Bush travelling

Approaching Taranaki, what sight more beautiful than Mount Egmont’s snowy peak, seen just before the dawn of day, slowly tinged with rosy light – the plain around still lost in gloom-like morning rising from the bed of night?

Egmont

To be encamped for the night, too, in the forest at its base, the blazing watch-fire fitfully lighting up the surrounding gloom, and disclosing to momentary view the stately stems and leafy canopy of gigantic forest trees; and to awake at early dawn, listening with bated breath in charmed surprise to a chorus of sweet sounds (too sweet almost for earthly melody), would prove a poet’s and a painter’s Paradise!

fern leafBut health, also, as well as amusement, is gained by a journey in the bush. By change of scene, the dull routine of daily life is broken, and its business and care for the time forgotten. Almost constant mental excitement, gentle in degree, and agreeable in its kind; exposure to the open air, active exercise, and plain and scanty diet, all tend to health. The appetite is sharpened, the nerves are braced, the blood is purified, the cheek is bronzed, and the traveller commonly returns from his journey a stronger and a better man. What wonder that bush-travelling, then, should be a holiday amusement?

But a lengthened expedition into the interior of a new country, cannot of course be undertaken without some preparation. The pleasure which the traveller will derive from his journey, will greatly depend upon the character of his native party. Nor should a stranger, or a novice in bush travelling, ignorant of the language, and unaquainted with the manners of the people, be advised to start alone. On the contrary he should, if possible, secure as a companion some experienced bush traveller.

There being no wayside hostelries, the traveller, if he be not content with the skies for a canopy and the earth for his bed, must snail-like carry his house upon his back; or, which he will probably prefer, must persuade some other person to undertake the labour for him.

bush path

For a traveller who intends to live bush-fashion, three natives, for bearers, are a sufficient complement. On a long journey, when expedition is an object, the weight of each load should not exceed thirty pounds. Tent, bedding, clothes, and food, need not altogether exceed ninety pounds, or thirty pounds each man. This does not allow of bottled beer, wines, &c.; but nothing will surprise a bush traveller more than the indifference with which he will regard these enjoyable home luxuries, after a few days’ free exposure to the open air : itself an all-sufficient stimulant.
‘Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand’, W. Swainson. Smith, Elder & Co. London, 1853.

Note : Auckland was the capital of New Zealand until 1865, when the “Seat of Government” moved to Wellington.
The author, William Swainson (1809-1884), was Attorney General of New Zealand based in Auckland, not the naturalist William John Swainson who died in Wellington in 1855.
Mount Egmont’s name has reverted to the original Taranaki.

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The news that’s fit to print.

It is estimated (says the London correspondent of the “Age”) that there are over 300 war correspondents attached to the armies now in the field in Europe, but they are under strict supervision, to prevent them despatching to their papers any information which might prove of use to the enemy. Most of the war correspondents of the English Press are with the French army, but some have been sent to Russia. Of course, no English, French, or Russian correspondents are allowed into Germany or Austria.

French pontoon bridge

French Engineers building a pontoon bridge. From a stereo card by the Keystone View Company.

The regulations issued by the French War Office with respect to newspaper correspondents forbid any message being sent by telegraph. All despatches must be written in French, and must be submitted to the military censor before being sent off by post. None of the correspondents will be allowed to go to the front. They will be placed in charge of an officer, somewhere on the lines of communication, and the information they obtain regarding the actual fighting will be supplied by staff officers.

The regulations regarding Press photographers are even more severe, as the military authorities are even more anxious to discourage photographers than correspondents. They will be kept under supervision, and their pictures will have to be shown to the censor.

The expectation of film manufacturers, that they would be allowed to film a great war in all its details has been shattered.
‘Christchurch Press’, New Zealand. 16 October, 1914.

The Laird of Abbotsford

[Sir Walter] Scott was now [1810] in receipt of £1,300 a year as clerk of session, and when the lease of Ashestiel ran out in May 1811, he felt justified in purchasing, for £4,000, a farm on the banks of the Tweed above Gala-foot. This farm, then known as Clarty Hole, became Abbotsford, so called because these lands had belonged of old to the great Abbey of Melrose; and in his own mind Scott became henceforth the Laird of Abbotsford.

Abbotsford 1

During [1817] the existing house of Abbotsford had been building, and Scott had added to his estate the lands of Toftfield, at a price of £10,000. He was then thought to be consolidating a large fortune, for the annual profits of his novels alone had, for several years, been not less than the cost of Toftfield.

Abbotsford 2

The house of Abbotsford was not completed and finally rid of carpenters and upholsterers until Christmas 1824; but the first time I saw it was in 1818, and from that time onwards Scott’s hospitality was extended freely, not only to the proprietors and tenants of the surrounding district but to a never-ending succession of visitors who came to Abbotsford as pilgrims. In the seven or eight brilliant seasons when his prosperity was at its height, he entertained under his roof as many persons of distinction in rank, in politics, in art, in literature, and in science as the most princely nobleman of his age ever did in the like space of time.

Abbotsford 3

Scott’s diary from November 1825 shows clear forebodings of the collapse of the [publishing] houses of Constable and Ballantyne. In December Scott borrowed £10,000 on the lands of Abbotsford, and advanced that sum to the struggling houses; on January 16, 1826, their ruin, and Scott’s with them, was complete.
On May 15 Lady Scott died, after a short illness, at Abbotsford. “I think,” writes Scott in his diary, “my heart will break.”

Abbotsford 4

An expedition to Paris in October, to gather materials for his “Life of Napoleon,” was a seasonable relief. The “Life of Buonaparte” was published in June 1827, and secured high praise from many…… It realised £18,000 for the creditors, and, had health been spared him, Scott must soon have freed himself from all encumberances.
‘Life of Sir Walter Scott,’ John Gibson Lockhart, published 1837/’38 in seven volumes.

Sir Walter Scott, author of such classic novels as ‘Rob Roy’ and ‘Ivanhoe’, died at Abbotsford on 21 September 1832.

Profits from the ‘Life’ were donated by Lockhart, his son-in-law, to the creditors.

Abbotsford (“just a short train ride from Edinburgh”) is now in the care of a charitable trust and still attracts thousands of “pilgrims” every year.

The Old Curiosity Shop

OCS_1

Retracing our steps….we shortly arrive at Portsmouth Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. At No. 14 will be found (for a short time only) a small old-fashioned house, on the front of which is painted an inscription, “The Old Curiosity Shop, Immortalised by Charles Dickens,” now occupied by Mr. H. Poole, dealer in wastepaper. This is said to be the house assigned by the novelist for the residence of Little Nell and her grandfather, with whose pathetic history we are all familiar—

“One of those receptacles for old and curious things, which seem to crouch in odd corners of this town, and to hide their musty treasures from the public eye in jealousy and distrust.”

OCS_2

It cannot, however, be regarded as absolutely certain that this particular house was the author’s intended “local habitation” for one of the best-known and loved of his creations. The tale itself concludes with a reference to Kit’s uncertainty as to the whereabouts of the place:—

“The old house had long ago been pulled down, and a fine broad road was in its place. At first he would draw with his stick a square upon the ground to show them where it used to stand. But he soon became uncertain of the spot, and could only say it was thereabouts, he thought, and that these alterations were confusing.”

OCS_3

[A lady, personally acquainted with the great novelist, has informed the author that she was once taken by Mr. Dickens to No. 10 Green Street (approaching Leicester Square from the east)—at the corner of Green and Castle Streets, behind the National Gallery—the business of curiosity-dealing being then and there carried on. Mr. Dickens himself localised this house as the home of little Nell, pointing out an inner room—divided from the shop by a glass partition—as her bedroom. The premises are now rebuilt.]
‘Rambles in Dickens Land’, Robert Allbut, S.T. Freemantle. 1899.

Images top to bottom:
1. This old photograph reproduced on a postcard may have been made in the 1870s.
2. New tenants Gill & Durrant, successors to H. Poole photographed c.1912-1914. The shop was threatened with demolition at the time Allbut wrote that it would be there “for a short time only”. It was saved, but Mr. Poole had already moved to new premises.
3. Another tenant – who needs to fix that roof urgently! Could be early 1920s. I think the lady in the doorway is dressed in Victorian style for maximum Dickensian effect.

The old shop today is surrounded by the brick and glass of the London School of Economics and in need of more maintenance. Modern opinion agrees with Allbut that it had no connection to Dickens. In fact Steve Draper claims in this post that it was rebranded in 1868, when it was a bookshop, to increase trade.

That dicussion is a distraction from the building’s real historic value. Here is a 17th (some say 16th) century structure that has survived the Great Fire of London and the bombs of two world wars. Surely that deserves better than a Grade II listing.