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- AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 6/32 -


pastoral industry was not enough for its development, and South Australia had seemed to solve the problem through the doctrinaire founders, of family immigration, small estates, and the development of agnculture, horticulture, and viticulture. We owed a great deal in the latter branches to our German settlers--sent out originally by Mr. G. F. Angas, whose interest was aroused by their suffering persecution for religious dissent--who saw that Australia had a better climate than that of the Fatherland. We owed much to Mr. George Stevenson, who was an enthusiastic gardener and fruitgrower, and lectured on these subjects, but the contrast between the environs of Adelaide and those of Sydney and Melbourne were striking, and Mr. Wilson never lost an opportunity of calling on the Victorian Legislature and the Victorian public to develop their own wonderful resources. When you take gold out of the ground there is less gold to win. When you grow golden grain or ruddy grapes this year you may expect as much and as good next year. My brother David went with the thousands to buy their fortunes at the diggings, but my brother John stuck to the Bank of South Australia. My brother-in-law's subscribers and his printers had gone off and left him woefully embarrassed. He went to Melbourne. My friend John Taylor left his sheep in the wilderness and came to Adelaide to the aid of The Register. He had been engaged to Sophia Stephens, who died, and her father John Stephens also died soon after; and Mr. Taylor shouldered the management of the paper until the time of stress was over.

When Andrew Murray obtained employment on The Argus as commercial editor, he left his twice-a-week newspaper in the charge of Mr. W. W. Whitridge, my brother John, and myself. If anything was needed to be written on State aid to religion I was to do it, as Mr. Whitridge was opposed to it. This lasted three months. The next quarter there were no funds for the editor. so John and I carried it on, and then let it die. At that time I believed in State aid, which had been abolished by the first elected Parliament of South Australia, although that Parliament consisted of one-third nominees pledged to vote for its continuance.

CHAPTER V.

NOVELS AND A POLITICAL INSPIRATION.

It was the experience of a depopulated province which led me to write my first book, "Clara Morison--A Tale of South Australia during the Gold Fever." I entrusted the M.S. to my friend John Taylor, with whom I had just had the only tiff in my life. He, through his connection with The Register, knew that I was writing in The South Australian, trying to keep it alive, till Mr. Murray decided to let it go, and he told this to other people. At a subscription ball to which my brother John took me and my younger sister Mary, she found she had been pointed out and talked of as the lady who wrote for the newspapers. I did not like it even to be supposed of myself, but Mary was indignant, and I wrote an injured letter to my friend. He apologized, and said he thought I would be proud of doing disinterested work, and he was sorry the mistake had been made regarding the sister who did it. Of course, I forgave him. He was the last man in the world to give pain to anyone, and I highly admired him for his disinterested work on The Register. He reluctantly accepted 1,000 pounds when the paper was sold. He must have lost much more through neglect of his own affairs at such a critical time. He was taking a holiday with his sister Eliza in England and France, where the beautiful widowed sister was settled as Madam Dubois, and I asked him to take "Clara Morison" to Smith, Elder & Co.'s, in London, and to say nothing to anybody about it; but before it was placed he had to return to Adelaide, and in pursuance of my wishes, left it with my other good friend, Mr. Bakewell, who also happened to be visiting England with his family at the time--1853-4. I had an idea that, as there was so much interest in Australia and its gold, I might get 100 pounds for the novel. Mr. Bakewell wrote a preface from which I extract a passage:--"The writer's aim seems to have been to present some picture of the state of society in South Australia in the years 1851-2, when the discovery of gold in the neighbouring province of Victoria took place. At this time, the population of South Australia numbered between seventy and eighty thousand souls, the greater part of whom were remarkable for their intelligence, their industry, and their enterprise, which, in the instance of the Burra Burra, and other copper mines had met with such signal success. When it became known that gold in vast quantities could be found within 300 miles of their own territory, they could not remain unmoved. The exodus was almost complete, and entirely without parallel. In those days there was no King in Israel, and every woman did what was right in her own sight." Another reason I had for writing the book. Thackeray had written about an emigrant vessel taking a lot of women to Australia, as if these were all to be gentlemen's wives--as if there was such a scarcity of educated women there, that anything wearing petticoats had the prospect of a great rise in position. I had hoped that Smith, Elder, & Co. would publish my book, but their reader--Mr. Williams, who discovered Charlotte Bronte's genius when she sent them "The Professor," and told her she could write a better, which she did ("Jane Eyre")--wrote a similiar letter to me, declining "Clara Morison," as he had declined "The Professor," but saying I could do better. J. W. Parker & Son published it in 1854, as one of the two-volume series, of which "The Heir of Redcliffe" had been most successful. The price was to be 40 pounds; but, as it was too long for the series, I was charged 10 pounds for abridging it. It was very fairly received and reviewed. I think I liked best Frederick Sinnett's notice in The Argus--that it was the work of an observant woman--a novelist who happened to live in Australia, but who did not labour to bring in bushrangers and convicts, and specially Australian features. While I was waiting to hear the fate of my first book, I began to write a second, "Tender and True," of which Mr. Williams thought better, and recommended it to Smith, Elder, and Co., who published it in two volumes in 1856, and gave me 20 pounds for the copyright. This is the only one of my books that went through more than one edition. There were two or three large editions issued, but I never got a penny more. I was told that nothing could be made out of shilling editions; but that book was well reviewed and now and then I have met elderly people who read the cheap edition and liked it. The motif of the book was the jealousy which husbands are apt to feel of their wives' relations. As if the most desirable wife was an amiable orphan--if an heiress, so much the better. But the domestic virtues which make a happy home for the husband are best fostered in a centre where brothers and sisters have to give and take; and a good daughter and sister is likely to make a good wife and mother. I have read quite recently that the jokes against the mother-in-law which are so many and so bitter in English and American journalism are worn out, and have practically ceased; but Dickens and Thackeray set the fashion, and it lasted a long time.

While "Clara Morison" was making her debut, I paid my first visit to Melbourne. I went with Mr. and Mrs. Stirling in a French ship consigned to him, and we were 12 days on the way, suffering from the limited ideas that the captain of a French merchantman had of the appetites of Australians at sea. I intended to pay a six weeks' visit to my sister and her family, but she was so unwell that I stayed for eight months. I found that Melbourne in the beginning of 1854 was a very expensive place to live in, and consequently a very inhospitable place. Mr. Murray's salary sounded a good one, 500 pounds a year, but it did not get much comfort. His sister was housekeeper at Charles Williamson & Co.'s, and that was the only place where I could take off my bonnet and have a meal. From the windows I watched the procession that welcomed Sir Charles Hotham, the first Governor of the separated colony of Victoria. He was received with rejoicing, but he utterly failed to satisfy the people. He thought anything was good enough for them. One festivity I was invited to--a ball given on the opening of the new offices of The Argus in Collins street--and there I met Mr. Edward Wilson, a most interesting personality, the giver of the entertainment. He was then vigorously championing the unlocking of the land and the developing of other resources of Victoria than the gold. It had surprised him when he travelled overland to Adelaide to see from Willunga 30 miles of enclosed and cultivated farms, and it surprised me to see sheepruns close to Melbourne. With a better rainfall and equally good soil, Victoria had neither the farms nor the vineyards nor the orchards nor the gardens that had sprung up under the 80-acre section and immigration systems of South Australia. It had been an outlying portion of New South Wales, neglected and exploited for pastoral settlement only. The city, however, had been well planned, like that of Adelaide, but the suburbs were allowed to grow anyhow. In Adelaide the belt of park lands kept the city apart from all suburbs. Andrew Murray was as keen for the development of Victoria agriculturally and industrially as Mr. Wilson, and they worked together heartily. Owing to the state of my sister's health I was much occupied with her and her children; but in August she was well, and I returned with Mr. Taylor and his sister in the steamer Bosphorus, when it touched at Melbourne on the way home. He brought me 30 pounds for my book, and the assurance that it would be out soon, and that I should have six copies to give to my friends. Novel writing had not been to me a lucrative occupation. I had given up teaching altogether at the age of 25, and I felt that, though Australia was to be a great country, there was no market for literary work, and the handicap of distance from the reading world was great.

My younger sister married in 1855 William J. Wren, then an articled clerk in Bartley & Bakewell's office, and afterwards a partner with the present Sir James Boucaut. Mr. Wren's health was indifferent, and caused us much anxiety. My brother John married Jessie Cumming in 1858, and they were spared together for many years. As the Wrens went on a long voyage to Hongkong and back for the sake of my brother-in-law's health, my mother and I had the charge of their little boy. But in that year, 1859, my mind received its strongest political inspiration, and the reform of the electoral system became the foremost object of my life. John Stuart Mill's advocacy of Thomas Hare's system of proportional representation brought back to my mind Rowland Hill's clause in the Adelaide Municipal Bill with wider and larger issues. It also showed me how democratic government could be made real, and safe, and progressive. I confess that at first I was struck chiefly by its conservative side, and I saw that its application would prevent the political association, which corresponded roughly with the modern Labour Party, from returning five out of six members of the Assembly for the City of Adelaide. But for blunders on ballot papers the whole ticket of six would have been elected. They also elected the three members for Burra, and Clare. I had then no footing on the Adelaide press, but I was Adelaide correspondent for The Melbourne Argus--that is to say, my brother was the correspondent, but I wrote the letters--he furnished the news. I read Mill's article one Monday night, and wrote what was meant for a leader on Tuesday morning, and went to read it to my brother at breakfast time, and posted it forthwith. I knew The Argus had been dissatisfied with the recent elections, and fancied that the editor would hail with joy the new idea; but I received the reply that The Argus was committed to the representation of majorities; and, though the idea was ingenious, he did not even offer to print it as a letter. About two years later Mr. Lavington Glyde, M.P., brought forward in the Assembly Mr. Fawcett's abstract of Hare's great scheme, and I seized the opportunity of writing a series of letters to The Register, signed by my initials. Mr. Glyde, seeing the House did not like his suggestions, dropped the matter, but I did not. I was no longer correspondent to The Argus--the telegraph stopped that altogether. My wonderful maiden aunts made up to me and my mother the 50 pounds a year that I had received as correspondent, and did as much for their brother, Alexander Brodie, of Morphett Vale, from 1,000 pounds they had sent to invest in South Australia. It was as easy to get 10 per cent.


AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 6/32

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