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PORT PHILLIP

¡ IN 1840 I

.THROUGH LA TROBE'S EYES

IJv GrRTItUDE MORTISSl \

As well as the two water colour skctelies dated 1843 or 1844 of Lieutenant Gov er nor La Trobe s cottage at Jolimont pre sented to the Government of Vlctoila bj his granddaughter the Baronne Godofroj de Blonaj theie is a letter written bj La Trobe to his sister Charlotte at the beginning of March 1840 This is written In a fine pointed hand with all the in- dividual peculiarities eonimon to those who write much The general effect re sembles my notion of a Chinese puzzle for La Trobe writes across the pige and then writes on top of this again lentth wise over the bhcet With the aid of a magnlfjlng tloss I deciphered the letter

thus -

My Deoiest Charlotte-The dopaiture of the Magnet comes upon mc it a vcrj

buy time The James after all has got I

aw m the first We ha\e two vessels the

Alice Brooks and the Hindostán loading, for England so that } ou ma} expect to ' hear from us shortly again 1 send }ou a blurred sketch cf the giound plan of oui cottage and premises but promise jou a better one when the land Is mine and all finally arranged I evpcct \ou will get an idea of our position Sophie will have told jou all about herself and our little girl who ccrtalnlj all things eonsldeied and more espechtllj that she Is an only child is growing up bj Gods meicj a veiv good engiglnis piettj little bodj Small as our establishment is I assure jou there is not a more comfort

able well regulated and more tasty one In this part of the world both within and without I shall wait a few months to seo how matters turn out with reference to my proposed purchase of the land on which it Iles before I make a few arrange ments that may add to our comfort and respectability but at present necessity obliges me to be as frugal as it is pos slble for a La Trobe to be

I hive sent jou a file or two of oui pnpeis which nnj give jon some idea of whnt Is going on In a colonj of three jems growth ccrtalnlj llteriture apnit the advance is istcnlshing I am just at this time suffering from an attack ol rheumatic pain in the limbs which X foollshlj Invited from unnecessan ex posure to a heavj morning mist Other

wise in spite of the great and sudden changes in the temperatuie of our climate | I must praise its salubrltj We hav e m fact a charming summer now \ erging tow aid autumn If we could meet for one two or three days to exchange thoughts and words!

Our news from England reaches (pollti

cnlly) to the month of November The money market seems to be in a strange w aj Is the Queen reallj going to marrj a Coburg in spite of all mj wishes to the contrary? Rumours arc flv Ing about here that Sir George is to be recalled and Sir William Molesworth coming out In his place That would indeed be out of the frvlng pan into the fire I have veiy little intercourse with Sjdnej mjsolf in an official way I have recentlj been absent a whole week from home on a visit to the Geelong district a beautiful pitt of m% province Had I means I think I could be of use to the good people among whom I am thrown but I am so cilppled and tied down that I ein do little but keep the wheel Just moving round I hive been enabled thus fir to steer prcttj clear of shoals and quicksands and have conciliated most parties not bv bowing and scraping but bj going straight for ward showing that I had neither preju dice nor self Interest to sen c

As you -will gather we live -verj retired neither receiving nor giving general lnvl tatlons and keeping as much in the back

ground as possible Bj degrees we shall get a choice of society about us As long as mj salary and appointments are what thej arc I can never pretend to net the governor and see companj in style-so the more quiet we keop the betler God bless you my dear Charlotte Believe me ever j our own affect brother and friend

C J LA TROBE

PS-6 March-I close this to daj-a day of sorrow for your poor brother

The blurred plan on the back of the letter shows the house much is It is to daj except that the original front wall which looked towards the present Govern ment House hid to be cut awaj lor the excavations of Bedggood s boot factorj In those days the colonists were not germ conscious and we find kltehen dairj and stable grouped together in the one build Ing across the courtjard from the living rooms The kitchen gardens are laid out on the area where the houses in Jolimont terrace now stand The sketches painted three jears later show charming grounds with typical English flower borders and shrubs in a setting of Aus

ti allan gums Betveen the cottage and the cltj is a swamp which perhaps is

partly accountable foi the rheumatic | pains Our little girl is Agnes mother of the Baronne de Blonaj then two j ears old On the verandah wall of the cottage now hangs a large leproductlon of Lieutenant Governor La Trobe s portrait To daj anyone wishing to sign the i,ist

tors book beside It at Government House Joli Mont enters from Agnes street Into a small old world English tar den which Messrs Bedggood and Co have recently had made

When Superintendent La Trobe at rived in Port Phillip on September 30 1839 at a salary of £800 a year he was not able even to buj the land on which to erect the house that he had brought willi him He had to wait until it pleased Sir George Gipps to hold a land sale in June 1840 In the meantime the house was put to gethei on the Joli Mont site La Trobe taking the chance that he would be iblc to purchase the land In an article on the subject the Port Phillip Heiald sajs

- Everywheie but In Port Phillip the chief officer of the Government is fur

nished with both house and grounds at the public expense Sir George Gipps however will not add much to his popu laritj in this province by this unexpected exercise of his power

At the time La Trobe s letter was vv iltttn Queen Victoria was already married the marriage having tnken place on rebruary 10 Hie ultra Tories of the day were against her union with Prince Albert and favoured a marriage with Geoige of Cambridge or a Prince of Orange Thej also gave out that Albert was a Radical and an infidel and It was

gcnerallj thought that he was too young . La Trobe may have been influenced bv the opinions then current in England but

I suspect from the over emphasis given to '

his objection bj underlining It that this Is a touch of humour

I cannot find lu ofllclil local records

an> thing to support the rumour that Sir j

George Gipps was to bo recalled In Syd

ney as well as Port Phillip his rule vvas|

thoroughly disliked at this time The Sjdncj correspondent of'the Poit Phillip Herald writes - The Governor Is vciv unpopular with all classes All his sins are of omission rather than commission His Excellency cares about nothing but pleasing the Secictarj of State In the Impel lal Paillament Sir William Moles woith had olwajs keenlj opposed trino

portation and ho was ilso tin indent ndvocate of the extension of self govern ment to the Colonies Conesponclcnce between Molesworth and a friend discloses that thej hnd discussed hit gelling the Govcinoishlp of New South Wales In Januaij 1840 he willes- I should like I to go to New South Wales with povvci

that the Colonial Office won t give His I

available correspondence does not show

however vvhethc th Colonivl Olliee in ,

tended to curtail Sir Gcort, Gipps s term I

of ofllcc Moles« oi th s biographer Mrs Tawcett writes - Never was n man less fitted on the whole to be a eoloiml

pioneer He w is dependent upon books , and socinl intercourse with congenial spirits for happiness His onlj tastes

which would have found a vvldei scope iii¡

colonlnl life were lils passion for trees and I

his interest In dogs and horses It is quite possible tint the colonists would have stepped into the fire had their champion been appointed Govcrnoi

lo gumd the lives of blind pedesiuan | at nifchl i h mil si nil lamp has been j devl ed bj a Belgian iniciitoi When the

user crosses a street after duri he holds i up the pocket lamp and presses the but ' ton lighting a luminous white disc on which three black dot appear

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