from Patrick White: A Life (1991)

Patrick White, Winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature, spent two decades almost continually abroad from the 1920s: school (unhappily) in Britain, a brief return to Australia, then Cambridge, then the beginning of his career as a writer in London, followed by war service with the RAF in the Middle East. After the war he decided to come back to Australia:

The final decision to live in Sydney, which White took in these weeks, was the greatest gamble of his life. War had done little to soften Sydney’s British smugness…As White was deciding to return, Australian actors, journalists, painters, writers, dancers, photographers and musicians were waiting for boats to freedom. The export of talent had been interrupted by the war but now the world – at least London and New York – was open to them again. Friends asked one another in the street, ‘When are you off?’ Farewell drinks were a Saturday night ritual before the sailing of every boat. Yet White had decided to come home. He wrote to Pepe Mamblas, ‘I landed here after fourteen years absence, and immediately realised how Australian I have been all the time underneath. Even the uglier aspects of the place have their significance and rightness, to me, though I expect if you came here, a real European, you would be rightly appalled. But I am enjoying relaxing with my instinct after a long session with my reason.’

–David Marr, Australian, b. 1947

Last Goodbyes, SS Ormonde, Woolloomooloo Passenger Terminal - c. 1938 Pic. Copyright Max Dupain Archive.

Last Goodbyes, SS Ormonde, Woolloomooloo Passenger Terminal – c. 1938 Pic. (Copyright Max Dupain Archive.)

 

 

 

 

From New South Wales, its Present State and Future Prospects (1837)

James Macarthur, son of John, visited Britain in 1837-38, where he gave evidence to the Molesworth Committee on convict transportation. In the ghost-written New South Wales he attacks Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s (1810-1821) lenient treatment of convicts and emancipists, and articulates the point of view of the ‘exclusives’:

Had the encouragement of the convict population been indeed regulated upon the principle of conferring rewards on good conduct only, such a course could scarcely have failed to be productive of consequences alike beneficial to the individuals and to the community at large. But when men, who had been convicts, and who were besides disqualified by want of education, or previous mode of life, were appointed magistrates and public functionaries; -when land was distributed with undiscriminating profusion amongst the whole class of emancipated convicts without regard to good or ill conduct;-when the circumstance of having come free to the colony, conferred no claim to favour; and that of having been convicted became proverbially the best security for preferment ;-is it surprising that the free settlers should have expressed their dissatisfaction at the continuance, and their apprehension of the probable results of so extraordinary a system?

The natural consequence of this system was reaction,-a determination, on the part of the emigrant colonists, to maintain the more strictly those distinctions which it was the object of the Governor to break down.

On the part of the emancipated convicts, on the other hand, it gave rise to claims for full participation in civil rights and political privileges, upon the basis of property alone, without reference to character and conduct. It was the origin also of a feeling, at one time very generally prevalent amongst this class, and which still exists in the minds of many, that the colony was theirs by right, and that the emigrant settlers were interlopers upon the soil.

–James Macarthur, Australian, 1798-1867

The Three Graces [Edith, Eliza and Laura, daughters of Sarah and William Charles Wentworth], 1868 by Hans Julius Gruder, Vaucluse House, Sydney. 'Eliza, Laura and Edith Wentworth were three of the seven daughters of Sarah Morton Wentworth, nee Cox (1805-1880) colonial born, illegitimate and the daughter of convict parents. Although her husband William Charles Wentworth (1790?-1872) was one of the most prominent men in colonial New South Wales his financial and political success was unable to protect his wife and daughters from social ostracism. This exclusion contributed significantly to their decision to take their younger children to England for their education. Sarah and the children sailed from Sydney in February 1853. Although Sarah and her youngest children, including Eliza, Laura and Edith returned to New South Wales in 1861 they left again for England in 1868. This portrait of the three daughters, depicted as young women with all the trappings of wealth and respectability, and represented in an allegorical fashion as the Three Graces, can be seen as a direct challenge to the prejudices of the colonial society which had made them social outcasts.'

The Three Graces [Edith, Eliza and Laura, daughters of Sarah and William Charles Wentworth], 1868 by Hans Julius Gruder (Vaucluse House, Sydney)
‘Eliza, Laura and Edith Wentworth were three of the seven daughters of Sarah Morton Wentworth, nee Cox (1805-1880) colonial born, illegitimate and the daughter of convict parents. Although her husband William Charles Wentworth (1790?-1872) was one of the most prominent men in colonial New South Wales his financial and political success was unable to protect his wife and daughters from social ostracism. This exclusion contributed significantly to their decision to take their younger children to England for their education. Sarah and the children sailed from Sydney in February 1853. Although Sarah and her youngest children, including Eliza, Laura and Edith returned to New South Wales in 1861 they left again for England in 1868. This portrait of the three daughters, depicted as young women with all the trappings of wealth and respectability, and represented in an allegorical fashion as the Three Graces, can be seen as a direct challenge to the prejudices of the colonial society which had made them social outcasts.’