From Sydney Revels of Bacchus, Cupid, and Momus (1854)

Charles Adam Corbyn was a convict (formerly a midshipman in the East India Company) transported to Australia in 1835 at about the age of 18. Pardoned in the late 1840s, by the early 1850s he was a police-court reporter for Bell’s Life in Sydney (a raffish sporting weekly modelled on Bell’s Life in London) and Henry ParkesEmpire. In 1854 he published a collection of his reports, subtitled: ‘Being choice and humourous selections from scenes at The Sydney Police Office, and other public places, during the last three years.’ He later worked in Goulburn and Wagga Wagga as a reporter, and at the time of his death in Albury was acting as tutor to a family:

Like Niobe, All Tears

Johanna Elvia, a very beautiful specimen of the frail sisterhood, whose soft pale oval face, rich blue eyes, and dark chestnut hair were placed in admirable contrast with a suit of deep mourning, was placed at the bar before Messrs Hill, Neale, and Kemp, charged with creating a commotion in front of the Prince Albert Restaurant, Pitt-street, at two o’clock on Wednesday morning.

Constable Carroll deposed that the nymph before the Court had been supping at a late hour with some of her frail companions, at the Prince Albert, some old fool from the country, who had come down to town with more cash than brains, having “stood flat.” But when Miss Elvia and her associates had plentifully regaled themselves with all the choicest delicacies procurable at the restaurant, together with sundry potations, they commenced what they called “chaffing” the amorous old clodhopper, who took their sarcasms with anything but good grace.

The comely dame who presides over the culinary and comestible arrangements of the Prince Albert, desired him to “shut up” and to refrain from “kicking up such a row” at that late hour. The ladies thereupon turned upon the landlady like so many tigresses, and used language towards her unfit for polite ears.

The man who grumbles and pays; Gill, S. T. (Samuel Thomas), 1818-1880. (State Library of NSW)

The man who grumbles and pays; Gill, S. T. (Samuel Thomas), 1818-1880. (State Library of NSW)

The handsome Cyprian before the court was the most volubly outrageous of them all; she sallied out into the street in front of the restaurant and gave vent to such a volley of profane and indecent language that he (Carroll) deemed it his imperative duty to “give her an arm,” and escort her to the watch-house.

Mr Hill (to Johanna, who was weeping):– Are you a married woman?

Miss Elvia:– No, my lord. I wishes as how I was. (Here she burst into tears and sobbed convulsively.) If as how I had an ’usband it isn’t likely I’d be in this here fix, no more I wouldn’t: but I’ve gotten nobody to take care on me but my own blessed self, and Missis Jones insulted me, and I give it her back again.

Inspector Read:– She’s been on the town a long time, your Worship.

Johanna:– How do you know: shut up.

The Bench sentenced Miss Elvia to pay a fine of forty shillings, or in default to be imprisoned fourteen days. She paid the fine and departed.

Charles Adam Corbyn, English-Australian, 1817-1861


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