Unpublished manuscript for a talk on the album Who and What We Saw at the Antipodes, in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Written circa 1983. No citations. c1983
This album was assembled from photographs taken mainly in Australia between 1868 and 1870. It was purchased by the Australian National Gallery and is one of a pair of albums. The other, directly attributable to a Lady Fanny Jocelyn, is concerned with the domestic life of a British aristocratic family in the 1860s.
Viscountess Jocelyn was born Lady Frances Elizabeth Cowper around 1820, the younger daughter of Earl Cowper. The invalid Earl died in 1837, and two years later her mother, Amelia Lamb, remarried the man with whom she had been having a well-publicised and glamorous love-affair for many years, Viscount Palmerston. (There is speculation that her younger children, perhaps even Lady Fanny, were the daughters of Viscount Palmerston rather than the invalid Earl.) Viscount Palmerston was one of Queen Victoria’s closest advisers and a powerful force in British politics. Lady Fanny herself was one of Queen Victoria’s ten bridesmaids and later a Lady-in-waiting. In 1841 she married the dashing Viscount Jocelyn, who had recently returned from a six month expedition to the Chinese Opium War. In her thirteen years of marriage, before her husband’s untimely death in 1854, she bore four children.
It was probably as a widow that Lady Fanny took up photography, which was becoming a very fashionable pass-time amongst the wealthy, educated and leisured classes. Although women would have been discouraged from taking up the hobby, they were not absolutely precluded, particularly if they were wealthy and had fulfilled the Victorian obligations to their large families and their husband’s careers. Other aristocratic women photographers of the period were Lady Clemintina Hawarden and the better known Julia Margaret Cameron (not strictly an aristocrat).
It was probably as a girl, that Lady Fanny acquired her watercolour skills, which would have been part of her education as a Lady. A common pass-time for women of the period was the assemblage of elaborate albums and scrap-books containing poems, illustrations, sketches and drawings by themselves and others. After the invention of photography, carte-de-visites of their friends, family and the famous were likewise assembled into elaborate, morocco-bound, brass-hasped, albums. More rarely, the albums were embellished and decorated by hand, and more rarely still the purchased carte-de-visites were joined by photographs taken by the album’s owner.
The style, technique and predominant concerns of the two albums are closely related, and the album in the Gallery’s collection appears to have been owned by Lady Fanny Jocelyn. It may even have been assembled and decorated by her, but none of the photographs in our album were taken by her, quite simply because she is not recorded as being in Australia at the time.
In fact the exact identity of the person initially responsible for the Gallery’s album, and their connection with Lady Fanny Jocelyn, continues to evade my researches. However by carefully analysing the album’s contents we are able to precisely locate their class, cultural and ideological position, which is just as useful for a deconstruction of the album.
The title page of the album shows Government House in Sydney and the vice-regal suite of the late 1860s. They are most probably, from left to right: Mr F.B. Toulmin, private secretary to the Governor; the Governor and his wife, the Earl and Countess of Belmore; and Mrs Beresford and Captain Beresford, aid-de-camp to the Governor.
The title is illuminated with ‘typically Australian” motifs: around the word ‘antipodes’ we see a grass-tree, a kangaroo, an aborigine, a boomerang, some parrots, a goanna, a ring-tailed possum and a snake. This is the closest this album ever gets to showing non-European Australia, there are few photographs of such things elsewhere in the album, although they were freely available at the time. The person who assembled the album, even though they stayed in Australia for three years, doesn’t appear to have encountered, or have been interested in encountering, any of these things first hand. But nonetheless they remained acutely aware of their existence as signifiers of antipodality. They were aware of the exotic charge the decorations gave to the word ‘antipodes’. Other decorations in the album are similarly constructed within the paradigm of the ‘typically Australian’ but they exist, for the most part, only as decorations, as exotic embellishments to what remains, fundamentally, a stoically British existence in the colonies. As will become clear, this is a profoundly insular and dissaffected album, one that shows Australia’s British masters’ poverty of experience of anything outside their own narrow society. Below the four carte-de-visites we have a photograph of Government House itself, showing the boathouse at the bottom and the masts of ships moored in Sydney Cove in the background.
The concurrence of the word ‘we’ with photographs of these five people, on the one page, would tend to suggest that one of them, or more, is the album’s originator. To this question I shall return. However it is immediately apparent that who ever the originator was, they were closely involved with the vice-regal family, as is demonstrated on another page which shows the Earl and Viscountess of Belmore and their four daughters dangling off a gum-tree branch.
The vice-regal suite arrived in Sydney on 7 January, 1868, after voyaging from England on the Sobraon. The Earl of Belmore, on Eton and Oxford graduate, was only 32 when he took up his post, which he retained for four years before returning to Britain to attend to his estates and his career in British politics. He and his wife are reported as making a very impressive vice-regal couple: he being described as tall, and his wife as tall and dark. Here she is pictured, at about the age of 25, with her first four daughters, she was to have six more daughters and three sons. Her daughters are, from left to right: Lady Therese, about 6; Lady Madelin, about 3; Lady Mary, about 1; and Lady Florence, about 4.
The Belmores, unlike many colonial governors, took a great deal of interest in the colony they governed, making sixteen arduous tours of its country areas. On one tour of southern New South Wales and Victoria, undertaken in July 1868, the Countess was thrown bodily from her coach during an accident outside Goulburn. But she was not hurt and continued on the tour, later removing her crinolines to descend a gold mine, the managers of which presented her with some nuggets when her attempts at panning proved unsuccessful. However, despite her obvious devotion to her duties, she does not seem to have had much of a taste for Sydney’s social life, she is often recorded as not attending very important balls and picnics. One of the reasons for the Belmore’s return to England in 1872 was her failing health. She obviously had an exhausting life in the colonies. On another page we have a photograph of Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, flanked by his two equerries, Lord Newry and Elliot Yorke. The photograhs were taken in Sydney in January 1868.
This was the occasion of the first Royal Tour of Australia, with Queen Victoria’s second son travelling to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and Launceston over six months, being shot at, and raising the patriotic emotions of colonial Australians to fever pitch. The papers of the day are full of detailed accounts of the Prince’s every movement -his possum shooting parties, his visits to the theatre, etc. As well, they reproduced at tedious length all the speeches given in his honour, and all of his replies.
The Sydney Morning Herald even reported on the execution of this particular photograph. It wrote: “The Duke of Edinburgh honoured Mr W. Bradley with a visit to his photographic establishment. His Royal Highness afforded the artist on opportunity of taking seven very excellent likenesses”. It goes on to describe the seven photographs, including this one, in which “His Royal Highness has assumed a slightly recumbent position near a sideboard. His eyes are fixed upon an open book. The face is what artists call three-quarter, and the expression more than that of any of the other photographs will remind some of the face of his Royal mother in her youthful days”. The article concludes with “It is said that the Prince has expressed his approbation of the portraits. Like others produced in this city, they are far before any which have been imported. They will find a place, no doubt, in many albums, and tend to keep fresh in the remembrance of thousands the features of our Royal Sailor, and the festive days when his visit to this colony was commemorated”. No doubt this portrait did feature in many albums, but few would have been privileged enough to have direct access to the Prince to have him sign this page himself.
Prince Alfred toured the colonies as Commander of the Royal Navy’s H.M.S.S. Galatea. The Galatea arrived in Sydney Harbour from Melbourne on 21 January 1968. The ceremonial welcome that had been planned for it, complete with flotillas of steamers in formation, welcome banners, and nine and seven gun salutes, was spoiled by a torrential and continual downpour of rain. The following day the Prince was welcomed to Sydney by a procession through Sydney’s streets, around Hyde Park and under no less than four triumphal arches. That night, still in torrential rain, there was a display of fireworks and illuminated transparencies (large patriotic paintings, mounted in windows and on the fronts of buildings, lit from behind by gas lights). One of the most impressive displays was a fire-spitting winged dragon of over 30 metres that silently moved across the surface of the harbour. It consisted of a steamer, entirely covered with detailed transparencies, trailing twenty-two smaller boats festooned with lanterns. Men at the front of the steamer shot fireworks out of the dragon’s mouth and moved its jaws. Unfortunately, photography was not yet sufficiently technically advanced to record these events; although woodcuts made from sketches were included in the Illustrated Sydney News.
The album also contains two photographs of Clontarf, a popular picnic spot on Sydney’s Middle Harbour. It was on this spot that, on 12 March, 1868, the Duke of Edinburgh was shot by a Fenian whilst attending a picnic to raise funds for a Sailors’ Home. The would be assassin, James O’Farrell, fired into the Prince’s back from less than two metres, but the bullet’s republican progress was impeded by the several layers of rubber at the cross-over of the Royal Braces, so the Prince was not badly wounded. Loyal Australians, however, were outraged, and over reacted in a way only colonists trying to prove their loyalty to the Empire can. Some extremely Draconian legislation was enacted in New South Wales which, amongst other things, provided for up to two years imprisonment with hard labour for anyone “using language disrespectful to the Queen, or expressing sympathy with certain offenders”. Over a year later another picnic at Clontarf was not attended by Lady Belmore, the Governor’s wife, reportedly because she was too overcome with thoughts of the outrage she had witnessed there.
These images appear to have had wide circulation in Sydney. The top image most probably formed the basis of a chromolithograph by Thomas Picken, a resident of Sydney, which was published in “The Cruise of the Galatea” in 1868. There was undoubtedly a high demand for pictures of the actual spot of such a dastardly attempt on the Prince’s life whilst he was in the very bosom of Sydney’s loyal economic and social elite. Picken was associated with the Royal Party through the watercolourist Oswald Brierly, who travelled on the Galatea as a guest of the Prince, and some of whose watercolours Picken had previously turned into chromolithographs.
The photograph of Mrs Susan Macleay, Miss Tiny and Miss Nelly Deas Thomson and Lord Newry (the Prince’s equerry) was taken in Sydney at Elizabeth Bay House, the home of William Macleay, probably during March or April 1868. The women in the photograph are three of the five daughters of Sir Edward Deas Thomson, a wealthy and powerful Sydney politician. Susan Macleay, the woman standing on the left, was twenty-nine when this photograph was taken. She had married William Macleay at the age of 18, but they had only been living at Elizabeth Bay House for three years. William Macleay, besides pursuing the normal gentlemanly occupations of grazing and politics, was also, like his father-in-law, a keen naturalist,specializing in entomology. Elizabeth Bay House was, at this time, a favourite meeting place for the colony’s leading scientists. Susan Macleay’s sisters were also frequent visitors to the House. They lived close by, at “Barham” in Forbes Street Darlinghurst, only a mile or so through Kings Cross from Elizabeth Bay. “Barham” is now the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School.
Lord Newry seems to have stuck up a particularly close friendship with the Deas Thomson sisters during his stay in Sydney. On the fourth of April 1868 he wrote to their mother, inviting her and her daughters on board the Prince’s ship that Sunday for Divine Service. The relationship must have flowered because in August that year, safely back in England, he again wrote to the sisters thanking them for the birthday present they had sent him. Unfortunately the letter does not mention what the present was.
Fancy dress was, of course, a favourite occupation of the Victorian leisured classes. On Tuesday, 10 March, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a public fancy dress ball was held in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh. 1,000 members of Sydney’s most fashionable society, from the Governor, Lord Belmore, down, attended. The enthusiasm was so great that the next day a list of the costumes worn was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Tiny went as Evangeline, a French Canadian peasant character from a popular Longfellow poem; Nelly came as a Roman peasant; and Lord Newry came in the uniform of a volunteer.
The costumes in the photograph, however, seem to have a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean flavour, though of indeterminate country or class. Viscount Newry’s monk costume, complete with false beard and bare feet.could perhaps relate sufficiently closely to those of the women to form some sort of ambiguous narrative, though nothing immediately suggests itself. Any potential narrative is made more ambiguous by the pumpkin and grape vines, painted in watercolour, that surround the composition. The grape vines may have been suggested by another of William Macleay’s gentlemanly pursuits -viticulture.
Lord Newry appears to have had a predilection for dressing-up and amateur dramatics. On 2 March 1868 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “There was a large and fashionable audience on Saturday evening [at the Prince of Wales Opera House] to witness the amateur performance given by Lord Newry and the officers of H.M.S. Charybidis in aid of the fund for the establishment of an Australian branch of the Royal Dramatic College. The programme consisted of the comedietta “A Morning Call” and two farces “To Paris and Back for £5” and “Box and Cox”, the whole of which were played very creditably.
The band of the Galatea was present during the evening and played several pieces of popular music in an excellent manner”. However, this photograph does not appear to be related to either the fancy dress ball or the amateur performance. It is probably just a tableau arranged and photographed for its own sake, perhaps illustrating a line of poetry. The performance of tableaus was a popular pass-time throughout the nineteenth century. It involved those with artistic pretentions dressing-up and disporting themselves in front of an audience for as long as they could remain still or keep from giggling. Tableaus were often viewed by the audience through a piece of dark gauze stretched inside a large gilt frame to give the impression of an old master painting, on which they were frequently based. With the invention of photography a new impetus was given to the craze, the artistic efforts of the participants could now be immortalised and compared.
The background watercolour view in this composition is a topographically accurate portrayal of Sydney Pleads as seen from the front balcony of Elizabeth Bay House. However, the photographic Dart of the composition is not of the morning room windows, the windows that actually frame this view, but is of some ground-floor windows towards the back of the house on the south-eastern side. The photograph is actually taken outside the house, looking in to the butlery. The doors and sandstone walls of the house have been cut out from the photograph to allow the painting of the background view, but the door architrave, wall-skirting and paving-stones have been retained and cleverly turned iside-out to act as ‘interior’ architectural features, perhaps to form a pseudo-verandah. This photographic conceit was necessary to obtain sufficient strong, even light for a good, sharp figure study. A chair has been brought outside and covered with drapery to compositionally balance Lord Newry, and Tiny and Nelly have elegantly disported themselves over a grating leading to the cellars. The camera was located approximately one metre off the ground when this photograph was taken, this rather unusual camera position was chosen to ensure that the edges of the doorway remained parallel.
If this watercolour was done by Lady Fanny Jocelyn, it must have been painted in England, in which case of photograph of Sydney Heads taken from the front balcony of Elizabeth Bay House would have been needed. Such a photograph is not in the album and has not been located elsewhere. (Tf, for that matter, the other floral decorations in the album were painted by Lady Fanny in England, actual specimens or other drawings would have, of course, been necessary; however this is not beyond the realms of possibility.)
Alternatively, the watercolour could have been provided by one of the Deas Thomson daughters themselves, their mother, Lady Anne Maria Deas Thomson, was known to paint in oils.
There is a further image of Mrs Susan Macleay later in the album, it was undoubtedly taken on the same occasion as the previous photograph. Here she is posing as odalisque in a more obviously Ottomanesque setting.
It is interesting to note that the album, towards its end, contains carte-de-visites of ‘the real thing’, purchased in the Middle East on the return journey to Britain. This interest in the natives of the Middle East contrasts with the disinterest shown in the natives of Australia, who were constructed within the paradigm of the ‘primitive’, rather than the ‘exotic’, and thus failed to appeal to refined tastes, even as parody. Of course, Middle Eastern exotica was thoroughly inscribed within the iconography of nineteenth century art and literature . Another image from further on in the album is possibly also of the Deas Thomson sisters. Here the watercolour background has been left uncompleted. It may perhaps be of the sisters in their fancy dress ball costumes, because here they do seem to have a more peasanty flavour.
Lord Newry’s evening of amateur dramatics may possibly provide an explanation, in the absence of any other, for another page of the album which purports to show a Count Von Attems incarcerated in a convict’s cell by order of the Governor. Count Von Attems is probably a fictional name. The Australian War Memorial suggests that the uniform may be Austrian, or it, too, may be fictional. The ship the Challenger was also photographed in Sydney Harbour. It was the flag ship of the Royal Navy’s ‘Ships of War at the Sydney Station’ which usually numbered about five or so ships of various tonnages, classes and fire-power. The album devotes many of its pages to these ships and the officers who came to Australia on them. These officers formed a sort of portable social elite in which ever colony they happened to be stationed. The photographs are carte-de-visites taken, most probably, by an enterprising Sydney photographer and sold to the general public. The fact that there was a market for such photographs, in such a small city as Sydney, is indicative of the adulation with which these embodiments of British power were treated in the Colony. The typographical details are cut from the navy List, an annual publication that recorded where every naval ship and officer was located within the Empire.
The commodore of the Challenger, as well as all the Royal Navy’s ships in Sydney, was Commodore Rowley Lambert who we see at the centre of this page surrounded by meticulously detailed watercolours of native Australian flora. His wife, Mrs Lambert, is the person most under suspicion for originating the album. The album has a strong naval flavour and Mrs Lambert was at many of the events the album records. She was also well acquainted with the vice-regal suite, and is often reported attending official functions with them.
Above and below Commodore Lambert are two gentlemen of Sydney. At the bottom we find Sir William Macleay, the entomologist of Elizabeth Bay House, who was a pillar of Sydney’s educated society. At the top of the page we find William Bede Dalley, described at the time as “short and thickset, with a jovial and often glowing countenance”. He set trends in colonial dress, featuring colourful cravats and buttonholes. He was renowned as the most scintillating conversationalist and after-dinner speaker in the Colony. The son of Irish convict parents he quickly rose to prominence in politics and law. He defended the bushranger Frank Gardiner and, at the time this photograph was taken, defended James O’Farrell, the would be assassin of the Duke of Edinburgh.
There is a very faint pencil inscription under three rare interior views in this album which reads “My drawing room, Phillip Street, Sydney”. In 1870 two of our suspects for the origin of the album lived at Phillip Street. Commodore and Mrs Lambert lived at number 46, and the Governor’s aid-de-camp, Captain Beresford and his wife lived across the street at number 45. Phillip Street was obviously a preferred address, as well as being handy to Government House, Circular Quay and Farm Cove.
I think that the ‘my’ in the caption must refer to either Mrs Lambert or one of the Beresfords, most probably Mrs Lambert. The women whose small portrait appears above one of the photographs and who is also featured in the photographs themselves (holding her head to keep it still during an exposure of what must have been at least fifteen seconds) is Edith Helen Gladstone. She was the younger sister of Countess Belmore and accompanied her on many vice-regal tours. In 187 0, at the age of twenty, she married William Dumeresq, whose mother was cousin to William Macleay and whose father was a prominant public servant and landowner – one of the new generation of European immigrants who amassed huge fortunes in Australia by manipulating its governments. For a bourgeois such as this the prospect of his son marrying into the British aristocracy must have been delicious indeed.
In one image Edith appears to be looking at a portfolio of photographs, or maybe chromolithographs. Are they of the Blue Mountains? Beside her a capacious handbag sits on a chair,most of the chairs are well covered, and there are fans and more photographs on the mantle piece. Fern arrangements and books also decorate the room.
Interiors such as this would have been extremely difficult photograph successfully because of the low light levels, and they are very rare. We can, at this stage, only speculate as to who took them, most probably a local advanced amateur or willing professional was especially hired for the assignment.
Another photograph which may be by either a professional or an amateur is this rather charming scene of two women and a boy looking across Farm Cove to the Botanic Gardens from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. The italianate building on the left is Victoria Lodge, which still stands at the westerly gates to the Gardens.
The Flying Squadron consisted of six ships from the Royal Navy that circumnavigated the world between 1867 and 1870, doing little more than showing the Imperial flag. They arrived in Sydney Harbour on 12 December and anchored in Farm Cove the following day, where we see them now.
The Commander of the Flying Squadron was Rear-Admiral G.T. Phipps Hornby, commander of the Squadron’s flagship, the Liverpool. Another page contains a fine photograph of what is most probably the Liverpool. The Flying Squadron was a P.R. exercise that served the Empire in two main ways: it gave its Naval Reserves some training, and it made its distant Colonies feel like loved and protected parts of the great British Empire. As a Sydney journalist from the Empire gushed on the day of the Squadron’s arrival. “The arrival of the British Squadron, under Rear-Admiral Hornby is proof, if any were wanting, that England has a long arm and is able to protect her colonies if necessary. Probably not half of the twenty or thirty thousand people who saw the fleet coming in yesterday had ever witnessed anything so magnificent as those stately ships coming quietly through the water, with all their deadly armament, as it were, slumbering, but ready to pour out its terrific fire, if need were”. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ took a more pragmatic view. “The visit of the Flying Squadron will divert the popular mind, in some measure, from political discussions, especially as the elections for the metropolis are past. It may serve as a useful interruption in that kind of debate which tends toexasperate people against each other.” This article is specifically referring to riots that occurred in Sydney, particularly the working class suburb of Balmam, in the lead up to the election. The article ended with “the community may find satisfaction in the new evidence of British power”.
But the stately progress of the Squadron often bordered on farce. Because it was largely manned by reserves it is unlikely that it could have protected anything, let alone Britain’s’ .flung colonies. The six ships were constantly loosing each other at sea, or else running into each other at port. During the voyage there were a total of 73 spars carried away, and 22 men died, four from falling from aloft. 16 men fell overboard of which only 10 were saved. A total of 300 men deserted, a staggering 158 in Melbourne alone. However, details such as this didn’t mitigate the adulation of the colonists one bit, they remained totally besotted by these representatives of the British Empire. There was another burst of sales of carte-de-visites of the Flying Squadron’s officers, as this page from the album testifies.
On leaving Sydney the Flying Squadron sailed to Hobart before continuing on to New Zealand. They had on board with them Mrs Lambert and Captain Beresford, who they took as far as Tasmania. A substantial portion of the album is devoted to the Flying Squadron’s Tasmanian visit, and other travels in Tasmania.
One page features Mr Charles Du Cane, Governor of Tasmania from 1869 to 1874. On the right is his wife Georgina, who he married in 1863. Between them is Mr Chichester, Du Cane’s private secretary. Du Cane was a very popular Governor, mainly because he was fond of public appearances, he liked nothing better than giving speeches and opening things. Below is Mrs Du Cane’s boudoir in Government House, Tasmania, of which they were the first occupants. Again we have a classic Victorian interior featuring, in common with the Sydney interiors, fern arrangements and portraits of friends and family, etc. In addition are an inordinate number of figures and other representations of dogs – Mrs Du Cane was very fond of dogs.
On another page we have two views of Hobart, and one of a cricket match. The Cricket match was played on 6 January, 1870 between the Southern Tasmanaian Cricket Association and the Flying Squadron, which had arrived from Sydney four days before. The captain of the first team was Mr Du Cane himself, who was a keen cricketer; the captain of the second team was Rear-Admiral G.T. Phipps Hornby. The day was described thus: “The weather was propitious, but rather windy. A large number of spectators assembled both inside and outside the enclosure, and several carriages and equestrians on horseback. In the pavilion were seated a goodly number of ladies and gentlemen. At the south-west end the governor’s tent was pitched, in which was a row of American arm chairs, in which sat His Excellency, the Hon. Mrs Du Cane, Mr CM. Chichester, A.D.C.; Mrs Lambert, Sir Valentine and Lady Fleming, Sir Francis Smith, Hon. T.D. Chapman, and other notabilities. The fine band of Her Majesty’s ship “Endymion”, in a marquee, performed during the day. A spacious refreshment booth for the cricketers and the public stood on the north-east side of the cricketers’ storehouse, erected and kept by Mr Courburn, of the Jolly Hatters, Melville Street, who had also in close proximity a booth for the dispensing of liquids”.
In the first innings of the Flying Squadron was, true to form, soundly beaten by the Association. The loyal Tasmanians humbly excused their victory by claiming that the ship-bound Flying Squadron team had insufficient opportunity for batting and fielding practice. Obviously the photograph on the bottom of the page was not taken on the same occasion as the cricket match. It would have been purchased from a photographer’s stock, perhaps to show how European Australia could look during the winter time.
On another page we have a photograph which was probably taken at a garden party held by Mrs Du Cane at Government House two days after the cricket match. In the background is the Flying Squadron moored in the Derwent, Mrs Lambert looks at Mr Du Cane, Rear-Admiral G.T. Phipps Hornby leans on a chair over Mrs Du Cane who sits on the ground, finding herself incapable of holding her head still for the required exposure, Mr Chichester stands behind her.The garden party was described thus:
“the next afternoon (Saturday) being the last weekday, a general meeting took place to celebrate Mrs Du Cane’s garden party on the terrace of Government House, and there were gathered together all the youth, beauty and fashion for miles round, giving it an appearance of unusual animation, muslin and midshipmen being in great force. Music, secluded paths, croquet, and other outdoor feminine amusements were largely patronized for some time, until a west wind, that had been inclined to be boisterous all the afternoon, began to blow the gauzy frocks about to such an extent as to imperil modesty … there was a general rush to the ball-room, where in the excitement of whirling to Flying tunes, and utterly regardless to the price of silk, the time was pleasantly wiled away till six o’clock, when there was a general break-up, to meet at the theatre afterwards, where the Squadron Amateurs appeared again, this time for the benefit of the Organ Fund”.
Another page contains two views of Melton Mowbray Hotel, near Jericho, on the road from Hobart to Launceston. A Mr Blackwell. had turned the Hotel into a Hunting Lodge whose fame had spread across Australia and the world. Prince Alfred had lunched at the hotel on his way to Launceston two years before.
The next page features. Mona Vale, further up the road towards Launceston. The house had been completed just two years at this time. It was built by Robert Quayle Kermode, son of a wealthy land owner. Prince Alfred stayed there on his way to and from Launceston.
We see Robert Kermode on the right, he was very ill at this time and was to die that year; on the left is his second wife Emily. Mona Vale wa one of Australia’ s\grandest houses, set in extensive grounds with even an attempt ast landscape gardening in the eighteenth century manner: the house overlooks an ornamental lake surrounded by willows. The maintenance/of the house and grounds kept 100 people busy. These phonographs are cart-de-visites, indicating that they were probably taken by a local photographer for sale to the general public and tourists of Tasmania. Kermode was proud of his house and would have been flattered by this popular attention.
At some stage during their visit to Australia either Mrs Lambert or Captain Beresford probably visited the Governor of Victoria. There are two pages in the album devoted to the Victorian vice-regal suite. The Governor of Victoria was John Manners Sutton, who in 1869 became the Viscount Canterbury. Like the Earl of Belmore he was an Eton and Cambridge graduate. In 1839 he was unseated from the House of Commons for bribery, but this didn’t prevent him from receiving several Colonial Governmental appointments. He was an impoverished peer and relied on his salary to make ends meet. He married his wife Georgina in 1838, and they are illustrated with three of their pudgy children, John, Mabel and Robert, along with the family dog.
There is another shot of the pair above Toorak, which was the Victorian Government House from 1854 to 1879. The original site of Toorak covered 108 acres, and extended as far as the Yarra. Considerable changes were made to the house after this photograph was taken, a balcony with a cast iron balustrade was added above the verandah, and a classical stone balustrade was added to the top of the tower. Interestingly, the two gum trees standing in front of the house were cut down, and replaced by two much tidier and more European looking poplars. One of the gentlemen pictured on either side of the vice-regal couple is probably Lt. Rothwell, aid-de-camp to the Governor.
After describing for you who and what was seen at the antipodes the obvious question to ask, in conclusion, is how was it seen. Any deconstruction of the album must begin from the premise that it is an authored text. The fact that the album follows a particular geographical route, orientates itself around a particular social elite, is extensively hand-worked, and shows strong interests and disinterests in certain themes, clearly indicates an author. Further, we can safely say that the author was British with aristocratic associations who regarded themselves as merely sojourning in the exotic antipodes.
Finally, I think it is reasonable to assume that the author was a woman, simply because the practices of album assemblage and watercolour decoration were part of the nineteenth century construction of middle class femininity. In addition, the person most implicated as the album’s originator is a woman -Mrs Lambert.
That being said, we can begin to see the whole album as being contrapuntally scored between the two themes of an antipodean ‘exotica’ and a specifically British ‘civilization’. The first theme is carried primarily by the decorations, which are botanically accurate depictions of largely Australian flora: falling into the tradition of scientific naturalism within which Australia had first been perceived by Europeans on the scientific voyages of discovery that eventually led to the British invasion. There are also, occasionally, photographs of antipodean exotica: a stuffed Tasmanian devil, the Tasmanian bush, and a frontier station (complete with a carte-de-visite of its owner whose gentlemanly demeanour contrasts strongly with his brutally dishevelled piece of property).
The second theme, of British civilization, is carried exclusively by the photographs and the patterns of their placement on the album’s pages. In this album British civilization is consciously separated from the ‘Australian’. Refuge is found in the replication of British familial, social and property structures as well as specifically British cultural practices.
The predominant social unit described in the album is the nuclear family, indeed it is the album’s recurring motif. The portraits of family members are invariably laid out on the page to describe, in graphic terms, the filial relationships between them. Often, by the inclusion of a photograph of the family house, property relations are directly inscribed within the family relations. The depiction of these large Europeanized estates, safely encircled by their British owners, are further evidence of the clear distinction the album makes between ‘British civilization’ and ‘Australian antipodality’.
The comfortable interior photographs of rooms that were largely the domain of women – drawing rooms and boudoirs, were likewise intended as evidence of how tasteful life in Australia could be made to be. The fern arrangements are the only immediately evident things that distinguish these interiors from European interiors. The fern arrangements perform the same function for the interiors as the botanical decorations do for the album as a whole: they provide an antipodean accent.
The rest of the album is largely made up of groups of carte-de-visite portraits grouped on the album’s pages. These are rigorously arranged according to social circle. We have Politicians of Sydney, Gentlemen of Sydney, Officers of the Ships of War at the Sydney Station, and Officers of the Flying Squadron. In most of these pages the layout of the carte-de-visites establishes the relations of power and precedence within the group. Usually the portraits rotate around a central, dominant figure.
Other pages, containing groups of largely unidentifiable women, tend to be arranged more rectilinearly, probably because the power relations between them were not as institutionalised. The women are often integrated with children; and there are also pages devoted exclusively to children, often decorated with watercolours of botanical symbols of fecundity.
Finally, we have many pages devoted to naval ships moored in Sydney Harbour. These potent symbols of British Imperial power were what initially brought the album’s author all the way out to the antipodes and were also what, after a brief sojourn safely ensconced in Sydney’s miniature replication of British social and political institutions, would return her home.