geeves v. Goldsmith
Was blame assigned to any crew member of either vessel for the collision? Nothing was reported, though the logs of both ships would provide important details, if they are at all extant and available to the public. Perhaps Henry Geeves felt himself culpable in some small way, hence the desire to leave the Rattler. He gave no reason why he went absent without leave when he appeared in court on 20th January 1851, apparently having misrepresented himself to the officer of HMS Havannah about being an experienced “old man-of-war man”. Then again, life on board such an illustrious frigate as the Havannah which had taken pirate ships in all the seas, salvaged wrecks and fought in great battles in the Napoleonic era, would be far more rewarding. For example, in July 1851, the crew of HMS Havannah received a cheque for £52.10 from Messrs Smith, Campbell and Co. Sydney for floating and towing the wreck of the brig Algerine to safety. Not to mention the glory of experiencing first-hand the pomp and ceremony of the vessel’s VIP celebrity status, and the excitement of locals when arriving at port. Even in the tiny port of Hobart, the Havannah officers and crew were living it up.

EXTRACT from Geeve’s complaint against Captain Goldsmith

Extract: Police – Geeves v. Goldsmith
Britannia and Trades’ Advocate Hobart Town, Tas: Monday 20 January 1851, page 2.


A MAN-OF-WAR’s MAN, – Geeves v. Goldsmith. – This was an information by an articled seaman of the barque Rattler, against Captain Goldsmith, for 7l, odd, amount of wages due on his discharge of the vessel. Mr. Perry appeared for the captain and owners; and Mr. Brewer, on behalf of complainant, arrived during the progress of the case.

After the reading of the information, and a plea of Not Guilty recorded, Mr. Perry made an objection to the proceedings on the ground that Geeves had not been discharged, and consequently still belonged to the Rattler. A long discussion here took place as to the circumstances under which complainant was alleged to have been discharged from the ship, when it appeared that an officer of H.M.S. Havannah, now in this harbour, came on board the Rattler, and mustered the men, when complainant volunteered for the frigate, and was desired to go board, the captain telling him that he might come back for his money and clothes if he passed muster for the Havannah. This was on the 31st December; and three days afterwards he returned and took away his clothes, since which he had neither been at work in the Rattler, nor the Havannah. Extracts from the log of the barque were read by Mr. Perry in proof of those facts; and that gentleman, on behalf of Captain Goldsmith, now demanded the plaintiff return to the Rattler, as it does not appear that he had been accepted in the Havannah.

Police Magistrate (to Geeves) – You must prove that you have been received into her Majesty’s service.

Geeves said, Captain Goldsmith told him to quit the ship, and he had been refused permission to go back.

Mr. Perry was proceeding to cross-examine the claimant, and had proved the articles, when Mr. Brewer entered the court, and at Mr. Wilmot’s request repeated the grounds of his opposition to the claim.

Mr. Brewer observed that, in fact, Geeves had not been accepted on board the Havannah, and on going back to the barque the chief officer would not receive him; he had been willing to go back all along.

The chief officer (who was standing near the captain) here made a remark denying in part – this statement.

The Police Magistrate asked complainant if he was still willing to go back to the ship?

Mr. Brewer replied in the affirmative, and said the truth was, the officer of the Havannah had heard there was an old man-of-war’s-man on board the Rattler, and complainant had been selected under the impression he was the man, but not turning out to be him, they would not have him on board the frigate.

After some further conversation as to the right of the owners to deduct a portion of wages for the time complainant had been absent, the information was withdrawn, on the understanding that he was to return to his ship.

Captain Goldsmith (to Geeves) – Go on board at once, and mind you don’t quit again without leave.

Geeves (to his worship) – How am I to manage about my clothes, your honour; I left them at the place where I’ve been lodging?

Mr. Wilmot: – Oh, I’ve nothing to do with your clothes. The parties then retired.

Source: The Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851) Mon 20 Jan 1851 Page 3 Police.

H.M.S. “Havannah” at Hobart, VDL
The frigate’s arrival in the Derwent on 26th December, 1850, and the landing of Major-General Wynyard was heralded by a salute from the vessel and the battery, witnessed by a crowd which no doubt included the intended deserter of the Rattler, one Mr. Henry Geeves.


THE HAVANNAH. – H.M.S.Havannah, having on board Major-General Wynyard, who is on a visit of inspection, arrived yesterday from Sydney. The appearance of the vessel entering our noble harbour, with royals and studding-sails set, and a gentle sea breeze making the waters of the Derwent to dance and glitter in the sunlight, was beautiful. At three o’clock the Major-General landed under a salute from the vessel and the battery. He was waited upon by his Excellency’s Aide-de-Camp and a guard of honor, and immediately proceeded to Government house on horse back. A large concourse of people gathered together to witness his landing.

Source: THE HAVANNAH Colonial Times Fri 27 Dec 1850 Page 2 Local Intelligence

The following evening, a grand ball was held at the Military Barracks in Davey Street for the officers of the Havannah, including the wife and daughter of Major-General Wynyard. Dancing was “kept up until 4 o’clock in the morning“:

Hobart Courier, 27 December 1850
Ball at the Military Barracks, Hobart for officers of HMS Havannah


BALL AT THE MILITARY BARRACKS.- Lieut. Colonel Despard and the Officers of the 99th Regiment, gave a grand ball at the Military Barracks on the 14th instant. His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, the Commander of the Forces, Lady Denison, Mrs and Miss Wynyard and suite, the Officers of the Havannah, and a large company comprising nearly all the beauty, fashion and intelligence of Hobart Town were present. The dancing was kept up until 4 o’clock in the morning. The refreshments were provided by Sergeant Cleary, on whom they reflected infinite credit.

Another frigate, HMS Meander – sometimes written as HMS Maeander also visited Hobart in 1850; one its officers, Josiah Thompson, found himself the object of diarist and socialite Annie Baxter’s affections.

H.M.S. Maeander 44 Guns, in a Heavy Squall (Pacific July 9th 1850)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Object ID PAH0902
Description Hand-coloured. This print depicts the HMS ‘Meander’, a 44-gun 5th rate frigate. She is sailing in a heavy squall or storm in the Pacific, and is depicted listing dangerously to port with her sails billowing and in chaos. The ship is shown dramatically as being on the verge of being lost at sea, but for the skill and determination of her crew. This is said in the inscription, which also dramatizes the orders given to the men aboard in such a situation. The painting dramatizes an actual situation the ship was in on July 9th, 1850.

Date made 13 Dec 1851
Artist/Maker Dutton, Thomas Goldsworthy
Rudolph Ackermann
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials lithograph, coloured
Measurements Sheet: 381 x 551 mm; Mount: 18 15/16 in x 25 in
Parts H.M.S. Maeander 44 Guns, in a Heavy Squall (Pacific July 9th 1850) (PAH0902)

H.M.S. Meander 44 guns shortening sail for anchoring (Rio, June 9th 1851)
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Object ID PAH0898
Description Hand-coloured. This print depicts the HMS ‘Meander’, a 44-gun 5th rate frigate. She is shown anchoring in the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, shortening her sails in preparation – an actual scene on June 9th, 1851. A view of the port of Rio is shown in the general background, which includes buildings and the city skyline as well as other docked vessels. Among the other vessels depicted is a two-masted paddle steamer, directly to the right of ‘Meander’ in the background. Also on the right is a small two-masted sailing boat in the foreground. Another small boat can be seen close to the stern of the subject ship.

Date made 1 Jan 1852
Artist/Maker Dutton, Thomas Goldsworthy
Rudolph Ackermann
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials lithograph, coloured
Measurements Sheet: 371 x 461 mm; Mount: 480 mm x 631 mm
Parts H.M.S. Meander 44 guns shortening sail for anchoring (Rio, June 9th 1851 (PAH0898)

Francis Guillemard Simpkinson de Wesselow,(1819–1906), naval officer, artist and nephew of Sir John Franklin, arrived in Hobart, VDL on the Pestonjee Bomanjee in 1844 and departed in 1849 on the Calcutta. He devised this panorama of Hobart Town in 1848 as a watercolour viewed from the Ross Bank Magnetic Observatory where he worked and lived. In 1900 he wrote from London to the Bishop of Tasmania:

I happen to have several volumes of drawings and sketches made during the years I passed there – 1844 to 1849 – which have been lying packed away almost ever since my return. I am exceedingly glad there is now a chance of their being of some use or interest, I forward them to you with much pleasure.

Hobart Town in 1848 (detail), 1848, F G Simpkinson (de Wesselow), pencil, watercolour and chinese white on six sheets.
Royal Society of Tasmania Exhibition 2019, TMAG.

Simpkinson de Wesselow captured the scene above in 1848. The photograph (below) undated, unattributed and printed from a glass negative, captured the same scene with the addition of the names painted on the side of the sheds which were allocated to the naval frigates HMS Havannah and HMS Meander in 1850 at the time of their visit. If the photograph was taken in 1850-51, the ship closest to the Battery at Secheron Bay would therefore be HMS Havannah and the steamer moored at the Regatta Point jetty would most likely be the government’s PS Kangaroo, sold out of public service in July 1851.

HMS Meander and HMS Havannah, ship’s names on shed, Hobart
Undated, unattributed, print from glass negative
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: NS1013-1-991

This panorama taken by John Sharp in 1857 shows HMS Meander and HMS Havannah, the ship’s names on the shed in the foreground of the image on extreme left, but details in the distance of the jetty, if it was there, are indiscernible.

8. Hobart from the Domain (panorama) / Sharp photo ca. 1857
Archives Office Tasmania$init=ABBOTTALBUM_AUTAS001136186327

The cattle jetty and walkway, which was not yet built in 1848 when Simpkinson de Wesselow painted the scene, appears clearly in the black and white print from the glass negative (above) taken in the 1850s, but when commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin photographed the same scene in the 1860s, the cattle jetty was no longer there. He devised this hand-coloured stereograph of the cattleyards and abbatoir, now located on the foreshore directly below the boat sheds.

Stereograph on arched buff mount of the Abbatoir, Queen’s Domain, Hobart
Photographer; Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s for the HCC, Lands and Survey Dept
Unstamped, and hand-coloured 
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection
TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.25

State of the Colony 1850-1851
Below is an extended extract from Godfrey Charles Mundy‘s publication Our Antipodes or, Residence and Rambles in the Australasian Colonies, with a Glimpse of the Goldfields (London, Richard Bentley 1852). The illustrations are from the third edition published in 1854.

Deputy adjutant general Godfrey Charles Mundy arrived at Hobart on board HMS Havannah with Major-General Wynyard on 26th December, 1850. His lively observations by way of the short history of the colony are remarkably accurate and familiar in tenor, even today. The account (below) of his experiences in Tasmania begins on 23rd December 1850 and ends on January 18th, 1851, when he departed for Port Phillip, Victoria. He would have made the acquaintance of Captain Edward Goldsmith during a very busy festive season, if Annie Baxter’s diary is any indication, and he would have learnt that the small paddle steamer PS Kangaroo (52 tons, ex the Sydney-Parramatta river service) which was placed at his disposal by Lieut.-Governor Denison for the overnight trip down the Derwent estuary to the Iron Pot, Betsy’s Island, Slopen Island and Norfolk Bay would be decommissioned and sold in July 1851.  It would be replaced by Captain Goldsmith’s larger vehicular twin steam ferry SS Kangaroo, funded in part by an Act legislated in July 1850 to subsidize a loan from Treasury of £5000 with interest. Captain Goldsmith’s SS Kangaroo was launched eventually in 1854, after severe personal, financial and political setbacks.

Paddle steamer PS Kangaroo ca. 1850
National Library of Australia nla.obj-147501557-1.jpg

BIOGRAPHY: Godfrey Charles MUNDY (1804-1860)

Godfrey Charles Mundy (1804-1860), soldier and author, was born on 10 March 1804, the eldest son of Major-General Godfrey Basil Mundy and Sarah Brydges, née Rodney, daughter of the first baron Rodney (1718-1792) who defeated the French Fleet under Comte de Grasse off Dominica in 1782.
Mundy entered the army as an ensign in 1821, was commissioned lieutenant in 1823, captain 1826, major 1839, lieutenant-colonel 1845, and colonel 1854. In 1825-26 he was decorated while serving in India as aide-de-camp to Lord Combermere at the siege and storming of Bhurtpore. He was later stationed in Canada and arrived in Sydney from London in the Agincourt in June 1846 as deputy adjutant general of the military forces in Australia. He left in August 1851 and during the Crimean war was appointed under-secretary in the War Office. On 4 April 1857 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Jersey in the Channel Islands with the local rank of major-general. He died in London on 10 July 1860 survived by his wife Louisa Katrina Herbert, whom he had married in Sydney on 6 June 1848, and by their son.
In 1832 Mundy published Pen and Pencil Sketches, Being the Journal of a Tour in India, and in 1852 Our Antipodes: or, Residence and Rambles in the Australasian Colonies. With a Glimpse of the Gold Fields. He illustrated Our Antipodes with landscapes and lively scenes engraved from his own sketches. The first book went through three editions and the second four, not counting translations in German (1856) and Swedish (1857).
In Australia Mundy accompanied his cousin Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy on several outback tours in New South Wales, and he visited Victoria, Van Diemen’s Land and New Zealand. Aristocratic by birth and conventional in temper, he showed in his books a discerning eye, a lively pen, a keen sense of humour and a marked streak of sturdy common sense. Our Antipodes still makes entertaining reading and is an invaluable source of information for the Australian social historian. To read the book is to like the author.

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biograph (Ken Macnab and Russel Ward 1967)

Third edition cover of Godfrey Charles Mundy’s publication, Our Antipodes or, Residence and Rambles in the Australasian Colonies, with a Glimpse of the Goldfields
Author: Mundy, Godfrey Charles (1804-1860)
Published at London, by Richard Bentley 1852-1854

Extracts from the 1852 edition

“Chapter V. [1850–51.]

IN the Australian summer of 1850–51, the chances of the service threw
in my way an agreeable opportunity of visiting Van Diemen’s Land, as
well as Port Phillip, a province of New South Wales on the point of
being erected into a colony under the title of Victoria. Major General
Wynyard, commanding the forces in the Australasian colonies, having
resolved on a tour of inspection to the former island, I had the honour to
accompany him on that duty.

The elements did not favour H.M.S. Havannah, which frigate
conveyed us to our destination, for she commenced her voyage with a
terrific thunder-storm, in which the electric fluid flirted most desperately
with the conductor on the main-mast, and during the rest of the voyage
she had calms and adverse winds to contest with, so that no less than
eleven days were expended in performing the 600 miles between Sydney
and Hobart Town. But if the southerly breeze resisted our progress, its
fresh breath proved a charming relief to us, after the heat of Sydney. A
day or two before we left that (at this season) sudoriferous city, the
thermometer stood at 97° and 98°, yet at sea we enjoyed the bracing
effects of a temperature from 50° to 48° between decks; — enjoyed, I can
hardly say, for to most of us this degree of cold seemed well-nigh
inclement. On the 23d December, harassed by continued foul winds,
Captain Erskine closed in with the land to seek an anchorage, and we
soon found ourselves surrounded on the chart by names commemorative
of the old French surveyors and discoverers. Leaving behind us
Freycinet’s Peninsula, and beating to and fro between the storm-lashed
Isle des Phoques and Cape Bougainville on the mainland of Van
Diemen’s Land, we at length gained a snug berth off the settlement of
Darlington on Maria Island, about a mile and a half from the shore, and
half that distance from L’Isle du Nord.

December 24th. — The wind continuing both foul and fresh,
Havannah remained at anchor during the morning; and landing after
breakfast, we seized by the forelock this unlooked-for opportunity of
visiting the island and its chief town. Singular enough! in one of the
latest numbers of the Illustrated London News on board was found a
short account of Maria Island, with a woodcut of the settlement, which
had become interesting as the prison of Mr. Smith O’Brien.

The island is about twenty miles long, and is separated from the
mainland by a channel varying from four to eight miles in breadth. The
land is elevated and covered with wood. Maria Island derives its
feminine appellation from Miss Van Diemen, whose charms appear to
have so deeply impressed the heart of her compatriot the great navigator,
Abel Tasman, that in his oceanic wanderings, not finding it convenient
“to carve her name on every tree,” he recorded it still more immortally
on different headlands and islands newly discovered, — inscribing it, in
its full maiden length, on the northern-most bluff of New Zealand, Cape
Maria Van Diemen. Whether he assisted the fair lady to change it
eventually, I cannot depose.

In 1825 this island was made a penal settlement for convicts whose
crimes were not of an aggravated nature, — a purpose for which it is
admirably adapted by its isolated position and its ready communication,
by telegraph or otherwise, with Hobart Town. The establishment was
broken up in 1832, and the land was rented to settlers; but it was resumed
when the Probation System was introduced, and has since again been
vacated as a Government station.

The soil is fertile. About 400 acres have been cleared round
Darlington; and the crops in both field and garden have been most
plentiful. Forty bushels of wheat per acre is accounted a high average in
any of the Australian colonies; and that average is common here. The
timber is magnificent, but so much has been already taken that the larger
blue-gums and iron-barks must now be sought in the distant gulleys of
the mountains. The largest I saw was about eighteen feet in girth, — a
slim-waisted sprig in Tasmanian estimation. There are many rivulets and
lagoons of excellent water on the island, — an advantage by no means
generally conspicuous in Van Diemen’s Land. There is plenty of fish,
eels and oysters, quail and wild fowl, as well as wallabi, — a small kind
of kangaroo. The climate is about the finest in the world, — a fact
admitted by Smith O’Brien himself, who, among all his Jeremiads indited
from Maria Island, could not resist doing justice to the picturesque
beauty and the salubrity of his place of exile.

Aware that Darlington had been a Probation Station containing some
four hundred prisoners, and unapprised of its abandonment; and,
moreover, giving our ship and ourselves credit for being a sight worth
seeing and seldom seen by the supposed inhabitants, good and bad, bond
and free; we were not a little surprised — perhaps the captain was a little
nettled — at perceiving in the settlement no commotion arising from the
advent of H.M.S. Havannah. The tall flag-staff was buntingless, the
windmill sailless, the pretty cottages and gardens seemed tenantless, “not
a drum was heard” in the military barracks, and the huge convict
buildings seemed to be minus convicts. At length, through a telescope,
was observed one canary-coloured biped, in the grey and yellow livery of
the doubly and trebly-convicted felon. There had perhaps been an
outbreak of the prisoners, for the military force in Tasmania had lately
been reduced to the very lowest possible amount! The magistrates,
superintendents, overseers, officers, and soldiers had all been massacred;
and the revolted convicts having afterwards fought about the spoil,
— there stood the sole survivor! Our suspense did not last long, for
presently a whale-boat came slowly off, and there appeared on the
quarter-deck, a hawk-eyed and nosed personage, about six feet and a-half
high, who seemed as if he had long lived in indifferent society, for his
eyes had a habit of sweeping around his person, aside and behind, as
though he was in momentary expectation of assault. This was an overseer
left in charge of the abandoned station, with a few prisoners to assist
him. He proved an obliging and intelligent cicerone, showing our party
over the different buildings of the establishment, and guiding us in a
delightful walk over part of the island. The position of Darlington is truly
delightful — airy, yet sheltered, with a splendid view of the open ocean,
of the straits, and of the fine blue hills and wooded bluffs of the
mainland. A clear stream of fresh water meanders among the houses, and
loses itself in a snug little boat harbour.

Pity that, as in Norfolk Island, a paradise should have been converted
into a pandemonium; and yet again it seems a pity that so extensive and
expensive an establishment — hospital, stores, chapel, school, military
and convict barracks, houses of the magistrate, surgeon, superintendent,
&c. — should be abandoned to ruin. It would be more satisfactory to see
them all swept out of sight — obliterated from the soil — and this lovely
isle allotted to a population worthy of its numerous advantages. There
was one feature of this defunct convict station that I viewed with
disgust — a single dormitory for four hundred men! The bed places were
built of wood in three tiers, the upper cribs being reached by two or three
brackets fastened to the stanchions. Each pigeon-hole is six feet and a
half long, by two feet in width, and separated from its neighbours by
double, open battens. The prisoner lies with his feet to the outer wall and
his head towards the centre of the apartment — like a bottle in its bin.
This nocturnal aggregation of brutalized males is a feature of penal
discipline that I was astonished to find had been so lately in operation.

The accommodations allotted to Mr. William Smith O’Brien, the state
prisoner, were of course pointed out to us. They consisted of two small
rooms, with a little garden in the rear, wherein he might take his exercise.
Few field-officers of the army obtain better quarters, and many worse.
He was waited upon by a constable, who cooked his convict ration of
beef, bread, and potatoes, and, I suppose, made his “post and rail” tea
sweetened with brown sugar. The prisoner was as poor a philosopher as a
patriot. He had not courage to reap what he had sown. He refused, as is
well known, to accept the ticket of leave offered him by Government,
and yet winced under the consequent and necessary hardships incurred
by this refusal.

A medical gentleman, whose duty it is to visit periodically all the
convict stations, related to me a curious interview he had with this
political delinquent. On announcing his desire to see Mr. O’Brien, he was
politely received by that person, and conversed for some time with him.
The prisoner complained of his rations, of the coarse tea and sugar, said
his health suffered from the bad food, and from confinement to the small
strip of garden. The doctor, who is not a man readily put off his guard,
admitted that it was not impossible that the long continuance of an
existence of privation and humiliation might indeed affect injuriously
both mind and body; and added that he should be happy to do anything in
his power to alleviate his sufferings. O’Brien was glad to hear such
sentiments from his visitor, and expressed a hope that he would apply to
the Governor to sanction some relaxation of discipline. The doctor,
pointing to two prisoners in the yard, said — “If the health of those men
was, in my opinion, injured by their imprisonment and punishment, I
should represent their cases, because they cannot help themselves. You,
Sir, on the contrary, have your health and comfort in your own hands;
— one word, and you may live as you please on this island.” The poor,
vain, egotist, replied that he must be consistent, that the eyes of the world
were upon him, that the acceptation of his ticket-of-leave would amount
to an admission of the justice of his sentence. “But you speak, Sir,”
added he, “as if I had committed a crime! What crime have I
committed?” “A monstrous one,” replied the good Medico — “you have
broken the laws of your country, and stirred up your ignorant fellow
countrymen to break them also.” He moreover assured the prisoner that
Europe was in no disquiet as to his fate. The latter, however, remained
obdurate on the subject of his ticket — preferring to retain his grievance
with the accompanying possibility of escape. The miserable attempt
which he shortly afterwards made will not add to his character for
ingenuity or fortitude. A cutter appeared in the bay. Smith O’Brien, duly
warned of its approach, contrived to procure a small boat, and was in the
act of pushing off, when a single, armed constable, came up and stove
the boat with a blow of an axe, while a whale-boat, well armed, pulled
away and captured the cutter.

The “Inspector General of the Confederated Clubs of Munster,” and the
descendant of Brian Boru, behaved on this occasion like a petulant child.
He ran into the sea some paces, and, when compelled to re-land, refused
to walk, and, having thrown himself down on the ground, suffered
himself to be carried like a sack back to his cell by three or four men;
— a mode of bearing reverses by no means heroical. The fact of a
ticket-of-leave having been accorded to this troublesome gentleman not long
after this effort at evasion, is proof enough of clemency on the part of
Government; yet while he was enjoying himself in almost perfect
liberty — in liberty as perfect as that within the reach of any professional
man, whose duties bind him to one district — a letter, addressed to “My
dear Potter,” was running the round of the English papers, wherein he
descants on “the inhumanity of the Governor of the colony,” and on “the
inhuman regulations of the Controller-General of Convicts”
— concluding by the doleful prophecy, “I see no definite termination of
the calamities of my lot, except that which you and other friends took so
much pains to avert — the deliverance which will be effected by death.

The English are, indeed, wonderful curiosity-mongers, especially in
matters connected with crime and criminals. A Nineveh of relics
appertaining to murders and murderers would find scores of Layards to
grub them up and set store by them. Pieces of blue crockery on which the
convicted traitor was supposed to have dined, shreds of the scuttled boat
in which he hoped to have fled from his South Sea Chillon, with other
trivial mementos of the kind, found their way on board the frigate. But in
this trumpery reliquiarium I read only a sly mockery of that vulgar
mistake, pseudo-dilettanteism.

It was really melancholy to see the beautiful gardens around the houses
of the departed officers of the penal station, “wasting their sweetness on
the desert air,” and reverting to the original wilderness. On this day,
however, the luxuriant flowers did not bloom in vain; for the sailors,
pillaging the gardens of the deserted villas, carried off to the ship whole
arm-fulls of their produce to decorate the tables for their Christmas
dinner on the morrow. And indeed never, I suppose, did the ‘tween-decks
of a man-of-war resemble half so much —

“A bower of roses by Bendemeer’s stream,”

as did, on this festive occasion, that of H.M.S. Havannah, off a ruined
convict station on a wild island of Tasmania.

Our tall overseer welcomed us to his house, or rather to that of the
absent superintendent, which he was permitted to occupy, and gave those
of the party who had not lately been in Europe a real treat by turning us
loose into an acre of gooseberry and raspberry bushes, fruits unknown in
New South Wales. The family consisted of three generations, the
overseer’s half-dozen children being perfect models of bloom — bloom
quite as rare in New South Wales as the English berries above
mentioned. The eldest generation was represented by a tall, stout, and
dignified matron, with whom I had a long and pleasant talk about old
England. In the course of the domestic revelations I elicited from this
truly venerable lady, she now and then startled me by the expression
— “Our connexion with royalty” — which seemed to weave itself
unconsciously into the web of her discourse, and which jarred somewhat
discordantly with the comfortless state of their abode. For want of a
clew, my imagination took the liberty to follow up a fancied resemblance
to the Guelph lineaments in the comely profile of the portly dame before
me; and I was glancing towards two well-painted kit-cats — one
representing a gentleman in powder, frill, blue coat, and buff vest; the
other a boy in light blue tunic, hat, feather, and dog — and I was running
“full cry” on the trail of my theory, when she at once “whipped me off,”
by informing me that the first was her deceased husband, who was
“page” to his Majesty George the — — to the day of his death; the latter
her son, the overseer. Poor people! It was clear they had seen better days.

Having passed a very pleasant and a very beautiful day on Maria
Island, we repaired on board at 6 P.M., up anchored, sailed, dined, and
slept, rocked by old Neptune, our marine cradle making bows to every
point of the compass as she rode on the swell left by the departed
southern gale, during a breathless night.

 Christmas Day. — Our hopes of participating at Hobart Town in the
joyful rites of the day were frustrated; for the light north-east airs that
arose in the forenoon, carried us no further than Cape Pillar and Tasman
Island — the former the extreme salient angle, the latter the uttermost
outwork of Van Diemen’s Land towards the boundless ocean of the
south. I have passed this great festival of the Christian world in many
diverse scenes and under diverse circumstances. Amid the old-fashioned
hospitality and the ice and snow of old South Wales; in the Antipodal
sultriness of New South Wales — (Nova Cambria, she should be styled;)
I have joined in the service of the day on the brink of the Falls of
Niagara — the drum-head, the reading desk, in the centre of a square of
infantry — the thunder of the great cataract hymning in sublime diapason
the omnipotence of God. I have eaten my Christmas dinner at the
presbytère of a French Roman Catholic establishment — not the less
jovially because the mess was composed of a grand vicaire and a score
of prêtres and frères. I have passed the evening of this anniversary with a
knot of Mussulman chiefs, gravely smoking our hookahs and sipping
sherbet, while a group of Nautch girls danced and sang before us; have
stood with uncovered head at the foot of one of New Zealand’s
volcanos — the fern our carpet, the sky our canopy — listening with a
congregation of baptized Maoris to a tattooed teacher expounding in their
own tongue the law of Christ on the anniversary of His birth. How
seldom since boyhood have I celebrated it in the happy circle of my own
quiet home! It was certainly never pre-revealed to me that I should spend
one of the few Christmas days accorded to man, at sea off the
southermost point of Van Diemen’s Land!

The crew of the frigate, as I have said, decorated their feast of roast
beef and plum-pudding on this occasion with the ravished sweets of
Maria Island. It was a singular and pleasant sight, passing down the
various messes, to see the hungry, happy and hearty faces grinning
through the steam of their holiday viands, and through garlands of gay
coloured flowers and shrubs, lighted up with wax candles. The captain’s
table was not without its épergne, the ladies without bouquets, (for Mrs.
and Miss Wynyard were of the party,) nor the gentlemen without a
flower at their button-holes on this South Sea Christmas evening.

Cape Pillar and Tasman Island, close to which we passed, have a
singular appearance, their southern extremities terminating in abrupt
basaltic walls, whose tall upright columns bear a resemblance to the
pipes of a huge cathedral organ. My sketch, wholly unworthy of so fine a
subject, was taken through the porthole of my berth — a long thirty-two
pounder disputing with me the somewhat circumscribed view.19

 December 26th. — At early dawn we were rounding Cape Raoul, a
twin of Cape Pillar; and the sea breeze setting in soon carried us up the
river Derwent, or rather the magnificent arm of the sea and harbour into
which that stream empties itself, and on the extreme north-western
corner of which stands the city of Hobart Town.

With studding-sails set alow and aloft the Havannah — like a swan
swimming before the wind — glided past the Iron Pot lighthouse and
between high and wooded shores, the splendid harbour gradually
narrowing from seven or eight miles to one or two, until, at about
eighteen miles from the Heads, she rounded a bluff promontory on the
port side, and in an instant dashed into the midst of a little fleet of
merchant vessels, in the snug inlet called Sulliven’s Cove. The chain
cable rattled out of the hawseholes in a volume of rusty dust, and the old
ship swinging to her anchor brought up with her cabin windows looking,
at no great distance, into those of Government-house. There was but one
momentary interruption to her stately approach as observed from the
shore; her feathers fluttered for an instant and were almost as quickly
smoothed again. In relieving the man at the lead line, one of them fell
overboard; the ship was thrown up into the wind so as to check her speed
almost before the splash was heard; the young fellow held on to the line
and was dragged for some distance under water; but he was soon noosed
by his ready messmates, and spluttering out “all right,” was jerked on to
the quarter-deck like a two-pound trout, none the worse for his ducking.
“Did you think of the sharks, Bo?” asked a joker as he helped him down
the hatch-way to be “overhauled” by the doctor. “Hadn’t time,” gasped
the other.

The harbour of Hobart Town is as commodious and safe as it is
picturesque. The well-worn expression that all the navies in the world
might ride in it would not be extravagantly applied to it. I am loth to
yield my predilection for Sydney harbour which is quite unique in my
eyes; but nautical men seem, I think, to prefer the Derwent. There is
more space for beating, and no shoal like the “Sow and Pigs” lying
across its jaws.

The land in which the port is framed is three times higher than that of
Port Jackson, the soil better, the timber finer, and the grand back-ground
to the town afforded by Mount Wellington — cloud-capped in summer,
snow-capped in winter — close in its rear, gives the palm of picturesque
beauty, beyond dispute, to Hobart Town and its harbour over its sister
port and city. The land-tints disappointed me entirely — nothing but
browns and yellows — no verdure — everything burnt up, except where
an occasional patch of unripe grain lay like a green kerchief spread to dry
on the scorched slopes.

The water frontage of the city does not afford a tenth part of the deepwater
wharfage possessed by Sydney. The site of the town is healthy,
well adapted for drainage, perhaps somewhat too near the storm-brewing
gulleys of the mountain, from whence occasional gusts sweep down the
streets with a suddenness and severity very trying to phthisical subjects.

The population may be about 20,000, convicts included, or
considerably more than one-fourth of the whole population of the colony.
The streets are wide and well laid out, nearly as dusty, and the footpaths
as ill paved as those of Sydney, which latter defect, with so much convict
power at hand, is disgraceful enough.

Some of the suburbs are very pretty, the style of architecture of the
villas, their shady seclusion, and the trimness of their approaches and
pleasure-grounds far surpassing those of the New South Wales capital.
But more pleasing to my eyes, because more uncommon than the
ordinary domiciliary snugness and smugness of the villas of the richer
English, was a large quarter outskirting the town, consisting of some
hundreds of cottages for the humbler classes, pleasantly situated on the
slope of a hill, all or nearly all being separate dwellings, with a patch of
neat garden attached, and with rose and vine-clad porches, reminding one
of the South of England cotters’ homes.

The extraordinary luxuriance of the common red geranium at this
season makes every spot look gay; at the distance of miles the sight is
attracted and dazzled by the wide patches of scarlet dotted over the
landscape. The hedges of sweet-brier, both in the town-gardens and
country-enclosures, covered with its delicate rose, absolutely monopolize
the air as a vehicle for its peculiar perfume: — the closely-clipped mint
borders supplying the place of box, sometimes, however, overpower the
sweet-brier, and every other scent of the gardens.

Every kind of English flower and fruit appears to benefit by
transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. Well-remembered shrubs and
plants, to which the heat of Australia is fatal, thrive in the utmost
luxuriance under this more southern climate. For five years I had lost
sight of a rough but respected old friend — the holly, or at most I had
contemplated with chastened affection one wretched little specimen in
the Sydney Botanic Garden — labelled for the enlightenment of the
Cornstalks. But in a Hobart Town garden I suddenly found myself in the
presence of a full-grown holly, twenty feet high and spangled with red
berries, into whose embrace I incontinently rushed, to the astonishment
of a large party of the Brave and the Fair, as well as to that of my most
prominent feature!

The fuchsia, the old original Fuchsia gracilis, attains here an
extraordinary growth. Edging the beds of a fine garden near where I
lived, there were hundreds of yards of fuchsia in bloom; and in the
middle of the town I saw one day a young just-married military couple
smiling, in all the plenitude of honey-lunacy, through a cottage-window
wholly surrounded by this pretty plant, which not only covered the entire
front of the modest residence, but reached above its eaves. And this
incident forces on my mind a grievous consideration, however out of
place here, namely, the virulent matrimonial epidemic raging lately
among the junior branches of the army in this colony. “Deus pascit
corvos,” the motto of a family of my acquaintance, conveys a soothing
assurance to those determined on a rash but pleasant step. But who will
feed half-a-dozen raven-ous brats is a question that only occurs when too
late! At this moment the regimental mess at Hobart Town is a desert
peopled by one or two resolute old bachelors and younger ones clever at
slipping out of nooses, or possessing that desultory devotion to the sex
which is necessary to keep the soldier single and efficient. Punch’s
laconic advice “to parties about to marry,” which I have previously
adverted to, ought to be inserted in the standing orders and mess rules of
every regiment in H.M.’s service.

Here, too, to get back to my botany, I renewed my acquaintance with
the walnut and the filbert, just now ripe, the Spanish and horse-chestnuts,
the lime-tree with its bee-beloved blossom, and the dear old hawthorn of
my native land. As for cherry and apple-trees, and the various
domesticated berry-bushes of the English garden, my regard for them
was expressed in a less sentimental manner. I defy schoolboy or
“midship-mite” to have outdone me in devotion to their products,
however much these more youthful votaries may have beaten me in the
digestion of them.

From the grounds of the hospitable friend who made his house my
home during the fortnight I stayed at Hobart Town, the landscape was
extremely beautiful and much more European than Australian in its
character. Looking over villas and gardens and wooded undulations, with
glimpses of the town through vistas of high trees, down upon the bright
waters of the wide and hill-encircled harbour, I recalled to mind various
kindred prospects in older countries, — none more like than a certain
peep from a campagne near Lausanne over the village of Ouchi upon the
broad expanse of “clear, placid Leman.” Behind the house, Mount
Wellington, step by step, rises to the height of four thousand feet and
upwards, throwing its grand shadow, as the sun declines, right across the
city and harbour. Bristling with fine trees and brushwood, this range,
which can never be cultivated, will always supply the town with fuel and
timber for building.

If no other public act of the present Governor may gain him
immortality, — which I am far from supposing, — the plan and
establishment of an ice-house near the summit of the mountain will serve
that purpose. It is the only one at the Antipodes. During the winter the
“diadem of snow” which crowns the top is pilfered to a trifling degree,
and the material well jammed into the ice-house. In the hot weather a
daily supply is brought into town on a pack-horse — (it ought to be done
by a self-acting tram-way) — early in the morning, and its sale and
manufacture is permitted by general consent to be monopolized by the
chief confectioner of the place, who sells it in the rough or in the smooth,
reasonably enough, to those who can afford ice creams, hard butter, and
cool champagne. This now respectable tradesman and citizen, once a
prisoner of the Crown, enjoys, moreover, another important and lucrative
monopoly. He is the cook as well as pastrycook of the Hobarton
aristocracy, — the only cook in the place. I sat at not a few “good men’s
feasts” during my short stay here, and am not wrong, I think, in saying
that from the Government-house table downwards, all were covered with
productions of the same artiste. I recognised everywhere the soups, the
patés; I ventured upon this entremêt, avoided that, with the certainty of
prior knowledge; plunged without the shade of a doubt into the recesses
of a certain ubiquitous vol-au-vent, perfectly satisfied that a vein of
truffles would be found, which had not crossed 16,000 miles of ocean to
be left uneaten, although their merits seemed to be unknown to some.
The cook, it is needless to say, is making, if he has not already made, a
considerable fortune.

It were well if those professions which administer merely to the body
had alone fallen into the hands of persons bearing upon them the convict
taint; — the reverse is, however, the case. What would an English
mother think of admitting to her drawing-room or school-room, and
entrusting the education of her daughter in music, dancing, or painting, to
men who are or have been felons? Yet at present this is almost a
necessity in Van Diemen’s Land. Few or no accomplished freemen are
likely to come to a penal colony in the hope of making a livelihood by
imparting the more elegant branches of education. They are wrong,
however, for if their expectations were moderate such men might realize
handsome incomes.

A lady told me that she had been compelled to employ, for the purpose
of teaching, or taking the portrait of her daughter — I forget which — a
person convicted of manslaughter, and suspected of murder by
poisoning. One of her sons usually remained in the room when this
agreeable guest was present; but, on one occasion when the ladies
happened to be alone with him, the mother was alarmed by seeing him
rise and approach the window where she sat, with an open knife in his
hand. She started from her chair with such visible affright, that, making
her a polite bow and with a grim smile, he begged to assure that “he
merely wanted to cut his pencil — not her throat!”

I had the honour of being a fellow-traveller and dining several times at
a public table with a transported professor of one of those lighter
sciences usually inflicted upon young ladies, whether or not they have
any natural talent for them. What was the immediate cause of his exile
from home my neighbour and informant could not tell me, “but I believe
it was the gentleman’s crime — forgery,” said he. Be it as it may, this
“gentleman” was in excellent and full practice, although in this
hemisphere, it was said, he had repaid the indulgence of the Government
and the confidence of one of his most respectable patrons, as well as one
of the kindest friends the convict class ever possessed, by debauching the
child entrusted to his tuition.

In the streets of Hobart Town the stranger sees less of the penal
features of the place than might be expected. Possibly every other person
he meets on the wharves and thoroughfares may have been transported;
for the population of the island has been thus centesimally divided:
— free immigrants and born in the colony, 46 per cent.; bond and
emerged into freedom, 51 per cent.; military, Aborigines, &c. 3 per cent.
But there is of course no outward distinction of the classes except in the
prisoners under probation, who are clothed in the degraded grey, or grey
and yellow, according to their crimes and character. And these men,
being either confined within walls, or in distant stockades, or being
marched early in the morning to their place of work and back again at
sunset, fall but little under the observation of the public. Now and then
may be seen, indeed, the painful spectacle of a band of silent, soured, and
scowling ruffians — some harnessed to, others pushing at, and another
driving a hand cart, with clanking chains, toiling and sweating in their
thick and dusty woollens along the streets — each marked with his
number and the name of his station in large letters on his back and on his
cap. Here a gang may be seen labouring with shovel and pick on the
roadside, or sitting apart breaking up the metal. There is no earnestness
or cheerfulness in compulsory labour; and accordingly, however active
and ruthless these fellows may have shown themselves in the
commission of violence against their fellow-men, they are most merciful
to the macadam, only throwing a little temporary energy into their action
when the appearance of a carriage or a horseman suggests the possible
advent of some person whose duty or pleasure it may be to keep them up
to their work. As for the convict sub-overseer, who, one of themselves, is
appointed without pay to coerce the rest — no very active control can be
expected from him.

To the colony the amount of solid benefit performed by these slow, but
sure and costless operatives, on the roads, bridges, and other public
works, must have been, and still be, immense; even where, as is
sometimes the case, the settlers of a district have to provide tools and
subsistence for the gangs employed in the improvement of their locality.
It is only this powerful application of penal slave-labour, and the vast
Government expenditure accompanying it, that have given to New South
Wales and Van Diemen’s Land a rapidity of progress and a precocity in
importance that leave the march of other colonies comparatively very far

But to the Mother Country the cost of creating nations by the thews and
sinews of her expelled, but by her still maintained, criminals, must be
enormous. The result of their labour compared with the outlay would be
pitiful indeed, but for the concurrent advantages — namely, the annual
riddance of a huge per-centage of rogues from her shores and from their
old haunts, their punishment and possible reformation, and the creation
of new dependencies of the Crown, and, therein, new markets for
England’s exports. The clearing of an acre of land by a chain gang, under
bad surveillance, may cost, and indeed has often cost the Home
Government ten times as much as would have been paid to free labourers
on the spot; but the privilege of shooting so much moral rubbish upon
other and distant premises is cheaply bought at such a rate. It is cheaper
at any rate than a revolution; and it is an old newspaper story that the free
convicts of Paris bore no unimportant part in former as well as the late
overthrow of the Government of France. Van Diemen’s Land, however,
like New South Wales, (if one may judge from the exertions made by a
tolerably influential section of the inhabitants,) is striving to shake off the
system, which, incubus though it be, warmed her into life.

Looking at the question from the station of a spectator, I must say it
seems to me rather an unreasonable expectation on the part of those
truant Englishmen, who, well knowing the penal structure of Van
Diemen’s Land as a colony, voluntarily settled there, that at the mere
signification of their pleasure the Imperial Government should be
compelled to raze in a moment the great insular penitentiary erected at
such prodigious cost, and hand over its site to the adventurers whose
tastes and consciences have so suddenly become squeamish about
convict-contact. Their grandsons or great-grandsons might, perhaps,
prefer the petition without incurring a charge of presumption; but the
present incumbents have no such claim — unless, indeed, they have
received an imperial pledge to that effect. Like the “Needy Knifegrinder,”

“I do not want to meddle With politics, Sir.”

The colonists know their own business best, and it is none of mine: but
it appears to me that their aspirations are somewhat premature. The
ground-floor of their social edifice has been built of mud. Let it at least
have time to harden before they attempt to superimpose a structure of

December 30th. — It is curious to find oneself in a country with a
capital containing 20,000 inhabitants, a harbour full of shipping, and
teeming with evidences of wealth and comfort, and yet without a history;
that is, without a manual, a hand-book, or indeed any publication suited
to the reference of a travelling stranger. Mr. Murray must make a long
arm and supply this deficiency. In vain I perambulated the libraries and
stationers — in vain searched the book-shelves of the few residents I was
acquainted with. It was with some difficulty that I obtained the loan of an
old almanack — Ross’s almanack — eleven years old. One day, indeed, I
espied in the window of a shop the title, “History of Tasmania,” on the
back of what appeared to be a well got up two-volume octavo work. It
was only the husk, however, the empty cover, no more, of a work that
had not yet seen the light. Subsequently I encountered the author in a
steam-boat, and was by him kindly permitted to look over one of his
well-written and diligently-collated volumes.

Before pressing my reader to accompany me further into the island, I
will, if he pleases, make him a partner in such information as I could
glean regarding earlier events in the history of the colony; whereof,
however, I do not propose troubling him with more than a meagre

It appears that in 1803, fifteen years after the first settlement of New
South Wales, to which place some 6,000 or 7,000 persons had been
transported, and which had suffered under the horrors of famine,
insurrection, and other troubles, it was found desirable to relieve Sydney
of a portion of the pressure, and to disperse the more turbulent of the

Van Diemen’s Land, from its salubrious climate, insulated position, and
its paucity of natives, being considered highly eligible for the erection of
a penal establishment, an officer of the navy, with a body of troops and
convicts, was despatched there with that view, and in August of that year
landed and camped his party on the eastern bank of the river Derwent, at
a spot called by him Rest-down, since abbreviated to Risdon, where there
is now a ferry across the stream.

Early in 1804, an expedition, which had left England in 1802 for the
purpose of forming a penal settlement at Port Phillip on the southern
coast of New Holland, not finding water there, removed to this island,
and felicitously enough fixed upon Sulliven’s Cove for their location;
where the first Lieut.-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, Colonel Collins,
landed with a few officers, civil and military, forty-four non-commissioned
officers and privates of the royal marines, and 367 male prisoners;
and where a settlement was founded and called Hobart Town,
after the then Secretary for the colonies. In the same year the river
Tamar, which on the northern coast of the island discharges itself into
Bass’s Straits, was surveyed, and a small party of the 102d regiment from
Sydney, under Colonel Patterson, formed a convict station near its
mouth. Launceston, situated about forty miles inland on the Tamar, is the
next large town to the capital, containing at present about 7,000

Thus Van Diemen’s Land is a child of Botany Bay, born when the latter
was still in her teens. The babe of grace continued to thrive, although
very nearly starved to death in its earlier days while still at nurse under
the elder colony — kangaroo flesh being then greedily bought up at 1s.
6d. per pound, and sea-weed (laver, I suppose) becoming a fashionable
vegetable for want of better food. After about three years, however, cattle
and sheep were introduced into the island in considerable numbers, and
were found to flourish exceedingly wherever the most moderate degree
of care was bestowed upon them. Tasmania is a more musical alias
adopted by the island. It has been given in titular distinction to the first
bishop, my excellent and accomplished friend Dr. Nixon, and will
doubtless be its exclusive designation when it shall have become a free

The ports being closed against any but king’s ships, the colony received
but few recruits except by successive drafts of doubly-distilled rogues
from New South Wales. After a few years, however, the interdict against
commerce was removed. Many military officers serving there settled
down on grants of land. A considerable band of emigrants was brought
by the Government from Norfolk Island, when that place was selected
for a penal settlement. Freed prisoners increased and multiplied, and
spread themselves over the interior; but no direct emigration from the
British isles occurred before 1821, when a census being taken, the white
population was found to amount to 7,000 souls. The live stock consisted
of 350 horses, 35,000 horned cattle, and 170,000 sheep; acres in
cultivation nearly 15,000.

In 1824 a supreme court of judicature was established from Home
— judges having thitherto been sent from Sydney to hold occasional
sessions at Hobart Town. In the same year, having attained her majority,
she petitioned for release from the filial ties connecting her with Sydney;
and in 1825 she was by imperial fiat erected into an independent colony.
The progress of the island has been surprisingly rapid; although, like
New South Wales, its prosperity as a colony has been checquered by
occasional reverses, referable perhaps to similar causes — namely,
excessive speculation, rash trading on fictitious capital, extravagance in
living, the common failing of parvenus to wealth, bad seasons, and, in its
early days, the fearful depredations of white bush-rangers and of the
Aborigines. Money must have been plentiful in 1835, when a piece of
land at Hobart Town sold for 3,600l. per acre!

The blacks, never considerable in numbers, and ferocious in their
conduct more on account of outrages received by them from the brutal
convict population, than by nature, were gradually got rid of — chiefly
no doubt by indiscriminate slaughter in fights about their women with
bush-rangers and others, and by the determined steps taken by the local
government for their capture and compulsory location in some secluded
spot, where their small remnant might be prevented from collision with
the Christian usurpers of their country. At one time a sort of battue on a
grand scale was undertaken by the Lieut.-Governor, not for the
destruction and extirpation of the unfeathered black-game, as has been
sometimes unjustly supposed — but for the purpose of driving them into
a corner of the island and so making prisoners of them. Not only redcoats
and police, but gentry and commonalty, enrolled militia-wise, were
brought into the field on this occasion. A grand movable cordon was
formed or attempted to be formed across the whole breadth of the land,
and was designed to sweep the native tribes before it into the “coigne of
vantage” prescribed by the inventor of the plot. It was fishing for
minnows with salmon nets! The cunning blackeys soon slipped through
the meshes, and intense confusion and perhaps some little fright arose
when it was discovered that the intended quarry had got into the rear of
the line of beaters, and was making free with the supplies! This grand
extrusion plan failed, then; — but 30 or 40,000l. of public money was
disseminated through the provinces, and a good many civic Major
Sturgeons got a smattering of “marching and counter marching” that they
will never forget, and that may be of service in the next Tasmanian war.
The poor Aborigines were not the less, in course of time, all killed,
driven away, or secured. Those who fell into the hands of Government
were humanely treated, fed, clothed, provided with medical aid, and
located in a sequestered spot where they might sit down and await — and
where they are now comfortably and most of them corpulently awaiting,
their certain destiny — extinction.

The present native settlement is in Oyster Cove in D’Entrecastreaux’s
Channel, an arm of Storm Bay, the mouth of the Derwent. In 1835, the
numbers were 210. In 1842, but 54. In 1848, according to statistics
published by the Royal Society of Van Diemen’s Land, the numerical
strength of the natives had fallen to thirty-eight — viz. twelve married
couples, and three males and eleven females unmarried. Thanks to
idleness and full rations, many of them, unlike the wild blacks, have
grown immensely fat — although not fair, nor, as I have just shown,
quite forty!

Among the black ravagers of the rural settlers the most ferocious was a
native of Australia surnamed Mosquito, who had been driven from New
South Wales on account of some outrages committed there. In due time,
however, he was caught and hanged.

18 It will be recollected that the original sentence was “Death.”
19 Omitted

Chapter VI.

BUSH-RANGING commenced in 1813, but was suppressed pretty
vigorously. In 1824 this practice had again attained a fearful height. The
insecurity of life and property, the murders, burnings of houses, stacks
and crops, the robbery and destruction of live-stock, must have seriously
impeded the advance of the colony. The military officers and men took
an active part in hunting down the most desperate ringleaders, and some
of them became famous as gallant and successful thief-takers. Martial
law made short work with those who were captured.

Every country has its great man — hero, poet, or philosopher. Van
Diemen’s Land has, appropriately enough, its great bush-ranger and
desperado to boast of. Michael Howe, without dispute, and without
disparagement to other public characters who, on more reputable grounds
may deserve a memoir, is the historical great man of this island. His
biography, as drawn up by Mr. Syme, is calculated for insertion here, for
it extends over six eventful years of a life only too long, and twenty-four
pages of letterpress. A merchant-seaman, afterwards a man-of-war’sman,
a deserter, and a highwayman in England, he escaped the gallows
only by a legal flaw, and was transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Being
assigned as servant to a settler, he soon “took to the bush,” joining an
armed gang of twenty-eight run-away convicts, of whom he became
second in command under one Whitehead, a desperado of the first water.
This band became the terror of the country. They had good intelligence
of any armed force in pursuit of them, or of any property open to pillage;
for the low settlers and convict-stockmen, either from fear or inclination,
connived at and assisted these outlaws.

Whitehead being shot in an attack upon a house where a party of the
45th regiment were lying in ambush, Howe became the leader, and he
maintained his authority by his superiority in mental and bodily vigour,
and by cutting off those of his followers who stood in his way. By
stealing horses, and performing flying night-marches, emulative of Dick
Turpin’s famous ride to York, they pounced upon unprepared victims,
sometimes a hundred miles from the spot where they had been heard of a
day or two before.

Proclamations, offers of pardon and passages to England, rewards of
money, strenuous exertions by the troops, the police, and the loyal
inhabitants, treachery among themselves, the bullet and the gibbet,
gradually thinned the ranks of Michael Howe’s villainous retainers. One
day, hotly pursued by a party of the 46th, and accompanied only by a
faithful black girl, who had been the partner of his perils for some years,
this “great man,” — as the author of Jonathan Wild styles his hero
— finding that she retarded his flight, fired at and wounded the poor
creature, who, falling, was captured by the soldiers, the ruffian escaping
only by throwing away his arms and his knapsack. Putting aside the
brutality of this act, its impolicy was very soon apparent, for she, who
had hitherto followed his steps with the fidelity of a spaniel, now tracked
them with the fierce sagacity of the blood-hound; and, acting as a scout
to the military, so harassed the flying and solitary bandit, that he resolved
to surrender, on terms, to the authorities. His terms were accepted, and,
giving himself up to an officer of the 46th, he was imprisoned at Hobart
Town. This was his second surrender to Government. On the first
occasion he very quickly broke his arrest, and was off to the woods

Meanwhile the gang had been reinforced to about twenty men, and
several sharp encounters took place between them and the soldiers, in
one of which an officer was badly wounded. Howe gave but little of the
useful information that he had promised to Government, and yearning for
a life of crime and excitement, he once more escaped to the bush; and,
once more, highway and house robberies, cattle lifting, extortion of
money and arms by threatening notices, burnings, violence and murder
were rife in the land. At this time Michael Howe, in his correspondence
with the authorities and others, styled His Majesty’s representative the
Governor of the Town — himself the Governor of the Rangers. A
hundred guineas reward was upon his head and upon that of a brother
bandit named Watts, and eighty and fifty guineas were offered for the
live or dead bodies of seven or eight rogues of inferior degree. In course
of time all were killed or taken, excepting the two first. Watts then
resolved to sacrifice his comrade, and with a shepherd, named Drewe,
who had been on friendly terms with Howe, laid a plan for his capture.
Accordingly, at daylight one morning these men, well armed, approached
the spot where Michael harboured. Drewe concealed his musket in a
thicket. Watts coo-eyd, and Howe came up — but the villains so
distrusted each other as to stipulate that the priming of their guns should
be knocked out simultaneously. While employed in making a fire to cook
some food the two traitors flung themselves upon Howe, threw him
down, tied his hands, and disarmed him of his gun and two knives. They
then marched their prisoner — worth 50l. a-piece to them — towards
Hobart Town — Watts in front, Drewe behind him, with loaded arms. He
was snug enough one would have thought; but, suddenly, Howe, who
possessed immense muscular strength, snapped his bonds like tinder, and
with a concealed dirk stabbed Watts in the back. He fell, and Michael,
seizing his firelock, shot Drewe through the head. The wounded
accomplice contrived to escape and hide himself in the bush before the
arch-ranger of His Majesty’s colonial woods and forests could re-load,
for the purpose — as he afterwards said — “of finishing him.” But his
own race was well-nigh run. An additional hundred guineas were offered
for the death or capture of the robber and murderer. His existence was
now like that of a wild beast. Solitary and savage, clothed in Kangaroo
skins, and overgrown with hair like another Orson, he obtained food and
ammunition, his only requirements, by robbing distant shepherds’ huts. In
spite of the high rewards few relished the idea of risking an encounter,
either single or double-handed, with such an antagonist.

At length a Kangaroo hunter, named Warburton, and one Worrall, a
transport mutineer of the Nore, concocted and carried into effect a plot
for taking him. A private soldier, named Pugh, a determined fellow, was
selected to assist them. Warburton was to induce Howe, by a promise of
a supply of ammunition, to come to his hut, where the two others lay
concealed. Driven by want, but under strong suspicions of foul play, he
entered the door with musket cocked — observing which Pugh instantly
fired. “Is that your game?” said Howe coolly, and returning the soldier’s
shot he ran for his life. Neither shot had taken effect, nor was one fired
by the mutineer at the flying outlaw better aimed. Howe was trying to
load his piece as he ran (he was a muff to have only one barrel!) when his
two foes overtook him, and brought him to bay. A furious though
unequal combat with clubbed muskets then took place, and resulted in
the death of this famous brigand, who, having his skull beaten in by the
blows of his two powerful assailants, dropped and expired without a
word or a groan. Thus fell Michael Howe, the bush-ranger, and with him
the practice of bush-ranging itself, in Van Diemen’s Land. Lest man’s
natural admiration of brute courage should incite a feeling of pity for his
fate, I will close this notice with one sentence of his history — “during
his long career of guilt, Michael Howe was never known to perform one
humane act.”

In 1840, when transportation to New South Wales was discontinued,
Van Diemen’s Land, with its distant satellite, Norfolk Island, became the
only place in these seas to which British felons might be removed under

The beauty of the climate — perhaps the finest in the world, — the
adaptation of the country to sheep and cattle-farming, its fair share of
arable land, its favourable position for trading with the neighbouring
colonies of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and even New
Zealand, together with the advantages accruing from convict-labour,
have gradually drawn a considerable population of free persons to

In 1822, as I have shown, the census gave a population of 7,000 souls.
In 1842, it had increased to 59,000; and on the 31st of December, 1847,
it had reached a total of 70,164. The increase has been, and will be,
comparatively slower than in other countries, until the great
disproportion of the sexes has been remedied; but this can hardly take
place, at least as far as the prisoner-class is concerned, unless fair
delinquents intrude upon the province of the rougher sex, and take out
diplomas in highway robbery, housebreaking, and other hitherto
masculine branches of crime, as certain American ladies, I understand,
have done in those of professional science.

In the census of 1847, of the aggregate population (70,164,) 47,828, or
68 per cent. were males; 22,336, or 32 per cent. females. Amongst the
Free immigrants and the Native-born the sexes are pretty equal. Of those
who have become free by servitude, the males exceed the females in the
ratio of three to one. Among the actual convict-class the disparity is very
great; “for of the ticket-of-leave holders the males are five to one; of the
prisoners in Government employ eight to one; and of pass-holders in
service also eight to one. In other words, the males are 291/2 per cent.
and the females only five per cent.; making a difference between the
sexes of 241/2 per cent. in this class of the population.”20

“On the 31st December, 1848, the convict-population was 25,459, of
whom 40 per cent. held tickets-of-leave, 48 per cent. were pass-holders,
and 12 per cent. were under probation or sentence.” Thus 88 per cent.
were afloat in comparative freedom among the unconvicted people. The
proportion of deaths among the prisoner-class was in this year less than
one per cent.

The total imports of the island in 1848 exceeded the exports by 171/2
per cent.; but, as the “Observations” from which these extracts are culled
point out, — “looking at the disparity in value between the total imports
and exports of the year, no apprehension need be entertained of any
monetary derangement occurring, so long as so effectual a counterpoise
is afforded by British expenditure. The disbursements in 1848 for
Commissariat, Convict, Military, and Ordnance services in the colony,
amounted to nearly a quarter of a million sterling!”

In 1822 there were only 350 horses in the colony, 33,000 horned cattle,
and 170,000 sheep. In 1848 there were 17,169 horses, 85,485 horned
cattle, and 1,752,000 sheep. The commissariat contract prices in that year
were, wheat 4s. 2d. per bushel of 60 lbs.; flour 10l. 8s. 8d. per ton; fresh
meat 21/2d. per lb.; vegetables 5s. 7d. per 100 lbs.

 December 30th. — Rode this day to Mount Nelson, a signal station
some five miles down the harbour. The road does not deserve the name.
The tract of hill and dale it passes through is wild enough, and the
prospect from the summit where the signalizing apparatus stands cannot
be excelled in extent and beauty. Storm Bay, with its isles, isthmuses,
and peninsulas, its splendid frame of half-wooded, half-cleared uplands,
embossed with bold promontories; the city, the harbour, the glittering
river, are all below and around the spectator in a perfect panorama. Aloof
and aloft from the lower world the cloud-capped Mount Wellington may
truly be said to “preside o’er the scene;” and Mount Nelson, ranking next
in elevation, may very fairly be called upon to officiate as vice at this
grand banquet of the picturesque. The common practice of bestowing
upon pre-adamite hills the names of living, modern, and often vulgar
personages, ruffles extremely my sense of the fitness of things. These
two mountains, grand though they be, borrow dignity from their titles!

I believe the scenic features of Port Jackson to be at least as fine as
those of Storm Bay; but there is no locus standi for the spectator at all
comparable with many points round the basin of Hobart Town. There is
perhaps no ground near Sydney of a greater elevation than 400 feet.

In the rides and drives for promenading purposes Hobart Town has
greatly the advantage of Sydney. The road through the Government
domain and farm, past Cornelian Bay, the Botanical Gardens, the old
hulk Anson, 74, degraded to a female prison, and round by the Bishop’s
pretty residence to Risdon Ferry, presents one good direction for a
canter, or for “riding” on wheels for those who prefer dowagering to
horse exercise. Returning homewards you get perhaps the best possible
view of Mount Wellington, with his staff of minor hills, — Knocklofty,
&c. — around him; the pretty village of Newtown, with its handsome
Orphan School situated in a park; and numerous neat villas snuggling
away behind high hawthorn hedges and orchards, under his broad

The drive to New Norfolk, of which more anon, rubs the rust off one’s
Home recollections in the most pleasant manner. Brown’s River, too,
about eight or nine miles down the harbour, where there is some good
land thrown into cultivation, affords an object for equestrianism. This
road, which was created and is constantly nourished by convict labour,
follows the outline of the bay, — sometimes running along the beach, at
others creeping round the steep face or sweeping round the level back of
some headland, diving through a hill, or striding over a gully. A slice
borrowed from the superfluity of a mountain, and bestowed upon the
hungry maw of a ravine, is a trifling work when half a dozen hundred
hands can be thrown upon it by a word from the Governor. On my way
to Brown’s River I passed two gangs of these British Helots. The men of
one lot were labouring at a cutting; the others were marching, to the
music of their chains, towards the town. The poor creatures touched their
caps humbly as our party rode by.

Some of the agricultural and garden lands on this road were as fine as I
ever saw, — the colour of the mould being precisely that of black rappee.
There were such fine crops of potatoes and onions in the alluvial
hollows, and such fat sheep on the hill sides, as made one involuntarily
think of Irish stew. The Brown’s River potato is as well known in
Australia as it is in Tasmania. In the production of this root the elder
colony is surpassed by both Van Diemen’s Land and New Zealand.
Among many pretty and sterling looking country homesteads looking
over the bay, one was pointed out to me, somewhat superior to the rest,
as the property of an emancipated prisoner, now worth about 1,200l. a year,
who, it was said, had received fifty lashes for some breach of penal
discipline committed while labouring in chains on the very plot of land
which he afterwards purchased and lived upon “like a gentleman!” What
were the feelings, I wonder, of the ironed gang I had just met, and what
were those of the low-paid free overseer in charge of them, respectively,
as they passed day after day the handsome domain of the former felon,
— who, had he never fallen from honesty to dishonour, had never, in all
probability, risen from poverty to wealth!

December 31, 1850. — This morning, soon after sunrise — and a
heavenly morning it was — I drove, with three companions, in a hired
carriage to New Norfolk, a village and district, the former of which is
about twenty-three miles from Hobart Town. The road, which is a perfect
specimen of Macadamization, runs the whole distance along the right
bank of the Derwent, whose bed is compressed by high lands into a
narrow channel, leaving no great room for cultivation, except in a few
flatter spots. The hills, indeed, on the left shore are still almost entirely
covered with the primeval forest. The population seems to cling to the
highway side. There were many solid looking farms and comfortable
residences, with occasional deserted clusters of huts, the temporary
stockades of the road-gangs. There were pretty fuchsia and rose-clad
cottages, with gardens full of flowers and fruit, the yellow Cape broom
and scarlet geranium almost smothering the little tenements. The wheat
and oat crops looked sickly, the barley in better health. The season had
been unusually and ruinously dry, not only here, but in the neighbouring

The “deadwood” fence is one almost peculiar to Van Diemen’s Land. It
is nothing more than the trees of the clearing piled into a sort of wooden
wall. In New South Wales the stumps are generally left standing till they
rot, the top timber is split into rails, and the refuse burnt. Here scarcely
any stumps remain on the face of the field, a praiseworthy point in
Tasmanian agriculture. Another and lighter fence is something like the
snake-fence of Canada, but, in a hunting point of view, not so

One of our companions entertained us with spirited accounts of the
sport enjoyed with a pack of English hounds, kept by a gentleman of
New Norfolk, who has regular fixtures for hunting round Hobart Town in
the winter season. The game is the bush kangaroo, a small but fleet
animal; and the pack, which I had an opportunity of inspecting, are a
rough and ready little lot of beagles, quick and fierce, and well adapted
for a hilly and wooded country. A blank day is never known. The runs
are not very severe as far as duration goes; but there is no time, it
appears, for “coffee-housing” when the game is once unkennelled. “You
must throw away your cigar, and set to work,” said my informant,
fancying himself in his saddle, “or you will be nowhere after the first five
minutes.” When the kangaroo can get his head down hill, the pace
becomes very severe. The present Lieut.-Governor is not seldom the first
in the field during a quick burst, and is said to have no objection to four
or five feet of stiff timber.

One of the most charming peculiarities of Tasmanian cultivated
scenery is the sweetbrier hedges. To-day we were driving nearly the
whole distance between them. In a great many places they were ten and
twelve feet high and the same in width, spangled all over and scenting
the air with 50,000 little delicate roses. I noticed one or two thickets of
this plant in the corners of enclosures, which must have been forty or
fifty feet in diameter, and twelve feet in height. Here and there appeared
gardens and orchards “pinked all over,” like Gargantua’s haut de
chausses, with glowing fruits, and surrounded with hedges of hawthorn
the like of which I never saw before, even in England. In Australia the
plant is unknown, except as a delicate and rare exotic. These hedges were
twenty and twenty-five feet high, and perfectly impervious to man and
beast. Dick Christian himself could make nothing of such a rasping
fence; “Sir Carnaby Jenks, of the Blues,” with his fifteen stone and three
hundred guinea horse, would be pounded by a bullfincher so tall and
strong. Nothing, in short, and nobody, except a British schoolboy bent on
robbing the orchard within it, would ever contemplate the possibility of
getting through. The leaf is particularly large and shining, and would be
invaluable in England for the home manufacturing of tea!

There were hop plantations too — the most beautiful of crops in my
mind; infinitely more beautiful than the vineyard, and almost as
suggestive of Bacchanalian images. One patch of this festive plant lying
slopingly towards the river, I was told, had been lately sold for 100l. an

Near the margin of sedges on the banks of the Derwent, we saw several
of that species of water-bird called the Native-hen — quite new to me as
a sportsman. It is a rail, nearly as large as a cock pheasant. Wild ducks
swam in clouds on the wide estuaries.

The little township of New Norfolk is delightfully situated on the
highest navigable part of the Derwent; the tide flowing up to the
handsome wooden bridge which, erected by private enterprise, here
spans the stream — about as wide at this point as the Thames at
Windsor. The settlement derives its name from the compulsory pilgrims
of Norfolk Island, who, when Government decided upon converting that
“gem of the sea” into a penal settlement — a hell upon earth, by all
accounts! — were located in farms upon this pleasant spot — a fair
compensation, one would suppose, for that harbourless and inaccessible,
though lovely island.

Government Cottage, the rural retreat of Her Majesty’s representative,
stands amid wheat fields and gardens, on a turn of the river just below
the town: a high wooded mountain, abutting in a perpendicular wall upon
the opposite bank, frowns down upon the unpretending little vice-regal
farm. Some fine hop-gardens are spread round the foot of the gentle
eminence on which the cottage stands. The premises are let at present,
because, I suppose, the ruler of so troublesome a people can have no
leisure for retirement. Standing on the bridge I sketched the Government
Cottage, and then, facing about, without any other change of position, the
pretty Home-like landscape up the river, including a feature interesting at
least to Irish readers, namely, the present residence of Mr. Smith
O’Brien. I could have introduced this gentleman as a figure in the
foreground, for he passed twice under my pencil, and he is by no means a
bad-looking fellow for his years; but I preferred a couple of cows as
more innocently bucolic in a rural landscape.

I am happy to give my personal testimony to the excellent bodily
health, on the last day of the year 1850, of this political delinquent, who,
having at length accepted his ticket-of-leave — or licence to bestow
himself where he pleases within the district of New Norfolk — enjoys, as
I have said before, very much the same amount of liberty as the soldier,
the parochial minister, the office-man, nay even the Governor on whom
he and his friends have lavished so much abuse; for, like the prisoner,
neither his Excellency nor the other functionaries can quit their posts
without the special sanction of higher authority.

To say that he is without hope — that sheet anchor of human
existence — is a piece of imbecility. Nor do I believe it is true. Were I in
his position I should cherish the strongest hopes of some day receiving
the pardon of my Sovereign, and of becoming one of the most faithful
and loyal of her subjects. Why does he not send for his family to join
him? He complains that “it would be the greatest injustice to his children
to bring them to a country, the present condition of which he will not
trust himself to describe.”

There are many and excellent schools in the island, perhaps more than
in any country in the world of equal population — not less than a
hundred private establishments, without counting the various
Government schools. There is a paid inspector of schools to “whip-in”
the minor pedagogues, and to see that they do their duty — as the
drum major does with the minor drummers on certain occasions of military
discipline. This is an appointment which might be beneficially
introduced in older countries.

On the whole, for a man under a commuted sentence of death, and
whose head, had he lived and so acted a hundred years back, would have
rolled on the scaffold; on the whole, I cannot think this gentleman has
valid cause for complaint. With an allowance from Home sufficient for
every material comfort, a splendid climate, beautiful scenery, and no
want of society — for he is kindly received and very well spoken of by
many of his neighbours — he is clearly better off than he would be in the
occupation of furnished apartments in the Tower; and I cannot but hope
that by this time he has revoked his opinion that “death alone can effect a
deliverance from the calamities of his lot.”

Elwin’s hotel, the little rural inn where Mr. O’Brien at present lodges, is
prettily situated on the left bank of the Derwent, amid fruit, flower, and
hop-gardens, with a neighbourhood of well-cultivated farms, backed by
wooded hills. It may be likened to a villa on the upper Thames, with a
climate of eternal summer and autumn.

As for ourselves we had a capital breakfast of fish, flesh, and fowl
— although the famous Derwent mullet was not forthcoming — at a
comfortable hotel near the bridge; and, since I am on the subject of
refection, we enjoyed a light lunch of biscuits and champagne at the
pretty residence of the Master of the Hounds, above mentioned, in a
drawing-room beautifully furnished and lighted with a pleasant
demijour through the plants and flowers of a conservatory — a feature in
domestic architecture much in vogue in this country, and strangely
enough scarcely known in Australia — where the glare is excessive.

New Norfolk has ceased to be a military station. I had therefore
nothing professional to do there.

The Tasmanians are very proud of their public buildings, and the
stranger is pressed to visit churches, chapels, court-houses, schools,
hospitals, and prisons, as a matter of course. It certainly appeared to me
that the prevailing style of architecture in this colony is superior to that
of its neighbours.

I was invited to inspect some of the public edifices of New Norfolk,
but not having much taste that way, my visits were confined to the really
handsome and well-conducted Lunatic asylum, where some hundreds of
patients, male and female, free and bond, are accommodated. I could
relate some curious details of its inmates, but they would be, almost
without exception, painful. Some persons have a natural bent towards
mad-houses, penitentiaries, and other human menageries — a morbid
craving for the excitement caused by such sights, without one worthy
motive. Whether a boyish visit to the Lancaster Lunatic Asylum
established a panic on such like subjects, or whether the distaste is
innate, I know not; but I well know that when the shame of remaining
ignorant of these things has conquered my aversion to look closely into
them, it has always been a blessed moment, and my breath has come
more freely, when I emerged into the open and healthy world again from
one of these catacombs of the quick.

Howard visited prisons with the pious intent of exposing their abuses
and ameliorating the condition of their inmates. Everything is “model”
now — so, of course, an ignorant and uninfluential stranger like myself
could not expect to find or amend a flaw.

There is another favourite species of exhibition, for which I entertain a
special aversion — namely, what is called a show house, where one has
to pay a pound to a fat housekeeper for dragging him through a mile of
bedrooms and dressing-rooms — and hearing rigmarole common-places
about my lord and my lady. There are only two classes to which such
establishments can be really interesting, namely to their owners and
their — guests.

All the externals of Van Diemen’s Land are so agreeable to the senses,
that the mere pleasure or health-seeking tourist, resolved on not looking
beneath the surface of things, might range through the beautiful island
without the faintest suspicion that it is in fact nothing more or less than a
huge gaol, in which, contrary to ordinary prison practice, other tenants
besides prisoners are permitted to dwell. However, whatever my
inclination might be, it was my duty. I thought, not to hoodwink myself
into the belief that a penal colony was a paradise; and, accordingly,
during the short period of my stay in the country I embraced every
opportunity of seeing its peculiar establishments. Accompanying an
officer, whose business it was to make periodical inspections of the
several institutions, I visited convict penitentiaries, lunatic asylums,
hospitals, probation stations, and though last, not the least displeasing,
the female convict factory at the Cascades.

The twenty-three miles to Norfolk and back to the capital forms a very
pleasant jaunt. The hotel, like those in Paramatta, is the temporary resort
of the newly-married Hobartians. We got a glimpse of a loving couple
cooing away the honey half-moon, which is all that men of business can
afford to devote to Hymen, here as elsewhere. Such was the goodness of
the roads and of our hack horses, that we found no difficulty in getting
back to dinner at Hobart Town.

Jan. 1, 1851. — There was, it must be admitted, nothing remarkably
festive, for the first day of the new year, in visiting a female penitentiary
and lying-in establishment! Such was, nevertheless, my morning’s

The Cascades factory is seated at the foot of Mount Wellington,
wedged in a gully between high hills — a bad situation, except as regards
the supply of water, which is plentiful. The buildings are enclosed within
a high wall, with barred gates and vigilant turnkeys. In short, it is a gaol
in every respect according to the respective deserts of the inmates. We
were received at the entrance by the matron, a dignified lady who looked
quite capable of maintaining strict discipline whether in a public or merely
a domestic establishment. From her hands we received, in due
military form, “the morning state” of her garrison — which, as it
appeared, amounted to 730 women and 130 infants. In turn we visited the
several courts, solitary cells, the hospital, refectories, dormitories, and
lavatories. In one yard was formed up for our inspection, in hollow
square, seventy or eighty women — open to be hired as servants.
“These,” as we were informed, “were the better conducted, and the
pregnant women.” In another court were a strong division of more
troublesome and notorious characters, who were under restraint and not
permitted to go into service. The uniform, a very unbecoming one to the
person, however becoming to the station of the wearer, is a white mob
cap and a dress of grey duffle. As we passed down the ranks the poor
creatures saluted us with a running fire of curtseys, and a dead silence
was everywhere observed. In a large exercise yard, with an open shed in
the centre to afford shelter from the sun, we found some sixty women,
with as many babies from two years to as many days old — women and
children all silent! One would have thought them all deaf and dumb.
Never was I before in so numerous a nursery; — I hope I never may
again! The children were mostly healthy and pretty. As for their
mothers — there must, I suppose, be a good deal in dress as an element
of beauty — for I scarcely saw a tolerably pretty woman in seven
hundred. Some of the females, I found, were the hired nurses of the
establishment — not the mothers of the children. Of these latter many, it
appears, merely enter the factory to deposit their “kid forlorn,” and, when
sufficiently recovered, return to service in the town or country within the
district to which their ticket or pass extends, and not a few re-enter its
walls as soon as it is possible for them to require again obstetric
assistance. It is nothing to say that many of these poor brats will never
know their own fathers. Their mothers, perhaps, know them no better:
and many of the wretched little ones, in the hands of the nurses, will
never know either parent. The public consoles itself with the dry fact,
that they will all come into the labour market. A large ward was allotted
to the mid-day sleep of the poor little babes. It was rather a pretty sight
for a father (of none of them) to contemplate. There were a score or so of
wooden cribs, in each of which lay two, three, or four innocents, stowed
away head and tail, like sardines à l’huile; while others were curling
about like a litter of kittens in a basket of straw. All were wonderfully
good — chiefly, I suspect, because there was no anxious mamma nor
fussy nurse constantly soliciting them to be so.

The visiting-surgeon of the establishment, whom I accompanied, had
found it necessary to prescribe half-rations and gentle medical treatment
(a grain or so of ipecacuanha, I suppose,) to a certain turbulent few of the
prisoners, and it was whispered to him that his fair but fierce patients
meditated a remonstrance when it came to their turn to be visited. As
there was little doubt this appeal would have taken a Billingsgate form,
the prudent Medico postponed hearing it, which, I confess, was to me a
great relief. This was on his part a merciful as well as a discreet step,
because the half-rations of the insurgents would assuredly have been
further reduced to bread-and-water discussed in silence and solitude
— things that no woman loveth. Forty-eight hours of this kind of single
blessedness, with the above meagre diet, and a prescription slightly
productive of nausea, occasions, it is said, a prodigiously soothing effect
upon ladies afflicted with gross health and fiery temperaments.

Going along the avenues of solitary cells there was a great unlocking of
massive doors, and a questioning of “Have you any complaints?” I only
looked into two or three. One woman was carding, another combing
wool. A third cell, on being opened, I found to be completely darkened.
It seemed empty, so I passed within the door to examine its construction.
It looked like the den of a wolf, and I almost started back when from the
extreme end of the floor I found a pair of bright, flashing eyes fixed on
mine. Their owner arose and took a step or two forward. It was a small,
slight, and quite young girl — very beautiful in feature and
complexion, — but it was the fierce beauty of the wild cat! I am a steady
married man, of a certain age, — but at no period of my life would I, for
a trifle, have shared for half-an-hour the cell of that sleek little savage.
When she purred loudest I should have been most afraid of her claws! A
lover of the Fornarina style would have been desperately smitten. As the
heavy door slammed in her face, and the strong bolts shot into the
grooves, the turnkey informed me that this was one of the most
refractory and unmanageable characters in the prison. That said Beauty is
a sad distorter of man’s perceptions! Justice ought to be doubly
blindfolded when dealing with her. I fear me that the pang of pity that
shot across my heart when that pretty prisoner was shut again from the
light of day, might have found no place there had she been as ugly as the
sins that had brought her into trouble. I had no more stomach for solitary
cells this day.

One of the great yards of the Factory was devoted to laundress-work.
Squads of women were up to their elbows in suds, — carrying on the
cruel process of wringing, — or displaying their thick ankles as they
spread the linen over the drying lines. The townsfolk may have their
washing done here at 1s. 6d. per dozen, the money going towards the
expenses of the institution. I was pained to see so many very youthful
creatures in this yard — delinquents in their earliest teens — debanched
ere the pith had hardened in their little bones.

We had next a glimpse of a room full of sempstresses, most of them
employed on fine work. It was not impossible, the matron admitted, that
some of the elaborate shirt-fronts we should see at the Government house
ball this evening had been worked in this, and washed and “got
up” in the last ward. A rougher fabric done by the less-skilled prisoners
is a coarse kind of woollen tweed, only used for the material of prison dresses.

However painful to a devoted servant of “the sex that civilizes ours”
must necessarily be the details of an establishment such as this, there was
some consolation at least in carrying away the conviction that everything
that the care and ingenuity of man could contrive for the perfecting of the
system has here been exhausted. The cleanliness of the prison was almost
dazzling, and the order and discipline appeared faultless. I had much
pleasure in recording the same in the Matron’s Visitors’ Book.

“See Naples and die,” is the Italian motto. “See a Female Factory”
— malefactory it ought to be called — “once, and don’t do so again,” is

The grand New-year’s ball at Government-house afforded a refreshing
counterpoise to my morning’s employment. The vice-regal residence
itself has little to recommend it as an edifice, and its site would be much
better occupied by buildings connected with the harbour and wharfs,
which are close at hand. There must surely be plenty of reserve land near
the town, presenting excellent localities for a building better suited to the

A weather-boarded ball-room of singularly fine proportions has lately
been erected by the present Lieut.-Governor, Sir W. Denison. The six or
seven hundred guests present this night were by no means crowded
within it. The entrance to the ball-room from the body of the house is
through an arched lobby and down a few steps which form a kind of daïs
overlooking the saloon. On the top of this stood the Christmas tree,
whose main body was formed of a single fern-tree, its wide and graceful
fronds spreading above a whole cornucopia of mid-summer flowers,
looking strange, doubtless, in the eyes of such of the company as were
not inured to antipodal inconsistencies. For an hour or two the dancing
was kept up exclusively by children; and among them were many
beautiful specimens of rising Anglo-Saxons — for the rearing of whom
the climate of Tasmania is evidently very favourable. The same must be
said of it with reference to human plants of a more advanced growth; for
I saw in five minutes this night more fair faces tinged with the English
rose, than I had seen in New South Wales in as many years. Doubtless
some connoisseurs in female loveliness give the apple of preference to
the cheek where the lily predominates. ‘Tis a pity that in very hot
climates, Bengal for instance, a streak of yellow sometimes mars the
purity of its white!

I dare say my reader has observed the scarcely disguised impatience
with which adult votaries of Terpsichore look on at infantine dancing;
perhaps he has felt it himself — perhaps the writer has done so in his
time. Yet the dancing of children is, in sooth, a pleasant and a pretty
sight; and I have never felt this more strongly than on occasions when
the floor has suddenly been taken possession of by grown-up dancers in
immediate succession to these little ones. Compare the performances of
both, and you will not need a better proof that grace is natural and not
acquired; nay more, that it may be lost by over training and artificiality. I
was following with my eyes the crowd of little bright joyous things, and
thinking there was grace in all their movements — grace equally in the
perfect dancing of some, and in the bounding disregard of art in
in their boldness or bashfulness — demureness or riot; — there was
grace, I thought, in the small curly, velvet tunick-ed boy of seven or eight
pulling the muslin skirt of a pretty lass of ten, with the urgent plea — “I
say, will you dance with me? do now,” and in the precocious coquetry of
the two-tailed fairy as she disengaged herself with a pirouette from the
hands of her too juvenile suitor, and flung from her laughing blue eyes
such an irresistible invitation to a smart young middy of the Havannah as
brought him instantly to her side. Away they flew round the room in each
other’s arms and in the polka, that child’s dance par excellence; and some
chord in my memory had just been struck by the piteous spectacle of the
poor little mortified fellow, who, biting his finger and slowly shaking his
wee round figure, at length ran and buried his face in the lap of a lady;
my attention, I say, was thus engrossed, when, — poof! into the midst of
the lilliputian throng rushed a human avalanche, in the shape of a full grown
— a very full-grown couple of polkists! The cavalier though not
old was fattish, and had a small round spot of baldness on the crown of
his head, the lady an exorbitant crenoline. The poetry of the scene
vanished in a moment! Other Patagonians followed; and the children’s
dance quickly merged into the grownup ball; — and a very good ball it
was. Nor was it the only one I attended at Hobart Town. The season,
together with the arrival of a frigate and the first visit of a General
Commanding the Forces, combined to create an unusual amount of
gaiety; and, if the mornings of my short sojourn here were pretty well
occupied with seeing sights, so were the evenings in attending the
dinners and soirées of the hospitable Hobartians.

20 Papers and Proceedings of The Royal Society of Van Diemen’s Land,
January, 1850.
21 Newspaper notice, January, 1851: — 10 January. — “FEMALE
PASSHOLDERS. — Number of Female Passholders awaiting hire:
Hobart Town Brickfields Dépôt, 276; Cascades Factory, 176; New Town
Farm, 71; Launceston Factory, 38; Ross Hiring Dépôt, 49. — Total 610.”

Chapter VII. [1851.]

 January 10th. — HOBART TOWN. — If the reader will consult the
map of Van Diemen’s Land he will find that Tasman’s Peninsula is a kind
of ear-ring hanging at the left ear or south-east extremity of the island,
and forming the eastern horn of Storm Bay, the estuary of the Derwent.
The pendent is divided into two parts. The uppermost, or most
northern, — known as Forestier’s Peninsula, — is attached to the
mainland by a very narrow isthmus called East Bay Neck; the lower half,
or Tasman’s Peninsula, is joined to Forestier’s Peninsula by a similar
isthmus called Eagle Hawk Neck. Tasman’s Peninsula, being surrounded
by the sea on every point except at this narrow, natural causeway, is
singularly well adapted for the restriction and coercion of prisoners.

Port Arthur, the chief settlement, is situated in a fine bay of that name
opening to the south, and running inland in a northerly direction so far as
to leave only five miles of land between its own head and that of Norfolk
Bay, which bounds the peninsula on the north. Round the shores of
Norfolk Bay are situated three probation stations — the Cascades,
Saltwater River, and Impression Bay; and the Coal-mines is a station for
convicts under magisterial sentences. At Eagle Hawk Neck — the key to
Tasman’s Peninsula — is stationed a military detachment, strengthened
by a chain of dogs, to bar all egress and ingress.

The Lieut.-Governor having obligingly put at the disposal of my
companions and myself the small steamer Kangaroo, we got under
weigh at five A.M. this morning from Sulliven’s Cove, and were soon
paddling down the Derwent. We passed swiftly by the Iron Pot, round
which the surf was appropriately boiling; Betsy’s Island on the left, the
property of a lady, as the name imports, and where there is said to be
“great store” of rabbits; and Slopen Island on our right, where the quail
are preserved for the Governor and his friends, and where he who can
hold his gun straight may kill forty or fifty couple of these little flying
fatlings. Rounding Long Point, the north-east extremity of Tasman’s
Peninsula, we entered Norfolk Bay about half-past ten o’clock. On our
left we had the pretty wooded Garden Island lying in the jaws of the Bay.
To our right, on a high arm of the peninsula, a black patch of cleared
land, with some tall Lancashire-like chimneys, showed where the coal
mines are worked by prisoners, under the management of a company
who rent them from the Government and have the advantage of penal

We passed Saltwater River, where a band of lunatic convicts are
employed in agriculture under proper surveillance; then Impression Bay,
where some 600 invalids are stationed, and are given such work as suits
their strength, while about 100 hale prisoners do the hardest of the
labour; next, the Cascades, a probation station for about 300 men, — all
of which stations are situated on the shore of a hilly and wooded country;
and finally, about mid-day, our little craft running up the narrow inlet of
Eagle Hawk Bay, we soon after moored off the long wooden wharf of the
military post of that name. This post, by reason of its somewhat unique
feature, — a line of canine sentries, — is one of the lions of Van
Diemen’s Land. On either shore of the inlet running up to the station
there is a chain of huts, each containing a constable and his dog, to
prevent the escape of run-aways by swimming this arm of the sea, — a
desperate measure, since the fugitive fortunate enough to evade the
tipstaff and the mastiff would have to battle the watch with an outlying
picquet of sharks, abounding in these waters. It was related to me that, on
one occasion, four prisoners, good swimmers, led by a notorious black
named Jacky, attempted to cross from a headland called Sympathy Point
to Woody Island, and thence to Forestier’s Peninsula. The
perhaps because their fair skins acted like whitebait for the sharks
— were one and all seized and devoured by these tigers of the deep; the
native made good his landing, but was afterwards retaken.

No sooner came we in sight of the low, sandy, scrub-grown isthmus
which cuts across the head of the inlet, than our ears were saluted by the
loud baying of the deep-mouthed dogs, and as we walked up the pier
towards the guard-room at the end of it, they all joined in a grand chorus,
including three or four videttes stationed on little platforms laid on piles
in the water.

The opposite shores of the two peninsulas are lofty, sloping away into
uplands covered with fine timber. The soldiers’ barracks and the officers’
quarter, a rural cottage with a pretty garden, are placed with their backs
against the declivity of Forestier’s Peninsula, commanding the neck,
which is not more than 200 yards long by 60 yards wide. Two loaded
sentries are posted on the narrowest part of the neck, the one on the
ocean side of it — in Pirate’s Cove — the other on the inlet side of it.
The dogs, each chained to a post with a barrel for a kennel and a lamp to
illumine his night watch, connect their two biped fellow sentinels, and
complete the cordon.

My sketch, which I took seated on a sand hummock looking towards
Tasman’s Peninsula, will save me further description. The dogs by no
means relished having their pictures taken — throwing themselves into a
thousand minacious postures, with which Landseer would have been
charmed. They were generally of a large rough breed, mongrels of the
most promiscuous derivation, but powerful and ferocious. One of the
family, who was permitted to range at large, amused himself sometimes,
and kept his teeth and temper in practice, by rushing into the shallows
and fighting with the sharks; and he not unfrequently succeeded in
dragging them ashore. There are fourteen dogs “on the chain” at present.

The Eagle Hawk Neck and its vicinity are exceedingly picturesque; and
the young subaltern and his pretty wife appear to be quite satisfied with
their sequestered quarters and their canine society. I doubt even whether
the half-dozen of champagne that I dropped at their door added a whit to
their cheerfulness. The fair lady, whom a few years ago I had known as a
child, undertook to guide our party on a visit to two natural curiosities on
the coast of Pirate’s Cove — Tasman’s Arch and the Blow-hole. It was a
long and fatiguing walk for the two ladies of the party, and so high was
the fern and brushwood in some places, that it was fortunate we had
secured the services of three or four soldiers with tomahawks to clear a
path for us.

The Blow-hole, so called from the loud sough of the waves as they
dash with hollow roar from the ocean into a horizontal tunnel pierced
through the cliff, and opening inland into a gravelly pit, is more curious
than grand. But Tasman’s Arch is one of the finest fantasies of nature I
ever met with. It is said to have been first discovered by a hunter who, in
full pursuit of a kangaroo, narrowly escaped the fate of Quintus Curtius
without its glory. And, indeed, so difficult to find is the spot, and so
suddenly does the seeker stumble upon it, that he is not a little startled,
on pushing his way through some light bushes, to find his foot on the
brink of a yawning chasm or well, fifty or sixty feet across, descending
into the bowels of the earth — its eastern side, at about 30 feet from the
surface-ground, forming a majestic arch of rock some 200 feet deep, the
entrance to a subterrene passage, through which the surf from the open
sea comes thundering into this abyss in the midst, as it were, of the
forest. In high tides and tempestuous weather the spray is shot up high
into the air through this gigantic tube.

Seating ourselves on the sward near the mouth of the punch-bowl, we
partook of a modest repast of bread and wine, and, being refreshed, we
retraced our steps through forest, and fern, and sand, and rock, our walk
having extended over ten or twelve miles under a burning sun — to the

At 6 P.M. we re-embarked, pursued by the ululations of the dogs, in the
little Kangaroo, and piped to dinner as she paddled down Eagle Hawk
Bay. Passing Woody Island and Sympathy Point — the scene of the fatal
swim above mentioned — we came to an anchorage for the night just
after dusk, off a small station — nameless as far as I know — at the head
of Norfolk Bay, where, there being no accommodation, we slept on

A commissary officer, who resides here in all the solitude permitted
him by a wife and six children, came off and kindly undertook to arrange
for our passage to Port Arthur in the morning, by railway. “By railway!”
exclaims the reader, “a railway at the Antipodes.” Yes, by railway; not
propelled by steam however, but by human thews and sinews, and in the
sweat of the human brow.

January 11th. — At 7 A.M. we landed on a rough pier of timber, upon
which the rail, or rather the wooden tram-way, abuts; and in the middle
of the dreary little settlement, which consists of the Commissary’s
quarters and a few huts, we found a couple of low trucks on four wheels,
with two benches in each, and, standing near these not elegant vehicles,
eight convicts dressed in the grey and yellow garb of doubly dyed
disgrace and crime; another, in grey unvariegated, was in attendance as
head man of the gang. These were to be our teams. Dividing ourselves
into two parties, Dr. and Mrs. — — , and I, got into one, and two
tolerably weighty gentlemen into the other. Upon this, the prisoners
seized certain bars crossing the front and back of the carriages, and, after
pushing them with great toil up a considerable plane, reached the top of a
long descent, when, getting up their steam, down they rattled at
tremendous speed — tremendous, at least, to lady-like nerves — the
chains round their ankles chinking and clanking as they trotted along;
and as soon as the carriages in their headlong race down the hill
exceeded the possible speed of that slowest of all animals, man, at a
word from their leader the runners jumped upon the sides of the trucks in
rather unpleasant proximity with the passengers, and away we all went,
bondsmen and freemen, jolting and swaying in a manner that smacked
somewhat too much of “the d — l take the hindmost” — although a man
sitting behind contrived, more or less, to lock a wheel with a wooden
crow-bar when the descent became so rapid as to call for remonstrance.
Accidents have not unfrequently occurred when travellers by this rail
have encouraged, or not forbidden, the men to abandon the trucks to their
own momentum down the hills; for there are several sharpish turns in the
line, and the tram-way is of the rudest construction. Occasionally,
perhaps, these capsizes have not been purely accidental when travellers
obnoxious to the motive powers have fallen into their hands.

One of the highest public officers of the colony — a gentleman popular
with all classes, and whose personal qualities it would be impossible to
estimate lightly! — met, as I was told, with a tremendous upset on this
railway. Rolling, without much damage, into the ditch, he was picked up,
“teres atque rotundus,” by the “canary birds,” who placed him upon his
legs, and amid a thousand expressions of contrition, set to work to brush
the dirt off his clothes; and so officious were they, that, on his first
reference to his pockets neither watch nor purse were to be found.

Half-way we halted at a police-station, — not to take in water for the
engines, but to grease the wheels and to breathe the men, — and then
proceeded with renewed vigour. The distance from our starting-point in
Norfolk Bay to Long Bay, an arm of Port Arthur, by the railway, may be
five or six miles. It is sometimes performed in half-an-hour; but to-day,
having a nervous passenger, the men did not put forth their best speed.

The tram-way, alongside of which there is a bridleroad, lays through a
forest-tract of the most splendid timber, wholly wild and uncleared, the
largest trees being the blue-gum for which the island is famous, — so
called, I suppose, because the leaf has much of the colour of the bloom
on the Orleans-plum. Our mode of travelling through this fine forest was
not precisely such as to add to our enjoyment of the scene. Indeed, it
jarred most distressingly on my feelings. Our poor beasts of burthen at
the end of the traject seemed terribly jaded, running down with sweat,
and I saw one of them continually trying to shift his irons from a galled
spot on his ankle. Returning by this same route in the afternoon, we were
requested by the head man to halt a few minutes for the men to get
something to eat. The overseer told us that these men had breakfasted at
four in the morning, at Norfolk Bay, had run up the trucks with half a ton
of rations to Long Bay, and had returned to Norfolk Bay for our party by
half-past six. They had had nothing to eat since breakfast — exactly
twelve hours.

To rid myself at once of this unpleasing subject, — a railway worked
by white slave-power — I will here finish my notes of the return-trip by
this route, although it is somewhat out of its turn: —

After our visit to Port Arthur, — of which more presently — on
landing at the Long Bay terminus, where there stands a miserable
shieling, we found there the Governor and his party, sheltering
themselves from a heavy shower of rain. Carriages being required for
them, one truck only remained for our party. The three gentlemen, all
being well wet through, walked on at a brisk pace, and myself was left in
charge of the lady. Some delay occurred at starting. The first mile was up
a steep ascent, but we had with some difficulty accomplished it owing to
the slippery state of the road, and were trotting briskly along a flat, when
a distant “cooey” from the rear was heard, and looking back I saw a fifth
prisoner in grey-and-yellow running up — a tall ugly fellow that I had
not seen before. Our team immediately pulled up, and then the idea
flashed across my mind, dismissed almost as soon as entertained, that
some treachery was intended. Here was a lady and one unarmed man in
the midst of the wild Bush, and completely in the power of five perhaps
as desperate ruffians as ever cheated the hangman!

The gentlemen who had preceded us were long beyond sight and
hearing, and we were full two miles from the station we had quitted. It
afterwards proved that the questionable predicament in which we had
been left had crossed their minds very much as it had done mine. The
truth is, however, that we ran less risk of robbery or violence in this
unpeopled wilderness, with our lives in the hands of this villainous gang,
than might have been the case within the sound of Bow-bells. In
Tasman’s Peninsula detection and punishment follow crime as sure as
night follows day.

The men employed on this tram-way, which is more used for the
transport of stores and provisions than for passengers, are under sentence
of hard labour, and those who are young and active enough to go the
pace prefer it to other task-work — chiefly, I suspect, because many
passengers, in flagrant breach of the convict-rules, bestow some small
reward on the wretched dragsmen, whereby they are enabled to procure
tobacco — the grand desideratum of all prisoners, and other trifling
luxuries, the value of which a man never fully knows until they are

But to resume our visit to Port Arthur. — At eight o’clock we reached
the terminus at the head of Long Bay, an inlet of Port Arthur running up
into the forest between high shores. The distance by water to the
settlement of Port Arthur is about four miles. We found at the terminus a
large whale-boat awaiting us, manned by prisoners, the strokesman being
one of the finest negroes I ever saw. We soon opened the port, and,
sweeping round a rocky headland on our right, the penal township lay
before us.

Port Arthur is the head-quarters, both military and convict, of the
peninsula. There are at present about 350 prisoners here, and the garrison
consists of a captain and seventy grenadiers of the 99th. His subaltern, as
has been seen, is detached to Eagle Hawk Neck. The other stations on the
peninsula before mentioned are at present controlled entirely by the civil
power, an arrangement more consonant with British custom, and more
just to the army, than the former system of scattering small detachments
under non-commissioned officers among the various minor stations and
stockades — thereby compelling the soldier to do the duty of the

I had made up my mind to find in Port Arthur all the gloomy attributes
of a huge donjon. I expected, and I believe wished, to see the features of
nature and the institutions of man frowning in grim and dreary concert on
the spot expressly selected for the punishment of Britain’s blackest
malefactors — one half of whom, perhaps, ere the criminal law of
England was amended (or diluted,) would have paid the penalties of their
misdeeds on the scaffold. There is, however, in fact, nothing of the
Bastile in the aspect of the town of Port Arthur — nothing of the desert
wastes where the felons of other nations are condemned to linger out
their hopeless lives.

A magnificent harbour lay before us, with a spacious open channel to
the ocean. On the east was a fine range of mountains, terminating at the
coast in a high bluff, called Arthur’s Seat: on the west a quiet bay,
sheltered from the sea by a long arm of land named Point Puer, where
stands the abandoned settlement of the Parkhurst boys, the spacious
buildings, — like many another costly edifice in New South Wales and
Van Diemen’s Land, constructed for penal experiments, — on the road to
ruin. In a retired cove of this bay, with a tolerable space of level land
around it and a fine wooded range in its rear, lies, sloping down to the
beach, the settlement. The first object that attracts the eye is a handsome
stone church with a tall cheerful-looking steeple embosomed in fine
trees, and a beautiful public garden below it. On the opposite extremity
of the town is the residence of the Commandant, an excellent house, also
well sheltered with ornamental trees and surrounded with a blooming
flower garden and orchard, and a lawn sloping down to the sea. It
possesses a grand stone balustrated entrance, a sculptured stone gateway
and such like features — sufficiently proving that it was never intended
for the quarters of a military officer! No, no — the officers’ quarters
stand humbly just without the gates of the premises I have described, and
I recognised them at once by the rigid restriction of the style to bare
habitableness. Fortunately for the Brevet-Major at present in command
here — and especially so as he happens to be a married man — the post
of Civil Commandant has, for economical reasons, been done away with,
and he is, therefore, permitted to reside in the better house.

The architect entrusted with the design and erection of the public
buildings of the settlement must have been of a cheery and playful mind.
Hospitals, barracks, gaols, cooking houses, stores — every edifice, in
short, except the old original convict dépôt, which is an ugly wooden
stockade, are of a fine light-coloured stone, with a profusion of little
turrets, castellated copings, sham machicolations and pie-crust
battlements, reminding me more of an Isle of Wight villa than of a
convict probation station. There is a commissariat building, nearly as
extensive and as ornate in style as Somerset House, and which would
easily contain all the commissariat stores in the South Sea colonies. A
picturesque feature of the town is the flag-staff and signal-post, erected
on a tall dead tree of enormous bulk, standing alone on a high mound. It
consists of two platforms, reached by a ladder stair. From the upper one
there is a most extensive and lovely view. With a fine blue sky overhead,
and the blue sea below, the dark green hills around, and a climate quite
perfect, Port Arthur has certainly nothing very repulsive in its aspect.
The French prisoners of war had a somewhat more melancholy location
on Dartmoor. The miners of snowy and sandy Siberia have a destiny
somewhat more desolate. The poor charcoal burner on the gloomy and
spirit-haunted Hartz, and the wretched turf-cutter on the Bog of Allen,
toiling in solitary misery for a scanty subsistence, would imagine they
had dropped into Paradise, could they be suddenly transported — by any
but judicial means! — into this beautiful corner of the universe.

The gallant Commandant gave us an excellent breakfast; after which
we proceeded to visit some of the lions, living and inanimate, of the
place. We saw the cooking and baking for the prisoners; and better bread
and meat, and more savoury broth was never served up at an English
yeoman’s table; half as good never to that of the English labourer on
Sundays, nor to the Irish cotter twice a-year. We walked through the
prisoners’ refectory at their dinner-hour. They were sitting quietly at their
tables, while one of each dozen divided the food into shares. The savour
of the viands was really appetizing. I was told — whether in joke or in
earnest may be doubted — that, if I waited until the meal was over, I
should see a waiter going round with pipes and tobacco for such of the
guests who desired a whiff of the Virginian weed.

I have heard or read that persons subjected to the mental and bodily
discipline consequent upon imprisonment combined with hard labour,
require more nourishment than any other class of consumers. I have no
hesitation in saying — and I examined them narrowly — that the
prisoners of Hobart Town and Tasman’s Peninsula, as a body, presented
an appearance of stronger physical health than the soldiers stationed
there. It is true that the former are debarred indulgence in those excesses
whereby the soldier may damage his constitution; but when I see a lot of
burly fellows, not only muscular of limb and body, but absolutely
running to jowl, common sense tells me that neither the mind nor the
body are much overtaxed. Indeed, I have no doubt that, however vigilant
and severe the superintendence, it is impossible to compel a man to work
without pay sufficiently hard to fatigue his frame — much less to injure
his health — by any rigour of discipline short of that of the negro slave driver.
The treadmill appears to be the only species of laboratory where
the operative must work, and work hard, or inflict self-punishment. He
may, indeed, doggedly resolve to mount no higher on the rotary stair, but
then his shins must suffer for it! All the machinery for this punishment
exists on a large scale at Port Arthur; but I was told that it had been
discontinued, because the wheel required too many hands, or rather, too
many feet, to make it pay. I cannot help thinking, nevertheless, that it
might have been advantageously employed in reducing some of the “too
solid flesh” on the ribs of the Peninsula prisoners, — product of the good
beef and bread, oatmeal and potatoes, of Tasmania.

And this brings me to the Hospital, — a fine building, almost
untenanted. Of the 340 convicts on the morning state of this day only
five were in hospital; out of seventy soldiers, three. In one of the larger
wards, almost alone, lay one of the Irish state prisoners, O’Donohue,
— one of the three gentlemen of that class who, having broken their
tickets-of-leave by paying a clandestine visit to their late chief, Mr. S.
O’Brien, were apprehended and sentenced, not only to forfeit their
tickets, but to imprisonment with hard labour in probation gangs on the
Peninsula. Patrick O’Donohue was lying on his iron pallet in the common
ward, and in the ordinary blue flannel hospital dress. He was reading,
and, as he seemed to be in bodily suffering, a feeling of commiseration
was stealing over me, when it was quickly dissolved by a whisper from
the surgeon that his malady arose from two or three broken ribs, the
consequence of a fight with another prisoner. When on ticket of leave, he
employed himself in the editorship of a newspaper called the Exile.

My fate seemed to constrain me to follow in Van Diemen’s Land the
fortunes of Mr. Smith O’Brien. At Maria Island there was his shadow; at
New Norfolk his substance. At Port Arthur I was dragged away to
inspect the premises that had been allotted to him after he had attempted
his escape from the island. The house — a decent little tenement,
superior to the building intended for the officers’ quarters — stands in the
corner of a largish garden, enclosed within a high wall, with its back
against that of the barracks — over which, by a stair ladder, the sentry in
charge of the prisoner came to his post. The soldier’s beat was at first
close to the house; but the prisoner was so prone to converse with his
military guardian from his verandah, that the post was established further
off. Smith O’Brien appears to have taken considerable pleasure in
gardening; and flowers which he had sowed were now in full bloom. He
was very uneasy and irritable under the constant eye-shot of the sentinel;
and, indeed, I cannot imagine anything more annoying to a person of
excitable temperament and fond of privacy, than continual supervision.

We visited an admirable edifice nearly finished at vast expense for the
prosecution of the solitary and silent system. There are long galleries of
“separate apartments,” as they are delicately termed; court-yards where
the prisoners are brought out one by one to take their exercise under the
eye of a constable; and a chapel so fitted up that each man will — like a
prebend or a horse, have a stall for himself, so constructed that he can see
no one but the parson and the constables. The prisoners not in solitary
confinement are marched to church, and have large pews or rather pens
for their accommodation.

The aristocracy of Port Arthur consists of the commandant, the visiting
magistrate, the chaplain, the priest, and the surgeon. These gentlemen
have all pretty cottages surrounded with gardens near the church.

The penal system must by this time approach perfection as near as
human wisdom can bring it — for Heaven knows that statesmen, local
rulers, philanthropists and disciplinarians, whether of the severe or
soothing sort — have left nothing unsaid, undone, or untried, to make
transportation conducive to the three great ends, punishment,
amendment, and prevention. I think, however, that, in a comparison
between the old system and the new, designating them broadly as the
assignment and the probation systems — the suffrages of the colonists,
whether in Australia or Tasmania, if collected, would give a majority to
the abandoned plan. The present or probation scheme has for its main
features the blending correction with instruction moral and religious, a
careful classification of the prisoners, rigorously enforced hard labour,
and solitary confinement under unblinking surveillance, for the hardened
and refractory; with the lash, Norfolk Island and the gibbet for the utterly
irreclaimable. On the other hand, milder treatment for mitigated
criminals, and for the well-conducted the certain prospect of the pass, the
ticket, and the still larger boon of conditional pardon, after periods of
servitude graduated according to the sentences and conduct under
sentence. The instruction of previously ignorant men in the first elements
of education, in useful trades, and in religious exercises, gives them at
least a reasonable chance of returning to society better and more useful
members of the human family than they were at the time of their
banishment from it. According to the present scheme, the prisoner at no
period is compelled to work without payment, except while his own bad
conduct past or present restricts him to the Government establishments.
On the first relaxation of his bonds he comes into the labour-market on
pretty nearly equal terms with the free labourer. A late memorandum of
the Comptroller-General of convicts establishes an uniform rule for the
issue of tickets-of-leave.22

My desire to obtain a sketch of the really picturesque harbour and
settlement of Port Arthur prevented my seeing as much of the
establishments as the few hours of our stay there might otherwise have
permitted. I think my reader will admit that however heart-rending the
punishment of banishment must be, (although ninety out of a hundred
delinquents who suffer it lament only the opportunities of villany
whereof it deprives them;) and however strict the supervision, severe the
coercion, and arduous the labour imposed on the inmates; (and burning
bricks, splitting wood, cutting stone, felling and carrying spars, quarrying
and coal mining, or even trotting away at the rate of six or seven miles an
hour with a cargo of “swells,” without wages — are no light pastime;) it
will be admitted, I say, that there is nothing penally repulsive in the
external aspect of Port Arthur, as it appears on paper.

I have anticipated my account of our tram-way return to Norfolk Bay;
where, well drenched with rain, we regained our little steamer, and
forthwith set off for the Cascades Settlement, which we reached at 4
P.M. At this place about 400 convicts are stationed, most of them being
employed in felling timber, of which there is an endless supply of the
largest size and finest quality near at hand.

Alongside the wharf a fine brig, the Vigilant, was loading with spars
and planks for England — including some splendid specimens of blue
gum for the Admiralty. The longest plank on board was 94 feet in length,
4 inches thick, and 16 inches wide. There were three or four spars
upwards of 70 feet long by 2 feet thick. Some lying under water ready
for use were, I was told, upwards of 100 feet long. I saw also in the hold
of the brig some immense logs of “light wood,” à non lucendo, darker
than mahogany; and knots of the beautiful Huon pine, finer than bird’seye
maple for ornamental furniture. One delicate slice of a giant tree
weighed a matter of eight tons. But these are mere splinters to the plank
of blue gum which, I hear, has been sent Home for the Great Exhibition.
This was 145 feet long, 20 inches broad, and 6 inches deep. The first
limb of the tree from which it was sawn sprung at 186 feet from the
ground, and its extreme height was no less than 275 feet.

At a convenient distance for an afternoon’s ride from Hobart Town, is
to be seen a living gum-tree which is 60 feet round at 15 feet from its
base, and 270 feet high, although it has lost its top. It is fenced in and
treated with proper respect. A vessel’s keel 100 feet long was lately laid
down in one piece by a Hobart Town builder.

Among the convicts on board the Vigilant, at this moment lounging
about unemployed, a fine manly looking individual was pointed out to
me as the state prisoner Terence Bellew M’Manus, who, with O’Donohue
and O’Doherty — Kevin Izod O’Doherty! (babes so named are baptized
rebels to Anglo-Saxon rule!) have been “classed” for hard labour parties
by colonial sentence for having violated the conditions of their tickets by
visiting O’Brien at New Norfolk. One of these gentlemen I left in
hospital at Port Arthur, the other is devoting his energies, innocuously to
others and profitably to himself, in “splitting shingles” on one of the
Peninsula stations. And Mr. M’Manus, at the Cascades, seemed to be
taking just as much muscular exercise and wholesome food as would be
likely to produce the vigorous health he evidently enjoys, and which
enabled him to undergo the fatigues of the mysterious escape which, in a
month after I saw him, he made to California.

Of the other two or three Irish political prisoners I saw nothing, but I
heard that one of them was hoeing potatoes, a national pastime, hard by;
and that another had got married by the Governor’s consent. None of
these gentlemen, I will answer for it, are in the position ascribed to them
by a local and malcontent newspaper — “treated like trebly convicted
felons, and condemned to wear the yellow garb of the degraded, because
they visited the table of Mr. W. S. O’Brien!”

On the point of costume I can be both positive and correct with regard
to Mr. M’Manus. He wore a full suit of grey dittos, with a leathern forage
cap; and on his back, well able to bear the burthen, appeared in large
white letters, the words, “Cascades, No. 200.” None of these criminals
have been compelled to don the canary’s plumage; although, for being
foolish enough to run their heads into the lion’s mouth, they really do
deserve to “wear the motley.” For any future impatients aiming at the
overthrow of the British constitution, I should prescribe — if I were
Governor — a month’s steaming on the Port Arthur railway — at
Midsummer! I have heard that these gentlemen have conducted
themselves in an exemplary manner under the colonial aggravation of
their punishment. I was well pleased to learn that a great portion of it had
been remitted; and shall unfeignedly rejoice at any further mitigation that
imperial clemency or their own good behaviour may bring them.

Towards another prisoner, of a totally different class, located at the
“Cascades,” my feelings were very far from being so placable. Amongst
a party of three or four men in the grey dress and leather cap to whom
was allotted the task of carrying and arranging on board firewood for the
engines of the Kangaroo, I remarked a very tall and powerful figure
standing on the pier, and for more than half-an-hour, with the measured
accuracy of clockwork, handing the split logs from a heap ashore to
another convict who stowed them on board. This was Robert Pate, the
cowardly and, I am constrained to believe, the lunatic assailant of a
woman and a Queen. Degradation, flogging at the cart’s tail, would have
been the suitable punishment; and I believe its infliction for such a
“misdemeanour!” was by a late enactment made peremptory. I am not
aware whether humane consideration for the feelings of his family, or for
the infirm state of his own mind, saved this man from the enforcement of
the cat and the cart’s-tail. I was sorry, I must say, to see him in such fine
health. With perfect bodily sanity I believe a man can never be very
unhappy; or rather if a man be truly unhappy in mind, he can hardly
possess perfect physical health. The perpetrator of such an outrage I
would willingly have seen miserable — his soul sinking under the
poignancy of remorse, and under the recollection of his dastardly action;
his body macerated by the hardships of his punishment. Robert Pate is, as
I understand from those who have him under constant observation,
perfectly sane in mind at this moment. The faculty must forgive me if I
express my conviction that he is still mad. Nor could a better asylum nor
a better chance of eventual cure than the salubrious climate and diet of
Tasman’s Peninsula, and the present well-watched system of probation,
be possibly afforded to this wretched offender.

Some of our party, while the steamer was wooding, visited a spot
called the Fern-tree Valley, about two miles from the station, which they
described as singularly beautiful. They walked through arcades and
cloisters, arched over and darkened by the foliage of this graceful plant,
and brought me back a single frond as a specimen nearly fourteen feet in
length. The stem of this species, although as large round as a bandbox, is
of a cellular texture, something between cork and sponge. Lumps of it, I
observed, were in use among the shipping as fenders. It is filled with a
beautiful brown fibre, as fine as spun glass. The sassafras grows in plenty
near the same spot.

At 8 P.M. the steamer touched at the “Coal-mines” for a supply of that
mineral. The Peninsula coal is an anthracite; all that I saw burning in the
city was of that nature; but I am told that there exists very superior
bituminous coal in the country, as yet unworked. Getting coal is
considered the most irksome and arduous branch of convict labour. The
station here, like most others in Van Diemen’s Land, was, until lately,
kept in subjection by a military guard. A married officer was in
command for some time, and, such was the character of the populus
virorum around him, that the females of his family could not move out
without an escort of armed soldiers. Pan Demons’ Land would be almost
too mild a name for a region where such a state of things existed!

Steaming all night, the Kangaroo reached Hobart Town at three o’clock
in the morning. It must be admitted that, pleasant as had been our trip to
Tasman’s Peninsula, this little vessel, for many reasons, was but ill suited
to night accommodation. To the impossibility of sleeping, however, I
owe the following narrative, from the officer of the watch, of a clever
escape of a party of convicts, conducted, I am sorry to say, at the expense
of my excellent friend, the Bishop of the diocese. His lordship possessed,
in 1848, as he does now, a small yacht, which he employed for the public
service, at least as much as for his own pleasure. With the intention of a
somewhat protracted trip, he had ordered stores and provisions to be put
on board; and she was lying at the town wharf ready for the Right
Reverend owner’s embarkation on the following day. Close along-side of
her was moored the Kangaroo steamer, whose steward, a convict,
formerly a Causand smuggler, and, as may be guessed, a sharpish fellow,
admiring her breadth of beam, her clean run, and other qualities,
conceived the idea of making her subservient, although only measuring
ten tons, to a trip to California. The necessary stores — thanks to the
forethought of the Bishop — were, as has been said, already on board.
There was beef and biscuit in plenty, of fresh water but a small supply;
but that might be added to. Mr. Hill, the steward, was quite willing to be
her commander; all that was wanted was a crew. Three good hands,
anxious to exchange the land of irons for that of gold, and volunteers for
the dangerous experiment, were readily found among the prisoners. The
land breeze and the elements at large, as they often do, favoured an
unrighteous cause. An hour before midnight the little craft slipped away
from the midst of a dozen companions at the wharf head, and was safe
out of port long before daylight. An experienced caterer as well as
navigator, the steward quickly calculated that the stock already laid in
was insufficient for a two or three months’ voyage. He therefore touched
at one of the islands in Bass’s Straits, whence having reinforced his
lockers, he made a fresh departure, and, in short, the Bishop’s yacht was,
in due course of time, recognised at San Francisco by some persons
trading there from Hobart Town. Nothing more was heard of her
enterprising borrowers, who probably disposed of her before they betook
themselves to the diggings. I believe, however, that Mr. Hill sent a polite
message to his Lordship, apologising for the robbery, but urging the stern
necessity of the case.

January 12th. — This afternoon, (my last in the capital of Van
Diemen’s Land,) having dined early, I devoted to visiting the Male
Penitentiary, at an hour — seven P.M. — when the tenants were sure to
be at home on a Sunday. This establishment is built of solid stone, with a
formidable wall surrounding it, and is situated within the city. My friend
and myself were most civilly received by the governor of the goal, who
straightway conducted us to the mess-room, where the prisoners were
attending an evening lecture by the catechist of the prison. This officer,
standing in a high reading-desk, and selecting a subject from Scripture,
(the life of our Saviour was that under present consideration,) — mingled
his discourse with questions addressed generally to his hearers; nor did
he fail to meet a prompt and intelligent reply, sometimes from two or
more respondents. All were quiet and apparently attentive; but the
answers came from but few. A hymn was sung also in good time and
tune, but the performers were, likewise, a select few.

The worst class of men, in their piebald dress, were separated from
those in pepper-and-salt, (who are for hire by private individuals;) and
these again were separated from a more juvenile class, the Parkhurst
lads. There are usually from 700 to 1,000 men in this prison. A fine
range of solitary cells has just been erected. The greatest care is observed
in the classification of the offenders, in order to prevent the
contamination of the bad by the worse. The labour, too, is apportioned by
a scale elaborately kept, whereby the age, physical powers, and health of
each person, as computed by the medical attendant, are taken into

At the conclusion of the lecture the prisoners marched through a line of
constables to their sleeping-rooms. These are built to accommodate about
thirty men in two tiers of berths, — a better arrangement than the old
dormitories of 3 or 400 persons; but still I think not sufficiently
subdivided. There are lamps burning all night in each room; and a
watchman with list slippers, having charge of a certain set of rooms,
creeps about the landing-places, maintaining order and decency under
heavy penalties. The wretched gaol birds had all gone to roost in their
respective nests when I looked into some of the rooms. Under former and
more lax systems, as I was informed, the short period between turning in
and falling asleep was employed, and perhaps lengthened, by the men in
the most villanous, disgusting, and blasphemous conversation.

No dormitory of nuns — placid votaries of celibacy and religion
— could have been more silent and tranquil than the night cells of these
branded outcasts. And how is this managed? I really hardly knew
whether to burst into a fit of laughter or to view with admiration and
approval the scene which was enacting in each sleeping-room. A large
tin oil lamp supplied the chamber with light. Seated on the top of a stepladder
under the lamp was a man, one of the prisoners, book in hand,
reading aloud — reading, in short, those very luxurious rogues, whose
heads on their pillows were turned towards the lector, to sleep!

In conning over the comforts which might be secured by wealth, — a
common practice with poor men, — among which a band of musicians, a
swimming-bath in my dressing-room, and a huge riding-school for rainy
weather found place, a domestic functionary whose duty it would be to
read to me after retiring to bed, as long as I could listen, had in very
luxurious moments been enumerated! The good substantial raiment, the
plentiful meals, the flue-warmed rooms, the medical help, gratuitously
supplied to the convicted thief, contrast in themselves but too glaringly
with the hard-earned livelihood of the honest labourer. But what would
John Hodge think, if, in addition to the above advantages supplied to him
by an indulgent landlord, he were to be furnished with an attendant
— the parish clerk, for instance — for the purpose of droning him off to
sleep? Poor hard-worked Hodge would not need such an auxiliary to
Somnus. He would snore (as some of the prisoners did on this occasion)
before the reader had time to put on his spectacles! The prison readers
are of course selected from among the best educated men. The lecture
continues from eight to nine o’clock, and is credited to the performers as
so much hard labour. On Sundays serious books are allotted for these
nocturnal lectures; on week days subjects of information and amusement
afford a lighter lullaby, probably less rapid in its operation. During the
hour or two I passed in this penitentiary, such was the perfect order and
silence observed, that I did not hear a word spoken except by the officers
and attendants. It may fairly be styled a model prison.

 January 13th. — A Mr. Page, proprietor of a daily stage-coach,
running between Hobart Town and Launceston, advertises in the public
prints the handsome offer of “A bed, a glass of old Tom, a cup of coffee,
and an outside place — 120 miles — for 5s.” However great the temptation
held out by this announcement, my friend Dr. S — — and myself,
going on the principle that new brooms sweep clean, resolved to
patronise an opposition coach lately set up — and in so doing we did wrong,
for it proved to be slower than the “old original.”

The opposition advertisement betokened a less liberal spirit, as well as a more distrustful
appreciation of the character of Tasmanian travellers — perhaps a deeper
knowledge of the world, or of that portion of it to which it mainly
referred. It runs thus: — “Inside, 1l.; outside, cash 5s.; credit, 15s., and
that only to responsible parties!”

The plan adopted for the return to New South Wales of my companion
and myself was to go by the stage to Launceston, the northern port of
Van Diemen’s Land — thereby enjoying a flying view of the interior of
the island; and at Launceston to take the Shamrock steamer, which plies
once a month, via Port Phillip, to Sydney, and back. There is no direct
steam communication as yet between Sydney and Hobart Town. Our
kind friends at the last-named city had procured for us invitations from
families residing at convenient distances on the road side — thereby
enabling us to see, in a pleasant manner, a little of Tasmanian country
life, and to break the length of the journey. The great road from the
capital to Launceston is the main artery of the island, passing through the
best part of it from south to north. The stage-coach travelling in Van
Diemen’s Land is the theme of praise of all strangers returning thence;
and, indeed, this particular drive, and the manner in which it is
performed, are matters really enjoyable to a traveller who remembers the
palmy days of coaching in the Old Country, and who has witnessed with
regret the decline and fall of that pleasant mode of transit through a fine
country. I believe most of my contemporaries will agree with me in the
opinion, that few things were more agreeable than a seat on the box of a
really well-appointed coach, beside a driver fond of his profession, for
forty or fifty miles, at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour, through some
of the rural districts of England in the harvest season. I shall grow
sentimental if I permit myself to recall the delights of “the road” as it was
fifteen or twenty years ago. There was something highly enjoyable, too, I
thought, in the ringing of the horn and the rattling of the wheels as you
dashed over the stones of a country town, turning the corners at a
swinging trot, stared at by the townsfolk, and then driving under an
archway into an old-fashioned inn, where you were made comfortable for
the night, or sent forward, after a hearty meal, with a fresh team and
renewed spirits. Yes, I confess, this suited my old-fashioned tastes better
than the modern rail. Whisk! you go through a forest of chimneys,
steeples, gables, garret-windows, and tom-cat-frequented roof-gutters
— and across a street which looks, by night, like a flash of lightning
passing under you. The town is traversed ere you have time to recollect
and recognise it as your native town. You approach a pretty village on a
hill near it, and you have barely leisure to congratulate yourself that you
will catch a glimpse of Uncle Anthony’s house, and the Rev. Dr. Birch’s
seminary — your earliest school — when, presto! the train whips into a
tunnel like a rabbit with a terrier at its scut, and your uncle’s cellar and
the doctor’s playground are left fifty feet over your head! Three minutes
more, and you are in the next county!

The journey through Van Diemen’s Land reminded me faintly, and but
faintly, of bygone days. The road itself is perfect. The London and Bath,
or Brighton roads, in their best days, were not better. The scenery is
picturesque, although some parts of the country are extremely sterile.
The pace too is equal to the fastest “Age,” “Defiance,” or “Regulator,”
that ever “kept good time” on an English turnpike road. The horses are of
a better stamp and more of the old English cut than any bred in the other
Australasian colonies. Much time is lost at the several stages, and yet the
distance of 120 miles is done in twelve hours. On a fine bright, yet
breezy day, we found the journey very pleasant. Generally at a hand gallop,
we passed through a great variety of country, — wide-spread
tracts of cultivation neatly enclosed, but with only middling crops of
grain, standing or in process of being mowed; neat and cozy homesteads,
proving the competence of the farmer; gardens and orchards and hop grounds;
hedges of sweet-brier embalming the air, and of course plenty
of wild woodland, besides hopeless-looking plains, apparently deserted
by animated and vegetative nature. The carriage was crowded with
passengers — half-a-dozen more than allowed by licence — hanging on
like bees, sitting edgeways, on each other’s knees and on the luggage; the
guard now clinging by a lamp-iron, now on the step with his arm in at the
window, now enjoying half-rations of sitting room on the foot-board of
the box.

Even in England the days of Gentlemen-Jehus are gone by, — the days
of the Stevensons, and the Cottons, and the Brackenburys. In this colony
there are no gentlemen stage-drivers, as may well be supposed. Our
coachman, however, I am bound to say, was a pleasant fellow enough
when drawn out: “but I like to keep myself to myself,” said he, “when I
don’t know my company;” and in Van Diemen’s Land such a resolve was
unquestionably a prudent one. His costume was pretty correct, even to
the nosegay, and he had the gout, which was in excellent keeping; but the
harness was dirty, and the horses ill put together and driven with as much
noise as a team of six or seven hairy-heeled diligence horses in
Normandy. Moreover, “coachee” handled a regular Smithfield pig-whip,
instead of the neat taper holly stick by “Crowther,” with its thin thong
fine enough towards the point for a trout line. But he made his nags
move, and kept them moving! In 1835 the stage took two days to do this
journey, and the charge was 5l. inside, 4l. outside; now it is twelve hours,
1l. in and 5s. outside.

At twelve miles from the city we crossed the Derwent by a causeway
and bridge, nearly a mile in length — a considerable work. A cluster of
ruined huts indicates where the muscle came from, and a great slice out
of a rocky hill where the material was found for the formation of this fine
piece of convict workmanship. The first town we came to was Brighton,
and soon after, strange to say, we reached Bagdad. Beyond that Persian
city our route took us over Constitution Hill, and, having crossed the
Jordan, we very appropriately came to Jericho, — a straggling village.
Jerusalem we left some miles on our right; and the river Styx, which,
however, we did not cross, has by some means found its way into this
Van Demonian Palestine. Many of the local names are very characteristic
of the “civil condition” of the country as it was when they were given.
Thus, Murderer’s Plains, Gallows Hill, and Hell Gate, are the playful
titles of three well-known spots, whose sponsors were doubtless
bushrangers at the best.

22 “MEMORANDUM. — According to the regulations now in force, no
convict under sentence for seven, ten, fourteen, or fifteen years, is
regarded as eligible for a ticket-of-leave until the expiration of half the
period of the original sentence. Convicts transported for life, who arrived
prior to 1843, are required to serve eight years, and those who have
arrived since that period, twelve years, before they can become eligible.
“Convicts under sentence for seven, ten, fifteen years, or life, are
required to hold a ticket-of-leave, with good conduct, for three, eight,
twelve, and twenty-four months respectively, before they can be
recommended to the Queen for a conditional pardon, thus making the
periods fifteen, twenty-four, and thirty-six months, for which they must,
in general, hold a ticket-of-leave before receiving the next indulgence,
twelve months being the usual period necessary for obtaining the
Queen’s approval. “The preceding regulations are rigidly adhered to in
granting indulgence to convicts sentenced to transportation in Van
Diemen’s Land, the condition attached to the pardons of such convicts
being, as in the case of those sentenced in any other colony, that they are
not to be found within the colony in which they were convicted.
“Convicts who arrive in Van Diemen’s Land with tickets-of-leave, are
required to serve for the same period of their original sentences of
transportation as all other convicts, before they can obtain a conditional
pardon. “Comptroller-General’s Office, Sept. 16, 1850.” “J. S.

Chapter VIII.

AT about midday, and at sixty miles from Hobart Town, which we, the
slower coach, performed in seven hours, including stoppages for
changing horses and breakfast, — we arrived at the entrance-gate of Mr.
K — — ,a wealthy colonist, who had kindly offered to receive us for a
night. The house and pleasure-grounds are situated about a mile from the
high road, in a country by no means pretty, but well adapted for sheep farming
— being by nature lightly, indeed too lightly, timbered. This
adaptation a stranger might at present reasonably doubt, for the natural
pasture-land over which we passed in the proprietor’s carriage was as
hard and as bare as a brick — more resembling a Sahara than a sheepwalk.

Mr. K — — has nevertheless carried irrigation to a greater perfection
than any other person perhaps in the Australian colonies. Of this he
presently gave us proof by diverging from the direct road to the house,
and bringing us to a wide tract of refreshing verdure lying in a gentle
hollow. Here are 500 acres laid down in English grasses, divided by
English quick hedges into convenient enclosures, along each of which
are water-ducts with dam-gates, whereby he is enabled to throw the
whole or part under water in the driest season.

This valuable plot of ground, which will probably feed as many sheep
as 15,000 acres of the native pastures, was originally a swamp, and was
received under ostensible protest but with a secret appreciation of its real
value by the proprietor, as part of a free grant from Government. Indeed,
if I remember correctly, the worthy old gentleman, who has a hearty
liking for a joke, chuckles complacently and openly over the fact that
some additional land was thrown in by the authorities as a make-weight
for the boggy allotment that has helped to make his fortune. Had it fallen
into any other hands it would, in all probability, have never fed anything
more profitable than a snipe or a wild-duck. The swamp was by him
thoroughly drained and cleared; the brook that supplied it was dammed
back so as to form a reservoir, and the precious element was thus
rendered available when and where wanted, instead of wandering and
wasting itself, a “chartered libertine,” in the useless morass.

After travelling, as we had done, through sixty miles of dust and
drought, — for I never saw any part of New South Wales so thoroughly
burnt up as Van Diemen’s Land is this summer, — it was delightful to
see running water rippling along the courses, and to find one’s feet
sinking up to the ankles in the deep and damp clover as we crossed the
fields. The frogs were loud in their expression of enjoyment; even the
water-crosses seemed silently to luxuriate in the cool and moist corners
of the ditches.

Mr. K — — did not forget to display to us his perhaps unique method
of sheep-washing — by the agency of hot water. Two large iron boilers,
filled by pipes from a higher level, keep the water at a temperature of
105°, and supply a couple of wooden baths cooled down to 98°. Here the
sheep are well rubbed and scrubbed by one set of men, and by others are
hauled over a wooden grating into a cold reservoir, whence, after
receiving a shower from a set of spouts, they are allowed to escape up an
inclined plane of clean pebbles into a grassy paddock, to dry their own
coats — and our future pea-jackets and flannel petticoats. The hot water
is not found, as might be supposed, to affect hurtfully the yolk of the
wool. The extra care and expense bestowed upon the flocks, and the
getting up of the fleeces have, I understand, been found highly
remunerative — some portions of the wool having sold in England for
nearly twice as much as the staple ordinarily prepared.

A great tract of land called the Salt-pan Plains, belonging to Mr. K —
— , although very sparely grassed, affords a most wholesome nibble for
the sheep — considerable quantities of salt being in dry weather
deposited in the hollows.

Sheep-farming is conducted in Van Diemen’s Land under more
advantageous circumstances than in the colonies on the mainland of New
Holland. There are now neither blacks, bush-rangers, nor native dogs to
harry and despoil the flocks. The Australian practice, therefore, of
folding and watching them by night, and the consequent necessity for
driving them and harassing them with collies, soiling their fleeces and
crowding them in unhealthy pens, is dispensed with, or “dispensed
without” — to use the stronger expression of my fellow-passenger who
gave me this information. The “dispensing without” two of every three of
the hirelings for the care of the flocks is no slight saving — a saving
which perhaps might just turn the scale in which the question of sheep as
a profitable investment for capital — if one is to believe the squatters
— is yet balancing.

There is nothing remarkably picturesque in the site of Mona Vale, the
residence of Mr. K — — ; but the house itself is excellent; there are
pleasant gardens and green-houses full of fruit and flowers, a tolerable
growth of English trees, and, moreover, — rare feature in Australian
home scenery, — a clear and rapid stream running across the lawn and
forming beyond it a tolerably large pool, edged with English willows of
great growth. Indeed, water at this place appears to have been drilled into
perfect obedience to the behests of this ingenious and determined
improver of “an arid land in which no water is.” Bath-houses in and out
of doors, gardens, and stables, and offices, and even the bedrooms up
stairs, are all provided, at a turn of the finger, with a copious supply of
the limpid element. Just beyond the lawn, a favourite and beautiful
thorough-bred English mare, with a foal at her foot, and amicably
attended by a huge emu, was luxuriating in a deep clover meadow.

The proprietor of Mona Vale is a Manxman by birth, and, I suppose,
must be the richest Manxman — not excepting the Goldie family — now
in existence. His property on this spot is, I am told, about 50,000 acres;
and his 20,000 sheep, managed as they are, must be as good as 3,000l. a year
to him. A patriarchal profusion and a good old-fashioned hospitality
reign at Mona Vale — almost to a proverb. The table was laid for nearly
twice as many guests as were present; and, indeed, these appeared and
disappeared without apparent previous notice or ceremony.

 January 14th. — After a pleasant stroll about the grounds and visiting
the residence of Mr. K — — ‘s son, who with his family inhabits a
separate dwelling, but near enough to his father’s for mutual defence, and
after partaking of a most substantial midday meal, Mr. K —
— accompanied us in his phaeton to the high road, to meet the coach.
This very un-punctual vehicle kept him and us waiting a full hour under
a scorching sun; yet nothing could persuade him to leave us until he had
seen us fairly off, because, as he said, some accident might have
happened to the coach. We had no return to make him for this hospitable
attention; he was evidently getting tired and bored, as well he might; our
small-talk was exhausted, when, casting my eyes upon the panel of his
carriage, they fell on the well-known insignia of the Isle of Man, — three
armed human legs arranged starwise. “Well, what of that?” mentally
inquires the reader. Why, I had been forewarned that our worthy host
was an inveterate punster, — of which, indeed, we had received ample
proof before the first five minutes of our acquaintance; and further, that
these very armorial bearings — legs for arms — afforded him a staple
and favourite joke, to which he gave utterance whenever a decent
occasion offered. I therefore made some remark regarding the tripod
crest, mentioning that of the few spots on the globe that I had visited the
Isle of Man was one, and that I had passed a pleasant week or two at the
beautiful Castle Mona Hotel, near Douglas, — once the residence of the
lords of Athol. The old man’s fatigued and faded eye brightened in a
moment; he sprung upon and cracked his household joke, as a housemaid
might crack a flea, and all was sunshine again! I laughed, my friend
laughed, our host laughed, and his friend laughed; and the tardy coach
driving up, we parted in high good humour, and, as I hope, with mutual
good opinion and good will.

There was a gentleman in a cabbage-tree hat and an advanced stage of
inebriety occupying my engaged seat on the box; but he was soon stowed
somewhere among the luggage after making a faint and inarticulate
request to be allowed to act bodkin between the coachman and myself.
“Crack went the whip, round went the wheels:” the coach was two hours
late, and we had sixty miles before us. The driver for this half of the
journey was quite a young man, intelligent and respectable. He had
travelled. He had been to California; had lost nothing by going thither,
and had gained nothing but experience. He preferred Van Diemen’s to
any other land, especially on account of its climate — was married and
lived at Launceston. The vehicle was quite as overloaded as it had been
yesterday. I recommended that the fare should be raised, as the demand
for travelling accommodation was evidently greater than the supply on
this road, and every one in Van Diemen’s Land seemed to have plenty of
money. Yet the rage for cheap things — which is the ruin of all
is as strong here as it is in England. “Raise the fare, Sir?” said the poor
coachman; “why the public will very soon expect us to pay them for
travelling with us!”

The guard, as before, lived a promiscuous sort of life on the exterior of
the coach — like a restless bird on a tree, now sitting, now hanging, now
thrown loosely across some part or parcel belonging to the vehicle.

Just behind me, and next to my friend — whose well-proportioned
soul-case is not of very compressible materials — sat an entire family
occupying the place of one outsider — a kind of human pyramid,
differing, however, from that form inasmuch as the base was not the
widest part. A slight young man composed the lower layer; the second
was a fine, rosy-faced, bulbous young woman sitting on his knees; and
the apex was a bouncing babe of two years old seated upon hers.
Common humanity forbade such a compilation for a twelve hours’
journey on a summer’s-day; — mine made me head-nurse for the nonce,
and accordingly I carried the child for several stages.

A few miles beyond Mona Vale, we crossed the Macquarie River by a
fine stone bridge of fourteen or fifteen arches, and passed through the
rather pretty town of Ross. Our course thence traversed a level and
apparently fruitful tract, watered, on our left, by the above-named river,
and by the South Esk on our right — grand ranges of mountains rising
beyond them, Ben Lomond on the one hand, the Western Tiers on the

Sometimes almost brought to a walk by the new-laid macadam, the
deep sand, or the now dry mud of the alluvial flats, at others racing over
miles of inimitably smooth road, we drove through Campbeltown and
Cleveland, — small straggling townships. We crossed the South Esk by a
solid stone bridge, and found ourselves in a richly cultured district with
fruitful farms almost adjoining each other and betokening the
neighbourhood of a considerable market for agricultural produce. The
grain crops here were very luxuriant — so much so as to ensure, I should
suppose, 500 per cent. profit to the fortunate farmers in a season (like the
present) of general drought and failure throughout Australia.

At about seventeen miles from Launceston, we reached the by-road to
the estate of a gentleman who had obligingly invited us for a night; but a
report that the steamer would positively sail the next morning compelled
us, very reluctantly, to break our engagement. Mr. W — — , with whom
we were not personally acquainted, was waiting for us at his gate. The
coachman pulled up. My friend the Doctor was wrapped in a martial
cloak, with a scarlet lining. Mr. W — — “presumed he was the Colonel,”
and darted distrustful glances at the white-hatted, pea-coated tenant of
the box-seat with the baby on his lap, who saluted him politely. The poor
little brat was asleep; I had forgotten it altogether; it had become a sort of
a second nature to me. We had imparted our regrets to our intended host,
made our adieu, and the coach had driven onwards some miles before I
recollected, with a loud laugh, and suddenly placed in connexion the
puzzled look of Mr. W — — , with the Doctor who looked like a colonel
and Colonel who looked like something between a doctor and a dry nurse,
the poor slumbering innocent, and the somewhat relieved
expression of countenance exhibited by that hospitable gentleman when
he found that the whole of this establishment, nurseling included,
together with a big soldier servant and a good amount of baggage, were
not to be transferred from the coach to his light dog-cart, and from the
dog-cart to his family circle! We on our side regretted the loss of our
visit to this much respected colonist; the more, because we had heard at
Hobart Town that there was no place in the country that would have
given us a better idea of the establishment of a substantial gentleman
settler; none that could have shown us at a glance a better part of the
colony, or a property more successfully adapted to farming and breeding.
“Get on, Tom,” said the guard (he wore a red coat) to the
“you must get on a bit,” said he, in a manner that reminded me of old
stage times; but it was all in vain. The poor little horses, some of them
hardly fourteen hands high, were no match for the crowded coach
— they were fairly done up. Night had set in two hours before we
reached Launceston, and so we had not only to take for granted the
beauty of the country around that town, but the additional danger of
darkness was added to a steeply-descending and twisting road, a top heavy
coach, wretchedly weak wheel-horses, and nothing but a “lively
faith” to supply the mundane safeguards of drag-chain, breeching,
bearing-reins, and blinkers, of which there was not a semblance in this
ill-conditioned turn-out.

On the steepest pitch of the hill, the coach at last succeeded in running
over the horses, and had not the young driver behaved with coolness and
skill, we must have rolled bodily into the valley of the Esk. The
forewheels were within a few inches of the coping of the road; I felt as if
I were “going to Alibama, (or elsewhere,) with my babby on my knee,”
when he contrived to turn the pole aside so as to enable him to pull up
the horses and to stop the carriage. In consequence of this fortunate
escape from extreme peril, at 10 P.M. I had the satisfaction of delivering
over my infantine charge safe and sound asleep at the entrance of the
Cornwall Hotel, Launceston, where my travelling companion and myself
had engaged rooms.

The town of Launceston, ranking next in importance to Hobart Town,
is seated on the confluence of the rivers North and South Esk, where
their mingled tribute forms the Tamar. The two former streams are not
navigable. The latter affords passage for vessels under 400 tons from its
mouth, in Bass’s Straits, up to the wharfs of the town, a distance of about
forty miles. Its course, however, is tortuous and baffling, and would be
unsafe but for a line of buoys. Although every way inferior as a harbour
to Hobart Town, and with hardly a fourth of its population, the port of
Launceston, being more favourably situated for commerce with the
neighbouring colonies, and having an infinitely larger share of good
arable land near at hand, discharges a greater amount of exports than the
other. In 1848 the value of the exports from the port of Hobart Town was
55,000l., that of Launceston 69,000l.

I have heard the population of Launceston variously computed at 4,000
and 7,000 souls; and by striking a balance between the two numbers, the
truth would most probably be arrived at. There is little to admire in the
town itself, although doubtless it is full of charms in the eyes of its
inhabitants. The climate of this part of the island has the character of
being delightful. It shows itself in the healthy appearance of the people,
especially in the young. I saw in this town and its vicinity a very good
average of pretty girls, with fine teeth and high colour. Further on in life
the heat and the glare of the sun injures the natural beauty of the English
complexion, bringing it pretty nearly to the Anglo-American level. The
temperature is sometimes very variable, ranging over thirty degrees
between morning and evening.

Having occasion to buy some opossum rugs for my projected voyage
Home round the Horn, and the fur of this animal being thicker and darker
here than in New South Wales, I was referred to one “Johnny All-sorts,”
— a personage as well known as the parish pump. This useful individual
I found a great admirer of the climate. He cited an instance of a friend of
his who settled originally at Port Phillip, but, “enjoying” bad health
there, he removed to Launceston. “He was as thin as a plank, or as you
are, Sir, when he came, but in a few months he became as lusty as
myself.” Johnny was a puncheon personified, and any one less spherical,
it was evident, was, according to his views in danger of atrophy. His
store was a picture of the Omnium Gatherum such as is seen in all newly
settled places before the trades assume sufficient importance to subdivide
themselves. A bet, as I was told, had been offered and taken, that no one
article could be named by the taker which would not be found in Johnny
All-sorts’ repertorium. “A pulpit,” was rather unfairly named; but a
pulpit, somewhat soiled and neglected by disuse, but an undoubted pulpit
was immediately forthcoming. All it wanted was a strenuous divine to
knock the dust out of it.

The streets of Launceston are wide and simply laid out, as those of all
new towns are or ought to be, and have no excuse for not being. They are
as dusty as those of Hobart Town and Sydney. There is a pleasant gleam
of verdure through the gates of the Botanic Garden, — a generic name in
these colonies for any plot of ground laid out for public promenading,
— however little devoted to science.

The Military Barracks — (in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s
Land the adjective is necessary to distinguish the cantonments from the
convict barracks) — are pleasantly situated — a thing that can seldom be
said of a barrack, (except in Ireland,) on the junction of the Esk with the
Tamar, just where the former debouches from a romantic glen.
Launceston has always been a favourite quarter with the officers of
H.M.’s regiments, chiefly on account of an agreeable provincial society
in the vicinity, more given, perhaps, to the country-house hospitality of
the old country than is the case in any other of our Australian
dependencies. The town society of Launceston is civic, in the severest
sense of the term. The retail grocer and draper apologises on meeting a
newly arrived officer for not having yet paid his respects to him; and the
latter, if lately arrived from England, does not at first comprehend that
this is a proffer of acquaintance, and not merely an application for the
custom of the new comer. It is not to be denied that, to some military
gentlemen, the visiting-card of their tailor might be more welcome than
his “small account,” but no apology surely is necessary for delay in
tendering one or the other!

The tradespeople of Launceston spoke more cheerily of “the times”
than those engaged in agricultural or grazing pursuits. Like the
Sydneyites, the settlers in Van Diemen’s Land apparently mistook
temporary and extraordinary prosperity for certain and permanent wealth.
While the younger colonies of South Australia and Port Phillip were
stocking their earliest pastures — pastures boundless in space — from
the Van Diemen’s Land flocks and herds, the Tasmanian farmers made
large fortunes by the sale of their mere surplus — the sheep and oxen for
which there was no available feeding room in the island: but the tables
were soon turned; for so rapidly did the stock increase in the more
northern colonies, that the superabundance changed hands, and the
interchange of live stock between the ports of Launceston and
Melbourne, the capital of Port Phillip, has, of late years, been greatly in
favour of the latter.

 January 15th, Launceston. — The sailing of the Shamrock was
deferred on account of blowy weather; and perhaps because the captain’s
wife and family lived at Launceston, and the captain himself was
uxorious. What was to be done for a whole day at Launceston? There
was no “man to be hanged” as it happened. My Lord Tom Noddy
— even Tiger Tim himself — would have been puzzled. Fortunately,
however, we fell in with Mr. — — ,the resident agent of the Van
Diemen’s Land Agricultural Company, who was to be our fellow
passenger as far as Circular Head, the local head-quarters of that
Association, and who recommended and offered to accompany us in a
trip to Longford races, as affording a good opportunity of seeing one of
the finest agricultural districts of the colony, and a glimpse of Tasmanian
rural life. An open carriage with a smart pair of horses was quickly
procured; and we enjoyed a truly delightful and England-like drive of
fourteen or fifteen miles through a smiling champaign country such as I
have nowhere else seen in Australasia. The forests or bush of Van
Diemen’s Land resemble pretty closely those of New South Wales, the
gum-tree being hardly less universal in its reign; but the blue gum, the
pride of the Tasmanian Sylva, does not flourish in the northern half of
the island.

The face of the country through which we passed is agreeably
undulating, and the cleared lands, unlike those of every other new
colony, are quite unblemished by stumps — one of the good effects of
convict-labour. This preparation of the soil is, however, costly to
Government, owing to the price of the prisoners’ maintenance and
custody, and their miserable sloth as operatives.

It was a cold blowy day, alternate sunshine and gloom. Ben Lomond
wore a neutral-tinted cap of clouds, from which he threw us an
occasional shower dyed in the rainbow. Lighter vapours hung in mid air,
and were drifted across the landscape, flinging down their fugitive
shadows upon upland and plain and wide tracts of golden grain crops
ready for the sickle. Unlike Australia, the enclosures were here as often
marked by hedges as by rail-fences, and here and there a single large
tree, or a group of them, had been spared to adorn a field. The South Esk,
a deep and slow stream, which we crossed by a ferry-boat, meanders
along and fertilizes this favoured district. The tall hedges of gorse in full
bloom looked and smelt like Home. We met a flock of sheep driven by a
shepherd with a real pastoral crook — the crozier of his diocesan
authority, and two tailless dogs that dodged through gaps in the fences,
or scrambled at full speed over the backs of the close-serried flock in
order to lead them in the way they should go. Now and then we overtook
good substantial spring-carts filled with burly yeomen, their sonsy
helpmates and no end of rosy children — the hind-part of the vehicle
looking like a basket of peonies in full bloom, while beneath it trotted a
trusty mastiff. In our turn we were passed by a smarter dog-cart or two
driven by young farmers, or by fast-trotting hacks bestridden by rustic
beaux in tops and cords, straw hats and hunting-whips. A traveller
addicted to absence of mind, and imaginary absence of body, might well
have fancied himself in Derbyshire.

The Longford race-course lies near the village of that name, a brickbuilt
village — brick from the church-tower to the pigsty. The clergyman’s house
— fortunately veiled round with shrubbery — looks out upon the hippodrome.
It was a regular rustic meeting. A wooden platform for the judge, with a small
pen for the ceremony of weighing, half a dozen booths decorated with motley
bunting, half a dozen hack carriages, as many dog-carts, about fifty horsemen,
and twice as many pedestrians, constituted the company of this Tasmanian Doncaster.
The running was absurdly bad, but there were some very nice horses on the
course, and a few of a good old-fashioned stamp — such as is now not
common anywhere, and is unknown in New South Wales.

Among the running horses was a mare worth going some distance to
see — “The Farmer’s Daughter,” — a splendid creature for size, shape,
colour, and breeding — sixteen hands, jet black, without a speck, and of
admirable symmetry. As for performance, she would make a greater
sensation in Rotten Row, with a well-dressed six-foot cavalier on her
back, than at Epsom or Ascot; for although there was nothing at
Longford-races to come near her, she has met with more than her match
on the turf of this island.

The Van Diemonians, as they unpleasingly call themselves or permit
themselves to be called, are justly proud of their horse-flesh. They have
opened a market with India, which is likely to prove beneficial to buyer
and seller.

Among a series of equine anecdotes related to me by the stage coachman
on our late journey — anecdotes which, emanating ex cathedrâ (from the box),
I invariably receive with respectful faith — there was one relating to a horse
of the team running into Launceston, which I will repeat as testifying to
the staunchness of the Tasmanian breed. “Do you see that little ‘oss, Sir?
the off leader, Sir?” said my informant; “that little ‘oss, Sir, is the best bit
of stuff I ever sat behind. That little ‘oss ain’t to be beaten by anything that
stands on four legs. You can’t go too fast or too far for that little ‘oss.
He’s been on this road these eight years — off and on. I’ll tell you a curious story
about that little ‘oss, Sir.” The story told how “the gent that owned him then” drove
him one afternoon in his gig from Launceston to a friend’s house seventeen miles
distant, and after dinner back again to the town. That same night he was
stolen from the stable by a notorious bush-ranger — one who had need
of speed and knew the powers of this horse, — and before twelve o’clock
the next day he was sold by auction — “that little ‘oss was” — at Hobart
Town by his borrower, looking “as fresh as a new pin,” having carried
this Tasmanian Dick Turpin one hundred and twenty-one miles in the

January 16th. — The waiter of the hotel announced to us this morning
that Launceston was in a state of unusual excitement, on account of a
grand meeting and grand breakfast to be holden and given in honour of
the Delegates of the Tasmanian Anti-Transportation Society, and further
that the Cornwall Hotel was to be the scene of this demonstration. My
friend and myself, although too obtuse to discover any token of popular
ebullition in the dull little town, were thankful to have got timely
warning that the aforesaid delegates were actually “under orders” to
proceed to Melbourne in the Shamrock, for the purpose of conferring
with their brother Antis of Port Phillip, and thence to Sydney to gather
recruits for the League; and further, that they were to march in
procession, bands playing and colours flying, after breakfast, from the
Inn to the wharf. Forewarned we were forearmed. There was no time to
lose; so packing up our baggage and paying our bill we hastened on
board the steamer in the tamest and most undemonstrative manner;
— for to have been involved in a party procession in Van Diemen’s
Land — however involuntary the enrolment — would have sounded ill at
the Horse Guards, we thought, and would not have redounded much to
our credit even in New South Wales. Ten minutes later the Delegates
approached, escorted by a considerable crowd — the band playing “Love
Not,” and other equally appropriate airs. Several sets of cheers were
proposed by a gentleman on the paddle-box, and responded to by the
multitude; and I am pleased and bound to state that “The Queen” was
received with every testimony of loyalty and respect.

On the absorbing question of transportation there seemed to exist in
Van Diemen’s Land almost as great diversity of opinion as in New South
Wales. The Antis have naturally the best of the argument, or, at least,
they employ more strenuous language than their opponents. The
advantage of verbal fulmination lies on their side; for it is always easier
to attack than to defend a system. For some weeks after I escaped from
the steamer, my ears rang with the stale set phrases — “social
contamination;” “the outpourings of British crime;” “imported
corruption;” “the beautiful land of our adoption made a moral cesspool!”
“moral pollution!” “moral scabies!!” “moral leprosy!!!” &c.
More than once in Van Diemen’s Land I heard very violent language
used with respect to the continuance of transportation; and, in one
instance especially, a discontented or bilious gentleman, whose station
and education might have taught him better taste, worked himself up to
such a state of rabid denunciation of Government measures, colonial and
imperial, in which he was joined and assisted by a beneficed clergyman
of the Church of England, that I felt my position as a guest of the house,
and as an imperial officer, extremely embarrassing — so much so, that I
was very glad to quit the shelter of so republican a roof. In this
discussion the most absurd charges were brought against the Home and
Colonial Government. I give one instance. To prove that expenses that
ought to have been defrayed out of imperial funds had been unfairly
charged against the colony, we were told that, a short time before, a
convict, who was dying in the hospital, had been emancipated a day or
two before his death in order that he might die a free man, and thus the
cost of his burial might fall on the Colonial purse!” Here was a financial
dodge with a vengeance! The simple truth was, that the term of the poor
moribund’s sentence expired before himself, and thus he and his friends
(if he chanced to possess any) had the satisfaction of feeling that he died
a free man. One fiery declaimer would have it that the time was drawing
near when they would have to fight for their independence; or, at any
rate, the Queen would have to send a large force to keep them in
subjection; and the colony would have the benefit of a large military
expenditure, instead of the present shamefully reduced garrisons. I
assured this patriot that England would not strike a blow, except against
a foreign foe, for the retention of Van Diemen’s Land; and that the force
at present in the colony could keep them in perfect order, if necessary.

I observed in this island, as elsewhere, a strange inconsistency between
public protestation and private procedure on the convict question. This
was easily explained; — it was popular to denounce convictism,
profitable to employ convict labour! I heard of a president of an
anti-transportation meeting discussing the question in the abstract, and
descanting with tears in his eyes upon the anxious feelings of a husband
and a father, when called by duty or business to leave his family in the
hands of a convict neighbourhood. He was drily questioned how it
happened that, possessed of such opinions, he had, on this occasion, left
his wife and children in the power of thirty-six prisoners in his own
employment! This insinuation was, of course, repelled with indignation,
and refuted on the spot. Not a bit of it. The virtuous denouncer of
convictism denied that he employed thirty-six convicts, — he only kept

But Shamrock is under weigh, cramfull of passengers, some of them
bound to Sydney like myself, others to Circular Head, several to
Melbourne, and a few only on a jaunt to George Town — the Brighton of
North Tasmania. I counted thirteen vessels, from 150 to 400 tons,
alongside the wharf at Launceston. The largest ship was loading for
California. After forty miles of serpentining down the picturesque Tamar
against a rough wind, our steamer dropped anchor in the little cove off
George Town, where we remained, weather-bound and wretched, the
whole of the next day. My friend and myself sent ashore, and secured, as
we thought, beds for the night; but we were dispossessed by the villanous
Boniface in favour of a party of more permanent customers, — a family
of Launceston shopkeepers, coming to astonish their skins by a week’s

George Town is a miserable spot, looking like the ghost of a departed
marine bagnio, and seated on a dreary flat scarcely above the level of the
sea. About a dozen and a half of houses, public and private, and a small
church surround a rushy common, such as one sees in the fenny counties
of England. In America or Asia it would be the head-quarters of ague;
yet it is, in fact, particularly healthy.

George Town owed its sudden rise to the necessity existing for a port
of shipment for live stock from this island to Port Phillip, when the latter
great squatting settlement was created by the former. It derived
importance also from being a military and convict station. Both these
sources of importance have now failed the poor little place. The ruins of
the respective barracks are all that remain of the Government-men and
their guards. The township is strewed with the melancholy proofs of
money, public and private, fruitlessly expended.

From a somewhat restless and dissipated-looking fellow-passenger,
who with bee-like diligence seemed to sip to the dregs the sweets of
every place and pleasure that fell in his way, (for I had subsequent leisure
to mark his mode of life,) and who remained ashore until a late hour at
night and came on board sleepy and unsober, I elicited the fact that
quoits, skittles, and a bagatelle-board were all that was to be had in the
way of “life” at George Town. This gentleman would have liked it better
in an earlier stage of its existence, for, in the old days of mismanaged
convictism, George Town, it is written, was a perfect hell upon earth.
Rum, riot, and misrule, — a state of communism among the male and
female prisoners, — and peculation, and concubinage with the convict
women among the official people, — such was “life” in George Town in
its palmy days!

 January 18th. — Got under weigh from George Town, and proceeded
along the northern coast of Van Diemen’s Land towards Circular
Head — distant 70 miles. But ere the vessel was permitted to take her
final departure, a ceremony was gone through which smacked somewhat
of the hateful passport system of continental Europe, and reminded one
that the mouth of the Tamar is in fact one of the gates of a huge prison. A
functionary came on board, and, in a manner I must say by no means
offensive, possessed himself of every passenger’s history, so far at least
as to make it impossible, or next to impossible for a convict to evacuate
the island as a passenger or one of the crew. Yet, on a late occasion the
vigilance of this officer was at fault. A Port Phillip paper thus states the
instance: —

“A tolerably good sized case, about four feet six in height by two feet
in width, was shipped at Launceston; in the Shamrock, for this port (Port
Phillip), as a case of stuffed birds; and with a view to no damage
occurring to the precious package, it was not put on board until the vessel
was on the point of sailing, and was then deposited in the hold allotted to
steerage passengers. No more was thought of the case until the arrival of
the vessel at the port, or indeed for some time after, when it was
discovered that a principal portion of the lid, or rather, according to the
position in which the case had stood during the voyage, one side had
been taken off, and there lay sundry appurtenances of a lady’s wardrobe,
a comb, a pair of boots, a gin bottle nearly empty, the remnants of a few
biscuits and some cold beef.” Various arrangements had been made to
enable the tenant to stow as close as possible, and there was a hole for
ventilation under the card on which the address was written.

Like the stage-coaches of Tasmania the steamer, a nice vessel of
perhaps 300 tons, and commanded by a deservedly popular man, was
most uncomfortably over-crowded. We had about twenty-five cabin
passengers, and a very motley assemblage we formed. There were civil
and military and clerical, medical and legal and mechanical gentlemen,
Jews and Gentiles, merchants and squatters. As for the “civil condition”
(as the Census papers call it) of the guests at the cuddy-table, there was
really every gradation of the bond and the free, short of prisoners under
actual restraint. One or two of them had “lag” so indelibly written on
their hardened lineaments, that, opulent as they might now be, it seemed
monstrous that they should be permitted to jostle gentlemen of character
on equal terms.

I recollect a few years ago, when travelling in the United States,
entering one of the large railway omni-buses, constructed with a passage
up the middle, and on either side a series of seats formed to hold two
persons each. There were thirty or forty passengers, and when we were
all seated there remained one vacant place only, yet several persons still
continued standing. Not giving travellers of any nation, and especially
Yankee travellers, credit for much ceremonious politeness and self sacrifice,
I was induced to examine the solitary. A glance satisfied me
that the fact of his skin being a shade darker than that of the others was
the cause of his ostracism. In order to avoid the neighbourhood of the
vulgar, inquisitive, “expecting,” and expectorating white savage, who
shared my bench, I crossed over and took the seat next to the well dressed,
well-educated, and highly intelligent half-caste gentleman;
— and, strange to say, there was a general rush for my vacated seat by
those who would have thought it contamination to have travelled in
contact with a coloured man. With better reason I found myself shrinking
from a commenced acquaintance with a fellow-passenger in the
Shamrock, when I heard that he had but lately got his freedom from the
consequences of a crime which blasts a man’s character for ever; and
had, since his manumission, committed an act of the grossest depravity
and breach of faith. Yet this person, being clever in his profession, is
never in want of employment. Every trip of the steamer imports a large
detachment of the “freed” and “filtered” from Van Diemen’s Land to
New South Wales — a very sore subject with the anti-transportationist
party at Sydney. There were two or three passengers named to me as the
offspring of convicts, estimable people, on whom to visit the expiated
sins of their parents — expiated as far as human laws were concerned
— would have been cruel injustice. A remarkably handsome and ladylike
person was pointed out to me as a daughter of “Margaret Catchpole,” the
well-known heroine of Mr. Cobbold’s tale. There were some among the
free who merited the adjunct of easy also — gentlemen of the bush, of
the cabbage-tree hat and corduroys, of the beard, the belt, and the black
pipe, with an exiguity of luggage amounting to the extremity of light
marching order.

While I am writing these notes, a tall, picturesque-looking sprig of the
squattocracy has just pitched his “swag” — a leathern valise — through
the open skylight on to the cuddy table, to the astonishment of my inkstand
— and of myself had I been capable of astonishment — a feeling
luckily almost rubbed off by fair wear and tear. Nor did this hardy
bushman treat his person more tenderly than his wallet. At night, having
no cabin, he threw himself down on the oil-cloth table-cover, where,
swathed in a blanket, he looked like a huge sturgeon on a fishmonger’s
slab. Six or eight others were no better accommodated. The table was
strewed with mysterious sleeping forms, and one wondered what manner
of creatures would emerge with day-light from their several cocoons.
Nowhere have I seen individuals of the wealthier classes travel so
untrammeled with baggage as in these colonies. Sir Charles Napier
himself would be charmed and satisfied with their simplicity of kitt. But
no — on recollection I have seen it outdone in another land. On board
the Great Western steamer, bound from New York to Bristol, I shared a
cabin with three other men. When I reviewed my ton-and-a-quarter of
personals I could not but envy the independence of one of these
gentlemen whose tiny portmanteau contained two shirt-fronts, a pair of
boots, and a bowie-knife.

Among the passengers in the Shamrock my notice was particularly
attracted to a tall, stout, German-like man, about fifty years of age, with
huge reddish whiskers, attired in a dirty drab Chesterfield, without
waistcoat, gloves, or other expletives of dress, and who stood generally
with hands in pockets smoking his cigar and leaning against the funnel.
When he did draw forth a great pair of freckled fists it was either to light
another cigar or to refer to a note-book. It was a note-book worth
referring to! When not thus employed he was frequently sleeping, or
apparently sleeping, on a bench before his cabin-door. This person was
Mr. S. T. C — — , well known as the great land-owner and landpurchaser.
Last year he purchased from Government 28,000l. worth of
land in the Port Phillip district, which, at the minimum price of Crownlands,
would give the like number of acres; and within his cabin-door,
whereat he keeps a sort of mastiff watch, although not an obvious one,
lies a small portmanteau in which, as he told me himself, he has at this
moment 20,000l. (5,000l. in gold,) which he is carrying to Melbourne for
the purchase of another block or special survey of Crown-land. In Van
Diemen’s Land he has already purchased 50,000 acres, part from the
Crown, part from private persons — a good deal of it cleared, fenced,
and with more than one valuable homestead. This season, he informed
me, he had sheared in New South Wales 90,000, and in Van Diemen’s
Land 40,000 sheep. He had sent to England this year 1,500 bales of
wool, which at 20l. a bale, gives 30,000l. He has no taste for the luxuries;
cares little even for the comforts of life, as far as himself is concerned.
He is bestowing on his children a liberal education, his sons studying
with a clergyman in England. They will soon be able to share his
labours — the labour of amassing money and property. This amount of
wealth, the end of which is not easy to foresee, sprung from a small
beginning. When others, in the bad times, were ruined, he bought at his
own price the live stock and land that they were compelled to sell. When
prices rose he sold part, and stocked the plains of Port Phillip with the
rest. Like the Gullys and Hudsons of the old country, he seems to possess
an innate power of quick calculation which in matters of business is
worth all the acquired powers in the world. Such men strike while the
iron is hot; others ponder and waver until it cools.

Mr. C — — was originally a butcher in Sydney. The nest-egg of his
now immense possessions was probably — next to nothing. With an old
white castor jammed down upon his brows, there is no indication of
superior acuteness in the expression of his rough, pockmarked
countenance and ordinary features; but on the outlines of his fine bald
head it is impossible not to read the development of a quick and powerful
mind. Yet it is not only his long head that particularly qualifies him for
the despatch of business and the management of his multifarious
concerns. His physical power and formidable person — for he must be
six feet high, and about fifteen stone (“sinking the offal,” to use a phrase
of his former craft!) — are valuable allies (as he indeed admitted) in the
control of the unruly class of men he employs in parts of the country
where the law has little or no force.

In the shearing season he is compelled to collect, at his head stations,
about fifty or sixty roving, roaring, rowdy blades — wild hands when
idle, but good at a “clip.” On these occasions he takes care to be present
himself, and does not forget to bring with him a cask of rum, (the teetotal
Anti-transportation delegates shuddered!) which, when the business is
finished, he abandons to the discretion of the workmen, instead of
troubling himself with the daily doling of it out.

If Mr. Clark is to make 30 or 40,000l. a-year by his wool, and is
resolved to turn it, or half of it, into land, he must shortly become the
proprietor of a principality which will cause the Arch-Dukes and Princes
of central Europe, and the Rajahs and Nawaubs of central India to sink
by comparison into insignificant squireens. Should his flocks continue to
increase in the ordinary yearly ratio, he will soon possess as many
woolly subjects as the kings of Congo, Loango, and Mandingo put

In case the Government decline to part with more territory to this
gentleman — and I am aware the policy of so doing has been
questioned — he will find private proprietors of land amenable to his
gold. Indeed I have before me a paper, showing that in the year 1846, at
the sale by auction of a fine private property in Van Diemen’s Land, he
bought 23,000 acres for less than 14,000l., (a large portion of it fenced
and improved,) — 9,000l. below the Government minimum price for
wild land. His enormous squatting establishments moreover will give
him the right of preemption over considerable tracts. For myself, I
consider Mr. C — — a real benefactor, a veritable patriot to his adopted
country; for every ten or twelve pounds that he expends on Crown Land
will bring, or ought to bring, to Australia a free emigrant; and population
is the highest boon that can be conferred upon a young colony. At the
risk of undue accumulation of property, and the consequent undue
influence resident in one individual, let the Government take his guineas
and give their waste land, in full reliance on human nature and past
experience, and in the certainty that what one generation amasses the
next will dissipate, or at least divide.

In the spirit of blamable indifference generally shown by the
Australians towards the Industrial Exhibition of 1851, — (that great
tournament of the arts,) — Mr. C — — either had sent Home or had
forgotten to send Home (he scarcely knew which!) a fleece weighing 27
lbs., the growth of as many months from one sheep — the staple of
which was 21 inches long. Mr. C — — stated openly that he employs
prisoners whenever he can get them in preference to freemen, especially
raw immigrants. (The delegates shuddered again. It was “as good as a
play” to watch the effects of such statements upon the countenances of
these worthy men!) Several other large employers of labour sided with
him on this point. One would have supposed that the delegates — one of
whom was a clergyman strong in head and firm of purpose, the other a
gentleman of considerable mental acquirements and natural
would, on this question, not only have had the best of the argument, but
all the argument to themselves. There are some people, however, that it
is vain to pelt with ethics and moralities, or such small shot; — as well
shoot boiled peas at one of Mr. Cumming’s rhinoceroses! They are
invulnerable except to arithmetical results, — the logic of profit and loss.

Singularly enough, we had on board one considerable hirer of
labourers, who, apparently without any moral objection to convict
labour, employed exclusively free labour, and free labour exclusively on
principles of economy, namely, our new friend, the Commissioner of the
Van Diemen’s Land Company; a company — owing to no fault of their
own — that cannot afford to be sentimental in the conduct of their
affairs. Mr. — — prefers paying 20l. a-year wages to the emigrant rather
than 9l. for the pass-holder; because he calculates that it will take two or
three years to teach a Manchester weaver, a Nottingham spinner, or a
London pickpocket the duties of a farming man …. Once more a truce to
convictism! It is a subject that so constantly collars the attention in these
colonies as to prove a clog to the onward progress of a narrative, and one
almost impossible to handle except in the spirit of a furious partizan.

Mr. C — — is one of those characters that are seldom met with except
in young and wild countries, and not often there. It is in the crash of
social and financial chaos that such men elbow their way to the front
rank — the greater the general confusion and dismay the more certain
their success. They are the rari nantes, who, with the eyes firmly fixed
on one object, after manifold buffettings, come safe to land. In England
there are instances of individuals — especially among the manufacturing
classes — who, in the course of one lifetime, have raised themselves and
their families from moderate means to enormous wealth. But in Australia
all the stages between adventurous beggary and inordinate possessions
have, in some cases, been traversed in a quarter of man’s usual term of

At three P.M., having steamed ten hours, we reached Circular Head,
the chief station, as I have said, of the Van Diemen’s Land Agricultural
Company, and we cast anchor in a small cove sheltered by the natural
feature suggestive of the name, (a huge basaltic bluff, nearly 500 feet
high,) and united to the main by a low and narrow isthmus. As we drew
near, it looked like an active volcano; for the summit was enveloped in
blaze and smoke, the grass having been fired in order to produce a fresh

About a mile inland, on a somewhat exposed plateau of good land,
appears the farm of Stanley, with the house and gardens of the agent,
embowered in fine timber. Nearer the harbour is the village of the same
name, containing perhaps a dozen houses, a greatly overgrown and
disproportionate tavern, and a remarkably diminitive church. The
Company possess 20,000 acres at head-quarters — their entire landed
property in the island amounting to 350,000 acres. Emu Bay, one of their
settlements, the Commissioner assured me, is a perfect little paradise,
— “the climate all the year round like that of a greenhouse with the
windows open.”

The captain of the Shamrock allowing us two hours, my friend and
myself accompanied Mr. — — to the Resident’s house, a spacious
building with most delightful gardens. It is surrounded by a well-fenced
deer park, where an immense herd of fallow-deer, the first I have met
with in Australia, are turned out. It was a curious sight to see the
beautiful denizens of our English parks, interspersed with a few Durham
bulls of high breed, feeding under the shade of the Banksia and the
Eucalyptus, up to their bellies in English grasses, while a group of tall
Emus — birds that are always fond of the company of large
quadrupeds — stalked amicably amongst them.

From the roof of an outhouse, for we had no time to go further, we got
a glimpse of the surrounding farm, divided into regular enclosures, neatly
fenced with the English quickset, laid down in English grasses and
clovers, among which no stumps were permitted to appear, and traversed
by English-looking lanes sheltered with hawthorn hedges. On the distant
mainland we descried the clearings of some of the Company’s tenants.

There are several hundred renters of land and labourers, all free men,
located in the territories of this Association. Their title appeared to me to
be something of a misnomer, for I doubt if there be such a thing as a
plough on their wide-spread domain. They are graziers rather than
agriculturists. I fear that the laudable and promising experiment of
peopling and cultivating this fine tract of country does not, at present,
prove remunerative.

We were received at the Commissioner’s residence by this gentleman’s
very charming wife, who, with a numerous family, conspires to render
agreeable a mode of life otherwise singularly solitary and sequestered;
for the Company’s territory on the north-west corner of the island is cut
off by sixty or seventy miles of unreclaimed forest and mountain from
any other inhabited region. Bass’s Straits, separating Van Diemen’s Land
from New Holland, are, at this point, about 140 miles across.” etc etc

Extracts from:
Our Antipodes or, Residence and Rambles in the Australasian Colonies, with a Glimpse of the Goldfields
Mundy, Godfrey Charles (1804-1860)
London, Richard Bentley 1852

Source Text:
Prepared from the print edition published by Richard Bentley London 1852
3 Volumes: 410pp., 405pp., 431pp.

A digital text sponsored by Australian Literature Gateway
University of Sydney Library, Sydney 2003
Copyright © University of Sydney Library. The texts and images are not to be used for
commercial purposes without permission

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