― 35 ―

Chapter II. [1846.]


EARLY on the morning of the 25th June we were gliding past the entrance to Botany Bay, and with the glass could distinguish the monument erected to the memory of poor La Perouse by his compatriots, on the northern shore of that extensive basin;—Botany Bay! so undeservedly yet indelibly branded as the head quarters of exiled felony — the terrestrial purgatory of Britain's evil-doers. Undeservedly, I say, because this harbour, originally chosen by Captain Phillip for the first convict settlement in New South Wales, was, on trial, found unfit for the purpose, and was accordingly in a few weeks abandoned for the neighbouring position of Port Jackson.

  ― 36 ―

So well founded were the objections of Phillip to Botany Bay as a point of location, that even at the present day, although only seven miles from the great city of Sydney, there are scarcely a dozen houses on its margin, whose circuit can hardly be less than twenty miles.

Shortly before midday, the Agincourt passed close under the lighthouse of Port Jackson, perched upon a horizontally stratified cliff, descending plumb 300 feet into deep water; and precisely at 12 o'clock we entered “The Heads,” that grand and appropriate portal of one of the noblest harbours in the world.

Working against an adverse wind, under charge of a pilot, the good ship zigzagged her course along the seven miles of inland water connecting The Heads with Sydney Cove; and at 3 P.M. of an Australian mid-wintry but splendid day the anchor was dropped in that snug little haven, within a biscuit's cast of the spot where, in the year 1788, the first Governor of New South Wales pitched the tents of the first British plantation in New Holland.

In spite of the undoubted beauties of Port Jackson, its glorious expanse of smooth water, its numerous lovely islets, its sweeping bays and swelling headlands, wooded down to the water edge and crested with handsome villas, there is to the stranger's eye something singularly repulsive in the leaden tint of the gum-tree foliage, and in the dry and sterile sandstone from which it springs.

The trees, indeed, have no bare branches, as in an English winter, excepting those killed by bush-fires; but the stiff hard leaves, which seem expressly formed

  ― 37 ―
to resist the chill wind and powerful sun of an Australian winter, although nominally evergreen, but little deserve the epithet.

On this day there was no want of cheerful accessories in and about the harbour. Its bosom was studded with swarms of pleasure-boats; the coves were crowded with shipping. As our vessel neared the shores in the process of beating, we saw parties of horsemen and horse-women cantering along the crescented slips of sand, carriages appearing and disappearing among the trees; and, on a headland close to the town, were promenading groups of well-dressed people, amongst whom might be seen the uniform of officers and soldiers, making up a gay prism of colours in the bright sunlight.

The weather must have been by the colonists considered cold, although we, after the alternations of a long voyage, did not find it so. All those who came down to the harbour to meet the ship were warmly wrapped up; and one gentleman's teeth, I observed, absolutely chattered under a pile of mufflers.

The Health-officer and a Post-office functionary came off to us in a boat pulled by prisoners. I believe I expected to see these men chained like galley-slaves to their oars; and was a little disappointed, perhaps, when I found them differing in nowise from an ordinary boat's crew, except in their bad rowing. So, likewise, on finding myself dodged from deck to cuddy, from cabin to poop, by a keen-looking young man, who addressed me in a low earnest voice, I expected to have my pocket picked; when, turning sternly upon him for explanation, I discovered his intentions to be strictly honourable.

  ― 38 ―
He was a newspaper reporter, doubly anxious for news because the Agincourt, being the March mail-packet from England, had arrived before the February packet. This sharp caterer for the Sydney quidnuncs, had heard that I had brought on board at Deal the latest English journal. I handed it to him, with the request that it might be returned when done with. He vanished over the ship's side, and I never saw him nor my newspaper again.

Like the generality of mercantile towns, viewed from the sea, Sydney, although containing nearly 50,000 inhabitants, presents from this aspect no very imposing appearance. It might be Waterford, or Wapping, with a dash of Nova Scotian Halifax.

The main streets, built along the crests and flanks of two or three highish ridges trending inland, are unseen from the shipping; but this very peculiarity of its site gives to Sydney a greater extent of deep water frontage than, perhaps, any other commercial city in the universe. These spines of land, or rather rock, subdivide the south shore of Port Jackson, at the spot where Sydney has arisen like a huge mushroom, into numerous small and deep basins, among which the principal are Wooloomooloo Bay, Farm Cove, sacred to H. M.'s ships; Sydney Cove, and Darling Harbour; the whole presenting capabilities for natural wharfage, such as I have never seen equalled.

The new Government-house, a really handsome structure of stone, with its gardens and home domain, occupies the promontory between Wooloomooloo Bay and Sydney Cove, and thus, although close to the town, its

  ― 39 ―
privacy is completely secured by a park paling drawn across the neck of the peninsula. Beyond this fence the outer domain, an extensive government reserve, acts as one of the lungs of Sydney. Its circuit embraces nearly four miles of carriage-road and foot-path, cleverly and tastefully planned by Mrs. Macquarie, wife of the governor of that name, and executed under her direction by convict labour. To this lady the citizens of Sydney are indebted for a plaisance such as few of the capitals of Europe can surpass in extent and beauty.

At the head of Farm Cove, encompassed by the outer domain, are the Government Botanic Gardens, comprising several acres of shrubbery and flower-garden, in which specimens of the vegetable productions of almost every part of the globe are assembled for the study of the scientific, and for the instruction and wonderment of the uninitiated.

But let us set foot upon the soil of Australia before we attempt to sketch its features. It will be honest, I think, to lay open to my reader first impressions as they stand noted in my diary of 1846. He will find, probably, that the more my acquaintance with the colony became matured, the more benignant became my feelings towards it—a progressive appreciation, surely more satisfactory than an over sanguine first view, chilling by degrees down to zero.

A most kind offer of bed and board from an old friend of my family met me ere I disembarked; but preferring independence, I declined this hospitality; and landing solus at the bottom of George-street, I strolled, stick in hand, my man following with my portmanteau

  ― 40 ―
in a cab, up to Petty's hotel, a respectable, quiet establishment, where I remained about a fortnight before my tent was permanently pitched in Sydney. I passed my first Australian evening in rambling slowly up George-street, the main artery of the city, and down Pitt-street, the second in rank; and should have been truly astonished at the immense extent of the former thoroughfare—the Broadway and Oxford-street of the Antipodes, 2½ miles long—and at the endless succession of well supplied and well lighted shops in both, but that certain Sydneyites, my fellow passengers, had in so loud and high a key chanted the praises of their adopted city, that, on actual inspection, I had nothing to do but to come tumbling down the gamut until I reached my own pitch note.

What greater injustice to man or matter than this super-laudation! Niagara cannot bear it. What more need be said?

Passing through the Barrack-square to mine inn, shortly before nine o'clock I found tattoo going on, the drums and fifes of the 99th regiment rattling away Mrs. Waylett's pretty old song of, “I'd be a Butterfly,” in the most spirited style, just as though we were not 16,000 miles from the Horse Guards! It was the first note of music I had heard since leaving home; and I do not know when a more soothing and agreeable sensation pervaded my mind than at that moment, as I stood listening under the bright moonlight of this “far countrie” to a parcel of old well-remembered airs, that had been discarded by the London butcher-boys a quarter of a century ago; listening among a crowd of

  ― 41 ―
small boys and big blackguards, all of whom, according to the habit of new comers, I fully believed to be convicts and their spawn, intent one and all on exercising a right of search into the stranger's pockets.

June 26th.—Sydney wants the foreign and exotic interest of other of our colonial capitals. Neither the aborigines themselves, nor any object belonging to them, nor the natives of any other country, mix with the nearly exclusively British population and products of the place. Now and then a Chinaman, with his pig's-tail and eyes, and his poking shoulders, crosses your vision, as if he had dropped, not from the clouds—although the Celestials have a right to be expected thence—but from a willow pattern soup-plate. Perhaps a specimen or two of the New Zealander, brown, broad, brawny, and deeply tattooed, may occur. In the outskirts of the town, a chattering, half-besotted group of the wretched natives of New Holland itself, tall, and thin even to emaciation, with great woolly heads and beards and flat features, may be seen, grinning and gesticulating in each other's ugly faces in loud dispute, or making low and graceful bows, worthy of the old school, whilst begging a copper, or “white money,” from the passengers, as they loiter near the door of some pot-house.

Sydney is, I think, more exclusively English in its population than either Liverpool or London. Were it not for an occasional orange-tree in full bloom or fruit in the back yard of some of the older cottages, or a flock of little green parrots whistling as they alight for a moment on a housetop, one might fancy himself at Brighton or Plymouth.

  ― 42 ―

The construction of the buildings is blameably ill-suited to a semi-tropical climate,—barefaced, smug-looking tenements, without verandahs or even broad eaves. This fault extends to the Government House, whose great staring windows are doomed to grill unveiled, because, forsooth, any excrescence upon their stone mullions would be heterodox to the order or disorder of its architecture. Surely a little composite licence might have been allowable in such a case and climate.

Many of the private residences of Sydney and its suburbs are both handsome and comfortable,—most of them crowded with expensive furniture, therein differing from the practice in most warm countries; where the receiving-rooms and bed-rooms contain little beyond the muniments necessary for sitting and lying, and those of the plainest, hardest, and most undraped description.

The majority of the public buildings evince proof of the profusion of fine sandstone on the spot,—for a house may here be almost entirely built of the material dug from its foundation,—as well as of the solid advantages arising from convict labour, especially when so powerful an agent is wielded by a governor of such strong masonic predilections as he whose name is affixed to the façades of most of the Sydney public institutions.note These edifices suit their purposes, no doubt, but have nothing, I think, to recommend them to the eye.

On the subject of public places, the fact that the “Hyde Park” of Sydney is merely a fenced common, without a tree or a blade of grass, and the “Hyde Park

  ― 43 ―
Barracks” a convict dépót, grates somewhat unpleasantly on the feeling of one lately arrived from London.

In strolling homewards late this evening, I was once more attracted by the sound of music. Led by the ear, I found myself looking down into the windows of a vault or crypt below a very handsome chapel. There was evidently eating and drinking going on with great earnestness, and speechifying intermingled with them; and a brass band was undoubtedly playing a variety of jolly airs under the floor of a place of worship. This seemed somewhat eccentric, I thought; however, I learnt from a bystander that the meeting was nothing more than a subterranean Teetotal festival, whereof I was then taking a birds'-eye view from the pavement.

June 29th.—The well-known hospitable spirit of the Sydney society developed itself in my favour this morning, in the shape of a mound of visiting cards, interlarded with numerous invitations to dinners and evening parties.

I dined this day with my respected chief, Lieutenant-General Sir Maurice O'Connell, at his beautiful villa of Tarmons; and I mention the circumstance merely to have an opportunity of remarking, that there were brisk coal fires burning in both dining and drawing-room, and that the general appliances of the household, the dress of the guests and the servants, were as entirely English as they could have been in London. The family likeness between an Australian and an Old Country dinner-party became, however, less striking when I found myself sipping doubtfully, but soon swallowing with relish, a plate of wallabi-tail soup, followed by a slice of boiled schnapper, with oyster sauce. A haunch of kangaroo

  ― 44 ―
venison helped to convince me that I was not in Belgravia. A delicate wing of the wonga-wonga pigeon with bread sauce, and a dessert of plantains and loquots, guavas and mandarine oranges, pomegranates and cherimoyas, landed my imagination at length fairly at the Antipodes.

July 1st.—House-rent in Sydney is very high, and vacant houses are very scarce. The first I took consisted of seven small rooms, without stable, courtyard, pump, kitchen range, or even bells to the rooms: rent £100 per annum for the bare walls. It was situated in the heart of the town, or at least in its pericardium. The street contained, I think, upwards of three hundred houses; and I was compelled to be particular in giving my address — Street North, because its other extremity tapered off into impropriety. I had fallen by accident into the legal quarter of the city; indeed my house had been built expressly to form two sets of chambers for gentlemen of the long robe. The door-posts of nearly all my neighbours were scored with the names of barristers, attorneys, solicitors, notaries-public, and other limbs of the law, who, albeit rivals in the trade, contrive to play into each other's hands to the detriment of the public pocket.

My street abutted upon the Supreme Court, and I was perfectly astonished to see the number of sleek and spruce and bewigged personages, who soon after breakfast came swooping down from their rookery upon the field of their daily labours. Litigation is the luxury of young communities, as it is of parvenus who have only just acquired the power to afford it.

  ― 45 ―

New South Wales early took the epidemic in its most virulent form. It was fatal in many instances to the fortunes of those infected; and some nice little incomes were picked up by the leading advocates and their providers. It is but just to add, that these were for the most part as freely spent as quickly gathered. I have been assured by an influential member of the profession, that the palmy days of the law have passed away in Sydney. There are probably more gleaners of the profits; not, I should imagine, a thinner crop of “cornstalks”note for the harvest,—some of them as long in the ear as could be wished.

In a country where highly educated men are comparatively rare, those brought up to the law are valuable public servants. Several of the ablest and most prominent members of the Legislative Council,—certainly those best worth hearing,—are of the forensic order.

The prospect from my windows was anything but agreeable; for they looked upon the backs of a cluster of St. Giles-like tenements, across a piece of waste ground, unbuilt on because litigated, which seemed to be the central dépót for all the nuisances of the arrondissement,—where all sorts of rubbish might be shot, or at least was shot, from a load of soot to a proscribed cat or the decimated fraction of a litter of puppies.

Here, in the warm summer nights, many a drunken outcast of the pot-houses took his rest without fear of the watch-house: nor had he much cause for fear; the solitary policeman crawling stupidly along the middle of

  ― 46 ―
the street, and the solitary lamp dim twinkling in the shadowy distance, were little likely to discover or disturb his slumbers.

The lighting, and still more the paving of the Sydney streets, are a disgrace to the city and its corporation, as well as to the people who tolerate the ill-performed duties of the latter well-paid body. The trottoirs are full (and were to the last day of my residence in New South Wales) of the most ingenious traps, dangerous to the limbs, if not to the lives of the passengers. The sewerage of the town is also shamefully bad, though no city possesses a site more favourable for that essential. Most of the drains are on the surface, and during the long periods of drought the accumulation of filth becomes beyond measure disgusting. At length comes the expected “Brickfielder,” drifting the pulverized abominations into every pore of the human frame, and every crevice of the houses. It is closely followed by a flood of rain, which sets all the gutters in motion, and, fortunately for the citizens, carries away down to the sea in its torrents the thousand specimens of decomposed matter, which have been left to rot in the streets.

The thoroughfares are infested by an innumerable host of apparently ownerless dogs—innumerable in spite of the Dog Act, that has been in force ever since the Government order fulminated against the canine race in 1812.

The lawless brutes range at will the town and suburbs, to the torment and terror of the lieges. The horseman, who presumes to indulge in any pace faster than a walk, has, without any ambition of becoming a master of hounds, a pack at his heels so addicted to “riot,” that he

  ― 47 ―
may consider himself fortunate if he escape Actæon's fate. Many a luckless wight have I watched flying along the street in a cloud of dust and dogs, fresh detachments of curs debouching upon him from every alley and court, until they vanished together round a corner, leaving me to imagine the finish.

It is still worse when the military band is playing, as it does once or twice a week, in the Government domain. All the fair and fashionable are stationed around in their carriages. Let an equestrian exquisite make the smallest effort at lady-killing in the shape of a curvet or a riding-school canter on the tempting turf, and instantly, from among the legs of the pedestrian spectators, rush forth the hitherto unseen canine crew, and away, away through the gum-trees and over the drain-grips, fly horseman, steed, and pack. Like Mazeppa,

“He hears them on his track—
The troop comes hard upon his back.”

They are lost in the wood; when suddenly the horse reappears on the scene, still chased by the pestilent brutes; or if it happens that the cavalier has kept his seat and got rid of his foes, he is glad to escape the ironical condolement of his friends by stealing away from the scene of his discomfiture.

But more serious consequences arise sometimes from the stray dogs. Two or three times I have been the horrified witness of attacks upon children by large and fierce dogs, which would have ended fatally but for the prompt help of passers-by.

I once saw a powerful mastiff seize a horse by the throat, between the shafts of a gig, and pull it to the

  ― 48 ―
ground; nor did the ferocious beast quit its hold until killed by a blow with an iron bar.

Some of the Newfoundland dogs in this country are the finest I have ever seen—much larger and handsomer than the true Labrador dog, which is neither very tall, nor very curly in the coat.

Hound-like dogs, with a good deal of the shape and colour of the English fox-hound, but with none of his countenance, figure here as street mongrels.

The Danish dog, the privileged attendant of aristocratic equipages in Europe, is seen in twos and threes under every baker's cart, or joining in the foraging parties of nameless curs.

I have seen, too, with amusement, pointer puppies in the streets “drawing” up to poultry and pigeons, thereby unconsciously betraying their descent from some poaching ancestor, transported probably, together with his master, for that crime so heinous at all times in the eyes of country gentlemen and justices—now so lightly punished.

From my sitting room, in —— Street, I have often witnessed more of a good run, and without any expense of nerve or horseflesh, than many of the loudest post-prandial sportsmen can boast with truth of having done in a Leicestershire winter. I have seen poor Tabby ‘found’ in an area entrance or stable-yard; ‘unkenneled’ cleverly by a volunteer scratch pack ranging in height from that of a donkey to a turnspit; and, after a ring or two on the bit of waste land opposite, “run into,” “killed,” and “broken up,” in undoubted style!

With varied success have I, Quixotte-like, sallied

  ― 49 ―
forth to the rescue of some poor goat, whose piteous bleat called eloquently for help;—pleasing mead of my broomstick's prowess when I received the blessing of some warmhearted old Irishwoman, for saving the life of her “bit of a kid—the craythur!”

That picturesque animal, the goat, by-the-by, forms a conspicuous item of the Sydney street menagerie—amounting to a pest little less dire than the plague of dogs. Nearly every cottage has its goat or family of goats. They ramble about the highways and by-ways, picking up a hap-hazard livelihood during the day; and going home willingly or compulsorily in the evening to be milked.

Woe betide the suburban garden whose gate is left for a moment unclosed. Every blade of vegetation within and without their reach has been previously noted by these half-starved vagrants. In an instant the bearded tribes rush in—where angels (terrestrial) almost feared to tread; and in a few seconds, roses, sweet peas, stocks, carnations, &c. &c. are as closely nibbled down as though a flight of locusts had bivouacked for a week on the spot; and the neat flower-beds are dotted over with little cloven feet, as if ten thousand infantine devils had been dancing there—a juvenile sabbat.

July 22d.—Extract from the Price Current of the week:—flour, 16l. per ton; bread, 4d. the 21b. loaf; potatoes, 6s. 6d. to 8s. per cwt.; butter, 1s. 10d. to 2s. 6d. per lb.; fowls, 2s. 6d. to 3s. per pair; turkeys, 7s. to 9s. a head; beef and mutton, from 1d. to 2½d. per lb.; hay, 8s. 6d. per cwt., Van Diemen's Land Hay, 7l. to 8l. a ton; straw, 3s. 6d. per cwt.; eggs, 1s. 6d. to 2s. per dozen; bottled beer, English, 14s. per dozen.

  ― 50 ―

These are not prices likely to tempt immigrants. Ireland could feed her man infinitely cheaper. Fortunately articles of subsistence are usually less expensive, as may be seen in the Appendix.note

It has often been remarked that the profuse meat diet of the English in this country tends rather to injure than to fortify the health, and to diminish rather than augment the physical power. The inhabitants of Sydney struck me at first sight as looking pale and puffy compared with their fellow Britons at home. Many of the Cornstalks, or Colonial-born men, are tall and large-boned, but the majority of those attaining a standard above the middle height are spare, hollow chested, and have a certain weather-worn and time-worn look beyond their years. If one sees a ruddy face, it is sure to belong to a sea-faring man, an up-country bushman whose cheeks are burnt by exposure into an uniform red bronze, or to the rubicund Boniface of some tavern, whose ever-blooming roses have been well irrigated by strong waters. The women of the poorer classes look prematurely old; many of them are absolutely frightful, yet appear to delight in tawdry dress. The children in the streets and lanes are, on the contrary, so lovely, that it is almost impossible to believe them the offspring of the hags, their mothers.

Poor hard-working creatures! poor faithful helpmates! well may youth and health and beauty early wither before the manifold troubles, mental and bodily, that fall to their lot in this colony. The day-labourers of Sydney are notoriously idle, drunken, and dissolute.

  ― 51 ―
Earning 3s., 4s. and 5s. a-day, they will work perhaps four out of the seven, and during the remainder squander their gains in drink and riot, leaving their wretched families to feed themselves as they can.

The climate, too, must be highly inimical to feminine good looks, at least as far as complexion is concerned. At this season the atmospheric changes are very great, and very sudden. A bright sun scorches you, a dry cold wind cuts you in two. You shrink from the ardent rays of the former, yet in the shade you shiver. Both in summer and winter the well-known Australian dust, especially in the sandstone districts, keeps the face and eyes in constant irritation. Your hair feels like hay, your skin like parchment. Unless you are a very even-souled fellow your temper even grows gritty under the annoying infliction.

Yet with all this it is a glorious climate!—glorious in its visible beauty—glorious in its freedom from lethal disorders—priceless, with respect to this latter feature, in the eyes of those who have known what it is to serve in countries where Death multiform rides on the wings of the wind, lurks in forest and swamp, and riots in the crowded emporium.

August 1st.—Sydney is not without its public amusements for the stranger as well as the resident. Of the Theatre I may fairly say that, as far as dramatic talent is concerned, it is conducted at the least as well as the generality of provincial houses in England. To be sure, we are compelled to be satisfied all the year round with the efforts of stationary performers; for it must be an eccentric Star indeed which would shoot so far out of its orbit as to reach New South Wales.

  ― 52 ―

In decency of demeanour the audience of the Sydney Theatre Royal is a prodigy compared with that of similar establishments in the seaport towns of the old country. The “gods” are particularly well-behaved. Even in the trying experiment, which I witnessed more than once, of a comic singer inviting the gallery to join him in a chorus, the immortals met the proposal with great moderation, and contrived to testify their approval without cudgelling down the front of the circle.

The dress-boxes are always unpeopled, unless an impulse be given by a bespeak or by the benefit of a favourite. These appeals act as a sort of mental gadfly on the society. The herd rushes together with one consent, and disports itself in crowded discomfort; and once more, for a month perhaps, the play-goer, whom a love of the drama only attracts, has the house all to himself.

When the Sydney Theatre was first established by permission of the governor, “Her Majesty's servants” were Her Majesty's prisoners! In the pit of the Sydney Theatre one misses the numerous bald heads of an European parterre, for the people of New South Wales have not yet had time to grow old. On the other hand, the eyes of the stranger wander with surprise over the vast numbers of new-born babies in the pit—three or four dozen little sucklings taking their natural refection, whilst their mothers seem absorbed in the interest of the piece; their great long-legged daddies meanwhile sprawling over the benches in the simplest of costumes,—a check shirt, for instance, wide open at the breast, no braces, moleskins, and a cabbage-tree hat.

It is a pleasant thing to see these good folks thoroughly enjoying themselves in this manner on a Saturday night

  ― 53 ―
— a week's wages and the door-key in their pockets, and all the family cares deferred till Monday morning.

Every one knows—at least every foreigner knows—how cold and undemonstrative is an English audience. Perhaps the warmth of the climate infuses a degree of fervour into a Sydney “house.” Certain it is that the “poor players” get a fairer share of applause than the same performances would secure at home. It would be a lesson to the used-up man of the world, to witness the raptures with which some of the public favourites, and their efforts histrionic, musical, and saltatory, are received and rewarded. Oh! it is delicious to mark the gratified countenances, and to hear the thundering plaudits which are especially awarded to the latter branch of theatric art. Well may Madame * * *, the Sydney Columbine and Maîtresse de Danse, most spherical of Sylphides, bounce like an Indian-rubber ball; well may Signor * * * *, Harlequin and Dancing-master, half kill his fatted calves in acknowledgment of so much flattering approbation!

There are to be found round the doors of the Sydney theatre a sort of “loafers,” known as the Cabbage-tree mob—a class whom, in the spirit of the ancient tyrant, one might excusably wish had but one nose, in order to make it a bloody one! These are an unruly set of young fellows, native born generally, who, not being able, perhaps, to muster coin enough to enter the house, amuse themselves by molesting those who can afford that luxury. Dressed in a suit of fustian or colonial tweed, and the emblem of their order, the low-crowned cabbage-palm hat, the main object of their enmity seems to be the ordinary black headpiece worn by respectable

  ― 54 ―
persons, which is ruthlessly knocked over the eyes of the wearer as he passes or enters the theatre.

The first time I attended this house, I gave my English servant, a stout and somewhat irascible personage, a ticket for the pit. Unaware of the propensities of the Cabbagites, he was by them furiously assailed—for no better reason apparently than because, like “noble Percy,” “he wore his beaver up,”—and, his hat being driven down over his eyes and nose, in his blind rage he let fly an indiscriminate “one, two,” the latter of which took effect upon a policeman's snout!

“Hinc!” a night in the watch-house, and the necessity of proving in the morning that the “glaring case of assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty” was not intentional and “of malice aforethought.”

On one occasion I recollect two clergymen being much maltreated by members of this mischievous mob.

Much has been spoken and written by influential persons in England about the hideous depravity of the Sydney populace. I do not think they deserve that character. Although the streets are ill lighted, and the police inefficient in number and organization, Sydney appears to me to have on the whole a most orderly and well-conducted population. Public-house licences are so profitable a source of public revenue, that perhaps too many of these conveniences for crime are permitted to exist; yet drunkenness is kept quite as well out of sight as in English towns; and, although a pretty strong squad of disorderlies figure in the morning reports of the Police courts, the better behaved inhabitants are but little annoyed by their misdemeanours.

All strangers notice with praise the extreme tranquillity

  ― 55 ―
of the streets at night. Whatever debaucheries may be going on “à huis clos”—and Sydney is no purer perhaps than other large seaport towns—they are not prominently offensive. If a noctambulist yourself, you may indeed encounter, towards the small hours, an occasional night-errant wandering in search of adventures, or having found some to his great personal damage; but he is an exception to the general rule of the social quietude of the Sydney thoroughfares.

On occasions of public excitement the people of Sydney appeared to me to be not only orderly, but even unusually apathetic. To be sure, there has been heard of a case of a Police Magistrate of sixteen stone being driven by a shower of brickbats to put his horse at the railings in Hyde Park, during the polling of an election; and I remember one or two ludicrous instances of civic panic, on account of juvenile rioters breaking windows and squibbing off fire-works on Guy Faux day. It nearly went the length of moving the Legislature to proceed against the unfledged rebels by Act of Council—instead of punishing them summarily by act of whipping. But these, again, are solitary facts. I do not believe, in short, that person or property, morals or decency are more liable to peril, innocence to outrage, inexperience to imposition, in Sydney, than in London or Paris. On the contrary, I am convinced, that from our own country, not only might come to New South Wales, but actually and frequently do come, individuals of every order of society—from the practised debauché of high life to the outcast of the London back-slums—capable of giving lessons in vice, in their several degrees,

  ― 56 ―
to the much abused Sydneyites, and who do absolutely astonish the colonials by their superior proficiency.

I will go so far as to admit, that some of the wildest disturbers of the public peace of Sydney are occasionally to be traced to the garrison and to the shipping. Now and then one hears of a couple of grenadiers clearing a taproom, and a knot of A B seamen may be seen battling the watch, or experimentalizing in horsemanship, to the danger of all land-lubbers.

The public prints take care that red-coat revels shall not be lost to the world for want of chroniclers. The words “Military Outrage” invoke general attention and indignation, and the bitterest terms of newspaper vituperation are hurled at the “ruffian soldiery.”

In 1849 and 1850, when the roads round Sydney were infested by highwaymen, and desperate burglaries occurred nightly in the city and its purlieus;—when hundreds of well-known convicts or expirees, many of them from Van Diemen's Land, were prowling about with no obvious mode of livelihood—their characters and haunts well known—the most shabby and absurd attempts were made to trace these offences to the soldiers. The army, as it is now-a-days, would be better appreciated by the good citizens of Sydney and some other places, if they could have a taste of one of the “fast” regiments of former days—just to put them through a course of Tom-and-Jerryism, and other by-gone branches of garrison discipline.

Sept. 1st.—The number of auctions daily going on in Sydney is quite extraordinary; not auctions for the purpose of selling off the houses and effects of departed or

  ― 57 ―
departing persons—though these happen often enough, too often for one's belief in the permanent prosperity of the community—but for the disposal by wholesale of imported goods, or by retail of tradesmen's stock on hand. A stranger would almost suppose that the buyers and sellers of the colony were too idle to transact business without the intermediation of a paid agent. From the sale of an allotment of Crown land, or the lease of a squatting run, to a “prime lot” of pork, pickles, or curry powder, all are equally submitted to public outcry.

The newspapers teem with advertisements such as these:—

“ABSTRACT OF SALES BY AUCTION THIS DAY.” “Messrs. * * * and * * *, at their Mart, at 11 o'clock, 150 doz. kangaroo skins, a second-hand gig, ship biscuit, baby-linen, damaged ironmongery, bottled fruits, castor oil, Canary birds, Bohemian glass, accordions, and the effects of a deceased clergyman, comprising robes, &c.”


“Mr. * * * will have the honour to offer to public competition, at 12 o'clock on Monday, the 4th inst., the Crow's Nest Station, in the District of Moreton Bay, with 10,000 sheep; after which, arrowroot, blacking, lime-juice, lozenges, ladies' companions, jams, bath-bricks, damaged gunny bags, Turkey figs, tooth-brushes, 12,000 feet of prime cedar plank, a four-roomed house, an anchor and chain, a mare, a horse, and twenty pigs. “At 3 P.M. precisely, the newly rigged copper-bottomed clipper, Mary Anne, well known in the trade! one gross of egg-spoons, a bass-viol, a superior Europe feather-bed, two lots of land, two bales super calico, Old Tom, soup and bouilli, toys, cutlery, and a cottage piano.”

The chief attendants at these public sales are brokers and keepers of miscellaneous stores, many of them Jews either by persuasion or by descent. Those of the latter category modify their names, so as to be as little as possible

  ― 58 ―
Hebraic; but there is no mistaking their cast of physiognomy, the most unchanging and arbitrary in the world. Temporarily considered, it is not a bad sign when this people, or the Quaker tribe, throng to a place. There is honey making, depend on it, where such are seen to swarm. Sometimes, indeed, they accumulate an undue share to themselves, as may be witnessed in certain Irish towns. But they are generally good subjects, and obey the laws.

The Sydney gentleman has no chance at these auctions; for he is known and watched by the brokers and jobbers aforesaid, and is either “bid up” to a ruinous price, and left to carry off his dearly-bought whistle, or is “bid down,” and cowed out of his lot by the apparently fierce resolve of his professional rival to have it at any cost.

On one occasion, when venturing a diffident bid for a pair of carriage-horses, I was informed by a spectator that it was “no use,” for that “the stout party in the yaller veskit, over yonder, wanted them very bad, and would have them.” So after lifting the animals to a figure considerably above their worth, I was fain to yield to inexorable necessity and to the wealthy emancipist and whilom bankrupt, who had resolved to drive the highest steppers in Sydney.

Some persons have a taste for public outcries. In Calcutta they used to be—are now, I dare say—quite the rage. Habit soon teaches one the true value of every article offered for sale. Amateurs generally enjoy the fruits of this experience in a house-full of useless lumber.

During the first year or two of my residence in Sydney, the sellings-off of families going home or into retirement

  ― 59 ―
were very numerous. An auction at a house of this description is quite a fashionable lounge. Gentlemanly auctioneers, whom you hesitate whether or not to admit on terms of social equality, address you by name, assure you that the article is one of undoubted vertù—that you cannot let it go at a price so absurdly low—that you cannot do without it. You buy something because the salesman is eloquent, because he has flattered your taste, because the late owner was a good fellow—not because you want it. Thus articles of household furniture in Sydney become migratory, and are recognised as old acquaintances bought and sold twenty times over.

I do not mean to hint that Sydney has not a fair share of permanent and well-rooted residents; but there do occasionally happen some almost meteor-like apparitions and disappearances among the most opulent circles—perfectly astounding to quiet people drawing a quarterly or monthly salary and living within it. An unusually grand ball or fête is, in such cases, a virulent symptom;—the crisis is not far off!—the torch flares up—goes out; and all the world, except those most concerned, are left in the dark—as to the cause.

On the subject of street sales of miscellaneous wares—which I have said are not lucrative pursuits to the inexperienced frequenter—I have a little anecdote “to submit to public notice,” unique in its way, and “a genuine article.” A young military friend of mine, strolling one morning down George-street in desultory quest of amusement, stepped from mere curiosity into an auction-room where a sale was going on. Whether he did or did not nod his head at the salesman, is still doubtful; but it is

  ― 60 ―
a fact that a lot, comprising “50 gross of bottles of mixed pickles,” was knocked down to him ere he had time to cross himself. Startling dilemma for a well-dressed young gentleman, revelling in a salary of five shillings and threepence per day, drawing his pay from the paymaster and his pickles from the messman! “Some have greatness thrust on them,”—but imagine six hundred bottles of mixed pickles, to be paid for on delivery, being thrust upon a subaltern of a marching regiment!

Ninety-nine out of a hundred youngsters would have been taken aback, would have loudly denied the transaction, or made some other false movement betraying perturbation. Not so my cool-headed young friend. Treating the sale as a matter of course, and awaiting the close of the auction, he commissioned the auctioneer to “put up” his newly-acquired property in several small lots. The result proved that the military purchaser was not quite so green as the gerkins he was dealing in; for he realized a handsome profit, and left the Mart, followed by the admiration of the oldest auction loungers present.

The night auction was common when I first arrived in New South Wales. I fancy this branch of the trade must have been since lopped off by legislative enactment, as I did not observe its occurrence later in my stay. It seemed specially intended for the disposal of articles “that love the shade,” and for the spoliation of the raw emigrant. The locale of the night auction was usually some small open stall. A ragged old pauper was seen and heard ringing a large bell opposite the door. A shabby, but sharp-looking salesman, leaning over a horse-shoe counter, under the light of a huge but blear and

  ― 61 ―
smoky lamp, arrested the passengers by a display of his wares. The idlers gradually curdled into a crowd. Delusive eloquence and a dim light did the rest.

But it is not only to public sales that newspaper notices direct the public attention, and stimulate the public indolence. Merchants, traders, agents, shopkeepers of all grades promulgate their wants or their goods on hand through these channels. Master and servant invite and proffer service by this means. At the head of a few of these entries, cut out of a file of journals before me, should be placed the following one. Published in England and Ireland, this advertisement alone, which has frequently appeared, should ensure to New South Wales what the colonists call “a copious and continuous stream of immigration.”

“J. K. CLEAVE, wholesale and retail butcher, will supply beef and mutton of good quality at 1d. per lb.”

Think of that, ye Dorsetshire day-labourers! Think of that, ye Tipperary turf-cutters! Think of that, ye poor starving London needle-women, who

“Stitch, stitch, stitch!
In poverty, hunger and dirt,
Sewing at once with a double thread
A shroud as well as a shirt!”

Now for a mélange—or macédoine of advertisements—to all concerned. They are word for word as entered.

“WANTED, immediately, a Blacksmith, a pair of Sawyers, a Man Cook, a Governess, and a Housekeeper. “(Signed) * * * General Agency Office.”

“FUNERALS.—Mrs. B——, Undertaker, has removed from * * * to * * * street, and continues to conduct funerals with respectability and solemnity on moderate terms.”

  ― 62 ―

The following notice, lamentable to relate, is only one of scores of similar import that catch the eye of the newspaper reader.

“CAUTION.—Whereas my wife, Margaret ——, having left her home without cause or provocation, all persons are hereby cautioned against giving her credit on my account.” “A FALSE report have been asserted through the town, that Madame Farrelly gave up her establishment. Such is not the case; she re-opened on the 14th instant.” “TO STONEMASONS.—Wanted, immediately, six good hands; wages, 6s. 6d. per day. Apply to John Revell, Cole's-buildings, Upper Fort-street, Sydney. February, 1852.”

John Eldridge, dyer and scourer, advertises himself as “The man who dyes for the ladies.”

“The Art of Fencing.”—Mr. Hardman, professor of fencing, late serjeant-major in H.M. 80th Regiment of Foot, after setting forth in glowing language the benefits of this “useful art,” proceeds to state his terms:—

“TERMS (for two lessons each week).—Gentlemen set up, taught marching and fencing, 1½ guineas per quarter. Young Ladies set up, taught to square their toes, march, and enter a room gracefully, 1 guinea per quarter.”

In pleasing succession to the above athletic pursuits, comes the following refreshing notice:—


“WILLIAM BLYTH having received, per Hamlet, one of Masters' Double Action Patent Freezing Apparatus, is now prepared to supply his friends with Ices from one to two o'clock P.M., and from four to five daily (wet and cold weather excepted), and on Theatre nights only from nine to ten o'clock.”

  ― 63 ―

The two next appeared in the order in which I have left them.


“MR. A. GRAY begs to remind his old friends and the lovers of harmony, that he has re-opened his Free and Easy on Saturday evenings. A professional gentleman presides at the pianoforte from 8 to 12.

“The chair will be taken by Mr. Emerson, at 9 o'clock.

“Bathurst and Sussex-streets.”



“FIRST ANNIVERSARY DINNER, to take place at Mr. Harris's, Jew's Harp, Brickfield-hill, on Monday, November 5, 5610.

“Tickets to be had at Mr. Harris's, and of the Honorary Secretary, 601, Lower George-street.

  “W. L. PYKE, Hon. Sec.”


“I HEREBY caution all persons from purchasing any cattle from Frances Cavin, my wife or her son or any other person branded HC on near rump, running at Buckamell Creek Station, district of Liverpool Plains.

“September 30.

  “H. C.”


“A BARON of Beef and Plum Pudding will be on the table at Entwisle's Hotel at one o'clock this day, Sept. 28, 1848.”

“BOARD AND LODGING for a single Gentleman, with use of a saddle horse and pianoforte, at one guinea a week. Apply, &c.”


“A MARRIED Medical Man, of long standing, and great practical experience in his profession, and who has no intention of leaving the colony, is desirous of entering into contracts with a draper, grocer, butcher, baker, and shoemaker, to supply them and their families with professional attendance and medicine upon terms of mutual advantage. Private families contracted with upon moderate terms, and the highest testimonials and references submitted. Address, A. Z., (post-paid) Herald Office.”

  ― 64 ―

See what “Ladies” have to descend to when they emigrate.


“A LADY, lately arrived in the colony from England, wants a situation as housekeeper and lady's maid. She possesses a perfect knowledge of millinery and dress-making. Salary not so much an object as a respectable home. The country would be preferred. The most respectable references will be given. Address, J. C., Herald Office.”

Slubber wanted—apply &c.” may to the many convey the idea of a mysterious craving.

Nor does the general reader feel capable of lecturing dogmatically upon the uses and abuses of “a Double-action Crab Winch for sale at, &c. &c.”


If it were not for the above heading, the political economist might deduce from what follows that the Imperial Government were about to make a frantic effort to rid the Old Country of certain objectionable members of the nobility—to establish an aristocracy in the colony—and at the same time to remedy the present inequality in the sexes in Australia!

“10,000 Duchesses, with nails.

5,000 Countesses, slightly damaged.

12,000 Ditto, much ditto

The whole without reserve!!”

A kindred announcement of a batch of “Damaged Grey Domestics” being in the market, suggests the idea of a consignment of superannuated housekeepers and “stumpt-up” butlers from home—quite good enough for colonial consumption;—whereas in fact it relates to

  ― 65 ―
some household cloth rendered “filthy dowlas” by land or sea accident.

Need it be noted, that the quack professor of the day has a branch business in this colony? His advertisements announce a head-quarters agent for Sydney, with subalterns at different out-stations, each having in charge expense-magazines of pill cartridge, sufficient to sweep from the earth whole regiments of diseases—or patients. A nominal roll of the former—commencing with “Ague,” and running through the alphabet to the V's and W's of nosology—attest the efficacy of the preparations.

Among the “cases” cited, a certain “earl” and other notables figure now and then at the Antipodes, as living proofs (some of them long dead) of miraculous cures at home. But a well-known influential squatter and merchant, residing in Sydney, is the chief agent's main hobby, as having “purchased and sent to his stations in the Bush 14l. worth of these valuable medicines!”

It is fair to say, that these nostrums are in great request among the hard living denizens of the distant interior, and, in the absence of doctors and druggists, are no doubt very useful antidotes to bad rum and indigestible “damper.”

Physic, as an article of consumption, is seldom indulged in to excess, except by the Malades Imaginaires of high life. I have often thought that gallipotism owes much of its popularity with the non-working classes, to the natural love of talking about one's self. A man's doctor is perhaps the only person of his acquaintance

  ― 66 ―
who will patiently endure the infliction. He is at least paid for it.

I take the liberty to close the subject of Sydney advertisements with the following notice:—

“THE HANGMAN.—This official left Sydney yesterday for Bathurst, where work awaits him; from Bathurst he will proceed to Goulburn.”

The shops of Sydney are well supplied, although the supply is sometimes uncertain; and it is this very uncertainty which causes, and perhaps in some degree excuses, the two price system which so disgusts the old country customer.

“What is the price of those sugar-tongs?”

Answer: “Five-and-six, sir.”

“Very dear for Britannia!”

“Well, sir, say three-and-nine, although that price don't remunerate me.”

“Perhaps not,” mentally ejaculates the purchaser, “for such barefaced roguery must be expensive to keep up!”

“It was never manufactured at that price,” is the common and often veracious comment of the colonial shopman; and the complacency arising from a good bargain is clouded by the reflection, that the poor seamstress or operative at home is the aboriginal and main sufferer.

However dear the majority of imported goods may be, “slops,” (shade of the polished earl, shudder! for the “Chesterfield wrapper at 7s. 6d.” is included in that term,) slops are nearly always cheap, for they are mostly the work of the wretched sisterhood of London needle-women!

  ― 67 ―

There is no necessity for persons coming to New South Wales to cumber themselves with a huge amount of baggage. There are excellent and skilful tradesmen of every sort in Sydney:—coachmakers and tailors, who can build you a carriage or a coat that you may put yourself into with comfort and complacency; boot-makers, who will turn you out a pair of kangaroo skin Wellingtons, the softest of all leathers, that will do justice to your foot—all at Regent-street prices. If you are not particular, or in a hurry, or prefer putting on your clothes with a pitchfork, there are fifty warehouses where you may rig yourself, “my lord, from top to toe,” in two minutes, and “at a very low figure.”

There is one thing that, as an old traveller, I never go without, namely, a London saddle, by a first-rate maker, (Wilkinson and Kidd are mine.) But as the assertion of this maxim in another colony brought down upon my shoulders the entire guild of the workers in pigskin, I say no more about it.

The out-door games of old England are kept up here with greater observance than in any other colony of my acquaintance. I have seen some excellent and spirited play in the cricket matches between the clubs of Sydney and the vicinity; and, when a little more attention shall be paid to round bowling and to costume, the game will be more effective, and the presence and encouragement of the fair sex will perhaps be secured. I rarely, or never, saw a lady at an Australian cricket match.

It is amusing and pleasant to see the minor games of the minor people come round in their seasons. In the keen weather of July the hoop has its sway. As a

  ― 68 ―
pedestrian spectator—if you preserve a green recollection of your schoolboy days—you criticise with a bland and protective feeling the skilful inch-driving of the urchin's one-wheeled coach; but when, on horseback, you see the emblem of eternity abandoned by its guide just when it most needs his care, wabbling across your path, how differently do you regard this innocent toy and its innocent owner! You have the pleasing uncertainty whether your shying steed will get one or more of his legs within the iron circle, or whether all four will remain available for a fruitless gallop after the hop-o'-my-thumb offender.

The weather grows warmer, and the peg-top comes in, followed by marbles—both games of an exciting nature. The earnest little gamblers—for the winner, as you may recollect, pockets a handful of marbles as well as his opponent's “taw”—knuckle down in the middle of the street or pavement, and if you disturb the state of the game—look out, that's all.

In the cricket season the male portion of the rising generation are perfectly engrossed in the study of that noble game. Every possible imitation of a wicket forms the target for every possible object that schoolboy ingenuity can compel to do duty for a ball. Your milk-boy sets his can down, in open day, for the vegetable lad to have “only just one ball” at it with a turnip. Old women are continually seen scolding and threatening because their legs have, quite accidentally of course, been treated as a set of stumps.

One of the peculiarities of Sydney is the multitude of its gay equipages. In an English provincial town the

  ― 69 ―
handsome barouche or chariot rolling down the main street attracts a certain degree of attention. It belongs, of a surety, to some civic notable or provincial grandee. In George-street or Pitt-street at three or four o'clock there are crowds of such carriages. Gay I have called them, and gay they are indeed, for the vehicles themselves are smart, and the fair ladies within them are often very smart; but they—the carriages—are generally ill-appointed and ill-driven, a fact by no means surprising, since many of the coachmen have tried every earthly trade before they took to the box. I myself possessed one whose previous calling had been that of a muffin baker. After he left my service I heard of him as a street watchman, a turnkey, and an office messenger.

From the bread-cart to the brougham may indeed be legitimate promotion; but that the shop-boy who has been accustomed to handle the ribands behind the counter should eo facto be capable of maintaining them with propriety and safety behind a footboard and a pair of blood bays; or that the runaway carpenter's apprentice should, ex officio, be eligible for the hammer-cloth, are non sequiturs too apparent to need comment.

Fellows like these come out to this colony with the most vague and aimless ideas, whereof I shall have to give some illustrations under the head of Immigration. Many of them, fit for nothing at home, are worthless here. Dodging from employment to employment, and suited to none, they only gain a livelihood in the absence of a really useful body of immigrants.

  ― 70 ―

On the subject of equipages, the public carriages—cabs, as they are called—are certainly the best in the world. Generally clarences, with a pair of well-fed active horses, they have nothing of the old English hackney coach about them; and though some of the drivers are thorough-bred ruffians, they are kept in pretty good subjection by the regulations.

Mrs. Meredith it is, I think, who lashes with her clever pen the habit of the ladies of Sydney to make the dusty streets their favourite drive or walk. The fact is as true as it is astonishing—for I know of no town in the universe where fresh air is more necessary for the inhabitants; and there are few towns of co-ordinate consequence so bountifully supplied with breathing places close at hand.

I have spoken of the Government domain, and its creation by convict labour under tasteful superintendence. The several entrances are close upon the town and suburbs. There are nearly four miles of drives through alternate open and wooded grounds, the greater part exposed to the sea-breeze, and opening upon cheerful views of the splendid harbour. There are shady paths, held sacred to foot-passengers, winding among the “tea-scrub,” or skirting the rocky shores. There is a spacious grassy plain, where a battalion may manœuvre, and where the band plays for the amusement of the public once or twice a week. There are the Botanic Gardens, divided into two compartments; one laid out in formal squares, containing the floral produce of many widely distant lands, flourishing together here as they flourish nowhere else; the other more in the English

  ― 71 ―
pleasure-ground style, embracing a wide circuit of the picturesque Farm Cove. There is a drive or ride of twelve or thirteen miles, to the lighthouse at the South Head and back, passing through such lovely scenery that, although enjoyed a thousand times, it never palled on my taste; and for the admirer of the wild and dreary there is, for equestrian exercise, the wide expanse of hill and swamp between the city and Botany Bay. There are all these healthful outlets from Sydney dust and heat, and yet, with the exception of the attendance at the band, a score of persons can rarely be counted in any of the spots I have enumerated.

I may except also the Gardens on a Sunday afternoon, when the shopocracy—a wealthy and comfortable class—resort in considerable numbers to catch a puff “of the briny,” and take the creases out of their best suits. The Botanic Gardens at such times present a cheerful and pretty sight from any of the surrounding eminences, from a boat in the bay, or from the shipping.

The scene is still more lively on the annual or half-yearly Exhibition of the Australian Botanic and Horticultural Society, when many thousands assemble to inspect the fruits, flowers, and vegetables, and other colonial products, arranged in marquees, and to listen to the music of the regimental and city bands, sitting or strolling under the shadow of the trees of many climes, and looking forth upon the calm glassy cove dotted with boats, the opposite ridge of the Inner Domain, crowned with the vice-regal palace, the frigates riding at anchor off the Point, the less trim merchantmen in “the stream”

  ― 72 ―
waiting for a wind, and the woody hills of the north shore in the back-ground.

There is immense competition amongst some half-dozen gentlemen and market-gardeners for the prizes given at this Exhibition. I can enjoy, but, having no science, cannot thoroughly appreciate rare plants. I felt more interest in the specimens of flax, silk, cotton, olive oil, wine,—all indigenous to the country, and only requiring time and experience to bring them to perfection.

Some of the producers evince their fealty to their native land by exhibiting specimens of her weeds, or more properly field-flowers, strangers to the colony, and difficult to rear in the climate. I found myself adoring a buttercup, idolizing a daisy, and ardently coveting possession of a glorious dandelion, which, classically labelled “Leontodon taraxacum,” occupied one of the high places of the Exhibition, and was treated as an illustrious foreigner.

For myself, I know no more pleasant lounge than the public gardens, sheltered as they are by the heights of Darlinghurst from the chill south winds of winter, and in summer shaded from the sun's rays by the trees. Of this latter quality—shade—however, not much can be said. A late traveller in these parts writes, indeed, “Nothing can be more delicious, during the hot days of summer, than to seek the deep shade in the sylvan recesses of these gardens.” To find it, would be still more delicious. There is, in truth, a great want of the more umbrageous and broad-leafed trees. All the family of the fig, so common here, are excellent in this

  ― 73 ―
respect, and might be more largely introduced into the gardens.

The view of so many vegetable natives of distant regions, within a small space, and all in the open air, is both pleasing and surprising. Plants from the Cape and China, Peru and Japan, Madagascar and North Britain, South America and the Canary Isles, Van Diemen's Land, Hindostan, and New Zealand, are thriving within a stone's throw of each other. The oak and bamboo, the hawthorn and sugar-cane, the Scotch fir, plantain, and mango—the last, however, not looking happy—almost mingle branches.

The Botanic Gardens, then, are I think a very useful establishment—a most creditable effort on the part of a young colony; yet (I note it as a disgraceful fact) in a rabid attack upon the estimates by the opposition members of the Legislative Council in 1849, this pleasant place of public resort ran imminent risk of being permitted to go to waste for want of the annual vote of money for its support. This was a small instance of radical ebullition and legislative wantonness, such as the intervention of a second Chamber would serve to control.

The drive along the southern shore of the harbour to the Heads or entrance to Port Jackson, and thence back to Sydney by the “old South Head Road,” about thirteen miles, has hardly its equal anywhere for picturesque beauty.

The harbour itself rudely resembles, in its projections and indentations, the form of an oak leaf—or, to enlist a monstrous simile, it may be likened to the gaping mouth

  ― 74 ―
of some huge antediluvian saurian, the bluffs and inlets representing the teeth and the interstices between them. The eye, following the profile of the two opposite shores, cannot but perceive that if the said enormous sandstone jaws were, by some geological miracle, to snap together again, so neat would be the fit that there would remain but little more than a serpentine line of demolished rocks and gum-trees to mark where Port Jackson once was. The trifling islands in its midst would be, as the Yankees say, “chawed up” in a moment—“Cockatoo,” and “Goat Island,” “Shark,” “Sow and Pigs,” and even “Pinch-gut,” would be masticated and digested at one champ of the mighty monster.

The sins of Sydney, it is to be hoped, will not be visited by so disastrous a closing of her port. If it must happen, may it be when some overwhelming enemy's fleet is sailing up Port Jackson to bombard the city!

The road to the Heads, after passing over the neck of the peninsula on which Darlinghurst is built, dives into a small valley, crossing the head of Rushcutter's Bay; then rising again, and again falling, it traverses a series of these promontories and coves, alike, yet full of variety—the hills well clothed with timber though sandy, the valleys rich in alluvial soil, and covered with wild brush or reeds—or, more usefully, with the crops of the market-gardeners of the town.

The views of the harbour from the higher points of the road, over the tufted tops of the forest sloping down to its extreme brink, and the glimpses of its glittering waters between the boles of the enormous gum-trees, are

  ― 75 ―
truly beautiful. So completely is this great port shut in from the ocean, that I know of no spot a mile within its gates from which the stranger would even surmise the position of its mouth—were it not for the tall bluff of the North Head, which lifts a hundred feet of its sheer wall-like profile above any of the interior headlands. I cannot describe botanically the trees, plants, and shrubs among which the eye of the rider wanders, well pleased, on either side of the road. The Eucalyptus, and other gums of infinite variety, form the larger growth of “the bush.” But there are trees, distantly resembling in aspect the European ash, the holly, larch, and myrtle, with a luxuriant undergrowth of ferns and lichens, and a multitude of flowering shrubs clad in spring and autumn with blossoms so lovely in form and hue as to justify the name of “Botany,” conferred by Dr. Solander as a title of honour on the neighbouring bay.

There is the Correa, with stiff stem and prickly leaves, but with a string of delicate little pendulous flowers, red, orange, and white, something like the fuchsia, but, in my mind, a hundred times more brilliant.

The native Rose, a Boronea, has the colour but no other resemblance to the European queen of flowers. It is one of the few bush-flowers possessing any odour. Wafted on the passing gale, it commends itself pleasantly to the senses; but, strange enough, on closer acquaintance there mingles with the rich perfume an undoubted scent of the fox! a scent which, however creative of rapture in “the field,” is ill adapted to the boudoir. The native rose is, I believe, nearly allied to the Diosma of the European greenhouse, to the scent of which some

  ― 76 ―
noses have strong objection. A bouquet of bush-flowers is highly ornamental in the épergne of the dinner table, for they do not soon fade, and keep better out of water than in it; but he who would not implant a thorn in the bosom of beauty will never desire to see them worn in the ball-room, for, with scarcely an exception, they are harsh and thorny as the holly itself.

The South Sea myrtle, or Leptospernum, grows in fine round bushes, spangled with white stars. Of the heath-like Epacris there is an infinite variety, among which I name the Styphelia because it possesses the rare quality of a green flower. The Boronias shoot up their slender stems, among the roughest rocks and stubbornest plants, towards the sun, their wax-like petals showing every delicate shade between deep pink and snowy white.

All these shrubs are evergreen. Amongst their branches and those of the higher trees the most beautiful creepers wreathe themselves. The Kennedya, with a purple vetch-like blossom, is among the most graceful. There is also a white variety, whose flower is so small, that a microscope is necessary to examine its minute beauties.

I must not forget the Bottle-brush, one of the most characteristic plants of the bush. It has rough, twisted branches, and a leaf something like the holly. Sir Joseph Banks gave it the botanical name of Banksia, and his butler, perhaps, bestowed on it the vulgar appellation by which it is generally known. The upright, conical flowers with which this eccentric looking shrub is thickly covered resemble pretty closely that useful implement of the pantry. When at its prime, the deep orange hue of

  ― 77 ―
the flower makes it almost handsome. In winter, the dry, brown hairy cones still sticking to the plant, look exactly like a troop of small monkeys squatting among the branches. In the swamps is a smaller and prettier kind of Banksia, of a softer fabric and with a flower of rich crimson. I used to fancy that my favourite charger loved to wear one of these brilliant natural rosettes in his headstall.

There are several pretty iris-like bulbs in the moister soil; and in the low lands of the Botany Scrub I noticed a crimson and orange flower, like the foxglove in form, very handsome, but so hard and horny in texture that the blossoms actually ring with a clear metallic sound as you shake them. It might be the fairies' dinner-bell, calling them to their dew and ambrosia! Alas! there are no “good people” in Australia; no one ever heard of a ghost, or a bogle, or a fetch here! All is too absolutely material to afford a niche for imagination or superstition!

Perhaps the greatest ornament of the bush, however, is the Acacia, of which there are many varieties. In autumn the trees look as if a golden snow-storm had fallen on their branches, bending down with their burden of blossom towards the earth; which is thickly strewn with the yellow bloom. Some of the acacias possess a delicious, almond-like perfume. The bark is extensively used for tanning.

As the flowers of Australia are generally beautiful, but scentless, so are the birds for the most part as gorgeous in plumage as they are harsh in song. Indeed, they have no sustained melody, although isolated notes of

  ― 78 ―
great sweetness do occasionally break the silence of the bush.

After reaching the lighthouse and signal-post situated on the loftiest spot of the South Head, the line of road,—now called the old one,—returns to the city across a tract of a wilder and more sterile character, its general direction being parallel to the coast of the Pacific, of which a wide prospect is enjoyed at various points. Since the establishment of toll-bars, about which every-body of course grumbled for a time, the road is available for all classes of vehicles,—an advantage, as I have said, not half appreciated by the Sydney citizens.

On Sundays, indeed, there is a general rush of horsemen and chaise-men and women towards the Heads,—the Christian part of the community because it is their sabbath and holiday, the Hebrews because they make it the latter. A well-known tavern near the lighthouse, however, seems to be the chief attraction; and the wholesome salt breezes of the ocean are so modified with cigar smoke, that this weekly airing can but little profit the Sunday jaunter.

If I have a hundred times taken the ride above described without meeting a single soul of the 50,000 sweltering in the city and suburbs, I may say the same with regard to the ride to Botany Bay. There are two good hotels on the north shore of this basin, called after Sir J. Banks and Captain Cook; and the point on which La Perouse's monument stands may be nine miles from Sydney. To the former there is a pretty good turnpike road, besides innumerable tracks for equestrians across the stunted scrub-land. To the latter there is nothing

  ― 79 ―
that can be called a wheel-road, but a sandy galloping ground for horsemen soft as the riding-school tan.

It must be the pure love of fresh air and exercise that tempts the rider in this direction. Barren, hopeless, unblessed tract; scrubby, rocky, sandy, and boggy by turns; except in the short season of the bush flowers, one would suppose that it had been named “Botany” in bitter irony. Unlucky name! retained, to the discredit of the whole colony, by reason of its associations in the popular mind! I cannot but agree with Dr. Lang, that Banks-land, or any other title, ought to have been substituted for its original one. The shores of this fine inlet are still as unpopulated as if it were a thousand miles from the city. Perhaps gentlemen selecting a place of residence may feel a squeamish dislike to have their letters addressed to Botany Bay! By direct and legitimate inheritance “Tyburn Terrace” ought to have been the designation of the present Hyde Park Gardens in London, yet it was not adopted by the architect, who was probably fastidious in nomenclature!

The sterile desert lying between the bay and Sydney contains, nevertheless, the greatest treasure—the life-blood, it may be called,—of the metropolis. Without a fresh water river; built on a rock unfavourable to well-digging; without tanks to catch the unfrequent rain, Sydney would die of thirst, and die unwashed, if it were not for the Lachlan Swamp.

This is a huge sponge, lying in the midst of the sand-desert, and discharging itself lazily into Botany Bay. A tunnel about two miles long has been cleverly constructed to convey the precious element to the town,

  ― 80 ―
where it is placed for distribution in the hands of the Corporation, who are permitted to remunerate themselves by a rate upon householders, amounting, I think, to about £2,000 a-year.

At several periods, but particularly in 1849, a panic arose, and was stimulated by the public press, on the subject of the supply of water. The sponge was in danger, indeed showed strong symptoms, of being squeezed dry. In 1850, and not before, it occurred to the authorities to fence in the swamp, in order to prevent the cattle from trampling out its valuable juice; to dig conduits from the surrounding hills; and to dam up its egress. Engineers were moreover consulted as to the practicability and expediency of constructing a canal from the Nepean river, thirty-five miles distant,—a plan which must some day be carried out. An Artesian well was commenced within the walls of the Darlinghurst gaol by the prisoners; and in about three years the result—water or no water at the depth of as many hundred feet—will be reported to the poor thirsty foxes looking on round this long-necked vase.

From some of the more elevated points of the country through which the South Head road is conducted, the views of the harbour are truly splendid. It was from one of them during an afternoon ride,—unpleasant but picturesque incident!—that I saw town and country for the first time under the influence of a Brickfielder. There had been a morning of terrible heat; the sky was free of clouds, yet not bright; a hot wind had raised the thermometer to 102° in the shade. Towards the afternoon the wind fell, a sullen and sultry calm

  ― 81 ―
came on; and ordering my horse, I cantered towards the Heads, to meet a breath of air from the ocean, if breath might be had. Turning my eyes casually towards the town, I was astonished to find that it had disappeared. It had been swallowed up in clouds and columns of red and white dust, which, rising madly on the winds and sweeping across the harbour, gradually veiled from my sight also the pretty suburb of St. Leonard's on the North Shore.

Around my station—about five miles from Sydney—the trees and shrubs even to the minutest spray were motionless, and a little bay below me was unruffled as a mirror; yet I distinctly heard the fierce roaring of the tempest as it rushed through the city and the country beyond it, lashing the upper portion of the harbour into white foam. The boats were flying for shelter in all directions, and one, with calm-weather canvass spread, heeled over, filled and vanished! Soon the line of road from Sydney towards my post, hitherto hidden by the bordering bush, became visible in all its curvatures by thick coils of dust; the tall still trees bowed their heads, and the expanse of bush before and below me seemed to put itself in motion and to rush towards the hill whereon I stood.

Then a torrid gust, like the blast of a furnace, caught my face almost stopping my respiration; and the dust which had ridden on the wings of the wind for so many miles came flying into my eyes and grated in my teeth. In a few moments there was once more a perfect calm.

During the progress of the dust-storm a black battalion of clouds had been rapidly collecting on the

  ― 82 ―
southern horizon. Rolling and coiling about in confused masses, with mutterings of thunder and half-smothered flashes of lightning, their intention and direction were soon developed. Torrents of heavy rain and hail, accompanied by a chilling tornado that well-nigh cut me in two, came drifting horizontally over the face of the country, whilst an ebon mass of vapour right over head poured a perpendicular flood full upon my crown. The lightning became fearful in its vividness and apparent proximity; the thunder, stunning in its magnificent diapason, reverberated from the bluffs around.

Joining in the general uproar, the surf on the north shore flung itself madly up the steep cliffs to their very summits, seemed to stand suspended in the air for a space, and recoiled slowly and unwillingly to its wonted level.

This was “all very fine” certainly, but so unsuited to a “patent ventilating gossamer hat” and a filmy paletôt by Nicol, as to drive me at length to a temporary shelter. The thunder-storm, satiated with an incursion round every point of the compass, rolled away sullenly in the distance. Its rear-guard of light cumulus closed up to the main body, and disappeared at length in the northeast, leaving only one heavy stationary mass—a sort of army of occupation—just above the setting sun, which, shooting its last rays from a bright stripe of sky over the distant Blue Mountains, and behind the long ridge where Sydney stands, showed the mere silhouette of a city—the council chamber, the infirmary, the staff offices, the spire of St. James', the barracks, and the gaol—in strong hard relief upon the rose-coloured haze.

  ― 83 ―

The valleys across which I rode on my way home, and the deeper ravines, were already in darkness, while the slanting sunbeams still gilded the hill tops, the great white boles of the gum-trees, and the wet shining faces of the rocks.

Such is a slight sketch of a Sydney hot-wind, and its constant follower the Brickfielder, or, as the Port Jackson boatmen call it, the Sútherly Búster! No words can do justice to the degree of discomfort inflicted by the first upon the Sydney citizens during the season of its prevalence. Luckily the rush of wind from the colder regions, displacing the more rarified air of the preceding “hot-wind,” brings back a respirable atmosphere to the gasping inhabitants, while the floods of rain carry away all accumulated impurities.

On the occasion I have just recounted the thermometer fell at once from 102° to 53°. When I started on my ride the lee side of an Indian tattee would have been luxury itself. Two hours later I was well pleased to “take an air,” as the Irish say, of the kitchen fire. Subsequently, however, I witnessed instances of a much greater variation of the glass. One morning, while the hot-winds were raging in Sydney, I walked to the Australian Library, facing with some difficulty the scorching gale. Seating myself in the large room to read, I was soon seized with a chill shivering, and, looking at the thermometer within the apartment, was surprised to find it as high as 81°. The instrument outside the window in the shade stood however at 110°. Thus the sudden change of temperature from a superlative degree of heat to a merely positive one, gave me as decided a case of

  ― 84 ―
catarrh as I ever got by a plunge from the hot-aired club-rooms of London to the frosty streets, or, vice versá, from the cold streets to the hot rooms—which experience tells me is the more perilous traject,—fatal, as I verily believe, every winter, to various aged and middle-aged members, who would have lived twenty years longer but for mossy carpets and flues—flues whose uniformly diffused warmth they daily enjoy in those bachelor palaces, but which are seldom to be found in their private homes.

In October 1848, as I find by my diary, I witnessed a fine instance of a nocturnal Brickfielder. Awakened by the roaring of the wind I arose and looked out. It was bright moonlight, or it would have been bright but for the clouds of dust which, impelled by a perfect hurricane, curled up from the earth, and absolutely muffled the fair face of the planet. Pulverised specimens of every kind and colour of soil within two miles of Sydney, flew past the house high over the chimney-tops in lurid whirlwinds, now white, now red. It had all the appearance of an American prairie fire—“barring” the fire. Had the “wild huntsman” and his skeleton field and pack galloped past along with this fierce commixture of earth and air, I should have taken the apparition as a matter of course! It was really terrible to behold—diabolical—indescribable; so I leave it to be imagined by those who saw not nor felt the phenomenon.

One of the greatest miseries of the Southerly Burster is, that (welcome to all animated nature as are its cooling airs,) its first symptoms are the signal for a general rush of housemaids to shut hermetically every aperture

  ― 85 ―
of the dwelling. The thermometer in the drawing-room, and one's own melting mood announce some 86° of heat; while the gale, driving so refreshingly past your windows, is probably 30° lower; but if you have any regard for sight and respiration, for carpets, chintzes, books, and other furniture, you must religiously shut up shop until the “chartered libertine,” having scavenged the streets of every particle of dust, has moderated its wrath. Even then, however well fitted may be the doors and windows, the volatile atoms will find their way everywhere, to the utter disturbance of household and personal comfort.

Hot winds and sand-storms, sirocs and simoons, are common to many countries; in the deserts of Africa they are, as we know, a deadly visitation. In New South Wales these storms sometimes cause the eye-blight or sand-blight as the malady is indifferently called, than which, as experience taught me, nothing can well be more painful and irksome, involving actual loss of vision while inflammation is at its height—a loss sometimes, though rarely, as permanent as that occasioned by the Egyptian ophthalmia.

One can hardly fancy a staff-officer carrying orders being foiled in his mission by a heavy fire of dust. The following instance is, however, a fact:—One day, having business at the barracks, I mounted my horse, and sallied forth right in the wind's eye. I do not easily give up a point; but, at a certain turn in the road, so galling and incessant were the volleys of miniature brick-bats, triturated blue-bottles, and gravel—for all the finer particles had been blown away long before—that my

  ― 86 ―
charger, who never winked at a feu-de-joie, and who rested his nose upon the bass drum on his first acquaintance with that tolerably strenuous instrument, positively refused to advance. Baffled by my rebellious steed, and riddled by the stony storm, after some resistance, I was driven in confusion from the field.

Considering the unrivalled suitability of Port Jackson for aquatic pursuits, the citizens of Sydney appreciate pastimes on the water little more than they do the rides, and drives, and gardens. There is, however, connected with the shores, and islets, and coves of the harbour, one pursuit peculiarly congenial to the tastes of the people—a pastime half jaunting, half sedentary; a little sea air, a very little personal exertion, and a large amount of gastronomic recreation; I mean, oyster-eating. Every inch of rock from Sydney to the Heads is thickly colonized by these delicate shellfish; that is, every inch would be so peopled, but for the active extermination incessantly going on. On any fine day select parties of pleasure-and-oyster-seekers may be seen proceeding by water or land, furnished with the necessary muniments for an attack, or actively engaged in it. A hammer and a chisel, an oyster-knife, a bottle of vinegar, and the pepper-pot, with a vigorous appetite, sharpened by the almost impregnable character of the foe—such are the forces brought into the field, and the inducements to distinction. It is needless to add, that the garrison are quickly shelled out of their natural stronghold.

I enrolled myself more than once in an expedition of this kind, and only regretted that “my great revenge

  ― 87 ―
had stomach” for only one-half of the luscious victims demolished by my companions. The small rock-oyster of New South Wales is excellent in its way, although inferior to the Carlingford. The great mud-oyster of the rivers is too unctious for delicate appetites, although it is swallowed ore rotundo at the street-corners and stalls by those who prefer quantity to quality. Not much can be said in favour of the other fish of the colony. The guard-fish, which resembles a little sword-fish and is somewhat smaller than the European herring, is delicate; and the schnapper, when on the table, looms like the cod, but is a decided impostor as far as flavour goes. There is an inland, tramontane, fresh-water cod, strange to say, worth all the sea-fish of the Australian coasts. I am afraid to state the weight that this species sometimes attains, but in naming 60lbs. I am surely within the mark.

There did exist, during part of my sojourn in Australia, and long previously perhaps, an association of the aristocracy and bureaucracy of Sydney, whose members once or twice a month indulged in piscatory excursions down the harbour. It was generally believed that they went out with the intention and purpose of “roughing it” on the fruits of their skill. Furnished with an immense seine, or hauling-net, they put into any of the numerous sandy coves of Port Jackson favourable for the purpose of the expedition; and having launched their net and lighted a fire of drift-wood under some sheltering bank tufted with gum or fig-trees, nothing could have appeared to the eyes of a stranger more

  ― 88 ―
miraculous than the repast which resulted from the experiment. The gentlemen did not over-fatigue themselves by personal exertion, for half-a-dozen boatmen, who looked wonderfully like convicts, hauled the seine, while one or two others, assisted perhaps by an amateur, busied themselves among pots and pans round the fire. Presto! appear spread on the sward a boiled schnapper or broiled flathead, with oyster sauce. That was natural enough; it looked like practising Ichthyophagy in its purest sense—as it is practised, in short, at Blackwall or Greenwich in the whitebait season. But pigeon pies, turkey and tongues, ham and chicken, champagne and bottled ale—where did they come from? It was quite plain that all was fish that came to the net of these famous fishermen.

The sports of the day always afforded a subject of talk and laughter for the next forty-eight hours. It was pleasant while it lasted. Pity that an end, and a somewhat tragical end, suddenly came to it! One fine evening, returning from a successful excursion, the Club found themselves becalmed far from land, in the beautiful little topsail schooner which sometimes carried them on these fishing trips. As the practice of personal mortification was discountenanced by the laws, or habits, of the society, the members quitted the vessel and gained the shore in a rowing boat, leaving her in charge of three hands. Whether or not these poor fellows got at the drinkables—supposing any remained—it is hard to determine; but one of the southerly bursters above described swept suddenly down upon the smooth bay and the unprepared schooner,

  ― 89 ―
and the little vessel went at once to the bottom, when all on board were lost.

I know no spot in the world better formed for picnic parties than Port Jackson. When any of Her Majesty's ships happen to be in harbour, these excursions are tolerably frequent.

The navy ought to feel flattered by the manner in which they are always received by the Sydneyites. The appearance of a man-of-war in the cove is the signal for all sorts of gaiety and hospitality. It is indeed pleasant to see the vigour which, fresh from the sea and exclusively virile society, the members of our sister profession throw into their enjoyment of shore-going amusements. Their life and spirit infuse, as it were, salt and pepper into the insipid materials of a society rendered dull by monotony of life and absence of incident. No wonder their advent is hailed with rapture by the fair!

Having stumbled upon the word society, let me devote a few remarks to that of the New South Wales capital. It is too late to apologise for digressions in this work. My object is to produce a tolerably accurate general picture taken from nature. I am compelled therefore to sketch each object as it passes under my eye—to the destruction, perhaps, of any unity of plan or execution.