Item 30d - Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

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Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence


  • [c. 18 May–c. 2 June 1898] (Creation)

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6 sheets, two of them folded (pp. 167–86). Pages 171–8 form a single gathering.

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Account of a journey via Nellore, Madras, Calcutta, Mozufferpore, Calcutta, Sahdol, Mozufferpore, Benares, Lucknow, Roorkee (with an excursion to Moradabad), Delhi, Agra, Gwalior, and Bombay.

(A continuation of 5/30c. Headed ‘4th encyclical’. The first section of this letter (pp. 167–70) was written just before leaving Adelaide on 18 May, the second (pp. 171–5 and the first ten words on p. 176) at Blackheath, between 28 and 30 May. The rest was written before leaving for New Zealand on 2 June.)



4th encyclical

A short time is open to me to write & catch the mail here at Adelaide, before starting off to catch the train to Melbourne.

[2 May] I found P. Alden on board the Britannia at Colombo, we went ashore & drove out to Mt Lavinia & back, & after a pleasant day returned to the boat for dinner {1}.

Then passed 10 days with very little of especial interest to note; only a very small number of passengers; so games of quoits, conversation, books & meals were the only thing which relieved the monotony of an expanse of Ocean.

[12 May] At last we reached Albany at day break Thursday 12th, went on shore to breakfast, & climbed up the hill at the back of the town & got a fine view of the harbour. Then back to the boat & off again before lunch {2}. A fair number of extra people had joined us at Albany, many of whom were going on to Sydney a passage of 8 or 9 days(!).

We settled to get off at Adelaide & go on by train which would give us more time. We expected to get in Sunday afternoon {3}; but at 2 AM the Captain who had not been able to see sun or stars for 2 days, did not like to venture further in a very strong wind, with rocks not far away, & a mist hanging all about. So we turned right round, & beat against the wind running back towards Albany at about a knot or two an hour; this till 10 AM then round again, slowly for another 6 hours, & so on through the day; [16 May] about 6 AM Monday we were able to get along, & got in here about 8 PM.

The waves all the time had been very big, & we rolled a great deal; I think it would have been a great deal more, if we had tried to get along, & the wind had been broadside on. We had had the fiddles off and on all the way from Colombo {4}, but on Sunday things nearly jumped out of them. The waves were nearly as fierce as in my journey across to U.S.A in the “Gallia” {5}.

We got away & came up by train to the town & to this hotel.

[17 May] Yesterday I went to call at Government House & was invited to stay to lunch; I found the Buxtons {6} very pleasant, the son whom I know was not there but was expected in a few days.

[18 May] This morning we drove up to the hills & got a grand view; & I went to lunch afterwards with the Bishop {9} to whom also I had a letter from the Master of Trinity {10}.

{9) I am writing to you from “Blackheath”, not the Blackheath of our native land, & yet not the Blackheath of a foreigner, for the Australians are not foreigners, but a Blackheath up in the Blue Mountains—a very beautiful Blackheath; here are Percy & I with a Professor of the Sydney University {12} in a little cottage belonging to him: I have just had a game of chess with the Professor & another with a friend of his {13} who is staying here also, & now while I am writing this they are playing against one another. The last I wrote you was from Adelaide & I gave a hasty exposition of events up to the time of writing; I think I said there was not much to relate about our voyage, & that was about true, but perhaps I might have mentioned the chief engineer who used to sit at our table. He possessed such an abysmal ignorance of any & every subject that he was a great treat. We wanted to know once how long it would take to get from Sydney to Hong Kong; “Well” said he “I daresay about 8 days, you see the boats are very slow & they stop at a large number of ports” We found out afterwards that he had even had a daughter who had lived & died in the Manillas. On another occasion he thought that the population of Scotland was about 30 million. But his great feat was his method of parrying questions; asked whether supposing we got in at daybreak at a port we should get away again before 12, he would say “we aren’t in at daybreak yet” & consider that that absolutely settled the matter.

There was also an old man whom we called the Ancient Mariner, because he had a habit of fixing his gaze upon you stopping you, & narrating a long yarn; only as people said, he stopped more than one of three. Moreover his yarns generally took the form of an argument, in which the only part in the performance you were allowed to play was that of yessing & noing. At times however when it was a tale, he filled in every particular, & the most fastidious enquirer need not have gone away without receiving full information upon the antecedent & surviving relatives of every one of the principal characters. “I wonder whether you ever met a man of the name of Henson” he would say “a very charming young fellow”—you hastily endeavour to quell the approaching narrative by pointing out that unluckily you never had the pleasure—“ah I used to know his father before he was married —————— at last returning to our friend we have the story of his life & death—he left a widow & 3 children, the eldest was a girl who went out to Melbourne & there she married ——— till all surviving members of the family have been exhausted—Ah he was a charming fellow, it is a pity you never met him”.

There was an Australian & her daughter—quite harmless but inclined to exaggeration.

“You will like Melbourne, & I am sure you will admire our women”—said the old lady, once, who by the way was one of the ugliest people I have ever seen—“they are the most beautiful women in the world; & they know how how† to dress, & what’s more they’ve got the money to do it!”

But you must not take her as a typical Australian.

Of the rest, there was an English girl, a married couple from Madras, & a few others, but no one very exciting.

At Albany got on somewhat of a scratch lot, but among them some very decent fellows who told us a good deal about gold mines.

I don’t think there is a† very much to add about the storm; we were landed in a huddle at Adelaide with all our luggage except my bicycle & big trunk & our deck chairs leaving these to be put off at Sydney which they dont seem as how they have been being probably at Melbourne; fortunately I am not in a hurry for them.

After our two days at Adelaide we took the night train on to Melbourne {14}. The meal arrangements seemed funny to me after my experience in India, for when we stopped for dinner, we got out in crowds, instead of the 2 or 3 first class passengers to which I had been accustomed; & closely packed sleeping accomodation† with railway conductor to make up the beds seemed unlike the extensive apartment generally all to oneself in the Indian railways.

Melbourne customs very rigorous, & they made me pay 10/– on a pair of new boots & a pair of new shoes which were in my trunk. Lucky I did not bring bike & large trunk; otherwise I should have become bankrupt.

Menzies Hotel very pleasant & comfortable though not the luxurious palace, we had been told about; not in the same street with any of the American hotels or even with the “Australia Hotel” at Sydney. Perhaps the word “even” in the last sentence should go out, for the Sydney hotel is really extremely fine.

Cook, the traveller’s friend, [was] of great service in every way, {15} & insisted upon our taking then & there tickets home to London, via Hong Kong, Yokohama & go-as-you-please-in-America; really a very great saving of expense; you see there is a competition between this route, the Cape Horn route, & the P & O. We also fixed up definitely our points up to our arrival in America: you see this was necessary in order to let A.J.L. {16} know when to start if she proposes to meet me in California. In order to see the wonders of the Western States it is necessary to arrive there in September; so it became a question whether we should arrive there in that month, or else cut them altogether. Counsel for the latter urged that we might in this way see more of Australasia, & that the other place must inevitably reduce our time in China to a minimum. Counsel for the former urged that 2 months were enough for Australasia, & that the present year was not the time to do much inland travel in China. In the end the latter counsels prevailed especially as Percy in any case would go on to U.S.A. in time to reach home in October. So we leave here on July 2, reach Hong Kong July 22, go and visit Canton, & leave again about July 26; then boat stopping in passing at the Chinese ports, & finally arrive at Kobe; then after 3 weeks in Japan, take O & O boat via Honolulu to Frisco, which we reach September 10. Percy goes nearly straight home, but I expect to stay in the states till nearly the end of the year.

Melbourne has excellent cable cars, & by riding in the “dummy” we were able to see a good deal of the city: the cars are much better than the Chicago ones, a start & stop with very little jerk. The city itself is something between an American and an English town; but like the former has its 12 storey buildings standing in juxtaposition to little bits of cottages.

[20 May] Federation is in the air all round; the first day we arrived, there was a meeting of the delegates invited by the Mayor from surrounding cities of Victoria {15}. We went, & found no one but delegates were admitted, but Percy sent in his card as deputy Mayor of West Ham, & we were allowed in. [21 May] We also went to a public meeting the next day. Altogether it was very interesting to hear what was to be said. You know there is to be a Referendum on the question at the end of this week. The expectation is that Victoria, S. Australia & West Aus[trali]a & also Tasmania will carry it without difficulty, but that N. S. Wales may refuse it (Queensland is not in it at all) principally owing to underrepresentation in the Senate, & to the probable introduction of protective duties. Of course the bill abolishes (in course of time) the intercolonial duties, but Sydney is afraid that her free trade (with the outside world) which has brought her such prosperity will be forced from her.

One day we went to Ballarat to see a gold mine; we spent 10 hours getting there & back & had 4 hours there, but as it was thoroughly wet while we were in the train, & quite fine while we were there, & we saw all we wanted to, we were quite satisfied. In the first place I was thoroughly disabused of any idea I might have had of finding a semi barbarous village; Ballarat is as civilised a town as you would find anywhere, with comfortable hotels, & I am told that this is nearly equally true of any gold mining centre which has been “going” for the greater part of a year.—Of course Ballarat is several years old—. First we were taken over the machinery—great big vast machinery to crush large quantities of rock, to get out a little tiny quantity of the greedy metal. Something had gone wrong with the works, so the mining was not going on there, & we were taken across to another “claim” which was in working order. First we took off all our clothes & donned mining costume; Percy looked exactly like a cutthroat & he tries to make out I was worse because all the buttons were off my shirt; anyhow I don’t think either of us looked the sort of chap you would care to meet in an out of the way place in a dark night. Then we were crammed into a cage & went down. A much more rough & tumble place than a coal mine: quite warm: gold exists in intrusion quartz: quartz in a narrow band: shaft first sunk to the bottom of it & as dug out, debris falls to the ground & men rise to a higher level: two or three big pumps kept continually working to keep free of water.

So back & up & dress & home.

In the train meet some pleasant University dons: learn that my friend Naylor {19} on whom I had called is away from Melbourne for a few days.

One evening to the theatre to see Wilson Bennett† in The Manxman;—the book I read while I was on the Britannia—don’t care much for the dramatisation; & only good acting done by Maud Jeffreys {17}.

[22 x 27 May] Train to Sydney by night. Had found it really cold at Melbourne, & very cold in train; Sydney warm again as at Adelaide. Very energetic, pay a number of calls on day of arrival, start the ball rolling; & can pick up some of threads on return from New Zealand. Practically all Percy’s friends. Robjohns {22} & his family of whom son is at Mansfield House, Dunstan {23}, MacArthur {24}, Sir J Fairfax {25} & others; also Wood his fellow student at Balliol {26}, & Scott his old tutor both professors of the University in Sydney. The latter invites us up to his cottage at Blackheath in the blue mountains which we gladly accept for Sat–Mon. We hire bicycles for the week & find them very handy: but streets of Sydney odd sorts of things. Town is much more like an English town except that it is on a peninsular like N. York & all traffic into the city flows one way. Principal locomotion effected by what are euphemiously described as trams, but would more correctly be called street trains; in addition to these there are large omnibuses, & the streets are narrow. However the annual number of killed & wounded does not seem enough for alterations to be made. Centennial park outside the city is a fine place to cycle in. Sydney harbour the finest in the world is a marvel & very beautiful.

[28 May] Away to Blackheath, & find capital weather, & though 3,500 feet up quite balmy. Delightful cottage: afternoon walk on Saturday, & [29 May] day trip taking lunch with us on Sunday. Impossible to give an idea of the scenery. Up on a plateau, looking down wonderful gorges with precipitous rocks of sandstone. Everywhere the white trunk & dark leaves of the gum tree. Miles look like feet; & ‘a little way off’ a long walk scrambling through the bush. Percy says it is something like the Rockies.

A game of lawn tennis & back to Sydney charmed with the Blue Mountains, & charmed also to have had some “Ekker” {28}.

To the theatre to see the “Squire of Dames” {29} jolly little piece & well acted.

And now we are off to New Zealand. When I was at home I used to imagine that this was either a part of Australia or at any rate only separated from it by a narrow channel. I fancy other people know better than this, but I doubt whether they realise that it takes very nearly as long to get there direct from here as to cross the Atlantic! Nevertheless we are starting away to get there with about the same feeling as if we were crossing the British channel for 10 days in Paris, & all the luggage I am to be allowed to take is two rags & a b—I mean two rugs & a bag, or rather two bags & a rug.

We are going to confine ourselves to the North Island in order not to be too much rushed, & we shall probably stop a few days in Wellington where we have several friends; & spend about a fortnight in New Zealand altogether. They tell us we shall find the climate very much like England.

In the meantime as you won’t get any further letters for a long while, I propose to conclude my 4th encyclical leaving it for my 5th to take us up to the date of our departure for Hong Kong.

As to letters to me, I dont think it will be safe to address to Yokohama (Chartered Bank of India Australia & China) after July 12, & after that date as I shall be homeward bound all letters sent up till Aug 26 or at any rate Aug 23 should reach me on the same date viz on Sept 10 when I arrive at San Francisco (address c/o T. Cook & Son.)

In concluding, a few words about my impression of Australia & Australians as far as I have gone. I think the following expresses the matter

Australia = 1/3 English, 1/3 American, 1/3 ——
Australians = 1/2 ——, 1/4 ——, 1/4 ——

by this I don’t mean that there are Americans living here, but I am trying to give you an idea of what Australia is like by comparing it with U.S.A.

But perhaps I should add that Sydney is much more English than even the above estimate & planted here unawares one might suppose oneself in an English Provincial town.


{1} The Britannia left Colombo on 2 May. See The Argus (Melbourne), 4 May 1898, p. 5.

{2} The Britannia arrived at Albany at 6 a.m. and sailed for Adelaide at noon. See the South Australian Register, 13 May 1898, p. 5, which gives a list of the passengers in the saloon.

{3} On 18 May the South Australian Register reported (p. 3): ‘Anxiety was felt on account of the non-arrival of the R.M.S. Britannia at Largs Bay on Sunday, May 15. The vessel was expected to arrive at 3 p.m. on that day, but did not reach the anchorage until 7 o’clock on Monday evening, May 16. Heavy weather caused the delay.’

{4} A fiddle is ‘a contrivance to prevent things from rolling off the table in bad weather’. See W. H. Smyth, Sailor’s Word-Book (1867).

{5} Cf. Fate Has Been Kind, p. 36.

{6} Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 3rd Bt (1837–1915), Governor of South Australia, 1895–1899, and his wife Lady Victoria (née Noel) (1839–1916).

{7} John Reginald Harmer (1857–1944), Bishop of Adelaide, 1895–1905; a Fellow of Corpus Christi, Cambridge.

{8} H. M. Butler. The ink changes here.

{9} This section was begun some time between 28 and 30 May.

{10} Walter Scott (1855–1925), Professor of Classics at the University of Sydney, 1885–1900. He had been Percy Alden’s tutor at Balliol, 1884–1885, and like Alden and Lawrence was involved in the settlement movement. He was President of the Toynbee Guild, a settlement at Sydney, in 1897.

{11} Probably G. A. Wood.

{12} They arrived at Adelaide late on 16 May and spent two days there, taking a night train to Melbourne, which suggests they probably arrived on 19 May, but Lawrence referred to the 20th as ‘the first day we arrived’ (p. 178); perhaps he meant the first full day.

{13} The ink changes here, which may explain the confused grammar of the sentence.

{14} Annie Jane Lawrence.

{15} This event, which took place on 20 May in the form of a luncheon in the Town Hall, was widely reported. About 200 delegates attended. See, e.g. The Argus, 21 May 1898, p. 11. The Mayor referred to was Malcolm McEacharn, the shipping magnate, who was Mayor of Melbourne from 1897–1900.

{16} H. Darnley Naylor, lecturer in classics at Ormond College, Melbourne University; a contemporary of Lawrence’s at Trinity.

{17} The Wilson Barrett (sic) Company produced The Manxman—Barrett’s own adaptation of Hall Caine’s novel of 1894—at the Princess Theatre from 21 May to 2 June. Maud Jeffries (sic), Barrett’s leading lady, was born in the USA but spent the latter part of her life in New Zealand.

{18} The Rev. H. T. Robjohns was born at Tavistock, but in 1883 he was appointed an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society in Australia and he and his family emigrated to that country, where he became pastor of the Hunter’s Hill Congregational Church. His son Leonard, who also became a Congregationalist minister, was at Mansfield College from about 1895 but in July 1898 accepted a call to become pastor of the Rose Park Congregational Church at Adelaide. See The Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 July 1898, p. 15, which contains a few biographical notes.

{19} The Rev. E. T. Dunstan was born at Kilkhampton in Cornwall but emigrated to Australia to take charge of the Trinity Congregational Church at Perth. Afterwards (till 1902) he was pastor of the Pitt Street Congregational Church in Sydney.

{20} Not identified.

{21} Sir James Fairfax, proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald. He was connected with the Pitt Street Congregational Church.

{22} G. A. Wood, Challis Professor of History in the University of Sydney.

{23} Exercise (university slang).

{24} The Squire of Dames, an English version by R. C. Carton of the play L’Ami des femmes by Alexandre Dumas fils, was produced at the Criterion Theatre, Sydney, from 28 May to 3 June, by Charles Cartwright and his company, who were touring Australia. For a review see the Sydney Morning Herald, 30 May, p. 3.

† Sic.

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