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London women in the colonies

Book Cover Carolines Diary
Cover Caroline’s Diary

Book Review

Anne Philp, Caroline’s Diary, A Woman’s World in Colonial Australia, Anchor Books Australia, NSW, 2015, x + 269 pages; ISBN 9780992467135.

This is a book where Anne Philp has created a narrative around the personal diaries of English woman Caroline Husband who came to New South Wales in the mid-19th century.  Her father, lawyer James Husband, fell on hard times and fled his Hampstead Hill house in England with debt-collectors in pursuit, and was followed to Australia by his wife and seven children.   Caroline has documented her thoughts, her experiences and her feelings of her life adventure from England to Sydney, and then the Wellington District, Armidale and finally Camden. She has provided a window into the world where imperial linkages have intersected with the life of her family, her husband, her church and her community.

Discover of diaries

Caroline’s diaries were discovered by chance lying in the back of a drawer at the historic Camden property, Brownlow Hill, by Joan Downes, the wife of one of Caroline’s descendants in the 1980s. The strong Camden connections are set from beginning of Caroline’s story on the voyage out from England  in 1852 when one shipboard companion was a Mr Downes of Brownlow Hill.  In early 1883 Caroline’s daughter May married Fred Downes of Brownlow Hill and had four children, one of whom gave birth to John, Joan’s husband. Caroline had originally moved into the Camden District with her family and household staff in 1875 when Henry purchased the Georgian style Wivenhoe from politician Sir Charles Cowper.  Using her agency Caroline quickly re-established a social network  after her move from Saumarez  (137) and commenced calling on the Barkers of Maryland, the Macarthurs of Camden Park, the Chisholms of Gledswood and the Downes of Brownlow Hill.  Local folklore has it that the Thomas’s Camden move was to ensure that Caroline’s daughters were married off to appropriate Sydney bachelors.

Flippant young girl

Caroline’s voice is heard in Philp’s use of extensive diary extracts which are organised chronologically beginning with the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The nineteen year old Caroline,   an educated writer, is a party animal with a constant round of outings accompanied by her younger sister, Cordy, in and around London. She has a rather indulgent, flippant manner which upsets some of her elders and is reflected in her immaturity. Author Anne Philp remarks about the apparent ease ‘with which the Husband girls are able to move around unchaperoned’  (18) even on visits to family relatives and friends.  The whirlwind of actors in Caroline’s life-story are clarified for the reader by Philp by the provision a number of appendices including  Cordy’s scrapbook, family trees, a list of who’s who, index and images of family and houses. Caroline has used cross-writing, sometimes called cross-hatching, where she wrote across the page at 900 from earlier text in her diaries, presumably to save paper which was expensive. For the historian it makes deciphering these writings difficult and time consuming. Philps notes her ‘writing became almost unreadable, particularly when she crosswrote’ (103) with excitement at the impending marriage to squatter Henry Arding Thomas.

Voyage Out

The chapters mark out Caroline’s life and provide an insight into how English society dealt with those who fell out and their sudden collapse of good fortune. Some fled and  Caroline’s voyage out to Sydney in 1852 aboard the General Hewitt, a former convict ship of 961 tons, under Captain Gatenby, which took four months and ten days and sailed directly from Plymouth to Sydney.  Caroline’s Diary joins around 800 other diarists’ accounts of the 19th century voyages to Australia. Many were written by educated well-off women and for them writing a diary was a way of normalising the deprivations and uncertainties of the journey. (a)  Although for Caroline the worst of the voyage seemed to be boredom and dull company, ‘Very dull & stupid – dread the breakfasts & dinners – Mr Hay is so dull.’ (46)  Yet a fellow ship passenger, Catherine Roxburgh, had a rather different view of the Husband girls. She stated in a letter to her sister that they possessed ‘no depth’, they were ‘deficient in judgement and prudence’ and she described Cordelia as ‘rather fond of being admired, [and] likes society’. Catherine felt that her shipmates viewed the journey out as a time to   ‘eat’, ‘drink and be merry’. (48-49) This contrasted with the early weeks of the voyage where Caroline felt that it was ‘A dreadful life. No wind in our sails. The mankind exceedingly disagreeable…’ (46).

Fresh commentary of colonial Sydney

Caroline’s fresh commentary of colonial Sydney, a small Victorian outpost of the British Empire, through her youthful eyes is unencumbered by the town’s dark history and brutal heritage. The value of the diaries are the sharp witty observations of social life and the comparisons the reader can draw between metropolitan London and young colony of Sydney. Her positive outlook on life combined with Sydney’s Englishness presented a not unfamiliar place for Caroline and she soon started re-creating a life as a social butterfly. The Husband girls, Caroline, Cordy and Fanny, attracted the cream of Sydney’s eligible bachelors as a string of would-be suitors. Sydney’s shortage of suitable women made the family’s modest lodgings at Woolloomooloo a honey pot, a coterie of potential wives. The sisters had a busy schedule of excursions, opera, theatre, balls, parties and social callings in Sydney, topped off with regular church attendances. Even later in life Caroline enjoyed a rich social life based around the church in Armidale, with constant rounds of calling, (163) playing the church harmonium and working at the church bazaar. While Henry undertook magistrate duties in Armidale and constant business and social visitors. The Thomases were leading citizens in the Armidale District reflecting their wealth and status.

Diary impulsive and frank

‘Refreshingly frank’ is how Anne Philp describes Caroline’s comments on her ‘middle-class’ life, written as they were ‘from a woman’s point of view’ (1). Caroline’s diary entries are short and lively. Her thoughts are impulsive, expressive and reflect her youth and zest for life. ‘We had supper and he walked home. Do like him very much.’ (105) ‘We had a splendid breakfast dinner & tea enjoyed ourselves extremely.’ (98)   Caroline provides glimpses of the rituals of middle class courtship in Victorian Sydney relatively unencumbered by chaperones or prying parents. ‘J.M. spooney with me again!’ (102) and around the same time in February 1856 she ‘Went to the South Head & did not get home till 11 at night – enjoyed it so much.’ (102)

Adventures around Sydney

Caroline’s and Cordy’s adventures around Sydney read like a whimsical colonial travelogue. Their were regular excursions with young men to Bondi, Coogee, Parramatta, and Manly Beach and frequent mentions of boating and yachting excursions on Sydney Harbour, cricket matches (121) and Regattas on Port Jackson (57). Sydney was like a new suitor for the Husband girls, to be wined, dined and enjoyed. Like England the girls enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom in Sydney given the strictures and formality of Victorian society, and walked considerable distances around the town – up to 16 miles (69).  There is a rich sense of the landscape in Caroline’s writing as it passes before her like the pages of her diaries. As her journey through life grows her commentary on her world matures with it.   She has sharp observations of early townships, the trials of coach travel, and the challenges and risks encountered on  the frontier. She records her movements throughout the colony, on the steamers between Sydney and Morpeth, the long overland coach journey through Bathurst into the Wellington District and her frequent trips from Maitland to Saumarez in the New England District. In 1882 even a family holiday to Manly Beach for her six children and nursemaid (235).

Women’s life-writing

Caroline’s Diary touches the primary discourses of the nineteenth century including imperialism, religion, the frontier, separate spheres and others, and is typical of other Victorian female diarists  who explore women’s emotions, privacy and domesticity.(b)  Gender and the separate spheres of men and women, which are often hidden, are revealed in Caroline’s subjectivity and her identity.  There is Henry’s public role as squatter pastoralist and public official while Caroline has her private domestic world organising her family and household. Caroline’s Diary is typical of the  genre of women’s life-writing that was popular in the Victorian period in England, including Queen Victoria.   Her  writing gives insights into how she negotiated her space in society, her possession of knowledge, her inter-personal relationships and how her writing helped the healing process in the face of loss. Life for Caroline in colonial New South Wales provided many challenges and she used the agency she enjoyed within the strictures of society to effectively exercise her power within her domestic space. Religiosity is important to Caroline and she is a regular church goer throughout her life. Sydney’s St James Church, one of the oldest in Australia, is central to her story, as it was the colony. Familial links are a constant theme, along with women’s health issues, that were particularly problematic for colonial women. Historian Anne Philp has provided a view how an English family fitted into colonial New South Wales, with its transnational linkages between the bush, provincial Sydney and metropolitan London.

Silences and interruptions

The diaries also have silences and interruptions  that in their own way have as much to say as Caroline’s extensive diary notes. Silence and knowledge re-enforce each other. These speak to  the hardships and challenges that women faced on the colonial frontier where life was precarious, male dominated and sometimes violent. Henry’s close affection for his ‘city-bred’ wife and her welfare indicate a depth of feeling not often found in colonial narratives. Her diaries provide a clear picture of the  dangers faced during pregnancy and birth, the trials of the chronic illness of her husband and the death of her sister, Cordy at age 23, during the Siege of Lucknow in India in 1858 (149). The family regularly returned to Sydney during Caroline’s confinements, a privilege working class women in rural New South Wales did not have or could afford. Rural patriarchy is clearly demonstrated in the moves that Henry forced on Caroline and her growing family, often at short notice, when he sells the family pastoral holdings. Caroline is moved to Saumarez Station at Armidale with a three-month old baby and a young nursemaid Ellen. Henry then moved the family again to the grand home of Wivenhoe, near Camden New South Wales.

 A lack of communication

Communication, or the lack of it, were a constant of theme of colonial existence at a time when there was no Facebook or Instagram. During the colonial period the thirst for knowledge about family and friends was no less intense or urgent than it is today.  Caroline’s writing demonstrated the hunger by all for news from home and elsewhere including England, Sydney and her sister in India. Caroline and her family had to wait months for any news of the fate of her sister after the Siege of Lucknow during the 1857 Indian Rebellion (149). Distance was relative and the country and city divide was as large a psychological divide as the gap between London and Sydney. The actors in Caroline’s story where eager for news, any news, of family and friends about births, deaths, marriages and other celebrations.  Visits to town from the pastoral station, whether Sydney or Armidale, to catch up on business, news, and gossip were just as important as news from England or India. Isolation was the curse of the bush, and could be particularly burdensome on young city born women with small children.  ‘Very miserable. Got up early in the hopes dear Henry would come but he didn’t.’ (113).

Service and governesses

Domestic service was the most common form of employment for single working class women for decades during the 19th century. Caroline grew up in a household with domestic staff and on the voyage out: ‘Very uncomfortable without a servant’ (52) After Caroline was married had certain expectations about her own household staff. At Wivenhoe Caroline engaged three live-in staff and a children’s nursemaid and her daughters were educated at home by a governess. The diaries illustrate how she negotiated hiring governesses for her own children as well as other household staff, including nursemaids and general servants. Caroline provides commentary on how her mother hired servants from amongst the Irish immigrant girls who arrived at  Hyde Park Barracks in the 1850s (71). Caroline’s story even explores the experiences  the colonial governess because of her family’s poor financial standing on arrival in Sydney in 1852.  Caroline’s had a short and unsuccessful engagement as a governess for Reverend WM Cowper, colonial born and Oxford educated, at Stroud in northern New South Wales, the settlement for the Australian Agricultural Company.

Settler colonialism

It is an interesting question to ask how this diary is placed in relation to the current debate around settler colonialism. On another level the diaries can be read as an exposition of the story of a settler society where the Indigenous Australians have disappeared from the landscape. There is a fleeting mention of Caroline and Henry attending a ‘corrobbero’ (117) at Buckinbah in the Wellington District, like attending an English country fair. By the 1850s the ‘black problem’ had been resolved and squatters wives like Caroline had little if any interaction with Aborigines, even in rural areas. The dispossession of territory underwrote the type of rural capitalism practiced by the Thomases at Buckinbah in the Wellington District, at Saumarez in the New England and Wivenhoe at Camden. The diaries give hints of the issues surrounding squatting and raising sheep without fences. At Buckinbah in 1856 there were thirteen outstations with shepherds in charge (113) that had to be re-supplied with lambing and station work (114). Shepherd supervised flocks of a thousand without a horse. The owner on his horse would search for lost sheep and much time was spent looking for stray sheep (117). Much the same routine existed at Saumarez in 1858. By the time the Thomas’s turn up at Wivenhoe pastoralism is regulated by fences.

Fresh view of her world

Caroline’s Diary provides fresh view on the colonial world of New South Wales from the eyes of an English woman that contrasts with the dark tales of death and misery of frontier violence, or the hagiographic views of the explorers, pioneers and nationalism. The story weaves through the ins and outs of the daily goings on for the rural elite, while providing an exploration of life between the city and country giving intimate personal details of family life.  Women’s diaries from the Camden District are rare and this type of exposition is even less common. This is a valuable addition to these types of works and in the process Caroline’s Diary has created a great read for any fan of colonial stories.

 

Notes

Colonial Camden · Cowpastures · Governor Macquarie · Uncategorized

Macquarie returns to the Cowpastures

Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)
Governor Macquarie (SLNSW)

Governor Macquarie returned for his third visit to the Cowpastures in 1820. Macquarie and his party set out from Parramatta Monday 16 October 1820 and journeyed through the Cowpasture in southern New South Wales. They returned to the Cowpasture on 3 November 1820.

Read for yourself Governor Macquarie’s journal of the trip.

Extracts from the Journal of Governor Lachlan Macquarie 1820

Monday 16. October. 1820.
Having resolved on making a Tour of Inspection to the new Country some time since discovered by Charles Throsby Esqr. to the South West of the Cow Pastures, I set out this morning at Half past Six o’clock from Parramatta on my intended Tour in my Carriage, with my old faithful Valet George Jarvis, having previously taken an early leave of all that is dear to me in life.
I sent off my Heavy Baggage on Friday last the 13th. Instant, together with my Servants under charge of Thomas Evans the Orderly Dragoon,
appointed for this duty with orders to halt at Stone Quarry Creek in the Cow Pastures till my arrival there. The Party to accompany me on this Tour  consists of Major Antill, Lt. Macquarie, Mr. Meehan, Dr. Reid R. Navy, the Revd. Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Throsby; the two latter, and
Mr. Meehan having appointed to meet me at Liverpool or on the road beyond it. Halted at Liverpool to Breakfast and bait our Horses. At
9 o’clock set out from Liverpool; the Revd. Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Meehan having joined me there. Travelled  in my Carriage by the
Bringelly and Cow Pasture Roads, to the Ford of the River Nepean at the Governor’s Hut where I was met by Mr. David Johnston the Supdt. of Govt.Stock and Mr. Charker the Prinl. Overseer of Govt. Stock, to guide the Carriage across the River and afterwards to the Prinl. Govt. StockYard.

View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1
View of the Government Hut at Cowpastures, 1804. State Library of NSW SSV1B / Cowp D / 1

I crossed the Ford on Horseback and found it very firm and good. The Carriage also passed it without any difficulty. After passing the Ford, I
went again into the Carriage to the Govt. Stock Yard, travelling all the way through a beautiful rich  Parklike Tract of Country; the Stock Yard being 3 miles from the Ford. From the Govt. Cottage built some time since for the residence of the Overseer of Stock, there is a very fine Picturesque view of the Surrounding Country and of Mount Hunter in the foreground there being most excellent Pasturage for the Government cattle at this station. I inspected the Govt. Herds, consisting of 550 Head of young Cows & Steers, in two separate Herds. After inspecting the Cattle, we were entertained by Mr. Johnston with a very neat cold collation, wine & spirits which  we all  partook of very cheerfully.
Having finished our repast I mounted my Horse  Sultan and rode along with the other Gentlemen  over the Hills by a short cut to Stone Quarry Creek; Joseph proceeding the longer way, by Mr. McArthur’s Camden Farm to the same station, having by that route 14 miles to go which we go in 10 on Horseback. We passed through some very rich verdant Vallies between Mounts Taurus and  Hunter before we ascended the Ridge which
connects them. We stopped for Half an Hour at  the large Govt. new Paddock within Half a Mile  of Stone Quarry Creek to examine the Govt. Invalid Herd at that station and found them greatly  improved. This is the station where the Wild Cattle are first brought when caught to be
reclaimed. The Stockmen had the good fortune of driving in 19 Head this morning which  I found in a separate Paddock and  in very tolerable good condition.
From the New StockYard,  we pursued our Journey to Stone Quarry Creek where we arrived at 1/2 past 4 o’clock and found all our Servants and
Baggage all snug and safe encamped on the South Side of the Creek. Joseph arrived with the Carriage in half an Hour after us. The Servants stupidly enough, had not Pitched our Tents; neither had they prepared any Dinner for us, which was still worse; but, as we had all made a hearty meal at Mr. Johnston’s, it was of the less consequence. Our Tents were immediately Pitched and the Cook soon roasted a couple of Fowls for us, and we sat down to a very good Dinner at 6 o’clock. Before I left the Govt. Stock Yard, where we first Halted and took our Lunch today, I was so much pleased with the Beauty of the Situation of that spot, that I was induced to name it “Cawdor” in honor of my dearest Elizabeth’s Family; this Place having no particular name or designation before. I ordered also that two addl. Rooms should be added to the Cottage at Cawdor for my own and Succeeding Governors’ accommodation whenever  I may happen to visit this part of the Country.We
sat a very short time at Dinner had Tea and went early to Bed.

On the Cowpasture Road / Chrisr: Bunbury’s. from Views of Sydney and Surrounding District by Edward Mason, ca. 1821-1823; 1892. State Library of NSW PXC 459
On the Cowpasture Road / Chrisr: Bunbury’s. from Views of Sydney and Surrounding District by Edward Mason, ca. 1821-1823; 1892. State Library of NSW PXC 459

 

Tuesday 17th. October 1820.
We all got up by 5 o’clock this morning had  the Baggage loaded and  Breakfasted at 1/2 past 5 o’clock. The whole of the Baggage did not get
off, however till 7 o’clock. Wishing to see some parts of the Country where the carriage could not travel through I desired Joseph  to follow the Baggage with it, whilst I mounted Sultan and rode with the gentlemen of my suite and Mr. David Johnston and Charker who accompanied me yesterday from Cawdor to the StockYard at Stone Quarry Creek. We rode  over some very fine rich Pasture Grounds and crossed several gentle Hills admirably well adapted for sheep. I  also examined a most eligible situation on the North Bank of this Creek for a Township whenever this desirable part of the Country is Settled.Mr. Johnston & Charker accompanied us for about 7 miles on the way to Bargo and on our getting
on the regular made Road by which the Carriage and Baggage went, they took their leave of us to return to Cawdor.

 

I entrusted Mr. Johnston with a Letter I had written last night to Mrs. M. with  directions to forward it to her to Parramatta.We overtook the Carriage and Baggage soon after we had crossed the Bargo River, and were soon afterwards joined by Mr. Throsby as we Passed through Bargo. This is rather a barren Country, very few Parts of it being fit for Cultivation. After passing through Bargo, we entered a very  long Barren Scrubby Brush of 9 miles in extent now named Kennedy’s Brush in honor of the Person of that name who first passed through it with the Natives. We then entered the Tract of Country called Mittagong, and at Half past 2 o’clock arrived at Kannabygle’s Plains, where we encamped and Halted for this day; this Place being 24 miles in a South westerly direction from Stone Quarry Creek which is rather too long a Journey for Heavy Loaded carts, some of which did not arrive on the Ground for Two Hours and a quarter after the two light carts had come to their Ground; some parts of the Road being very rough and stoney. The Ground we have encamped on today is a very pretty spot, on the edge of a rich extensive Meadow, with a chain of fine Fresh Water Ponds in front of our Tents, and  excellent Forage for our cattle. We dined at six, Drank Tea at 8, and retired to Bed a little after 9 o’clock.

Governor Macquarie proceeded into southern New South Wales and returned to the Cowpasture weeks later.

View of the farm of J. Hassel [Hassall] Esqr. Cow Pastures, New South Wales by Augustus Earle, c. 1825. State Library of NSW PXD 265, f. 2
View of the farm of J. Hassel [Hassall] Esqr. Cow Pastures, New South Wales by Augustus Earle, c. 1825. State Library of NSW PXD 265, f. 2

Saturday 4. November 1820.
It rained a good deal in the course of the Night but  was fair when we got up at 5 this morning. We Breakfasted a little before 6 o’clock, and the
last of the Bagage, [sic] and ourselves set out a qr. before 7. It came on pretty smart rain at that hour. Travelling  through Stone Quarry Creek &
southern parts of the Cow Pastures, and Mr. McArthur’s Farms of upper & lower Camden, where we stopt to take some Refreshment and
having also examined the Govt. Flocks of Sheep, we arrived at Cawdor at a qr. after 4. p.m. where we found all our Baggage had arrived a few
minutes only before us; the Road they came being only 24 miles, while our Route hither being circuitous was at least 35 miles.
We viewed all the Govt. Cattle here & found them in very fine order; Dressed & dined at Six drank Tea at 8 and went to Bed at 9 o’clock.
We found Mr. David Johnston Supdt. of Govt. Stock, waiting for us at Cawdor.

Sunday 5. November 1820

This  being a Resting & Halting Day, we slept a little longer and did not get up till 6 o’clock this morning and Breakfasted between 7 & 8 o’clock.
At  9, we set out on a long Ride to see the Govt. Herds stationed at Lowe’s Hill to the Northward of  this Station distant about 7 miles. After
we had seen and examined the Cattle, we travelled for 2 or  3 miles more along the Left Bank of the River  Nepean, opposite to Coppetty then
returned to the Hill hitherto called (unauthorizedly) Lowe’s  Hill which  commands a most noble extensive  prospect and  which I have now named (at the  particular request of Commissr. Bigge)  “BrownlowHill”  after his friend Lord Brownlow;  and from thence proceeded by the Range of Hills
leading to Mount Hunter for the purpose of seeing some of the Wild Cattle in their natural state. In  the course of our Ride we fell in with 3 or 4 small Herds, some of which we hunted, and the  Commissioner enjoyed the sport amazingly.

After  a very pleasant Excursion, and riding about  25 miles, we returned to Camp at 1/2 past 2 o’clock. On my arrival I had the felicity of  receiving a Packet of Letters dated yesterday from my beloved Elizabeth and Lachlan, conveying to me the joyful intelligence of their being both in  good Health; but this gratifying news was greatly clouded by the accounts of an event of a most  awful nature that might have at once deprived me  of all that makes Life to me valuable namely the  Govt. House at Parramatta having been struck by  Lightning yesterday morning at Ten o’clock; but  through the interposition of Divine Providence, no  injury was done to any living Creature. How  thankful I ought to be to God for this escape and  I am devoutly so! The Commissr. having resolved on going to sleep  at Mr. Oxley’s tonight, we dined today at 4 o’clock,  to enable him to cross the River before dark. He accordingly left us with  his own immediate Suite at 6 o’clock. Messrs. Jas. & Wm. McArthur dined with us they  being at present residing at their Father’s Farm of Lower Camden. We had  no sooner returned Home from our Ride this afternoon than it came on very heavy Rain. We drank Tea at 7 and retired to Rest at 9 then  raining very heavy.

Monday 6. November
Got up at 5 this morning. It rained all Night but  is now fair. Sent  off the Baggage at 6 across the Nepean, and set out from Cawdor in half
an Hour afterwards. Called at Mr. Oxley’s where  I Breakfasted with the Commissioner. Left  that  at 10. a.m. and arrived at Parramatta at 3 p.m.
L.M

Source: http://www.mq.edu.au/macquariearchive/lema/1820/1820oct.html .