Part 3 out of 3
Once more at the altar of St. Peter's stood the bridal party, and again
at the appointed hour Stephens was far gone on his second expedition to
the diggings, after having increased (if that was possible) his
previous villainy, by borrowing a large portion of the money before
mentioned from his intended brother-in-law. It was pretty evident that
the prospect of doing this had influenced him in his apparently
honourable desire to atone to the poor girl, who, completely prostrated
by this second blow, was laid on the bed of sickness.
For some weeks she continued thus and her own sufferings were increased
by he sight of her brother's fury, as, on her partial recovery, he
quitted her in search of her seducer.
During his absence Mary became a mother, and the little one that
nestled in her bosom, made her half forgetful of her sorrows, and at
times ready to embrace the delusive hope that some slight happiness in
life was in store for her. But her bitter cup was not yet drained. Day
by day, hour by hour, her little one pined away, until one
dreary night she held within her arms only its tiny corpse.
Not one sound of grief--not an outward sign to show how deeply the heart
was touched--escaped her. The busy neighbours left her for awhile, glad
though amazed at her wondrous calmness; when they returned to finish
their preparations for committing the child to its last resting-place,
the mother and her infant had disappeared.
Carrying the lifeless burden closely pressed against her bosom, as
though the pelting rain and chilling air could harm it now, Mary
rapidly left the town where she had experienced so much misery,
on--on--towards Geelong, the route her seducer and his pursuer had
taken--on--across Iett's Flat, until at length, weak and exhausted, she
sank down on the barren plains beyond.
Next morning the early dawn found her still plodding her weary way--her
only refreshment being a dry crust and some water obtained at an
halting-house on the road; and many a passer-by, attracted by the
wildness of her eyes, her eager manner, and disordered dress, cast
after her a curious wondering look. But she heeded them
not--on--on she pursued her course towards the Broken River.
Here she paused. The heavy winter rains had swollen the waters, which
swept along, dashing over the irregular pieces of rock that formed the
only means of crossing over. But danger was as nothing to her now--the
first few steps were taken--the rapid stream was rushing wildly round
her--a sensation, of giddiness and exhaustion made her limbs tremble--her
footing slipped on the wet and slimy stone--in another moment the
ruthless waters carried her away.
The morrow came, and the sun shone brightly upon the still swollen and
rapid river. Two men stood beside it, both too annoyed at this
impediment to their return to Melbourne to be in the slightest degree
aware of their proximity to one another. A bonnet caught by a
projecting fragment of rock simultaneously attracted their attention:
both moved towards the spot, and thus brought into closer contact they
recognized each other. Deadly foes though they were, not a word passed
between them, and silently they dragged the body of the unhappy
girl to land. In her cold and tightened grasp still lay the child. As
they stood gazing on those injured ones, within one breast remorse and
shame, in the other, hatred and revenge, were raging violently.
Each step on the road to Ballarat had increased her brother's desire
for vengeance, and still further was this heightened on discovering
that Stephens had already left the diggings to return to town. This
disappointment maddened him; his whole energy was flung into tracing
his foe, and in this he had succeeded so closely, that unknown to
either, both had slept beneath the same roof at the inn beside the
The voices of some of the loungers there, who were coming down to the
Creek to see what mischief had been done during the night, aroused him.
He glanced upon his enemy, who pale and trembling, stood gazing on the
wreck that he had made. Revenge at last was in his hands--not a moment
was to be lost--with the yell of a maniac he sprang upon the powerless
and conscious-stricken man--seized him in his arms rushed to the
river--and ere any could interpose, both had found a grave where but a
few minutes before the bodies of Mary and her infant had reposed.
NEW SOUTH WALES
About seventy years ago a small colony of convicts first made the
forests ring with the blows of the axe, and a few tents were erected
where Sydney now stands. The tents, and they who dwelt beneath them,
have long since disappeared, and instead we have one of the finest
cities that our colonial empire ever produced.
The streets in Sydney are, as in Melbourne, built at right angles
with one another; they are macadamized, well lighted with gas, and
perambulated by a number of policemen during the night. Some of
the shops almost rival those of London, and the public buildings are
good and numerous. There is a custom-house, a treasury, police-office,
college, benevolent asylum, banks, barracks, hospitals, libraries,
churches, chapels, a synagogue, museum, club-house, theatre, and many
splendid hotels, of which the largest is, I think the "Royal Hotel," in
George Street, built at the cost of 30,000 pounds.
Hyde Park is close at hand, with un-numbered public walks, and a
botanical garden, the favourite resort of all classes.
In the neighbourhood of Sydney are some good oyster-beds, and many are
the picnics got up for the purpose of visiting them. The oysters cling
to the rocks, and great numbers are easily obtained.
The distance from Sydney to Melbourne, by the overland road, is about
six hundred miles; but the steamers, which are constantly plying,
afford a more comfortable mode of transit.
The gold diggings of New South Wales are so well known as to
require but a cursory notice. The first official notification of the
fact of gold having been discovered bears date, May 22, 1851, and is
contained in a despatch from the Governor to Earl Grey. In it he
announced the existence of a gold field to the westward of Bathurst,
about one hundred and fifty miles from Sydney. At the same time, he
added his supposition that the gold sent for inspection was Califorian.
Mr Stutchbury, the geological surveyor, quickly undeceived his
Excellency. He wrote from Hill Creek reporting that four hundred
persons were hard at work, and that the gold existed not only in the
creek but beyond it. The following postscript was added to his letter:
"Excuse this being written in pencil, as there is no ink in this city
of Ophir." And this appropriate name has ever since been retained.
The natural consequences of this discovery was the flocking of hundreds
of the inhabitants of Sydney to Bathurst. Sober people began to be
alarmed at this complete BOULEVERSEMENT of business and
tranquillity. For the sake of order the Governor attempted to put a
stop to the increasing desertion of the capital by proclaiming that the
gold-fields were the prerogative of the Crown, and threatening
gold-diggers with prosecution. It was all in vain. The glitterings of
the precious metal were more attractive than the threats of the
Governor were otherwise. The people laughed good-humoured at the
proclamation, and only flocked in greater numbers to the auriferous
Government now took a wiser course, and finding it impossible to stem
the torrent, determined to turn the eagerness of the multitude to some
account. A licence-fee of 30s., or half an ounce of gold, per month was
imposed, which, with few exceptions, has always been cheerfully paid.
The Turon diggings soon followed those of Bathurst. This river flows
into the Macquarie after a course of a hundred miles. Along the entire
length auriferous discoveries are constantly being made, and it bids
fair to last for many years to come. The gold is not found, as many
erroneously suppose, so much among the sand as by digging in the soil.
It also exists in paying quantities on the shores and in the rive flows
of the Macquarie, the Abercrombie, and Belubula rivers. Major's Creek,
too, is a favourite locality, and was first made known by a prospecting
According to Mr. Stutchbury's report, he found gold ALMOST WHEREVER HE
TRIED FOR IT, and whilst traversing the Macquarie from Walgumballa to
the Turon, he found it at EVERY place he tried. Surely Midas must, once
upon a time, have taken a pleasure-trip to Australia!
The delirium of the Sydney gold-fever reached its height when it became
publicly known that a piece of one hundred and six pounds weight had
been disembowelled from the earth, at one time. This immense quantity
was the discovery of a native, who, being excited by the universal
theme of conversation, provided himself with a tomahawk, and explored
the country adjacent to his employer's land. He was attracted
by a glittering yellow substance on the surface of a block of quartz.
With his tomahawk he broke off a piece, which he carried home to his
master, Dr. Kerr, of Wallawa. Not being able to move the mass
conveniently, Dr. Kerr broke it into small fragments. The place where
it was found is at the commencement of an undulating table-land, very
fertile, and near to a never-failing supply of water in the Murroo
Creek. It is distant about fifty miles from Bathurst, thirty from
Wellington, and twenty from the nearest point of the Macquarie river.
Dr. Kerr presented the native and his brother with two flocks of sheep,
two saddle-horses, a quantity of rations, a team of bullocks, and some
About twenty yards from the spot where this mass was found, a piece of
gold called the "Brennan Nugget" was soon after discovered. It weighed
three hundred and thirty-six ounces, and was sold in Sydney for more
than 1,100 pounds.
But it would be useless to enter into fuller particulars of the
diggings of New South Wales. Panoramas, newspapers, and serials have
made them familiar to all.
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, was the last formed of the
three sister colonies. In 1834 an act of colonization was obtained; and
land, both in town and country, sold rapidly. The colonists, however,
were most unfortunately more engaged in speculating with the land, than
grazing upon or tilling it; and the consequence was, that in a few
years the South Australians were only saved from a famine by the
unexpected arrival overland of herds and flocks from Victoria. As it
was, horses and cows of a very indifferent kind were sold for
more than a hundred pounds a-piece, and sheep for five pounds a head.
The discovery of the copper mines alone saved the country from ruin.
The first was the Kapunda. It was accidentally discovered by a
shepherd, who picked up a piece on the surface of the ground, and
showed it to his master. Pieces of copper ore may even now be found in
the same way.
Next followed the far-famed Burra-Burra. In the latter mine there is a
great quantity of malachite, which, when smelted, gives copper at an
average of eighty-five per cent.
South Australia possesses the finest river in Australia--namely, the
Murray, on which steamers will soon ply as far as five hundred miles up
the country. On either side of this river is a thick and dry
scrub--sometimes ten, sometimes thirty miles wide. In this scrub, manna
is not unfrequently found, to the great delight of the natives, who are
very fond of it. It is of a very excellent description, and in colour
has a slight tendency to pink.
Adelaide itself is a well-laid out town. The streets are built in the
same manner as in Sydney and Melbourne; but those in Adelaide are much
wider. Many of the buildings and warehouses are highly creditable,
particularly when we take the juvenile age of the colony into
Adelaide has never yet been "a transportation colony," and the society
there is usually considered more RECHERCHE than in any other city in
Australia. The climate is very good, and the vine flourishes as in the
south of France. The principal export of South Australia is copper, to
which may be added some wool and tallow.
The roads about are excellent, and the small farms in the neighbourhood
are more in the English style than one could expect to meet with so
many thousand miles away from home.
The overland route from Adelaide to Melbourne is about four hundred
miles in length. In summer the road is pretty good, but in winter, a
lake or swamp of twenty miles extent has to be waded through.
The scrub about South Australia is very thick, and any one may easily
lose themselves in it. This has in fact often been the case, and a
fearful instance of it occurred some few years ago. A young lady--the
daughter of a gentleman residing near Adelaide--started out one Sunday
afternoon with a book as her companion. Evening came, and she did not
return, which alarmed her family, and search was made far and near--but
in vain. On the fourth day, they at length discovered her lying dead at
the foot of a tree. The pages of her book were covered with sentences,
pricked in with a pin, expressive of her sufferings and of her
unavailing efforts to retrace her steps. She was only three miles from
her father's house when she sank down to die of hunger, thirst, and
exhaustion; and probably during the whole time of her wanderings had
never exceeded that distance from her home.
The Adelaide gold-diggings began to excite attention in the months of
August and September, 1852. In October the following report was made:
"Camp, Echunga, Gold-Fields,
"October 2, 1852.
"I have the honour to state for the information of his Excellency the
Lieutenant-Governor, that since my last report sixty licences have been
issued, making a total of three hundred and fifty-six. * * * * Many
families of respectability have arrived, and are now living in
comfortable and commodious tents. The presence of well-dressed women
and children gives to the gold-fields, apparently distinguished for
decorum, security and respectability.
"From the feeling of greater security and comfort, combined with
cheapness of living, all classes of diggers are unanimous in their
preference of this place to Victoria. * * * *
"The nugget of gold which I have forwarded for his Excellency's
inspection, weighing about an ounce and a half, was found about seven
feet below the surface.* * * *
"There are some few amongst the lately arrived who expressed
dissatisfaction with the result of their labours and
observations, while others, who have been working for the last month,
have promptly renewed their expired licences.
(Signed) "A. J. MURRAY,
"Assistant Gold Commissioner.
"The Hon. the Colonial Secretary."
In the month of October several pieces of gold, weighing each half an
ounce and upwards, were found, and a few of the holes that had been
abandoned by inexperienced hands, when taken possession of by old
diggers on the Turon or the Bendigo, were found to contain good washing
stuff. The diggings were well supplied with food of every kind; and
during the summer months there could be no lack of fruits and
vegetables in abundance, at reasonable prices, supplied from the
numerous and well-cultivated farms and gardens around. This is
certainly an advantage over the diggings of Victoria or New South
Wales, if gold really does exist in paying quantities; if not, all the
fruit and vegetables in the world would not keep the diggers at
The following "Lament" was circulated in Adelaide, but not one of the
newspapers there would print it. They were all too anxious for the
success of their diggings, to countenance any grumblers against them:
A LAMENT FOR MY THIRTY SHILLINGS,
DEDICATED TO THE ECHUNGA VICTIMS,
My one pound ten! my one pound ten!
I paid as Licence Fee;
Ah! cruel Bonney! pray return,
That one pound ten to me.
When to Echunga diggings first
I hastened up from town,
Thy tent I sought with anxious care
And paid the money down.
And though my folly ever since
I bitterly deplore,
It soothes my mind to know there were
Three scores of fools before.
Then, Bonney, listen to my lay,
And if you wish to thrive,
Send back the money quick to me,
To number sixty-five.
Who wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long,
Had better to Echunga go,
And not to Mount Coorong.
But as for me I like a swag,
At least a little more
Than what we got there in a week--
Eight pennyweights 'mongst four.
For that, of surface earth we washed
Of dray loads half a score;
I'll swear that cradling never seemed
Such tedious work before.
To sink for gold we then commenced,
With grief I must confess,
'Twas fruitless toil, although we went
Down thirty feet or less.
All you who've paid your one pound ten,
Are on your licence told
That then you are entitled to
Remove alluvial gold.
But if the alluvial gold's not there
I'd like to have it proved
By what ingenious process it
Can ever be removed?
Then back to Bendigo I'll haste,
To seek the precious ore;
Although my one pound ten I fear
Returns to me no more.
Yet as the boundary line I cross,
My parting prayer shall be--
Ah! cruel Bonney! pray return
My one pound ten to me!
Adelaide, September 1852.
With a short extract from the "South Australian Register" of
February 7, 1853, I shall conclude my remarks on the Adelaide diggings.
"THE GOLD FIELDS.--Although there is at the diggings everything to
indicate gold in large quantities, none have succeeded in realizing
their hopes. The majority content themselves with what they can get on
Chapman's Hill and Gully, knowing that, if a fresh place is discovered,
they will stand as good a chance as those who have spent months
in trying to find better ground.
"The quantity of gold taken to the Assay-office, during four
consecutive weeks, amounting to less than four thousand ounces, the
Governor has proclaimed that after the 17th of February the office will
It was on Monday the 25th of October, that for the second time I
entered Melbourne. Not many weeks had elapsed since I had quitted it
for my adventurous trip to the diggings, yet in that short space of
time how many changes had taken place. The cloudy sky was exchanged for
a brilliant sunshine, the chilling air for a truly tropical heat, the
drizzling rain for clouds of thick cutting dust, sometimes as thick as
a London fog, which penetrated the most substantial veil, and made our
skins smart terribly. The streets too had undergone a wondrous
transformation. Collins Street looked quite bright and cheerful, and
was the fashionable promenade of those who had time or inclination for
lounging. Parties of diggers were constantly starting or arriving,
trips to St. Kilda and Brighton were daily taking place; and a coach
was advertised to run to the diggings! I cannot quite realize the
terrified passengers being driven through the Black Forest, but can
picture their horror when ordered to "bail up" by a party of Australian
In every window--milliners, baby-linen warehouses, &c., included--was
exhibited the usual advertisement of the gold buyer--namely, a heap of
gold in the centre, on one side a pile of sovereigns, on the other
bank-notes. The most significant advertisement was one I saw in a
window in Collins Street. In the middle was a skull perforated by a
bullet, which lay at a little distance as if coolly examining or
speculating on the mischief it had done. On one side of the skull was a
revolver, and on the other a quantity of nuggets. Above all, was the
emphatic inscription, "Beware in time." This rather
uncomfortable-looking tableau signified--in as speaking a manner as
symbols can--that the unfortunate skull had once belonged to some more
unfortunate lucky digger, who not having had the sense to sell his gold
to the proprietor of this attractive window had kept his nuggets in his
pocket, thereby tempting some robbers--significantly personified by the
revolver--to shoot him, and steal the gold. Nowhere could you turn your
eye without meeting "30,000 oz. wanted immediately; highest price
given;" "10,000 oz. want to consign per ----; extra price given to
immediate sellers," &c. Outwardly it seemed a city of gold, yet
hundreds were half perishing for want of food, with no place of shelter
beneath which to lay their heads. Many families of freshly-arrived
emigrants--wife, children, and all--slept out in the open air; infants
were born upon the wharves with no helping hand near to support the
wretched mother in her misery.
How greatly the last few weeks had enlarged Melbourne. Cities of tents
encompassed it on all sides; though, as I said before, the trifling
comfort of a canvas roof above them, was denied to the poorest
of the poor, unless a weekly tax were paid!
But I must return to ourselves. Our first business the next morning was
to find for our little Jessie some permanent home; for all our
movements were so uncertain--I myself, thinking of a return to the old
country--that it was considered advisable to obtain for her some better
friends than a set of volatile, though good-hearted young fellows--not
the most suitable protection for a young girl, even in so lax a place
as the colonies. We never thought of letting her return to England, for
there the life of a female, who has her own livelihood to earn, is one
of badly-paid labour, entailing constant privation, and often great
misery--if not worse. I have before said that William had relatives in
Melbourne, and to them we determined to entrust her. Mrs. R----- was a
kind-hearted and most exemplary woman; and having a very young family
of her own, was well pleased at such an acquisition as the thoughtful,
industrious little Jessie. Each of our party contributed a
small portion of their golden earnings to form a fund for a future day,
which I doubt not will be increased by our little friend's industry,
long before she needs it. Here let us leave her, trusting that her
future life may be as happy as her many excellent qualities deserve,
and hoping that her severest trials have already passed over her.
Our next care was to obtain our gold from the Escort-office; to do
which the receipts given in Bendigo had to be handed in, and after very
little delay the precious packets were restored to their respective
owners. The following is a facsimile of the tickets, printed on
parchment, attached to each parcel of which a duplicate, printed on
common paper, is given to the depositor:
Date, 8th of October, 1852.
Name, Mr. A----.
Quantity, 60 oz. 10 dwts.
Consigned to, Self.
The trifling charge for all this trouble and responsibility is sixpence
The business satisfactorily arranged, the next was to dispose of it.
Some was converted into money, and sold for 69s. an ounce; and the
remainder was consigned to England, where, being very pure and above
standard, it realized 4 pounds an ounce. A great difference that!
We next paid Richard a visit, who, though surprised was well pleased to
see us again. He declared his resolution of returning to England as
soon as possible. Our party fixed their journey to the Ovens to take
place in three weeks. William determined to remain in town, which I
think showed wisdom on his part as his health was not equal to roughing
it in the bush; and this was a much more formidable trip than the last,
on account of length, and being much less frequented.
Meanwhile we enjoyed the fine weather, and our present companionship,
as much as possible, while taking little trips here, there, and
everywhere. The one I most enjoyed was a sail in the Bay. The
captain of the vessel in which we left England, was still detained in
Port Philip for want of hands--the case of hundreds--and offered to give
us a sail, and a dinner on board afterwards. We soon made up a large
party, and enjoyed it exceedingly. The day was lovely. We walked down
to Liardet's Beach, a distance of nearly three miles, and were soon
calmly skimming over the waters. We passed St. Kilda and Brighton, and
gained an excellent view of the innumerable vessels then lying useless
and half-deserted in the Bay.
It was a sad though a pretty sight. There were fine East Indiamen,
emigrant ships, American clippers, steamers, traders--foreign and
English--whalers, &c., waiting there only through want of seamen.
In the cool of the evening our gallant host rowed us back to the beach.
Since our first landing, tents and stores had been erected in great
numbers, and Little Adelaide was grown wonderfully. I think I have
never mentioned the quantity of frogs that abound in Australia.
This particular evening I remarked them more than usual, and without
the least exaggeration their croaking resembled a number of mills in
motion. I know nothing to which I can more appropriately liken the
noise that resounded along the swampy portions of the road, from the
beach to Melbourne.
Much has been said of the climate of Australia, and many are the
conflicting statements thereon. The following table contains all the
information--personal and otherwise--which I have been enabled to
JANUARY AND FEBRUARY.--Generally the hottest months; average of the
thermometer, 78 in the shade; thunder-storms and COLONIAL showers of
rain occasionally visit us.
MARCH.--Fine genial weather; average temperature, 73 in the shade.
APRIL.--Weather more uncertain; mosquitos depart; average temperature,
70 in the shade:
MAY.--Fine, till towards the latter part of the month, when sometimes
the rainy season commences; average temperature in the shade, 64.
JUNE.--Rainy, and much cooler; temperature at an average of 58 in the
JULY.--Coldest month in the year; midwinter in the colonies; average
temperature, 53. Ice and snow may be seen inland.
AUGUST.--Very rainy. Average temperature, 58 in the shade.
SEPTEMBER.--Windy stormy month; weather getting warmer. Average
temperature, 63 in the shade.
OCTOBER--The presence of the mosquito, a sure proof that the weather is
permanently warm. Average temperature in the shade, 66.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER.--Tropically warm. Locusts, mosquitos, and
unnumbered creeping things swarm both in bush and town. Towards the end
of December the creeks commence to dry up, and the earth looks parched
for want of rain. No yule-log needed on Christmas Day. Thermometer as
high as 97 in the shade; average 75.
The principal trees in Australia are the gum, stringy bark, manna tree,
wild cherry (so called), iron bark, shea oak, peppermint,
acacia, and the mimosa, which last, however, should more properly be
called a shrub. These and others, like the Indian malelucas, are
remarkable for the Cajeput oil contained in their leaves, and in the
gums which exude from their sterns, and in this point of view alone,
considering their boundless number, their value can hardly be over
estimated. The gum of some of the acacias will bear comparison with
gum-arabic. Their bark and timber are likewise useful, and when the
gold fever has subsided, will become valuable as exports.
Wild flowers there are in abundance, and some exquisite specimens of
ferns. For the benefit of those better skilled in botany than myself, I
give the following list of Dr. Muller's indigenous plants of Victoria.
Correaochrolenca and Phebalium Asteriscophorum, both with the medical
properties of the Bucco-bush, Eurybia Rhodochaeta, E. Rugosa, E.
Adenophylla, E. Asterotristia, Sambucus, Gaudichaudiana, Prostanthera
Hirsuta, Pimelea axiflora (powerful Surrogat of the Mezerion
shrub), Bossidea decumbcus, Asterotristia asperifolia, Patersonia
aspera, Grevilliea repens, Dallachiana, &c.
The geranium, fuschia, rhododendrum, and almost all varieties of the
Cacti have been taken to the colonies, and flourish well in the open
air all the year round, growing much more luxuriantly than in England.
The vineyards must some day form a considerable source of employment
and profit to the colonists. The wine made in Australia is very good.
The vines are cultivated in the same manner as in France. In the
neighbourhood of Sydney, oranges and peaches are grown out in the open
air. Apples and other fruits flourish well in Van Diemen's Land. All
these fruits are not indigenous to Australia. The only articles of food
natural there, are the kangaroos, emus, opossums, and other denizens of
the forest, a few snakes, some roots, and a worm, about the length and
thickness of a finger, which is abundant in all parts of the colony,
and is taken out of the cavities, or from under the bark, of the trees.
It is a great favourite with the blacks, as it can be procured
when no other food is attainable.
I have before made mention of the bush and scrub; there is a great
dissimilarity between the two. The former resembles a forest, with none
or very little underwood. The scrub, on the contrary, is always
underwood, of from six to twenty feet high, and only here and there a
few trees are seen. To be lost in either bush or scrub is a common
thing. If on horseback the best way is to give the rein to your
four-footed companion, and instinct will most probably enable him to
extricate you. If on foot, ascend, if possible, a rise of ground, and
notice any FALL in the country; here, most likely, is a creek, and once
beside that, you are pretty sure of coming to a station. If this fails,
you must just bush it for the night, and resume your search next
morning, trusting to an occasional "coo-ey" to help you out of your
The scenery of Australia partakes of all characters. Sometimes miles of
swamp reminds one of the Lincolnshire fens; at other times it assumes
quite a park-like appearance, though the effect is greatly
injured by the want of freshness about the foliage, which always looks
of a dirty, dingy green. The native trees in Australia never shed their
leaves, never have that exquisite young tint which makes an English
spring in the country so delicious. Their faded look always reminded me
of those unfortunate trees imprisoned for so many months beneath the
The mountains in Australia are high and bold in outline, and the
snow-capped Alps on the boundaries of New South Wales are not unlike
their European namesakes, the highest tops are from six to seven
thousand feet above the level of the sea. The country round Ballarat is
more in the North American style, and when the creek is full, it is a
fine sight, greatly resembling, I have beard, one of the smaller rivers
in Canada; in fact, the scenery round Ballarat is said to approach more
to Upper Canada than any in the colony. The rocks, although not high,
are in places very bold and romantic, and in the wet season there are
several water-falls in the neighbourhood.
Eels are very plentiful in Victoria, and are peculiar to this district,
being seldom, if ever, found in any other part of the known continent.
Old writers on Australia have stated that eels are unknown in this part
of the world, which, since this colony has been settled in, has been
found to be erroneous, as the Barwin, the Yarra Yarra, and their
tributaries abound with them, some weighing five or six pounds. A few
days after our return from the diggings, we breakfasted off a dish of
stewed eels, caught by a friend; the smallest weighed about a pound and
a half, the largest about three pounds. They were caught three miles
from Melbourne, in the Salt Water Creek.
A small kind of fish like the lamprey, another similar to the gudgeon,
and also one (of rather a larger kind--the size of the roach) called
here "white herrings," but not at all resembling that fish, are found.
Pike are also very numerous. Crabs and lobsters are not known here, but
in the salt creeks near the sea we have craw-fish.
Of course, parrots, cockatoos and "sich-like," abound in the
bush, to the horror of the small gardeners and cultivators, as what
they do not eat they ruin by destroying the young shoots.
Kangaroos are extremely numerous in the scrub. They are the size of a
large greyhound, and of a mouse colour. The natives call them
"kanguru." The tail is of great strength. There are several varieties
of them. The largest is the Great Kangaroo, of a greyish-brown colour,
generally four or five feet high and the tail three. Some kangaroos are
nearly white, others resemble the hare in colour. Pugs, or young
kangaroos, are plentiful about the marshy grounds; so are also the
opossum and kangaroo rat. The latter is not a rat, properly speaking,
but approaches the squirrel tribe. It is a lilliputian kangaroo, the
size of our native wood squirrel and larger, only grey or reddish-grey.
It can leap six or eight feet easily, and is excellent eating. The
native dog is of all colours; it has the head and brush of a fox, with
the body a legs of a dog. It is a cowardly animal, and will run away
from you like mad. It is a great enemy of the kangaroo rat, and
a torment to the squatter, for a native dog has a great PENCHANT for
mutton and will kill thirty or forty sheep in the course of an hour.
A species of mocking-bird which inhabits the bush is a ludicrous
creature. It imitates everything, and makes many a camping party
imagine there is a man near them, when they hear its whistle or hearty
laugh. This bird is nicknamed the "Jackass," and its loud "ha! ha! ha!"
is heard every morning at dawn echoing through the woods and serving
the purpose of a "boots" by calling the sleepy traveller in good time
to get his breakfast and pursue his journey. The bats here are very
Insects, fleas, &c., are as plentiful as it is possible to be, and the
ants, of which there are several kinds, are a perfect nuisance. The
largest are called by the old colonists, "bull-dogs," and formidable
creatures they are--luckily not very common, about an inch and a half
long, black, or rusty-black, with a red tail. They bite like a
little crab. Ants of an inch long are quite common. They do not--like the
English ones--run scared away at the sight of a human being--not a
bit of it; Australian ants have more PLUCK, and will turn and face you.
Nay, more, should you RETREAT, they will run after you with all the
impudence imaginable. Often when my organ of destructiveness has
tempted me slightly to disturb with the end of my parasol one of the
many ant-hills on the way from Melbourne to Richmond, I have been
obliged, as soon as they discovered the perpetrator of the attack, to
take to my heels and run away as if for my life.
Centipedes and triantelopes (colonial, for tarantula) are very common,
and though not exactly fatal, are very dangerous if not attended to.
The deaf adder is the most formidable "varmint" in Australia. There are
two varieties; it is generally about two feet long. The bite is fatal.
The deaf adder never moves unless it is touched, hence its name. I do
not think it has the power of twisting or twirling, like the
ordinary snake or adder and it is very slow in its movements. There are
several species of snakes, some of them are extremely venomous and grow
to a large size, as long as ten feet. The black snake is the most
venomous of any; its bite is fatal within a few hours.
But let us leave these wilder subjects and return to Melbourne.
The state of society in the town had not much improved during my
absence. On the public road from Melbourne to St. Kilda, fifteen men
were robbed in one afternoon, and tied to trees within sight of one
another. In Melbourne itself the same want of security prevailed, and
concerts, lectures, &c., were always advertised to take place when
there was a full moon, the only nights any one, unarmed, dared venture,
out after dusk. The following extract from the "Argus," gives a fair
specimen of Melbourne order.
"We are led to these remarks (referring to a tirade against the
Government) by an occurrence that took place last week in Queen Street,
the whole detail of which is peculiarly illustrative of the
very creditable state of things, to which, under the happy auspices of
a La Trobe dynasty, we are rapidly descending.
"A ruffian robs a man in a public-house, in broad daylight. He is
pursued by a constable and taken. On the way to the watchhouse a mob
collects, the police are attacked, pistols are pointed, bludgeons and
axe-handles are brought out of the adjacent houses (all still in broad
daylight, and in a busy street), and distributed amongst the crowd,
loud cries inciting attack are heard, a scuffle ensues, the police are
beaten, the prisoner is rescued, the crowd separates, and a man is left
dead upon the ground. The body is taken into a public-house, an inquest
is held, the deceased is recognized as a drunkard, the jury is assured
that a POST-MORTEM examination is quite unnecessary; and the man is
buried, after a verdict is brought in of 'Died by the visitation of
God;' the said visitation of God having, in this instance, assumed the
somewhat peculiar form of a fractured skull!"
This is a true picture of Melbourne; but whether the "Argus" is
justified in reproaching the "La Trobe dynasty" with it, is quite
In pages like these, anything resembling an argument on the
"transportation question," would be sadly out of place. To avoid
thinking or hearing it was impossible, for during my second stay in
Melbourne, it was a never-failing subject of conversation. In Victoria
(which is only forty-eight hours' journey from Van Diemen's Land), I
have seen the bad results of the mingling of so many transports and
ticket-of-leave men among the free population. On the other hand, I
have heard from many and good authorities, of the substantial benefits
conferred on Sydney and New South Wales by convict labour. It is
difficult to reconcile these two statements, and it is an apple of
discord in the colonies.
Whilst in Victoria, I met with a great variety of emigrants, and I was
much struck by the great success that seems to have attended on almost
all of those who came out under the auspices of Mrs. Chisholm. No one
in England can fully appreciate the benefits her unwearied
exertions have conferred upon the colonies. I have met many of the
matrons of her ships, and not only do they themselves seem to have made
their way in the world, but the young females who were under their care
during the voyage appear to have done equally well. Perhaps one way of
accounting for this, is the fact that a great many of those going out
by the Chisholm Society are from Scotland, the inhabitants of which
country are peculiarly fortunate in the colonies, their industry,
frugality, and "canniness" being the very qualities to make a fortune
there. "Sydney Herbert's needlewomen" bear but a bad name; and the
worst recommendation a young girl applying for a situation can give, is
to say she came out in that manner--not because the colonists look down
on any one coming out by the assistance of others, but because it is
imagined her female associates on the voyage cannot have been such as
to improve her morality, even if she were good for anything before.
Much is said and written in England about the scarcity of
females in Australia, and the many good offers awaiting the acceptance
of those who have the courage to travel so far. But the colonial
bachelors, who are so ready to get married, and so very easy in their
choice of a wife, are generally those the least calculated, in spite of
their wealth, to make a respectable girl happy; whilst the better class
of squatters and diggers--if they do not return home to get married,
which is often the case--are not satisfied with any one, however pretty,
for a wife, unless her manners are cultivated and her principles
To wander through Melbourne and its environs, no one would imagine that
females were as one to four of the male population; for bonnets and
parasols everywhere outnumber the wide-awakes. This is occasioned by
the absence of so many of the "lords of creation" in pursuit of what
they value--many of them, at least--more than all the women in the
world--nuggets. The wives thus left in town to deplore their husbands'
infatuation, are termed "grass-widows"--a mining expression.
And now two out of the three weeks of our party's stay in Melbourne has
expired, during which time a change (purely personal) had made my
brother's protection no longer needed by me. MY wedding-trip was to be
to England, and the marriage was to take place, and myself and CARO
SPOSO to leave Australia before my brother departed for the Ovens
diggings. The 'C----,' a fine East Indiaman, then lying in the bay, was
bound for London. We were to be on board by the 12th of November.
This of course gave me plenty to do, and my last morning but one in
Melbourne was dedicated to that favourite feminine occupation--which,
however, I detest--I mean, shopping. This being accomplished to my great
dissatisfaction--for all I bought could have been obtained, of a better
description, for half the price in England--I was preparing to return
home by way of Collins Street, when my name in familiar accents made me
suddenly pause. I instantly recognised the lady who addressed me as one
of the English governesses in a "finishing" school where three years of
my girlhood were passed. Julia ------ was a great favourite among
us; no one could have done otherwise than admire the ability and
good-humour with which she fulfilled her many arduous duties. Perhaps,
of all miserable positions for a well-educated and refined young person
to be placed in, that of "little girls' teacher" in a lady's school is
Her subsequent history I learnt as we walked together to my present
Her mother had had a cousin in Sydney, who being old and unmarried,
wrote to her, promising to settle all his property, which was
considered large, upon her daughter and herself, his only living
relatives, provided they came out to the colonies to live with him
until his death. A sum of money to defray the expenses of the voyage
was enclosed. This piece of unexpected good news was received with
pleasure, and the invitation gladly accepted. They sailed for Sydney.
On arriving there, they found that some speculation, in which he was
greatly involved, had failed; and the old man had taken the loss so
greatly to heart, that he died only five months after having
dispatched the letter to his English relatives.
Poor Julia was placed in a most painful position. In England she had
scarcely been able to support her invalid mother by her own exertions,
but in a strange country and without friends these difficulties seemed
increased. Her first act was to look over the advertizing columns of
the papers, and her eye caught sight of one which seemed exactly to
suit her. It was, "Wanted, a governess to take the entire charge of a
little girl, the daughter of a widower, and also an elderly lady, to
superintend the domestic arrangements of the same family during the
continual absence of the master at another station." Julia wrote
immediately, and was accepted. In the occasional visits that her
pupil's father paid to his little girl, he could not fail to be struck
by the sweet disposition and many other good qualities of her
governess, and it ended by his making her his wife. I felt at liberty
to congratulate her, for she looked the picture of happiness. I saw her
again next day, when she showed me the advertisement which had
been the means of such a change in her circumstances.
The day before my departure was a painful one, so many farewells to be
taken of dear friends whom I should never meet again.
On Friday, the 15th of November, my brother and all our party, Richard
and Jessie included, accompanied us to the pier at Williamstown, to
which we were conveyed by a steamer. For this we paid five shillings
a-piece, and the same for each separate box or parcel, and twelve
shillings to a man for carting our luggage down to the Melbourne wharf,
a distance of not a mile.
On landing at the pier, how greatly was I astonished to meet Harriette
and her husband. Her modest desires were gratified, and they had
realized sufficient capital at the diggings to enable them to settle
most comfortably near Adelaide. In hurried words she told me this, for
their boat was already alongside the pier waiting to take them to their
ship. Hardly had they departed than a boat arrived from our
vessel to convey us to it. Sad adieux were spoken, and we were rowed
That evening a pilot came on board, anchors were weighed, we left the
bay, and I saw Melbourne no more.
We soon left Port Philip far behind, and in a few days saw nothing but
a vast expanse of water all around us. Our vessel was filled with
returning diggers; and it is worth while to remark that only two had
been unsuccessful, and these had only been at the diggings a few days.
One family on board interested me very much. It consisted of father,
mother, and two children. The eldest, a little, girl, had been born
some time before they left England. Her brother was a sturdy fellow of
two years old, born in the colonies soon after their arrival.
He could just toddle about the deck, where he was everlastingly looking
for "dold," and "nuddets." The whole family had been at the diggings
for nine months, and were returning with something more than 2,000 pounds
worth of gold. In England it had been hard work to obtain sufficient
food by the most constant labour; they had good reason to be thankful
for the discovery of the gold-fields.
Saturday, November 27, was forty-eight hours long, or two days of the
same name and date. Sailing right round the world in the direction of
from west to east, we gained exactly twenty-four hours upon those who
stay at home; and we were therefore obliged to make one day double to
prevent finding ourselves wrong in our dates and days on our arrival in
England. Melbourne is about ten hours before London, and therefore
night, and day are reversed.
Rapidly it became cooler, for the winds were rather contrary, and drove
us much farther south than was needed. We were glad to avail
ourselves of our opossum rugs to keep ourselves warm. One of these rugs
is quite sufficient covering of a night in the coldest weather, and
imparts as much heat as a dozen blankets. They are made from the skins
of the opossums, sewn together by the natives with the sinews of the
same animal. Each skin is about twelve inches by eight, or smaller; and
as the rugs are generally very large, they contain sometimes as many as
eighty skins. They may be tastefully arranged, as there is a great
difference in the colours; some being like a rich sable, others nearly
black, and others again of a grey and light brown. The fur is long and
silky. At one time a rug of this description was cheap enough--perhaps
as much as two sovereigns but the great demand for them by diggers,
&c., has made them much more scarce, and it now requires a ten
pound-note to get a good one. The best come from Van Diemen's Land. In
summer they are disagreeable, as they harbour insects.
However, whilst rounding Cape Horn, in the coldest weather I ever
experienced, we were only too happy to throw them over us
during the nights.
One morning we were awakened by a great confusion on deck. Our ship was
ploughing through a quantity of broken ice. That same afternoon, we
sighted an immense iceberg about ten miles from us. Its size may be
imagined from the fact, that, although we were sailing at a rate of ten
knots an hour, we kept it in sight till dark. This was on the 3rd of
We soon rounded the Horn, and had some very rough weather. One of the
sailors fell off the jib-boom; and the cry of "man overboard" made our
hearts beat with horror. Every sail was on; we were running right
before the wind, and the waves were mountains high, a boat must have
been swamped; and long before we could "bout ship", he had sunk to
rise no more.
After rounding Cape Horn, we made rapid progress; by Christmas Day, we
were in the Tropics. It was not kept with much joviality, for water and
food were running scarce. Provisions were so dear in Melbourne,
that they had laid in a short allowance of everything, and our captain
had not anticipated half so many passengers. We tried, therefore, to
put into St. Helena, but contrary winds preventing us, we sailed back
again to the South American coast, and anchored off Pernambuco. It was
providential that economical intentions made our captain prefer this
port, for had we touched at Rio, we should have encountered the yellow
fever, which we afterwards heard was raging there.
Pernambuco is apparently a very pretty place. We were anchored about
four miles from the town, so had a good view of the coast. I longed to
be on shore to ramble beneath the elegant cocoa-nut-trees. The weather
was intensely hot, for it was in the commencement of January; and the
boats full of fruit, sent from the shore for sale, were soon emptied by
us. I call them boats, but they are properly termed catamarans. They
are made of logs of wood lashed securely together; they have a sail and
oars but no sides, so the water rushes over, and threatens
every moment to engulf the frail conveyance; but no, the wood is too
light for that. The fruits brought us from shore were oranges,
pine-apples, water-melons, limes, bananas, cocoa-nuts, &c., and some
yams, which were a good substitute for potatoes. The fruit was all very
good, and astonishingly cheap; our oranges being green, lasted till we
reached England. Some of our passengers went on shore, and returned
with marvellous accounts of the dirtiness and narrowness of the
streets, and the extremely NATURAL costume of the natives.
We remained here about four days, and then, with favourable winds,
pursued our voyage at an average rate of ten or twelve knots an hour.
As we neared the English coast, our excitement increased to an awful
height; and for those who had been many years away, I can imagine every
trivial delay was fraught with anxiety.
But we come in sight of land; and in spite of the cold weather, for it
is now February, 1853, every one rushes to the deck. On we go;
at last we are in the Downs, and then the wind turned right against us.
Boats were put off from the Deal beach. The boatmen there rightly
calculated that lucky gold-diggers wouldn't mind paying a pound a-piece
to get ashore, so they charged that, and got plenty of customers
On Sunday, the 27th of February, I again set foot on my native land. It
was evening when we reached the shore, and there was only an open
vehicle to convey us to the town of Deal itself. The evening was
bitterly cold, and the snow lay upon the ground. As we proceeded along,
the sounds of the Sabbath bell broke softly on the air. No greeting
could have been more pleasing or more congenial to my feelings.
As I trust that, in the foregoing pages, I have slightly interested my
readers in "our party," the following additional account of their
movements, contained in letters addressed to me by my brother, may not
be quite uninteresting.
The Ovens diggings are on the river of the same name, which takes its
rise in the Australian Alps, and flows into the Murray. As these Alps
separate New South Wales from Victoria, these diggings belong to the
latter province. They are about forty miles from the town of
Albury. They are spread over a large space of ground. The principal
localities are Spring and Reid's Creeks.
Now for the letters.
"Melbourne, January 5, 1853.
"My dear E--,
"You'll be surprised at the heading of this but the Ovens are not to my
taste, and I'm off again with Frank and Octavius to Bendigo tomorrow. I
suppose you'll like to hear of our adventures up to the Ovens, and the
reasons for this sudden change of plans. We left Melbourne the Monday
after you sailed, and camped out half-way to Kilmore, a little beyond
the 'Lady of the Lake.' The day was fine, but the dust made us
wretched. Next day, we reached Kilmore--stopped there all night. Next
day on again, and the farther we went, the more uncivilized it
became--hills here, forests there, as wild and savage as any one could
desire. It was 'bushing it' with a vengeance. This lasted several days.
Once we lost our road, and came, by good luck, to a sort of
station. They received us very hospitably, and set us right next
morning. Four days after, we came to the Goulburn river. There was a
punt to take us over, and a host of people (many from Bendigo) waiting
to cross. Three days after, we pitched out tents at the Ovens. Here I
soon saw it was no go. There was too much water, and too little gold;
and even if they could knock the first difficulty on the head, I don't
think they could do the same to the second. In my own mind, I think it
impossible that the Ovens will ever turn out the second Bendigo that
many imagine. Hundreds differ from me, therefore it's hundreds to one
that I'm wrong. The average wages, as far as I can judge, are an ounce
a-week; some much more, many much less. We did not attempt digging
ourselves. Eagle Hawk shallowness has spoilt us, for not even Octavius
(who, you know of old, was a harder worker than either Frank or self)
thinks it worth digging through fourteen or sixteen feet of
hard clay for the mere pleasure of exercising our limbs. Provisions
there were not at the high price that many supposed they would be, but
quite high enough, Heaven knows! Meat was very scarce and bad, and
flour all but a shilling a pound; and if the fresh arrivals keep
flocking in, and no greater supply of food, it will get higher still.
We stayed there two weeks, then brought our dray back again, and are
now busy getting ready for a fresh start to Bendigo. Among other things
we shall take, are lemonade and ginger-beer powders, a profitable
investment, though laughable. The weather is very hot--fancy 103 degrees
in the shade. Water is getting scarce."
* * * * *
"Have seen all our friends in Melbourne except Richard, who left for
England a fortnight ago. Jessie is well, and growing quite pretty. She
says she is extremely happy, and sends such a number of
messages to you, that I'll write none, for fear of making a mistake.
Will write again soon."
* * * * *
"Your affectionate brother, in haste,
"Melbourne, April 17, 1853.
"My dear E----,
"I suppose you've thought I was buried in my hole, or 'kilt' by
bushrangers in the Black Forest; but I've been so occupied in the
worship of Mammon, as to have little thoughts for anything else.
* * * * *
"We made a good thing of our last two speculations. Ginger-beer and
lemonade, or lemon kali, at sixpence a tiny glass, paid well. A
successful digger would drink off a dozen one after another. Some days,
we have taken ten pounds in sixpences at this fun. What they
bought of us wouldn't harm them, but many mix up all sorts of injurious
articles to sell; but our consciences, thank God! are not colonised
sufficiently for that. We have had steady good luck in the digging line
(for we combine everything), and after this next trip, mean to dissolve
* * * * *
"Octavius talks of going out as overseer, or something of that sort, to
some squatter in New South Wales for a year or so, just to learn the
system, &c., and then, if possible, take a sheep-run himself. Frank
means to send for Mrs. Frank and small Co. He says he shall stay in
Victoria for some years. I do believe he likes the colony. As for
myself, I hope to see the last of it in six weeks' time.
* * * * *
"Hurrah for Old England!--no place like it.
* * * * *
"Your very affectionate brother,
With a cordial assent to the last few words, I conclude these pages.
WHO SHOULD EMIGRATE?
The question of "Who should emigrate?" has now become one of such
importance (owing to the number who are desirous of quitting their
native land to seek a surer means of subsistence in our vast colonial
possessions), that any book treating of Australia would be sadly
deficient were a subject of such universal interest to be left
unnoticed; and where there are so many of various capabilities, means
and disposititoins, in need of guidance and advice as to the advantage
of their emigrating, it is probable that the experience of any one,
however slight that experience may be, will be useful to some.
Any one to succeed in the colonies must take with him a quantity of
self-reliance, energy, and perseverance; this is the best capital a man
can have. Let none rely upon introductions--they are but useless things
at the best--they may get you invited to a good dinner; but now that
fresh arrivals in Melbourne are so much more numerous than heretofore,
I almost doubt if they would do even that. A quick, clever fellow with
a trade of his own, inured to labour, and with a light heart, that can
laugh at the many privations which the gipsy sort of life he must lead
in the colonies will entail upon him; any one of this description
cannot fail to get on. But for the number of clerks, shopmen, &c., who
daily arrive in Australia, there is a worse chance of their gaining a
livelihood than if they had remained at home. With this description of
labour the colonial market is largely overstocked; and it is
distressing to notice the number of young men incapable of
severe manual labour, who, with delicate health, and probably still
more delicately filled purses, swarm the towns in search of employment,
and are exposed to heavy expenses which they can earn nothing to meet.
Such men have rarely been successful at the diggings; the demand for
them in their accustomed pursuits is very limited in proportion to
their numbers; they gradually sink into extreme poverty--too often into
reckless or criminal habits--till they disappear from the streets to
make way for others similarly unfortunate.
A little while since I met with the histories of two individuals
belonging to two very different classes of emigrants; and they are so
applicable to this subject, that I cannot forbear repeating them.
The first account is that of a gentleman who went to Melbourne some
eight months ago, carrying with him a stock of elegant acquirements and
accomplishments, but little capital. He is now in a starving condition,
almost with-out the hope of extrication, and is imploring from
his friends the means to return to England, if he live long enough to
receive them. The colours in which he paints the colonies are
deplorable in the extreme.
The other account is that of a compositor who emigrated much about the.
same time. He writes to his former office-mates that he got immediate
and constant employment at the rate of 7 pounds per week, and naturally
thinks that there is no place under the sun like Melbourne. Both
emigrants are right. There is no better place under the sun than
Melbourne for those who can do precisely what the Melbourne people
want; and which they must and will have at any price; but there is no
worse colony to which those can go who have not the capabilities
required by the Melbourne people. They are useless and in the way,
their accomplishments are disregarded, their misfortunes receive no
pity; and, whilst a good carpenter or bricklayer would make a fortune,
a modern Raphael might starve.
But even those possessed of every qualification for making first-class
colonists, will at first meet with much to surprise and annoy them, and
will need all the energy they possess, to enable them to overcome the
many disagreeables which encounter them as soon as they arrive.
Let us, for example, suppose the case of an emigrant, with no
particular profession or business, but having a strong constitution,
good common sense, and a determination to bear up against every
hardship, so that in the end it leads him to independence. Let us
follow him through the difficulties that bewilder the stranger in
Melbourne during the first few days of his arrival.
The commencement of his dilemmas will be that of getting his luggage
from the ship; and so quickly do the demands for pounds and shillings
fall upon him, that he is ready to wish he had pitched half his "traps"
over-board. However, we will suppose him at length safely landed on the
wharf at Melbourne, with all his boxes beside him. He inquires
for a store, and learns that there are plenty close at hand; and then
forgetting that he is in the colonies, he looks round for a porter and
truck, and looks in vain. After waiting as patiently as he can for
about a couple of hours, he manages to hire an empty cart and driver;
the latter lifts the boxes into the conveyance (expecting, of course,
his employer to lend a hand), smacks his whip, and turns down street
after street till he reaches a tall, grim-looking budding, in front of
which he stops, with a "That ere's a store," and a demand for a
sovereign, more or less. This settled, he coolly requests the emigrant
to assist him in unloading, and leaves him to get his boxes carried
inside as best he can. Perhaps some of the storekeeper's men come to
the rescue, and with their help the luggage is conveyed into the
store-room (which is often sixty or eighty feet in length), where the
owner receives a memorandum of their arrival. Boxes or parcels may
remain there in perfect safety for months, so long as a
shilling a week is paid for each.
Our emigrant, having left his property in security, now turns to seek a
lodging for himself; and the extreme difficulty of procuring house
accommodation, with its natural consequences, an extraordinary rate of
rent, startles and amazes him. He searches the city in vain, and
betakes himself to the suburbs, where he procures a small,
half-furnished room, in a wooden house for thirty shillings a week. The
scarcity of houses in proportion to the population, is one of the
greatest drawbacks to the colony; but we could not expect it to be
otherwise when we remember that in one year Victoria received an
addition of nearly 80,000 inhabitants. The masculine portion of these
emigrants, with few exceptions, started off at once to the diggings;
hence the deficiency in the labour market is only partially filled up
by the few who remained behind, and by the fewer still who forsake the
gold-fields; whilst the abundance of money, and the deficiency of good
workmen, have raised the expenses of building far above the
point at which it would be a profitable investment for capital.
Meantime, the want is only partially supplied by the wooden cottages
which are daily springing up around the boundaries of the city; but
this is insufficient to meet the increasing want of shelter, and on the
southern bank of the Yarra there are four or five thousand people
living in tents. This settlement is appropriately called "Canvas Town."
But let us return to our newly-arrived emigrant.
Having succeeded in obtaining a lodging, he proceeds to purchase some
necessary articles of food, and looks incredulously at the shopkeeper
when told that butter is 3s. 6d. a pound, cheese, ham, or bacon 2s. to
2s. 6d., and eggs 4s. or 5s. a dozen. He wisely dispenses with such
luxuries, and contents himself with bread at 1s. 6d. the four-pound
loaf, and meat at 5d. a pound. He sleeps soundly, for the day has been
a fatiguing one, and next morning with renewed spirits
determines to search immediately for employment. He does not much care
what it is at first, so that he earns something; for his purse feels
considerably lighter after the many demands upon it yesterday. Before
an hour is over, he finds himself engaged to a storekeeper at a rate of
three pounds a-week; his business being to load and unload drays, roll
casks, lift heavy goods, &c.; and here we will leave him, for once set
going he will soon find a better berth. If he have capital, it is
doubtless safely deposited in the Bank until a little acquaintance with
the colonies enables him to invest it judiciously; and meanwhile, if wise,
he will spend every shilling as though it were his last; but if his
capital consists only of the trifle in his purse, no matter, the way he
is setting to work will soon rectify that deficiency, and he stands a
good chance in a few years of returning to England a comparatively
To those of my own sex who desire to emigrate to Australia, I say do so
by all means, if you can go under suitable protection, possess
good health, are not fastidious or "fine-lady-like," can milk cows,
churn butter, cook a good damper, and mix a pudding. The worst risk you
run is that of getting married, and finding yourself treated with
twenty times the respect and consideration you may meet with in
England. Here (as far as number goes) women beat the "lords of
creation;" in Australia it is the reverse, and, there we may be pretty
sure of having our own way.
But to those ladies who cannot wait upon themselves, and whose fair
fingers are unused to the exertion of doing anything useful, my advice
is, for your own sakes remain at home. Rich or poor, it is all the
same; for those who can afford to give 40 pounds a-year to a female
servant will scarcely know whether to be pleased or not at the
acquisition, so idle and impertinent are they; scold them, and they will
tell you that "next week Tom, or Bill, or Harry will be back from the
diggings, and then they'll be married, and wear silk dresses, and be as
fine a lady as yourself;" and with some such words will coolly dismiss
themselves from your service, leaving their poor unfortunate mistress
uncertain whether to be glad of their departure or ready to cry because
there's nothing prepared for dinner, and she knows not what to set
For those who wish to invest small sums in goods for Australia, boots
and shoes, cutlery, flash jewellery, watches, pistols (particulary
revolvers), gunpowder, fancy articles, cheap laces, and baby-linen
offer immense profits.
The police in Victoria is very inefficient, both in the towns and on
the roads. Fifteen persons were stopped during the same afternoon
whilst travelling on the highway between Melbourne and St. Kilda. They
were robbed, and tied to trees within sight of each other--this too in
broad daylight. On the roads to the diggings it is still worse; and no
one intending to turn digger should leave England without a good supply
of fire-arms. In less than one week more than a dozen robberies
occurred between Kyneton and Forest Creek, two of which terminated in
murder. The diggings themselves are comparatively safe--quite as much
so as Melbourne itself--and there is a freemasonry in the bush which
possesses an irresistible charm for adventurous bachelors, and causes
them to prefer the risk of bushrangers to witnessing the dreadful
scenes that are daily and hourly enacting in a colonial town. Life in
the bush is wild, free and independent. Healthy exercise, fine scenery,
and a clear and buoyant atmosphere, maintain an excitement of the
spirits and a sanguineness of temperament peculiar to this sort of
existence; and many are the pleasant evenings, enlivened with the gay
jest or cheerful song, which are passed around the bush fires of
The latest accounts from the diggings speak of them most encouragingly.
Out of a population of 200,000 (which is calculated to be the number of
the present inhabitants of Victoria), half are said to be at the
gold-fields, and the average earnings are still reckoned at
nearly an ounce per man per week. Ballarat is again rising into favour,
and its riches are being more fully developed. The gold there is more
unequally distributed than at Mount Alexander, and therefore the
proportion of successful to unsuccessful diggers is not so great as at
the latter place. But then the individual gains are in some cases
greater. The labour is also more severe than at the Mount or Bendigo,
as the gold lies deeper, and more numerous trials have to be made
before the deposits are struck upon.
The Ovens is admitted to be a rich gold-field, but the work there is
severely laborious, owing to a super-abundance of water.
The astonishing mineral wealth of Mount Alexander is evidenced by the
large amounts which it continues to yield, notwithstanding the immense
quantities that have already been taken from it. The whole country in
that neighbourhood appears to be more or less auriferous.
Up to the close of last year the total supposed amount of gold procured
from the Victoria diggings, is 3,998,324 ounces, which, when calculated
at the average English value of 4 pounds an ounce, is worth nearly SIXTEEN
MILLIONS STERLING. One-third of this is distinctly authenticated as
having come down by escort during the three last mouths of 1852.
In Melbourne the extremes of wealth and poverty meet, and many are the
anecdotes of the lavish expenditure of successful diggers that are
circulated throughout the town. I shall only relate two which fell
under my own observation.
Having occasion to make a few purchases in the linen drapery line, I
entered a good establishment in Collins Street for that purpose. It was
before noon, for later in the day the shops are so full that to get a
trifling order attended to would be almost a miracle. There was only
one customer in the shop, who was standing beside the counter, gazing
with extreme dissatisfaction upon a quantity of goods of various
colours and materials that lay there for his inspection. He was
a rough-looking customer enough, and the appearance of his hands gave
strong indication that the pickaxe and spade were among the last tools
he had handled.
"It's a SHINY thing that I want," he was saying as I entered.
"These are what we should call shining goods," said the shopman, as he
held up the silks, alpacas, &c., to the light.
"They're not the SHINY sort that I want," pursued the digger,
half-doggedly, half-angrily. "I'll find another shop; I guess you won't
show your best goods to me--you think, mayhap, I can't pay for them--but
I can, though," and he laid a note for fifty pounds upon the counter,
adding, "maybe you'll show me some SHINY stuff now!"
Unable to comprehend the wishes of his customer, the shopman called to
his assistance the master of the establishment, who being, I suppose,
of quicker apprehension, placed some satins before him.
"I thought the paper would help you find it. I want a gown for my
missus. What's the price?"
"Twenty yards at one-ten--thirty pounds. That do, Sir?"
"No; not good enough!" was the energetic reply.
The shrewd shopkeeper quickly fathomed his customer's desires, and now
displayed before him a rich orange-coloured satin, which elicited an
exclamation of delight.
"Twenty-five yards--couldn't sell less, it's a remnant--at three pounds
"That's the go!" interrupted the digger, throwing some more notes upon
the counter. "My missus was married in a cotton gown, and now she'll
have a real gold 'un!"
And seizing the satin from the shopkeeper, he twisted up the portion
that had been unrolled for his inspection, placed the whole under his
arm, and triumphantly walked out of the shop, little thinking how he
had been cheated.
"A 'lucky digger' that," observed the shopman, as he attended to my
I could not forbear a smile, for I pictured to myself the digger's wife
mixing a damper with the sleeves of her dazzling satin dress tucked up
above her elbows.
A few days after, a heavy shower drove me to take shelter in a
pastry-cook's, where, under the pretence of eating a bun, I escaped a
good drenching. Hardly had I been seated five minutes, when a
sailor-looking personage entered, and addressed the shopwoman with:
"I'm agoing to be spliced to-morrow, young woman; show us some large
The largest (which was but a small one) was placed before him, and
eighteen pounds demanded for it. He laid down four five-pound notes
upon the counter, and taking up the cake, told her to "keep the change
to buy ribbons with."
"Pleasant to have plenty of gold-digging friends," I remarked, by way
of saying something.
"Not a friend," said she, smiling. "I never saw him before. I expect
he's only a successful digger."
Turn we now to the darker side of this picture.
My favourite walk, whilst in Melbourne, was over Prince's Bridge, and
along the road to Liardet's Beach, thus passing close to the canvas
settlement, called Little Adelaide. One day, about a week before we
embarked for England, I took my accustomed walk in this direction, and
as I passed the tents, was much struck by the appearance of a little
girl, who, with a large pitcher in her arms, came to procure some water
from a small stream beside the road. Her dress, though clean and neat,
bespoke extreme poverty; and her countenance had a wan, sad expression
upon it which would have touched the most indifferent beholder, and
left an impression deeper even than that produced by her extreme though
I made a slight attempt at acquaintanceship by assisting to
fill her pitcher, which was far too heavy, when full of water, for so
slight a child to carry, and pointing to the rise of ground on which
the tents stood, I inquired if she lived among them.
She nodded her head in token of assent.
"And have you been long here? and do you like this new country?" I
continued, determined to hear if her voice was as pleasing as her
"No!" she answered quickly; "we starve here. There was plenty of food
when we were in England;" and then her childish reserve giving way, she
spoke more fully of her troubles, and a sad though a common tale it
Some of the particulars I learnt afterwards. Her father had held an
appointment under Government, and had lived upon the income derived
from it for some years, when he was tempted to try and do better in the
colonies. His wife (the daughter of a clergyman, well educated, and who
before her marriage had been a governess) accompanied him with
their three children. On arriving in Melbourne (which was about three
months previous), he found that situations equal in value, according to
the relative prices of food and lodging, to that which he had thrown up
in England were not so easily procured as he had been led to expect.
Half desperate, he went to the diggings, leaving his wife with little
money, and many promises of quick remittances of gold by the escort.
But week followed week, and neither remittances nor letters came. They
removed to humbler lodgings, every little article of value was
gradually sold, for, unused to bodily labour, or even to sit for hours
at the needle, the deserted wife could earn but little. Then sickness
came; there were no means of paying for medical advice, and one child
died. After this, step by step, they became poorer, until half a tent
in Little Adelaide was the only refuge left.
As we reached it, the little girl drew aside the canvas, and partly
invited me to enter. I glanced in; it was a dismal sight. In
one corner lay the mother, a blanket her only protection from the humid
soil, and cowering down beside her was her other child. I could not
enter; it seemed like a heartless intrusion upon misery; so, slipping
the contents of my purse (which were unfortunately only a few
shillings) into the little, girl's hand, I hurried away, scarcely
waiting to notice the smile that thanked me so eloquently. On arriving
at home, I found that my friends were absent, and being detained by
business, they did not return till after dusk, so it was impossible for
that day to afford them any assistance. Early next morning we took a
little wine and other trifling articles with us, and proceeded to
Little Adelaide. On entering the tent, we found that the sorrows of the
unfortunate mother were at an end; privation, ill health and anxiety had
claimed their victim. Her husband sat beside the corpse, and the golden
nuggets, which in his despair he had flung upon the ground, formed a
painful contrast to the scene of poverty and death.
The first six weeks of his career at the diggings had been most
unsuccessful, and he had suffered as much from want as his unhappy
wife. Then came a sudden change of fortune, and in two weeks more he
was comparatively rich. He hastened immediately to Melbourne, and for a
whole week had sought his family in vain. At length, on the preceding
evening, he found them only in time to witness the last moments of his
Sad as this history may appear, it is not so sad as many, many others;
for often, instead of returning with gold, the digger is never heard of
In England many imagine that the principal labour at the diggings
consists in stooping to pick up the lumps of gold which lie upon the
ground at their feet, only waiting for some one to take possession of
them. These people, when told of holes being dug in depths of from
seven to forty feet before arriving at the desired metal, look upon
such statements as so many myths, or fancy they are fabricated by the
lucky gold-finders to deter too many others from coming to take
a share of the precious spoil. There was a passenger on board the
vessel which took me to Australia, who held some such opinions as
these, and, although in other respects a sensible man, he used
seriously to believe that every day that we were delayed by contrary
winds he could have been picking up fifty or a hundred pounds worth of
gold had he but been at the diggings. He went to Bendigo the third day
after we landed, stayed there a fortnight, left it in disgust, and
returned to England immediately--poorer than he had started.
This is not an isolated case. young men of sanguine dispositions read
the startling amounts of gold shipped from the colonies, they think of
the "John Bull Nugget" and other similar prizes, turn a deaf ear when
you speak of blanks, and determiinately overlook the vast amount of
labour which the gold diggings have consumed. Whenever I meet with this
class of would-be emigrants, the remarks of an old digger, which I once
over heard, recur to my mind. The conversation at the time was
turned upon the subject of the many young men flocking from the "old
country" to the gold-fields, and their evident unfitness for them.
"Every young man before paying his passage money," said he, "should take
a few days' spell at well-sinking in England; if he can stand that
comfortably, the diggings won't hurt him."
Many are sadly disappointed on arriving in Victoria, at being unable to
invest their capital or savings in the purchase of about a hundred
acres of land, sufficient for a small farm. I have referred to this
subject before, but cannot resist adding some facts which bear upon it.
By a return of the LAND SALES of Victoria, from 1837 to 1851, it
appears that 380,000 acres of land were sold in the whole colony; and
the sum realized by Government was 700,000 pounds. In a return published
in 1849, it is stated that there were THREE persons who each held singly
more land in their own hands than had been sold to all the rest of the
colony in fourteen years, for which they paid the sum of 30 pounds
each per annum. Yet, whilst 700,000 pounds is realized by the sale of
land, and not 100 pounds a-year gained by LETTING three times the
quantity, the Colonial Government persists in the latter course, in spite
of the reiterated disapprobation of the colonists themselves; and by one
of the last gazettes of Governor La Trobe, he has ordered 681,700 acres,
or 1,065 square miles, to be given over to the squatters. The result of
this is, that many emigrants landing in Victoria are compelled to turn
their steps towards the sister colony of Adelaide. There was a family
who landed in Melbourne whilst I was there. It consisted of the
parents, and several grown-up sons and daughters. The father had held a
small tenant farm in England, and having saved a few hundreds,
determined to invest it in Australian land. He brought out with him
many agricultural implements, an iron house, &c.; and on his arrival
found, to his dismay, that no less than 640 acres of crown lands could
be sold, at a time, at the upset price of one pound an acre. This was
more than his capital could afford, and they left for Adelaide. The
expenses of getting his goods to and from the ships, of storing them,
of supporting his family while in Melbourne, and of paying their
passage to Adelaide, amounted almost to 100 pounds. Thus he lost nearly a
fourth of his capital, and Victoria a family who would have made good
Much is done now-a-days to assist emigration, but far greater exertions
are needed before either the demand for labour in the colonies or the
over-supply of it in England can be exhausted. Pass down the best
streets of Melbourne: you see one or two good shops or houses, and on
either side an empty spot or a mass of rubbish. The ground has been
bought, the plans for the proposed budding are all ready. Then why not
commence?--there are no workmen. Bricks are wanted, and 15 pounds a
thousand is offered; carpenters are advertized for at 8 pounds a week; yet
the building makes no progress--there are no workmen. Go down towards the
Yarra, and an unfinished Church will attract attention. Are funds wanting
for its completion? No. Thousands were subscribed in one day, and would
be again were it necessary; but that building, like every other, is
stopped for lack of workmen. In vain the bishop himself published an
appeal to the various labourers required offering the very highest
wages; others offered higher wages still, and the church (up to the
time I left Victoria) remained unfinished. And yet, whilst labour
is so scarce, so needed in the colonies, there are thousands in our own
country ABLE AND WILLING TO WORK, whose lives here are one of prolonged
privation, whose eyes are never gladdened by the sight of nature, who
inhale no purer atmosphere than the tainted air of the dark courts and
dismal cellars in which they herd. Send them to the colonies--food and
pure air would at least be theirs--and much misery would be turned into
I heard of a lady who every year sent out a whole family from
the poor but hard-working classes to the colonies (it was through one
of the objects of her thoughtful benevolence that this annual act
became known to me), and what happiness must it bring when she reflects
on the heartfelt blessings that are showered upon her from the far-off
land of Australia. Surely, among the rich and the influential, there
are many who, out of the abundance of their wealth, could "go and do