HISTORY OF WEST AUSTRALIA.
The long expected history of Western Australia, with which Mr. W. B. Kimber- ley's name has been connected, for a con- siderable time, has at length seen the light of day. And, in measuring, the amount of success attained in the publica- tion, it must be admitted in the outset that the difficulties which beset the path of the man who essays such a task with this colony as his subject, are neither few nor insignificant. It is not within the power of every publicist to be a historian. Certain qualifications of mind and temperament, the possession of those literary gifts which will enable him to relate annals of the past in language befitting the theme and at the same time
attractive to the reader - such as these are not enjoyed by every writer. To exercise due judgment in order to give propor- tionate importance to the incidents and events by which history has been made ; to select what is necessary and reject what is useless ; to view everything with that calm, judicial frame of mind which should characterise as well the temperament of the historian as the judge - to do these bespeaks the possession of some of the necessary qualifications of the man who aspires to bid the present and future generations live amid the scenes of the past. His gift of language must be large, yet never overflowing - a command exten- sive, but not excessive. He has to breathe upon the dry bones of facts and bid them live, till he has brought before the eye of the reader the men and women who pre- ceded him and the scenes amid which each lived, moved, and had his or her being. Though he may never rise to lofty elo- quence, yet if he would make his characters
live he must never sink to common-
place. If he desire to conjure up the lives of bygone generations, he must hold the spell which will wake them from their sleep, and cause them to pass before their descendants in the similitude of living, breathing men and women. If he elects to pourtray the times which, whether good or bad, relate back to periods when the civilisation of to-day was undreamed of, he needs not only the brush and palette, but the genius of the artist and the ability to transfer his thoughts in all the warm, glowing reality of life to the
canvas before him.
It would be idle to pretend that the his- tory of Western Australia satisfies every requirement of the historian's art. Whilst, on the one hand there are many evidences of an honest desire to take the utmost pains to achieve that standard of accuracy which alone can render the narratives of the past reliable, and of an amount of suc- cess achieved in this direction which can-
not but be gratifying to Mr. Kimberley, it is, on other hand, questionable whether with increased care, and the selection of writers better acquainted with the subjects of which they wrote, the history might not have been presented in a completer form. So, too, it would almost seem at times as if insuf- ficient prominence was given to some subjects and undue importance attached to others - evidencing a certain lack of carefulness in selection. And it must be remembered that, after all, it is very often by minor details that histories such as that under review are judged, and that mistakes in small matters cause it to suffer often altogether disproportionately With only 21 chapters available, it may seem as though nearly a tenth - two chapters - was too much to be devoted to the discovery of Australia, and this part of the continent more particularly, although, on the other hand, it is an interesting account that is given. The aborigines form the subject of a very lengthy chapter - the third - and is fairly accurate. Those who are acquainted with West Australian native superstitions will, however, be astounded to learn that " the Jilgi is a deity which frequents cer- tain localities, and whose haunts are most carefully avoided by the aborigines." Here the historian, owing to ignorance of the native language, has confused the evil spirit Jingeh with the jilgie, a species of lobster found in fresh-water brooks and in swamps, as much sought after by the aborigines as the evil Jinjeh is avoided. The writer has also fallen into the error of
employing the word " boomerang " as an
alternative Western Australian name for the native kylie. In another place, a thistle of such surprising height - over 100ft. - is mentioned as almost to suggest a misprint. The history which follows upon these preliminary chapters is in- teresting. The compilers commence with the settlement of King George's Sound in 1826, and pass on to the foundation of the larger Swan River Settlement.in 1829. The story of Western Australian pioneer colonisation, with all its faults and blemishes - and there were many, involving evils which have come down to the present day - together with the many hardships and trials, the frequent perils and dangers encountered, is told in a plain, unpretentious style, which, after making allowance for disproportionate values, is full of interest, bringing together as it does so many of the
evidences of the heroism which in Western Australia, no less than in other portions of the Queen's dominions, was inseparable from the lives of those who gave a new daughter-land to the mother country. Those who read the pages of this history will also obtain an opportunity of learning how the country was divided among so many of the earlier settlers, and the ex- tensiveness of many of the individual grants. The progress of the colony, its explorations, its native affairs, the birth and growth of its industries, its financial, mercantile and trading institutions, its political, religious and social changes, and their many attendant varying fortunes,
occupy some of the most inte-
resting pages, and though the fault, already referred to, of superabund- ance of detail indicating a lack of appre- ciation of the relative importance of events is at times somewhat obtrusive, the history furnishes reading of a most attractive kind. Here and there a slight inaccuracy appears, but these are no doubt almost inseparable from a first edition of a history which had nothing in the form of a pre- vious compilation to rely upon, and where journals and newspapers, public and private documents, had to be depended upon for the information that has been given. The history is brought down to last year, and the marked contrast between the life of the colony in the "thirties" and its sixty eighth year - the one so languid and de- pressed, the other so bright and prosperous - cannot fail to strike the reader.
Following upon the history is an account of the interior gold region of the colony, from the pen ot Mr. S. Goczel, M.E., and one of its mineral resources written bv Mr. F. C. B. Vosper, M.L.A., M.A.I.M.E., both of which are full of interest.
The second part of the publication is de- voted to biographical sketches, upwards of one hundred and fifty in number. While the usefulness ot these cannot be gainsaid, what occurs to those ac- quainted with the colony and its leading men, is not so much the almost uniformly panegyrical terms in which the bio- graphies are written, but the large num- ber ol leading members of the community omitted. In this respect the work
resembles a book recently published in England under the title of " Our Contem- poraries," in which among those included were " the conductor of the Band at the Britannia Theatre " while amongst the ex- cluded were Lord Salisbury, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lister. the Astronomer Royal and the Dean of Westminster. Similarly in Mr. Kimberley's publication we look in vain for any biography of the Governor, tho Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Stone, Mr. Justice Hensman, Bishop Salvado, Mr. S. Burt, and many other prominent West Australians, while some of those included seem to suggest that the biographical part of the volume is not unconnected with the business of advertising. Possibly the sys- tem followed in obtaining these biographies was not such as aimed at placing before the public what might be called a full and complete series of sketches of the Western Australian " Men of the Time."
If the biographical portion of the book has been largely devoted to the representation of the new to the omission of the old, several of the illustrations have achieved the very reverse. The portraits of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly groups, and the view 'of the Assembly Chamber, certainly relate back to a period antecedent to that when many of the gentlemen whose biographies are printed entered Parlia- ment, whilst many of the sketches and scenery have grown familiar by their con- stant and unvarying insertion in Christmas booklets and bound collections of Western Australian views. An amusing instance of artistic ingenuity is also shown by the division into two of a picture familiarised by the observation of years.
Lastly, a hope may be expressed that should a second edition of "West Aus- tralia " be published, it will be accompanied by an index. A history is essentially a book of reference, and no such work can be considered to be within hail of completion unless an index is furnished. To find a particular incident would, in the present form of the book, involve no slight labour, and this consequently materially impairs its usefulness as a work oft reference.
* " History of West Australia : A Narra- tive of Her Past, together with Biographies of her Leading Men." Compiled by W. B. Kimberley. F. W. Niven and Co., Mel- bourne and Ballarat, Victoria, 1897.