Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
William Stanley Jevons - letters (8) from W. S. Jevons, mainly to his father and brothers in England, 25 January 1855-18 January 1857
8 Church Hill. Sydney
Jan. 25th. 1855.
My dearest Tommy
I dare say you are beginning to expect a letter from me, and though I have given most of my news in Lucys & Papa's letters I have plenty left to write to you about.
You cannot imagine what a curious & pretty place the Harbour is, something like the Princes Park lake with nothing but ins & outs & bays & little islands. Very often in a walk you come upon one of these winding little bays, apparently quite separated from the Harbour and looking like a small lake. The Harbour is a capital place for bathing in anywhere the water being deep & perfectly clear & clean, but it is well known that there are plenty of sharks in it,
and (I have seen the fins of one swimming about myself) and nobody who has been a voyage & seen a few sharks hauled on board ready to take anybody's leg off that happened to be within reach is likely to wish to meet any more
any more of them under water. So I go to bathe now once or twice aweek to the baths which consist of a small piece of water partitioned off with railings on the East Side of Woolloomoolloo Bay. It is as perfect & beautiful a bathing place as you could wish for. The dressing rooms are along the shore & in an old hulk which is moored a short distance from the shore, & you can either jump into very deep water from the hulk or go in from the shore into shallow water. You pay sixpence for towels as at Liverpool. I have not tried the deep end yet but expect to get on very fast with my swimming so as to bathe like most do without coming into their depth all the time.
These bays would be capital places for Sailing boats as they are large but you can generally get to both sides, and there is nearly always a good wind.
There is always a great deal of boating & yacht sailing here and I am going to see the Woolloomoolloo Bay regatta tomorrow but the weather here is very different from what it is at home and
is often makes it very dangerous. Very sudden &
strong squalls of wind from the south Called "Brickfielders" or "Southerly Busters" spring up quite suddenly & often overturn boats without the sails are loosed at once. These brickfielders are very queer things and happen generally after a hot wind has been blowing from the direction of the land, and has made it so hot that going out of doors is like walking into the kitchen when the Christmas dinner is getting ready.
So I suppose you are going to London after Midsummer without any doubt [
so?] & I am glad of it. You will find boys a good deal worse, and others a good deal better than you have been accustomed to, but on the whole they will be sharper & cleverer than the Liverpool ones. The Sydney boys are regular Colonial ones becoming men in their own opinions at about 15 or 16; they seem to me chiefly remarkable for telling lies.
Jan 26th. This is the greatest day of the whole year in N.S.W. being the Anniversary of the foundation of the Colony 77 years ago. It is a general holyday and the grand regatta will begin in a short time.
I have bee I was asked yesterday to go and see it from Dawes Battery, and
take lunch there. Sixty people are said to be invited in the same way and it will be rather a grand affair. I must go I believe and have not therefore any more time to spare but remain with best love to all at home
Ever your affecn. Brother
PS. Mind you remember me to Ann, and tell her that Charles keeps very well, and though not quite well yesterday, he is all right again today. I have no time to say anything more to anybody as the post goes this afternoon and I must get the letters in directly.
Letter from W.S. Jevons to F.B. Edmonds
Nº8 Church Hill. Sydney
Jan 26th 1855
My dear Edmonds
I am quite in doubt whether this letter will reach you for time has gone on so far that you may have vanished entirely from University College & Fitzroy Square too. In spite of it however and after having just finished a long letter to Graham (Prof. I should have said) and having written during the week no less than three to various relations in Liverpool, I shall sit up tonight till I have finished this one too, for the very chance of your getting it.
You see I have not quite forgotten you though I have put off writing rather long and I am not indeed likely to forget College affairs so soon, as it was to me a very pleasant time & I should not mind being there yet. Still I am here without any doubt & I had perhaps better tell you first how I got here.
Our ship was a first rate clipper, new St John built 1272 ton, emigrant ship with nearly 600 souls(as they say) on board about 16 first Cabin, 50 second Cabin 50 crew cooks &c & the rest third Cabin.
I always used to think what would become of these 600 souls if the ship was on fire or going down, as the boat wouldn't hold half the number and they would kill or drown each other in the scramble. However the case never occurred and we were never in any danger and I must say that on the whole a sea voyage is a very pleasant way of spending three months.
Our Captain was a young man whose chief object was apparently to make himself disagreable to everybody, kicking up rows with the sailors & officers, neglecting or abusing the second & third Cabin passengers and among the first Cabin ditto appearing to raise rather than stop quarrelling & shutting himself up in the ladies cabin with an emigrating milliner who first took a passage in the third Cabin but afterwards appeared as a lady in the first, & who was married to him a short time after we arrived & (I am glad to say) has gone back. Most of
the passe our cabin passengers were of the same sort including the celebrated Mr Clarence Holt of the Royal Lyceum Theatre London & his wife Mrs May Holt. Also a very respectable old grocer from London & a very pleasant old man who I used to play cribbage with
at a tremendous rate. Also Mr & Mrs Grylls he, a lawyer, the son of a banker in or somewhere near Penzance. A Mr Lane an Irishman who had lived 20 years in France lately as a Professor, who had been in the French Revolutions and was a regular Republican, though somewhat scientific & a very pleasant man for a voyage.
(He & the captain has some tremendous & almost fatal quarrels) He landed at Melbourne but was to have come on here but as he has not come I shouldnt wonder if he has joined the diggers insurrection and got put out of the way at Ballarat.
We sailed the ordinary course & with ordinary winds past Madeira, the Canaries & Cape de Verds but without sighting any of them. We then, about Lat 10º N., got into a most extraordinary succession of calms but some of the days then were the best of the voyage. The sea [word crossed out] sometimes would be as smooth as glass, barrels &c floating out to the side & showing that we were not moving one inch forwards. We would generally be lying on the deck under an awning playing draughts or cards, or reading (nearly an impossibility at sea). Occasionally a shark would show himself to give us a little amusement; in a minute then the shark hook would be over the stern with
a large piece of salt pork; he would generally swim straight up to it, swallow it at once be hauled on deck in two minutes & half cut up in 5 minutes more. They are magnificent fish and it is first rate to see them turn over & swallow the hook.
With these & other amusements we passed several weeks of calms when we got on but little. We sailed SSW to within 600 miles of Rio Janeiro then to Tristian d'Acunha. After this we fell in with some very different amusements viz. good strong gales for 3 or 4 days together till you were quite tired of holding to the back of your chair & getting no dinner as it was a difficult thing to eat with everything rolling about the table. The sea looked splendid sometimes; in the gales We were generally running before the wind with 2 or 3 sails up (the rest in general blown away as our Captain let the wind save him the trouble of taking them in) the immense waves rolling in astern & looking as if they were going to roll over everything.
At last we came in sight of Cape Otway the first point of land seen, and in a day or two were at Melbourne. There I went ashore one day and saw a little of the town. I was quite surprized to see such splendid shops &
Stores but the
buildings Streets were chiefly rows of wooden & iron houses. Our voyage out to Melbourne was in 86 days; a long passage on account of the calms we had had. After 10 days sail round the coast here which was the pleasantest part of the passage we anchored here on the 100th day.
I do not intend to trouble you with any account of the bother of getting lodgings finding a suitable place for a laboratory, carting my boxes of apparatus but will simply say that I am living in a small two roomed cottage at the back of 8 Church Hill. The smaller room forms my parlour, bedroom, office, study, balance room & anything else you like; the balances on a cedar wood table along one side, my library of 170 vols. in a cedar wood bookcase, a table, 2 chairs sofa bedstead &c &c. The other room is the laboratory, formed out of an old kitchen. I wish you could see it. With the exception of the gasfitting & such things, I & my assistant did everything ourselves and were 4 or 5 weeks working making tables shelves, building furnaces &c &c. All the apparatus is complete & works well and within the last three months I have had a few assays to do for the public as well as 57 assays for the Mint. We are paid 6s 6d an assay. The Mint however is not much more than half built yet and it will be some
months yet before it will be got to work. Till that of course we shall have very little work and I only hope we may have enough to pay expenses after it begins. Just fancy living here with a rent of £104 a year, & a salary of £100, & yourself & assistant consequently to keep on - £4 a year. What do you think of £2 per week for 2 rooms; many other things here are dear in the same proportion.
I do not find it possible at present to read much or be very scientific, but I have mounted a barometer, registering thermometer &c &c, & observe the weather which I think is peculiar & interesting here. The heat & the shape of the coast cause a [word crossed out] strong sea breeze, but after a hot wind from the interior or a very hot day, very sudden squalls from the south called "Brickfielders" or "Southerly Busters" spring up & blow the dust about in Sydney in a ferocious manner. The air sometimes becomes regularly stifling hot in an afternoon here, & once the thermometer was up to 100º in the shade. Today is a very hot day & the temp. indoors is 80º.
Sydney on the whole is a pleasant & cheerful place. The Harbour is not large but is everywhere very deep, and with beautiful little bays & coves on every side between the sandstone ridges. The rocky sides are
covered with bush & altogether it looks like a large ornamental lake. The bathing in it is beautiful but I prefer going to the railed off baths, as there are plenty of sharks. Of course boating & yachting is the great thing in the Harbour, and as today happened to be the Anniversary of the foundation of the Colony, there has been a general holy day & a grand Regatta. I was invited to see it from Dawes Battery, the house of the Master of the Mint, which stands on a point with a capital view. We also had a first rate lunch with plenty of champagne & the best eating I have had in Australia.
In the chief race, one yacht upset, and another broke her topmast. Another yacht also had upset previous[ly] besides a few rowing boats, in fact it seems quite a common thing here with the gusty winds and excites no surprize.
It is fine fun taking excursions into the bush but I have not been far yet. There is no mistake about the bush & within a few miles of Sydney I have several times been overhead in it & not able to move a step forward. Altogether I shall be very well content to live a few years in this place particularly if assaying prospers.
The war news which we get from time to time is as interesting as if we were in England. I remember you thought the
war would be chiefly of advantage for trying experiments on screw steamers, large guns &c &c; I hope you are nearly satisfied as to the results. From what they say about getting ready new ships, boats, guns ammunition &c, I should think they must intend to drive the Czar away altogether. I hope he wont come in this direction.
Having now written a quite long enough letter, I will conclude.
Believe me ever
Yours very truly
W. S. Jevons.
PS Remember me to Colville when you see him as well as Whittaker if he is still alive at College, & any others there may be. I shall probably write to Colville soon, but I thought he was not likely to be moving away so soon. As I expect a letter from you in time, direct to
8 Charlotte Place
New South Wales.
but after Midsummer you had better direct to the "Royal Mint" Sydney as I might possibly be moved from here.
Letter from W.S. Jevons to E.W. Ward
8 Church Hill. Sydney
Jan 31st. 1855.
Copy of letter to Capt Ward in answer to his proposal of a fixed salary.
I have considered the proposal which you made personally to me yesterday of a new arrangement of my salary & position as assayer to the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint, and I understand the terms to be as follows.
Firstly, that I am to receive £500 a year as a fixed salary dating from January Ist. of the present year, with the temporary increase of £175 a year at present allowed to those holding a salary of £500 from the Colonial Government.
Secondly, that all my apparatus & materials for assaying are to be purchased from me at a fair valuation, the lease of my present laboratory & other liabilities connected with it being taken off my hands by the government, and the expense I have been at in fitting up my rooms made good to me, for instance the gas & water fittings.
Thirdly, that I am to become a regular officer of the Royal Mint, relinquishing all private work, and performing the assays for the Mint in a laboratory provided for me, everything being found, and all expenses borne by the Mint.
In reply I have to say, that I am quite satisfied with the amount & conditions of the salary, but I would at the same time ask your attention to the following considerations.
For nearly the whole of the last 18 months, I have been employed in choosing & purchasing my apparatus & managing its transfer here &
fitting up in my laboratory here, having received during the time up to Dec 31st. 1854 only £50 and having actually paid during the time £352 (as per account inclosed), the whole of which with the exception of the price you would give for my apparatus, will be entirely lost to me upon this change of agreement, to say nothing of the trouble inconvenience & risk which I have had to bear.
That if I had been appointed originally on the present proposed
plan terms (and I suppose that £500 would have been the least salary offered to me in that case) I should have incurred none whatever of the expenses above mentioned but would have on the contrary received £250 salary with the temporary increase of £87.10.
While agreeing then to the other terms of the proposal you have made, may I not justly make it a condition of my accepting the fixed salary, that I am to be paid in full both the expenses and the arrears of salary, viz.
|352 .. 6|
|Arrears of salary||337 .. 10|
|689 .. 16|
|Salary already received £50 . 0|
|Money paid me for freight £27.10||77..10|
Letter from W.S. Jevons to E.W. Ward
October 29th. 1855
My dearest Father,
Your letters to me lately have been numerous, and I have had great pleasure in being kept so well aware of what is going on at home.
I am afraid that my accounts, in return will be considered but poorly written but surely they come often enough though you complain of not getting them, as well as newspapers. I have sent many more than 2 newspapers, sometimes 2 at a time, Heralds, Empires, & Illustrated's; also Map of Sydney, Almanac, &c, &c, which I do not remember being acknowledged.
At last I have got the package per Aunt Henry and am even better pleased than I expected; my room looks gayer for the "valances" which are long since up, Tommys present is in daily use for meter. obs., the books will be read & thermrs used in due time. I only hope the pictures will sell as easily as the rest of the things are disposed of.
I often think myself niggardly for not sending more things home, but it is from the want of things to send. I remembered some time since that I had promised Cousin Dalby's some Australian shells; I went to the only shop in Sydney for such things and they very colonially, tried to pass off upon me some of the commonest possible shells, & being disgusted I gave it up. For collecting I have not a moment of time; I should like them to know the reasons of my not having fulfilled my promise.
To pass to other affairs, the Mint is going on at a rattling pace, 14,000 oz last weeks receipts of gold. This causes somewhat hard work and stirs us all up. We are pretty well prepared for it and cannot very well complain, everything we asked for having been allowed. We have each of us had a boy as additional assistant who takes a deal of the drudgery off me & Charles.
My days work now is
8.15 get up.
8.45 get breakfast
9.0 observations; & off to town
omnibus (all the way from the door for 6d)
9.45 get to laboratory & commence weighing hard
12.30 weighing finished
1.30 5 minutes for lunch.
4.30 assays finished & weighed up
5.0 reports made out.
5.15 home by omnibus.
8.0 tea, play harmonium
9.0 observations. Read newspapers &c till go to bed.
The work of assaying is not like other peoples work; it is hard drive-ahead work all day, and for every half minute lost, you are in mortal fear of not getting done by time for dinner.
It is not much to the credit of Capt W or the other head men of the Mint that the work still continues irregular and assays are wanted in a hurry because the other departments are behindhand in their work; I really believe the assay department has never caused a delay or disappointment yet.
There are rumours of changes; Mr Trickett after building & finishing the Mint does not like the coining work, or manage it particularly well. It is possible he may be very soon made Colonial Architect when somebody else will have to be coiner; no doubt this will not affect us. The accountants work too is said not to be in the best order, and some change may possibly occur there, but these are things only known since yesterday when Trickett was spending the day here.
In a few days my lease of Nº.8 Church Hill will end, and I hope everything connected with the old arrangement will be cleared off. I have this evening begun a long bill for the apparatus amounting to £223, which having been already approved will be at once paid. £15 I have already received for fittings, and the rooms have been put into order & repaired by the Mint to be given up to Mr Korff.
I can then also send in a bill for more than £50 for rent and altogether I shall have in my hands in a week or two about. £370 so that money begins to mount up. £170 I still owe, leaving £200 for gains during first year in Australia besides about £100 more of property. I think then there is no cause for dissatisfaction and I look forward to going quietly on freer from much of the trouble I have had.
The weather now is splendid; of moderate temperature and sufficient dryness while a fresh sea breeze, and considerable cloudiness, keep off the suns heat from being too much felt.
Yesterday morning I took the second or third
walk walk in the country in this direction. Going across some open ground opposite the house I was surprized to come just across the railway
to a hill, named Norwood whence there was a splendid view all round. In fact the finest view I have seen in Australia something in the way that you get such beautiful views from the hills near London. Botany Bay is the most striking part and I will try and give you a sort of outline of it as seen from there. I only wish I could sketch so as to let you see what we look like here. The sketch I find makes the bay look 2 or 3 times too near, but you must imagine it about 5 miles off with a plain lying between crowded with short trees & bush, with however houses here and there; Norwood is one of the newly made towns of which there are no end continually appearing near Sydney; an auction sale of allotments took place there
yester today. Next Norwood is a similar new town
called Sydenham with a railway station, and there are dozens more along the railway. To the back of our house the wood is laid out into another town Leich
a hardt town.
I have not much more to say. Today I gave up the key of Church Hill with considerable satisfaction the lease terminating on Nov. 2nd. Mr Korff seems a very nice man and I am likely to close with him without any trouble Mr Miller is at loggerheads with his landlord Mr. Lunn, who is
a cantankerous old man very hard to deal with when he is vexed. The Mint is repairing our offices for us free of expense, & mine being an old place was easily made as good as when I entered. I dont think the Mint would have done it but that Mr Trickett began to repair by mistake & without orders, and then he & Capt W thought it best to go through it.
We get lots of European news now but I find it a very hard job to get through it all. One's interest in the War is somewhat lessened, but I think politics, particularly in England are getting more & more interesting. It is very disgusting to see that some of
all the newspapers are writing now all for peace, after crying up war so fiercely for so long. I hope however the English will stick to it and make the Russians really knock under.
Of all things however that are
disgusting, I think the Americans are the worst. According to all accounts they are going-a-head into all absurdities imaginable and it is well known that they are completely Russian. They must be about the only people whose progress (which we hear so much about) is backwards. They are something like our neighbours the Victorians who are always going-a-head;
they & who are very much despised on that account in N.S.W.
Royal Mint. Oct 31st.
Nothing new. I have just received another Illustrated London News. You can easily understand how acceptable they are to myself as well as everybody else who sees them.
Work is getting a little slack again this week; when I have time it is very pleasant to go
and have a look at the sovreigns spinning out of the presses. The coining presses however are very liable to get out of order and give a great deal of trouble. The rollers also are very difficult to adjust so as to roll to the right weight and are not so true as they should be.
We are saved a deal of trouble here by being supplied with many things that we should otherwise have to make.
Distilled water is the chief thing, we get any quantity by a small condensing pipe connected with the boiler. You have merely to turn the
pipe tap and distilled water runs out in any quantity without furthur trouble at the rate of about 6 quart bottles out the hour.
You mention in your last letter that you think I might send Meteorological Reports to some paper. It is just the thing I
have thought of myself, intending at first to put them in the Empire if they would have them in opposition to some very stupid ones there are in the Sydney M.H.
Many things have occurred to put it off, as it would require me to devote a deal of time & trouble, quite continuously, more than I have ever given as yet.
When much work comes as at present it of course turns your thoughts off. I may put them in [word crossed out] a new Illustrated Paper that will perhaps be published soon.
Want of time & subject makes me think
it is [?] I had better finish and take it to the post at once, but not till I have sent my best love to all others at home as well as yourself.
Your same affec. Son
W. S. Jevons
C. B. has been much better in health for some time past; he lives very comfortably about two miles from the Mint in the same direction as me [something?].
He has lately bought a first rate wood turning lathe from Mr Severn of the Mint, which I dare say he will make good use of. Of course Charles is well pleased with having a boy under him upon whom he can put a great deal of his own work.
Letter from W.S. Jevons to Herbert Jevons
December 17th. /55
Never have we had such a mail before as that by the Red Jacket last Tuesday, bringing the news of the Fall of Sebastopol. The first indication of it which we had on getting near town was the Telegraph flagpoles decorated with flags (it was just a year since that they were similarly decorated for the false news of the Taking, after the Alma). Soon a number of small boys appeared rushing along
the with the supplement just published for sale, and when we got into town it was in a state of complete excitement.
The banks, according to the custom here which is rather curious, immediatelly shut up & proclaimed what they called a "bank holyday", and everybody felt inclined to take their pleasure over the news.
At the Mint I found a most imposing letter from you, directed, stamped, sealed, & marked all over; I immediately thought of the aluminium or the diploma, which my father had mentioned before, but what was my pleasure when I found them both, with a letter from Lucy into the bargain.
I showed the aluminium to most of the officers in the Mint and those who understood it were very much pleased and surprized. Capt Ward was more pleased with the diploma which I showed him also. He seems to think the Stamp may be of real use, in case he issues any standard bars with the mint stamp and then with my stamp they would be better received if ever they got on the Continent; the mistake of the name will be of no real consequence as the stamp is equally authentic. However I think our name of Jevons will be the ruin of us some day, & do what you like some letter of it is sure to be put wrong.
The aluminium is certainly extraordinary stuff and its discovery is undoubtedly a great one. It is however by no means an ornamental metal, the lustre
being seeming to be much inferior to silver, & something like platinum or perhaps zinc. I think it is already proposed to make balances of it.
I shall be glad to have Papas account of the Paris visit so as to know what he did at the Exhibition, Mint &c.
Lucy's letter finished at Basle is very kind & contains a deal for its length, though perhaps I could not expect much accounts from them on the journey. I am in expectation of the new slippers which it will be a pleasure to wear
Christmas is now very near, but beyond one or two days with no assays to do and a rather better dinner than usual, it is of little matter to us here. In fact we miss here a deal of your English pleasures and the year is very dull & monotonous because the
The seasons are so nearly the same all the way round. In the autumn it is rather rainy; in the winter rather cold of a night, sometimes near freezing but fine pleasant weather; spring is not marked as a season that I can see but that it is less hot than summer. The appearance of the country never changes all the year round, unless perhaps, as at present, continued showery weather freshens it & gives a green appearance to the grass otherwise of a
brown light yellow brown colour. The garden also supplies vegetables all the year round.
With respect to colonial news, we have been very much amused & interested in the proceedings of the Legislative Council in its last few days of existence. They had appointed select committee's to enquire into a number of the Government Departments & works. They trumped up charges against
Commissioners, contractors, directors & everybody connected with these and there is no doubt, picked out the evidence in a shameful manner all on one side. Most of the reports of these committee's were adopted by the Council and sent to the Governor, when he answered them in pretty plain terms that he would not do anything they directed and in fact blew them up awfully. They were awfully savage in return and proposed a vote of censure on him which was only lost by a minority of 17 to 22 so that but for the Government officers & nominees, it would have been passed.
A day or two since he came in great military state and dissolved them and in a few months we shall have the new Parliament. It is to be hoped the Governor will be more moderate with the new lower house whatever
they do, or there will be a jolly row. The affair is very discreditable I think to the whole council, for why did they not appoint honest men for the committees or
why what need had they to adopt their reports when evidently full of lies. Capt Ward made several speeches, chiefly in defence of the great contractor here, Mr Randle.
I cannot say now that our work is very heavy, for having got everything to work very regularly & surely, I only do a single assay on each
gold lot of gold, trusting it for being correct, while always before we have done two assays so as to compare them, except with standard assays in which we can instantly detect an error. It works however very well, as I have not had a repetition since I began, i.e. a disagrement between Miller & me, caused by my error. Very lately large quantities of gold
have been coming in and we have several times had more than 30 ingot assays; representing perhaps twice as many ingots of gold, for the number of assays on the gold is quite reduced to a minimum. Yesterday we had as many as 22 standard assays at a time, the largest number yet, with only 4 ingots; today nothing but 8 ingots, this week being an easier one. The Melbourne people still refuse our sovreigns, out of jealousy of us. I cannot help thinking they are quite Yankeelike there. They are said to have received the news about Sebastopol with no signs of pleasure like what were showed here and in the other colonies. In fact they are going just the same road as the Americans and I am sure it is a road straight downwards.
I have to tell you I have at last got a first rate little dog that I hope will stick to me. He is a
little white bull-terrier puppy and the cleverest fellow for his age that ever was. It is good fun taking strolls in the bush & wood, which I do several times a week, more or less. Last Sunday I walked with Mr O'Connel, Mr Millers brother in law, to a small town called Canterbury on the Cooks river (named after Capt Cook) running into Botany bay.
We looked out for snakes, but only saw two at a distance which got away, but I hope to get some worth keeping for you. The other night we caught a large centipede in the pantry, one of the most awful looking animals I ever saw; he is about 5 inches long, and the bite is very bad & venomous though not fatal. A few weeks since a child was killed in Petersham by the bite of a small death-adder.
I am very much obliged to you for all the newspapers which I get pretty regularly. The last
W.S. Jevons to Herbert Jevons
Petersham near Sydney N.S.W.
April 6th 1856
My dear Herbert
You will remember that in my last letter received no doubt long before you have this, I said I was going a tour to the Diggings. The tour too I did go and it lasted two weeks, and was most agreable and amusing; having been now fully two weeks returned, it is time I thought of writing you some account of it, and I therefore devote this Sunday evening to the job. Latest news from England is now 110 or 115 days old, and this with other things has almost tended to take ones thoughts, temporarily only, off home and it is therefore with great pleasure that I turn to any employment that will bring them back
ones upon it and that will enable one in some ways to share one's enjoyment with those at home. I will proceed direct on the journey, for all other things I can better write about another night after some of the mails have come in.
I was to go you know with Mr OConnell, the brother in law of Mr Miller, and as he was going to walk up to the diggings, I undertook the same. As we intended camping it out regularly at night, we provided ourselves accordingly, and the chief things we took were 2 loaves 2 or 3 meatpies, biscuits & other provisions, including especially 1 Ib tea & sugar, 2 tin cups, a clean shirt each, pair of stockings &c and a few other things. My share of the provisions
and my other things I rolled up inside a large old shawl of Lucy's which served most capitally to sleep in, and the whole pack, I then carried over my shoulder by straps. Lightness of course is the first consideration, and even the few things we did take were soon half left behind.
We started for Parramatta by the first train on Sunday morning, so that the first 12 miles were travelled with as much ease as is possible anywhere in the world; I often wished the other miles could be done as easily. I will not delay in describing Parramatta, furthur than that it is a pretty little town, nicely situated, but not of much importance, in a business point of view, & likely to be of much less soon, for
as soon as when the railway is extended & takes the place of the roads, no one will think of stopping at or going into Parramatta, which is a mile from the station.
Here we got on the Penrith road, the first chief stage of the Great Western Road of New South Wales. This requires little to describe it; a wide track cleared through continuous & perfectly uniform woods of gum tree running straight a-head over hill & dale, for about 20 miles,
[over?] the country on a general level, but as it would be described, undulated with gentle ranges of hills running chiefly parallel to the coast. The view is generally limited to the other side of the road, and there being nothing that I know of, of any interest along it, a more monotonous walk you could hardly pick out. I must confess our first days performance was nothing to boast of, for on account of frequent stoppages &c we found the sun settings before we were much
over half the distance. Before you laugh at this in England, take into account the difference of climate, and the heat of the sun by
of which Mr OConnell was extraordinarily affected, and also the weight, perhaps 20 Ibs that we had each to carry and. However just beyond a creek of the name of Toongabbee, on which is a small village, we turned off into the wood in search of our first nights camping ground. When tired you are but little particular, and so long as you are near some water, & out of sight of the road, room to light your fire, & stretch out your legs is easily found.
Once for all I will describe the proceedure of "camping out" though it is a way in which thousands of carriers, diggers, shepherds, travellers &c are continually living in Australia. The fire is most indispensable & also most easily made, by collecting the old sticks & dead wood in the bush, within a few yards circumference, & setting fire to it, when it burns at once with extraordinary quickness & heat. On this the tin pots are set full of water to be boiled for tea; of the water one may say, "Get water, clean if you can, but Get water"; it is sometimes fresh spring water, but it is sometimes only thin mud. Tea making is the process in its greatest simplicity; ebullition having commenced tea & brown sugar are added by the fingers in proper proportions according to taste, and the pot stirred & withdrawn to cool
for ready to drink. In large parties you may see the tea made in one large pot, from which each person's own tin can be filled but any way tea is the universal drink, and so long as spirits are unobtainable and is usually taken [ at] to all the three meals of the day.
After finishing tea we at once followed our strongest inclinations and lay down to go to bed. The shawl, and my traps as a pillow constituted the bed, and I was soon asleep though not to sleep a very easy night. Do not think I was uneasy at the gloominess of the wood with its tall bare trees just discernable in the
dark blackness against the sky, or the stillness & silence only broken by croakings of frogs, and the most unmelodious cries of different Australian birds.
We were both awake at day-break, and after manufacturing tea as before, & eating breakfast, were ready and eager to proceed. This day we went the second half of the distance to Penrith; the road needs not one word of furthur description; it was like yesterdays road. A few miles on this side Penrith, a small town is passed named St Marys, South Creek, consisting of a few dozen small wood or brick verandah cottages, scattered along the road for about a mile on
all cleared allotments of land. A few of these are the stores or shops which supply the neighbourhood, and an astonishing number of inns & public houses, accomodate travellers and the drunkards of the place. Penrith, when we reached it, we found just such another place, only much larger, so that many of the buildings were of a proportionately greater size & importance.
In reaching the top of the last of the undulations we caught sight of country beyond of more interesting features. This was a singular flat plain, of a narrow long shape, quite distinct from the bushy hilly land we were passing over, and still better bounded on the other side,
by at a distance of 2 miles by one continuous steep rocky hill, entirely covered by a for a thick forest of trees.
The plain though very rich, was almost treeless, except such as had been planted; large portions were covered by Indian corn & other crops, & the remainder was no doubt grazed. Through the length of it, which is parallel to the coast, runs the first considerable river I had seen in Australia, viz the Nepean [ee inserted above ea], a slow full stream, one or two hundred
feet yards wide. Over it was a neat & certainly very good bridge of wood just opened, and accounted a wonderful piece of work here. The banks of the river surprized me; they were very steep & high, & composed of pure alluvial soil, which from a section I saw at the side of the road must have been something like 15 feet deep. Passing the river you enter the principal part of the plains, named Emu plains. The road wandered through them and very boldly faced right up to the unbroken line of Steep hill, in which no opening or road was visible. We approached it less confidently, and being tired & the sun declining we determined upon camping at once.
The country was here picturesque & varied and any spot would have served us as a resting place, but water again must be sought. Turning off the road just at the foot of the hill, we followed down a hollow, & found ourselves in a most beautiful secluded little gully in the bottom of which were clear pools of water: the trees were prettily grouped, instead of being monotonously crowded together, and between them were flowering bushes, most of them odoriferous. I will not waste more words in saying that here we passed a most pleasant night, and that I got up quite refreshed & pleasant, & none the worse although the
dew had been sufficient to wet everything about us.
I felt quite sorry to leave this beautiful little place which afforded us the pleasantest nights lodging I think that we had, Inns included. Getting onto the road again we set off with the usual intention of doing a long days work, but were then quite ignorant of the level of the country we were going into. This was the most remarkable piece of the whole road, for it was a continued incline upwards for some miles, the first portion being entirely cut out of the side of a narrow deep gully, which ran straight
up into the Hill, named Lapstone Hill, in a westward direction. The scenery in parts was very wild & mountainous, but was somewhat obscured by the morning mists hanging among the trees.
The goodness of the roadway here surprized us, for it seemed quite a finished piece of work & by no means new; this was difficult to understand untill, the convicts came into our minds, whom we always hear of being sent "to labour on the roads". It must have required no small amount of labour too to make a road through such a piece of country, and you know that it is said that the commencement of this mountainous land for a long time formed the westward boundary of the Colony.
On proceeding furthur, always upwards, we seemed to leave behind all the fine scenery and to be doomed again to a road nearly as
ste bad as the Penrith road.
Letter from W.S. Jevons to Herbert Jevons
July 4th 1856.
My dearest Herbert
Today and not before I received the long and anxiously expected parcel per Canopus, 178 days out!! and I will leave you to imagine the satisfaction with which I engaged a barrow man at the Circular Wharf at the first price he demanded to wheel it up to the Mint, where my first business was of course to open it & examine its contents.
I write now with little more purpose than to thank you for all your trouble and kindness about it. The Compass & sextant are precisely what I wanted, and packed up so carefully as they were, were of course quite [word crossed out] uninjured. The Compass is quite as good & expensive as I have any need of, and as far as I can judge, for I have no knowledge of these instruments yet, the pocket sextant is quite a superior instrument; its perfection & completeness is quite surprising and I have had some trouble to find out the use of all the parts.
I have to thank you also for your care about the little things belonging to Papa and need say nothing as to the value with which I regard them as you will fully understand
You send also four books of which three are singularly à propos as I am at present reading on "Music, have been fond lately of Statistics, and have wanted several times to refer to "Vestiges" which I read some time since, and approve of greatly on the whole. (Hiawatha I cannot make out)
I miss only my French assay stamp which I understood was to be sent; whether it never reached England or was accidentally forgotten in sending the box I do not know. It is however of little importance, and chiefly an affair of curiosity, as I have my "diploma" and should never want to stamp gold in all probability.
I feel almost inclined to complain that your letters are not fuller, for they have to me a sort of substantial interest different from that that ones sisters letters can afford. Believe me that no amount of writing will be thrown away if the
the pleasure it will give me in reading is any consideration. You mention something about signing a
trust-deed; does it mean a partnership, and that you are now a partner in Jevons & Cº along with Henry. If so I congratulate you on having such a sure and straightforward business to enter upon. The American Dispute no doubt gave Liverpool merchants some anxiety but what fear is there of a War when we [word crossed out] read in the same paper of an English review of some 250-300 steam war vessels and of the admirable navy of the United States consisting of 31 fine vessels of all classes, of which several no doubt are steamers, and which are scattered pretty equally all over the globe.
The news of Peace was received very joyfully here, and Monday is to be a holyday and a general illumination. The Public Buildings are all going to illuminate and the Mint will I expect present a distinguished appce on the occasion. I have had a glimpse of the design which is something as follows.
Among other things I may mention that today for the first time I received the [
hea?] half yearly dividend of £7.10s on my debentures. I hope by the end of the year to add £300 more to them, besides which I shall have about £500 I suppose (including Mrs Moss money ?) in your hands, and yielding the same interest of 5 p.c.
You will have heard of the total loss of the Shomberg. We have had much discussion about it here, and my opinion is
he was that the Captain was entirely to blame; with a south west wind he should never have come near the coast there at all till reaching Bass's Straits; this you will find in the Australian Sailing Directory. At his trial he got off by the uncertainty of the evidence about trifles.
I have written a long letter to Willy Jevons which perhaps he will let you read as it contains a short account of my trips to the Diggings & to Newcastle &c. I have written also to Lucy. I am immensely busy at present with all sorts of affairs both at home and at the Mint. For the present Good bye.
Ever your affectionate Brother
W. S. Jevons.
Letter from W.S. Jevons to Herbert Jevons
January 18th 1857.
My dearest Herbert,
I begin a letter to you this Sunday evening not for any particular purpose, but to render you a general account of things here, and because you tell me not to shorten my correspondence.
I must first of all thank you for the two books "Felice Orsini" and "English Traits" received by post which are perhaps the next best substitute for a long letter, and do not cost
when in reaching here, more than I should have to pay the bookseller. The Tiptree having only just arrived (!!!) I have not read much of Emerson's book; I do not at all like his style, but though an American he seems to understand properly what a Great People the English are. It has been a frequent thought of mine lately that the England is now the Genius of the World, from which all great improvements and advances proceed and that instead of losing her position in the World, she is becoming more the Centre & Leader of it everyday. The Americans go for nothing, for though they are naturally powerful and might have superseded England, they are have already degenerated and lost all moral power. The "Punches" too which you have sent are very excellent and the Saturday Review seems a good sort of a thing.
I must have made a mistake about your being a partner in the Firm of Jevons & Co but I hope to hear soon of its being a fact. You have indeed told me very little about family affairs for a long time but you explain it by saying that they have been quite stationary. I suppose that Nov 8th having passed when my Father's Money would be released from the firm, something would be done immediately. You told me in one letter that £100 would come to me on my 21st birth day but though that is now long past, you have not mentioned anything furthur about it. There are no doubt also many things else in which I have necessarily a great interest, but which I know nothing at all about, and as it is from you alone that I am likely to hear such things, I shall be really very desirous of learning more about them from some of your next letters.
I have a very nice little letter from Tommy with a long and good account of his school affairs in which he seems much interested. He tells me he is only 15 years old, and it seems to me almost a pity that he could not have a longer schooling, but of course as I am so far away I can form no opinion of what is proper or necessary under the circumstances. I should like Tommy to feel that everything depends in reality upon himself, although circumstances may cut his education a year shorter, and chance may partly settle his business. If he wished to show what stuff he is made of, neither of these things will in the end materially keep him back. He must make the best use of the excellent teaching he is now getting in London, which I have no doubt he does do, and after that he will find plenty of leisure time to go on with what things he feels best suited for.
I think I told you in one letter that we were in fear of having our salaries cut down when the estimates were voted by the Legislative Assembly. Miller & I attended in the gallery on the occasion, in some degree of trepidation, but the debate took a very favourable turn and we heard ourselves styled by the fiercest leaders of the opposition, as "highly skilled men", "men whom it would be impossible to replace", "gentlemen of the highest scientific attainment" (from Parkes, whom I favour with my reports) and they finally voted the whole estimate in a lump. 25 per cent has been taken off the temporary increase of every salary and the remainder made permanent so that my salary is now fixed at £630, but in nearly every other Government department, furthur reductions have been made in the most arbitrary manner.
A short time since I predicted that the receipt of gold at the Mint would diminish because New South Wales is saturated with our coin, even in spite of Capt Wards assurance that we should have plenty. It turns out that instead of having 15,000 or 20,000 oz per week as of Melbourne gold, as we had at this time last year, no
Melbour gold comes at all from Port Phillip and our receipts are usually about 2,000, even as low one week as 438. We are not much concerned because a Gold duty bill is just being passed here, and when the duty is the same as at Port Phillip, it is expected that the Victorians will proclaim our coin legal, and we shall then have to replace
the whole English there, which must be several millions. This will keep us at full work for a year or two, and it is not impossible as suggested by Graham himself that our coin might be rendered legal in England ultimately.
This is partly because our coin has turned out so satisfactorily especially as regards assay or fineness, that it is much superior to the English coinage itself. I will just give you Grahams reports upon our pyx pieces sent home.
The standard fineness
you know is 11/12 or 916667
|Coined during||No. of pieces||Mean Assay Report|
|" " Half sovs||6||91670|
|Jan. March 1856||IOI||91667|
Our work now is exceedingly light, generally only between 5 & 10 assays per day. I should not wonder if several days of each week I am not occupied over the [word crossed out] assays more than 1/2 hour per day; but I nearly always attend the full 6 hours, and fill up the time by preparations for larger numbers, or various things of my own.
The last few days I have been working very hard to finish a paper on a Meteorological subject, viz the Cirrus or feathery cloud. Not only do I give the first reasonable explanation viz a filtering of portions of air into each other, that has ever been offered but I extend it to explain the whole origin of thunderstorms and many other things. I am sending it Per Oneida to Graham, to see what he & London think of it. Whether my anticipations will be fulfilled I cannot tell and I must wait about 6 months before I can hear anything more.
It is writing and copying out this paper which has taken up all my time lately, prevented me finishing this letter till the last moment, or writing at all to Lucy as I intended.
Things in general are the same as ever here. I am always quite well as are most people, but often feel an intolerable feeling of weakness and lassitude, occasioned by the hot close
weather we sometimes have preceding thunderstorms. You have heard before of our new house at Double Bay (it is as good as partly mine since I have lent Miller £200 to build it). It will be finished in about a month and within two months I hope that we may be settled in it. There we shall have North East sea breezes and sea bathing which are just the things for freshening me up.
Last week there was a very grand cricket match here between
the Sydney & Melbourne, Capt Ward being the principal player & bowler of the Sydneyites; it was in the Domain which from its natural beauty and splendid position and the immense number of orderly people in it presented one of the most beautiful spectacles I ever saw. To show you how the Sydney people take holydays, I will tell you that Sydney proper contains 60,000 inhabitants, that of these 8 or 10,000 were at the cricket match at one time the first day, 15,000 the second day, a large proportion of these spending the whole day there about after 12.0, and many thousands the third day when it was finished in a few hours, the Sydney beating awfully. Thus nearly 1/4 of the population was at the match at one time and the business of the town was quite interrupted. I take this to be a sign, not of laziness, but that the people are so well today as to be able to spare more holydays and really to enjoy themselves more than the people of other countries.
It is just possible I may start
tomorrow evening Saturday on a trip with Hunt of the Mint & some others to Wollongong, a beautiful place on the coast, but I am not sure.
Give my best love to Lucy, Henny, Tommy & believe me to remain
Ever Your affec. Brother
W. S. Jevons