Letters from John Augustus Milbourne Marsh to
his wife Grace Pinnock
1845 and 1846
Letters from John Augustus Milbourne Marsh, Demonderil, New South Wales to his wife Grace Pinnock, England 1845, 1846
Demonderil, near Yass
New South Wales
1st Sept 1845
My dearest Grace,
Have you not often wondered at my silence? Have you not often blamed me for my apparent carelessness? But when I tell you that only this moment has your kind and affectionate letter of June 28, 1843 arrived containing your eventful news, I know your gentle heart will readily forgive and pity me. Months of anxiety and wretchedness I have experienced, from the dreadful chasm as it were, in our correspondence, and when I left Sydney in March last without having had the slightest intelligence of you, I was in the greatest despair. Your answer, however, compensates me for all the past anxiety. It is a most acceptable boon, as unlooked for too as it is prized by me: and the kindly and affectionate sentiments you there express towards me fill me with gratitude indeed. How can I sufficiently thank you for the great confidence you reposed in me, and for the hope you have allowed me to indulge in, that as soon as my circumstances may permit, you will give a ready acquiescence to our Union. You have now given me the greatest stimulus to Independence that I could well have. Often have I felt heavily one's narrow means, and as our yourself justly observed "have often experienced many bitter trials, and had to endure much anxiety of mind "in consequence, but never have I endured such torture as I do now, at the rate thought of one's circumstances being a bar to the obtaining the most fervent wish of my soul, your undivided love and affection. But believe me my dearest Grace that however much to my personal advantage and happiness it might be, still I love you too well, too sincerely ever to ask you to ally yourself with one who was unable to support you in the same manner and style of life to which you have been accustomed and to which you are every way entitled: for far from my wish that you dear Grace should be exposed to any trials or privations, in that one moment's uneasiness should fall to your lot. At the time I wrote my first letter, you will I know do me the justice to recollect, that I looked upon mine as a very prosperous condition, and thought myself fully well justified and in a position to marry: little did I reason of the misfortunes that were so soon after to fall on the Forbes', much less on myself, for I had always been led to believe that in the event of difficulties arising in their affairs, I should be saved harmless, and at all risks my place would always be preserved. Events have proved otherwise, and the illusion is past and gone. Since then a change for the better in one's fortunes, has taken place, and however I may regret the past I have every reason to be thankful for so bright a future. From the great and unaccountable delay that has arisen in my receiving your letter, one good thing has happened, for it has enabled me now to answer your question as to my means and prospects in a much more satisfying manner than I could have done some time ago. When your letter by rights should have been received: I will now as you request, state my circumstances exactly as they are, and leave you to judge for yourself but before I go further into the subject I must premise, (and I think I will speak volumes) that Fanny's and Wise's position and means are exactly the same as your's and mine would be were you to become my wife. Wise and myself are jointly and equally interested in the Sheepstation on which we reside. We are possessed of one third share; the other two partners being Wise's brother-in-law William Manning, the Solicitor-General, and his brother Edye Manning; but Wise and myself are in great hopes of purchasing from the latter his 1/3 share, parting with the £1000 expected from my Grandmother's Settlement, and if we accomplish this we should then have 2/3 between us. In the Station there will be very shortly 12,000 sheep, the sort of stock which every one now admits to be the only safe investment, and owing to the present prices the surest manner of making money.
I also propose as I wrote you, to insure my life for £2000 payable in my decease to you: George can explain this to you more clearly than can be done by writing, as also for the facility of managing these matters.
After this statement my dear Grace, you will admit I think, that I am not precipitate or unadvised in again pressing my suit upon you, and again imploring your consent: mine is no new, no sudden fit of affection, but a lasting enduring one that I had for you years, years ago: it has stood the brunt of time and distance, and absence, strengthened daily by a deep conviction that I have never seen any one so truly amiable as yourself, in whom I could love so earnestly and sincerely. Do not I entreat you then turn a deaf ear to my proposals, for on your decided answer depends my happiness or woe.
In January next I purpose returning to England and hope on my arrival there, to have to congratulate myself on my engagement with you. God grand that I may find yourself and all your dear party alive and well: Death has made such havoc amongst ones friends and relations, that the return to me is full of painful uncertainties. Pray continue to write to me, and with every wish for your health and happiness, here and hereafter,
Believe me my dearest Grace
Ever your most affectionate attached
Demonderil near Yass
14th October 1845
My dearest Grace,
I cannot express to you the pleasure it gives me, when ever I receive a letter from you: the oftener too I hear from you, the more I desire to hear, and no sooner does one Packet arrive, than I am all anxiety till the next one comes in. The kindly affectionate spirit that pervades all your letters, speaks home to my heart I assure you, and leads me daily, yes hourly, to congratulate myself on being so fortunate as to have gained your love, and your consent to our Union. It "is very charming to know that we are cared for by friends at a distance," but to possess the sympathy, the tender solicitude of one like yourself dea Grace, blunts the edge of misfortune indeed, and nerves one for any future trial or affliction. Your kind and welcome letter of May 29th has just been brought me, and I have been reading it over and over again, till I can almost fancy that I hear you speak with your own lip, that which you have written. Imagination carried me still further and I now picture to myself your dear self as you were wont to be in the "Merry days when we were young." Oh, that this bright vision may soon be realized.
I have indeed to thank you for the affectionate admission you have made my dearest Grace, in telling me 'That your affection for me is as sincere and unchanged as in former days," I am truly delighted to hear it: and I on my part can only repeat that my love for you burns as brightly, and purely and strongly as ever: in fact, you are the only one I ever loved with so deep an affection as I have for you. No other can ever share this love, and as to my thinking for a moment that there could be found one more worthy than yourself, that never, never can be. My heart will never pay allegiance, to any one else save you, and were it possible to bare it open to view, you would see how firmly convinced I am, that you and you only have it, in your power to make me the happiest or the most wretched of men. Had you poured before me, instead of smiles, had you said no, instead of yes, my whole life would have been embittered, and I should have gone distracted.
As to prudence, of considering the expense that marriage necessarily entails, I perfectly agree with you in thinking that before entering into that 'happy state' I should see if my means warranted the completion of my wishes: I have done this, and as you desired have weighed well step, and have come to the conclusion that my last letter, giving you a statement of my present circumstances, and placed for the future would relieve your mind, and do away with any doubts either you dear Grace, or Aunt Mary Anne, or Aunt Charlotte may have entertained.
At the top of the page you will see that I have attended to your request, by sending you a rough sketch of the hut, (par excellence Cottage) we are at present living in. Outside it looks pretty well, thanks to the vines and woodbine creeping upon it, but it is a very old mansion indeed, and we intend (in fact have commenced) building a much better place, really a cottage ornée, in my next letter I will send you a plan as well as a sketch of what is to be. I dare say you will be surprised at the goodness of our present abode, compared with the one on the Downs, but this part of the country is, if I may say, of much older growth, we are moreover, not many miles from the high road leading to Port Phillip and are almost, what is termed out here "within the Boundaries," properly speaking, in a civilized part of New South Wales. Talking of civilization by the bye, from Mr Hibberts kind description of me, you must have formed a very pleasing impression, a sort of "wretched ragged man - (line missing in image at bottom of page) - libels upon me, I can only remark that from his associations in this country he must have learnt the somewhat too frequent habit of telling travelers tales, or never sticking to truth, you will be surprised at the impudence of the man, when I tell you he never saw me in this Country! In fact until you mentioned his having returned lately from Sydney, I did not know there had been such a bright specimen of Gloucester talent in the Colony. He could not have been in any good society out here, certainly not ever at the Governor's table, or the Bishops, or O'Connells, and I never met him with or heard of him from any of the Officers of the 58th or 99th.
From all the letters we receive from England, we cannot help remarking the estrangement that exists between yourselves and the Wemyess's, their conduct is surprising indeed, and why it should be so, is as much a wonder to us as to you: does it arise on the Barton side of the House? As to Dorothea, I always held the same opinion as you did of her. I always thought her of a very hypercritical nature: the only one that can bring her to her senses would be Frank; did you ever hear the story of how sweet they were together at Cambridge, exchanging vows and protestations, swearing to die for each other, and now and then an acute observer might detect them linked hand in hand under the dinner table! He might have some influence. The Major is I am sure the same kind hearted human as ever, and for the sake of him I regret his difference: and the other's account, I should say n'importe, for they could neither benefit by their society, nor add tones éclat by their appearance. How I should shock the gentle Dorothea, by telling her that I hear it in recollection, that when I had "to do the polite to her" when staying in Clifton with Aunt Mary Anne, I invariably proposed a "before breakfast" walk to the Cliffs, in order to avoid meeting any of the Clifton Belles, for to tell you the truth, she had a milkmaids beauty, she looked like a milkmaid.
I am much obliged to you for sending me the slippers you mention having worked for me, I hope they may arrive safely although I shall value them much as coming from you, I must say I wish you had increased the obligation by adding at the same time a lock of your hair, dear Grace: I have one lock, it is here, given me years ago, do you recollect? And I have cherished it with a miser's care: Time however, has taken the glossiness of its hue away, and I therefore would very much like to receive from you, another 'gage d'amour" to celebrate the renewal of our loves. I send you a lock of mine.
I have inclosed your letter to Philip, by the last Post. I heard the other day of him, that he was well, and doing well, when I see him which I think I shall do in
Demonderil, near Yass
New South Wales
30th June 1846
My dearest Grace,
Accept my best love for your kind and welcome letter of 31st December, which came a few days ago. I cannot tell you how delighted I was to find that you have at length received intelligence of me, thanks to Fanny's never failing correspondence, you mention that she had given you a clear statement of my affairs in this Country, that it should have proved satisfactory to you dear Grace, is of itself sufficient to make it the most agreeable news I well could received and I hope when you receive my own account of myself, you will be more convinced than ever, and will agree with me in thinking that the only remaining obstacle to our Union is the fact of my being absent from England. Alas that it should be so, and I grieve over it daily. However, it is impossible to convey to you the disappointment it has cost me in having postponed my departure, but the advice of friends here, and a sort of inward whispering that it was for the best, made me yield the point, and for one you must give me credit for not having acted (as you say was my want) upon the impulse of the moment. You will be glad to hear that the arrangements I expected to make, and to which I alluded in my last letter have all been affected, and I am happy to add that I am now possessed of one third share of the Sheep and Station here, having purchased one of the partners out of the concern. Our joint stock will in a few months more amount to nearly 16,000 sheep. The money I received from England enable me of course to make the purchase together with a loan of a few hundred s from the Bank of Australia in addition to this we have a few cattle and horses, and (what few Bushmen have) a most excellent cottage or rather House; comfortable enough to make one almost forget England, at all events you may be sure that the honors of a Bath girl which you hint at in your letter will never visit you here: nevertheless I promise to make up for all the dullness and monotony of the life, by an unwearying and ever to be commanded, love on my side, yes dearest Grace, you may be as "exigent" as you like, but you will never find me wanting in returning your affectionate regard, or ever forgetting to anticipate if possible you're any slightest wish. I have too deep and fervent a love for you ever to let you have cause for regret, and I am sure when you are with us in this Country, you will own yourself happily disappointed at the lives we lead, and the difficulties we have to encounter. It is true certainly, that at the first onset of a Bushman's career, there are many disagreeable ordeals to go through and many hardships and privations to endure, but this remark exclusively applied to men who have taken up their abode in a new part of the Country; hundreds of miles from Civilisation. Such was my case once in the Darling Downs and I speak feelingly. But his part of the country as I have already observed is in a much more civilized state, from the fact of its having been for a considerable number of years know and peopled, and also from it being near to the line of road to Port Philip, by which the Postal communication between the place and Sydney is kept up. Besides the distance hence to Sydney is only 250 miles, and midway towns and villages have sprung up in all directions. This of itself will show you how different the case is, from what I am inclined to think you imagine it to be. Then again, we have no Blacks to torment us, as on the Downs, and other new Districts. No fear of sheep being driven off the Runs by them, of Cattle being speared, of men's lives being lost, all is peace and quietness here. In fact to sum up in a few words, we have the Arcadian Age over again. We have agreeable neighbours within a ride or a drive, and should we wish it, could easily have friends from Sydney to stay with us. Opposite me now as I am writing, sits a Lady visitor of Fanny's, a daughter of Sir Thomas Mitchell; she has chosen to leave town and on the chances of Country to forget the gay parties and Balls that are going on: but I must not deceive you and the truth must be told, the Lady in question is marvelously ugly, the seasons that have passed over her head are numerous I wear, and I cannot but think she has come up with a view of recruiting her looks. Perhaps by the way to entrap some unworldly Squatter. Fanny's friends have always the misfortune to be plain but then she tells you, as a set off to this, they are "clever" and this the Lady sans doute is; as soon as she takes her departure another Lady friend of Fanny's (a Miss Callander) is coming to pass some months. She is a niece of the Hon Mrs Norton, Lady Grafton, &c &c. and is a very nice sensible person, but, like the other young Lady, has claim to neither Beauty, Majesty, nor Grace. I have gone thus far into the matter to prove to you, that (although not angels, visits that are paid to us) we are not quite so destitute of polite associations or friends, as the name of the "Bush" implies to our friends at Home. I am looking forward most anxiously to the day I shall be enable to sail for England, and be once more in the presence of my own sweet Grace. I have determined to wait till the end of December, for the intervening months are the most critical out of the whole year to the Squatter, and require his presence and surveillance to make things go right. Besides by that time, the wool clip of this season will be in Sydney, and the accounts of the Station balanced, and I shall then be able to return to England with my affairs so clear and defined, that the most unbusinesslike Lady can read and understand them. At all risks I go then Life and Health permitting. Oh what a delight will it be to be once more with you, to hear thee, see thee, breathe the air in which thou dwelst!
"Too heavenly dream, if there's on earth a cure
For the sunk heart tis this, day after day
To be the blest companion of the way's
To hear thy angel eloquence! To see
Those virtuous eyes, for ever turned to me.
I am afraid you will think I am growing too romantic; I always became so, whenever I think of you, and that is pretty often I - you.
We are daily expecting our new Governor and wife, Sir Charles and Lady Mary Fitzroy; this is rather complimentary to the Colony sending out to us such "Bigwigs" is it not? They will improve the Sydney Society wonderfully, in as much as they will draw a dividing line between the "exceptionables" and their opposites. All the Ladies in Sydney are doing nothing I hear but vying with each other in the purchase of costly dresses, to grace the first Ball that it my please the Lady Governor to invite them to. Reports however say however, she has what is termed a serious turn, and will never give Balls: just as David says, "there is no obligation but she must." Talking of him makes me recollect to tell you of his engagement, with a young lady just 16, a Miss Kate Bowenman: rather pretty, but to judge from a letter she wrote to Fanny, a perfect child. They are to be married in December, and David I hear is making ready his House to receive her on the Downs. Frank's engagement has long since died, nevertheless he is very likely to follow David's exampled, the first safe opportunity. To tell you the truth, I don't think as for as Love was concerned Frank or the Lady much cared about it, but there is on his part of course, a little sore feeling, as far as concerns the Pride of the thing, as these delicate 'affaires de Coeur.' Frank's apathy and absence of mind tell against him.
You mention Miss Newhouse being with you, where has she been wandering lately? And what new fancy has taken possession of her brains? The last I recollect of her was always travelling about with a portrait of the handsome Evangelical Preacher Mr Close. She was a devoted admirer of his, but whether of his discourses or his personal merits, was always a matter of argument to between us, pray remember me to her and also her to carry on my remembrances to Miss Palmer should they by chance meet. I had a letter from Phil yesterday of the 8th June, he writes in very good spirits, as soon as I have answered it I will send it to you, which will be more satisfactory to your Mother than all I can say. Tell George from me that I think he is acting very wisely to get rid of his Jamaica property, even although he should sell for something less than its real value. It is now I fancy only distracting his attention from the profession, in which I hear he is getting on admirably, he has done better than I did at it, but you little know the thorough disgust I took for it, not the work, the labor of it, but the idea of being subservient to anyone, I rebelled at the thought of being obliged to be dictated to. George has had the good sense not to sacrifice the substance to the shadow, and will one of these days I hope, reap the benefit of it. When will he go up for his Examination? I suppose you will all accompany him and keep house for him in London. Have you not already sundry visions of the "Opera" floating before you. I wish I could be with you to partake of some of your pleasures and gaieties: I am quite music made of late years, and one of the things I am determined to bring out from England is a Piano for you dear Grace. I have already allotted the pace where it is to stand in our new Cottage, in fact this is the only luxury I ever miss. Now then adieu my own dear Grace, accept my most affectionate love and believe me ever
Your most fondly attached
To Pinyard Park
Robert Hibbert Esq
13 Welbeck Street
(Envelope post mark Dec 7 1846)
Demonderil near Yass
1st December 1846
My dearest Grace,
Today I had the delight of receiving your letter of the 28th March, inclosing a lock of your beautiful hair, I gave it 'one kiss, one more and yet another,' wishing as I did so, that the dear one, from whose 'lovely head where late it grew,' were as near to me as her gift. I am glad to find that my letters of September and October 1845, had reached and that the explanation of my affairs had proved satisfactory, had silenced all doubts and fears. Accept a thousand thanks my own dear Grace, for assuring me 'that you would prefer comparative poverty with me, to wealth with another, a sentiment that speaks home to my heart with regard to yourself. I cannot tell you how I long for the time when I shall be able to show you by my affectionate regard, that you could not have allied yourself with one who loved you or appreciated you as I do, you are the first object I have in life, and in you centre all my hopes and happiness.
It grieves me much to think of the disappointment you will naturally fell, at my not sailing for England at the time I wrote, you have long ere this heard my reasons both from Fanny and myself, and I hope you will agree with us in thinking that it was beset for our interests (yours and mine) to postpone my departure. In this country it is almost dangerous to make positive arrangements for any distant period, there is a sort of fatality about it, and I now make certain of nothing till the time arrives. This sort of superstitious feeling has made me reveal to no one (except Fanny) my engagement with you dear Grace, and I am sorry to say Aunt Sophy is very much annoyed at my not telling her. I dare say she has written to some of you in England, to try and find out; Aunt Sophy if you recollect is very curious, but when she finds who the fair Demoiselle is, her anger will be softened, and I shall be I trust nearing the shores of old England. David was married on Tuesday last, the 24th November, to Kate Bowerman. She is pretty and Ladylike, but her sister "Mona" (horrid name) is exactly the reverse, hideous is the only term I can use, and worse than that excessively vulgar. How David will ever manage 'to do Brother-in-law' puzzles me. Perhaps to ease himself of this trouble, he will persuade Frank into matrimony.
You will be sorry to hear that poor Mrs William Manning died last Tuesday (I think) after a lingering illness, Fanny and Wise were with her during the last six or seven weeks. The knowledge of which will perhaps affect some little consideration to her relatives in England. She was buried at Newtown, a short way form Sydney and the carriages of nearly every one attended. The three Judges, the Colonial Secretary, and Attorney General wee the Pall Bearers. Also Dr Dawson the Physician in attendance; besides himself and Dr Bland. All the skill and talent of the land availed her nothing alas. I wrote to you a short time since that I thought there was no hope left, and begged you if you saw any of the family to break it to them.
In addition to your letter of 28th March to me which I have already acknowledged, I must tell you that Fanny has sent me up with it all your letters to her, which came together, of 29th March, 28th April, 30th May, and 4th July. This will show you how irregularly the Post is with us, and of course the same delay attends our letters to you in England. I am very glad to hear of George's having passed his Examination with credit, to himself, congratulate him for me, as well as your Mother, of whom by the bye I am sorry to hear so bad an account, now that her mind is relieved about George she will I hope recover her health and spirits. Give her my kind love, and tell her the last I heard of Phil (it is rare to hear from him) was that he was attending the Shearing whilst David came to Sydney to get married. I do not think, however, he will himself leave the Station this year. He is a very popular fellow with all the men on the Downs I hear. The only thing you will not like to hear is that he smokes a great deal, not that I think it will hurt him, from his being such a stout fellow. Frank who sets him the example, is also a terrific smoker and it is very likely to do him harm. But to tell a man in the Bush, to leave off smoking would be as acceptable advice, as to the epicure at home, to go without his dinner, such is habit.
I have just heard of the appointment of Sir Thomas Downman to the command of the Garrison at Woolwich, a first rate appointment. Our late Governor, Sir G Gipps will hold a subordinate situation under him I believe.
Fanny writes me work that Wise is thinking of writing to his sister "Annie" to come out to this Country, if she agrees, she might come under your protection. If you see her you can tell her, that one of her persecutors, Frederick Manning (an uncouth being) is to be married shortly to a Miss Docker, whose father was some time back stripped of his gown, for some clerical offence. Adieu sweet Grace for awhile and let me be as constantly in your thoughts as you are in mine, which is the fervent wish of
Yours affectionately attached
Love to Aunt Mary Ann and Charles.
Transcribed from Betty Harrison Family Archives, by Michael Heath-Caldwell, Brisbane 2009
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