By A. W. GREIG
One of the sensations of the 'fifties was the meteoric visit to Australia of Lola Montes, who posed as a Spanish dancer.
Actually, she was born in Limerick, Ire- land, and started life with the name of
Marie Gilbert. Married at the age of 19, she was divorced five years later, and went on the stage as a dancer. After
some success in
Continental capitals she had the extra- ordinary fortune in 1847 to so captivate Ludwig, the senile King of Bavaria, that she became virtual ruler of
that province, and
was ennobled as the Countess of Lands- feld. Her reign was a brief one, how- ever, as Ludwig was forced to abdicate the following year, and Lola had to seek refuge in Swit- zerland. She re- turned to England for a while, and I
married a second time. In 1851 she went to America, and two years later was in California, where she made her third matrimonial venture. In 1855 she crossed the Pacific to Australia arriving in Syd- ney in August, and shortly afterwards coming on to Melbourne.
Her debut here was made at the Theatre Royal, on Thursday, September 13, 1855. She appeared in a play supposed to be descriptive of her adventures in Bavaria, at the close of which she made a speech enumerating the political benefits she had conferred upon that country. Not quite a week later she introduced her cele-
brated "Spider Dance," a performance so daring that "The Argus" characterised it as a nuisance—utterly subversive of all ideas of public morality, which ought to be suppressed by the authorities." This led to some modification of the dance, as repeated in Melbourne: but when Lola appeared in Geelong she again aroused
A visit to the goldfields centres of Bal-
larat and Bendigo took her more into her element, although she horsewhipped an editor at the former town who had ven- tured to publish an unfavourable account of her career. She seems to have won
the hearts of the susceptible diggers.
Lola montes's stay in Australia extended over a fev months only, and in August, 1856, she was back in Europe. During the next two years she had some vogue on the lecture platfotm in America, but a breakdown in health put an end to this, and for the last two or three years of her life she became a worker in the reclama- tion of fallen women in New York, where she died on January 17, 1861.
Everybody has heard Geelong referred to as "the Pivot." I wonder if this quo- tation from the "Geelong Advertiser,"
which appeared in "The Argus" of August 26, 1851, is the origin of the name:— "Geelong has been designated by us, half
in jest, half in earnest, and wholly pro- phetically, the 'commercial capital.'
Whenever the coalmines beneath our feet are opened, the prophecy will be accom- plished. We may then aspire to be, not only the 'commercial capital' of Victoria, but the 'pivot' of Australasia."
Eight and a half years earlier, in Janu- ary, 1843, the same paper had declared that "Geelong Harbour is the finest in Australia Felix; the outer harbour being far superior to Hobson's Bay, and the inner incomparably better adapted for a commercial port than that paltry canal— the Yarra."
Truly there was no quenching the spirit of Geelong in those days.
A Buck-jumping Bed
Sixty years ago spring mattresses were not in as common use as they are to-day, but even as far back as the 'fifties a few enterprising people possessed them. They were not the "woven wire" mattresses with which we are familiar, but metal frameworks containing a number of spiral springs similar to those used in upholstering chairs and couches. An amusing story is told by William Kelly of
a casual lodger in an hotel in Castlemaine in 1857, who was given a bed provided
with one of these luxuries. After un- dressing and blowing out the candle, this man jumped into bed, only to jump out again with a roar of fright, which brought the night waiter to his assist- ance. Indignantly demanding "Why the —they put him into a—buck-jump- ing bed," the lodger brushed all ex- planations aside and declared that "he'd be jollv well — if he was going to sleep on a lot of wire rat traps," and would not be content until the spring mattress was replaced by a hard straw palliasse.
A suggestion was recently made that the garden suburb at Fishermen's Bend should be called "Barak" in memory of the last of the Yarra tribe of aborigines; and it was coupled with a statement
that, if adopted,
this would be the second suburb to receive an abori- ginal name, the first being Yarra- ville. This is doing a gross injustice to Prahran, which beats the black- fellow's name for that part of the Yarra on which Melbourne stands— a name which has been variously re- corded as Berrern, Birr-arrung, Bay- ray-rung, Birarang and, finally Prahran. In any
case, Yarraville is not an aboriginal name, but an incongruous hybrid, born of a land speculation of the late 'fifties.