Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2012 Issue

Edwards Collection of Australiana Offered by Hordern House

Islandgirl

Replacement women arrive in England.

In the 1830s, a settlement was started in the state of South Australia, which is actually to the west of New South Wales. This settlement was targeted to immigrants who were not convicts. However, the early years were not easy. Item 157 is a letter from one Daniel Watkins, dated November 4, 1840. Watkins was an immigrant, and not a very happy one. His letter is one long complaint, a tale of woe to a friend back home. Watkins cheerily writes his friend, “I despair of ever doing the best good for my poor family, I am almost broken hearted, by such constant repetition of wretched disappointments.” Education is terrible, Watkins saying, “their language is vulgar and ungrammatical and I already find it impossible to get any children to speak even tolerable English.” Adding to his self-pity, Watkins explains, “my unhappy propensity to wander from my home to this distant land has been severely punished...” $4,200.

Watkins wrote a second letter on February 18, 1841, and he had not noticeably cheered up over the preceding 3 ½ months. He has not had a “glass of potable water since I left England,” and notes that but for his family, he would rejoice at being in the grave. As to how bad it is, Watkins points out that they “are living in a small house without a servant and my wife does the chief part of the work.” I can relate to his pain of not having a servant, though that is eased by the fact that my wife does the chief part of the work too. Fortunately, he has managed to secure passage on a ship to England, so hopefully his long suffering was about to come to an end. Item 158. $2,400.

One thing the difficult conditions of living in Australia left the land facing was a shortage of women. This was not much of a place for a lady. The result was a call went out for British women to emigrate to Australia to fill the shortage. Artist George Cruikshank responded to this situation with an amusing cartoon issued with The Comic Almanac for 1851. Anticipating that this emigration would in turn result in a shortage of women in Britain, it displays the arrival of a boat of women from the “Savage Island” to take their place. A rather apprehensive and forlorn looking bunch of British men look on as these smiling women check them out (see image this page). Item 28. $750.

You may reach Hordern House at +61 (02) 9356 4411 or rare@hordern.com. Their website is found at www.hordern.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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