My dear Mother
Can you forgive me for not having written to you for such a length of time and leaving unanswered your last letter until now. What can be the reason you may have thought that he does not write. Well that reason was, and I am now heartily ashamed to confess it, inasmuch as it was a most senseless and selfish one, namely a feeling of pride. Pride in not being able to tell you I was prospering, getting on well, making money & pride that could not stoop to acknowledge even to you that I am no better off in a pecuniary way than ever. I was, but rather worse, and that in fact I am almost as poor as Dol.
I might of course have written to you without referring to this subject at all, and I only do it now by way of punishing myself for having entertained a feeling so thoroughly selfish on my part, and so disparaging to you, as if your affection could be influenced or affected by any change of circumstances. Having got so far, I pause and the thought occurs to me perhaps what I have just written may make my Mother uneasy, and she may imagine I am in absolute want; but thank goodness, no, the state of affairs is not quite so bad as all that. A man however may call himself poor relatively speaking when he has not got a single penny to spare, and such is my case at present. Perhaps it is just as well it should be so, for whenever I had money I could not keep it. Very ambitious was I at one time of making a fortune, but repeated failures in the attempt, doubtless thro’ my own mismanagement, convince me that idea is not to be realized, and that to earn a decent livelihood is all I need expect, and with which I ought to be and must be satisfied. Even this is somewhat difficult to do here now; when I wrote you last I think I mentioned that the times were bad then. They are considerably worse now, and an amount of destitution prevails in this town that you could hardly credit. Notwithstanding all this I do not regret having returned to the colony, for these adverse times of Victoria we must hope are only temporary difficulties with which it is better to contend in this country, than lead a wearisome life of battling with poverty at home.
In my last I think I told you I was going up to the bush, an old friend of mine, Mr Browne, having offered me a situation there. I went and remained there till within the last two months, when finding my services were no longer required, in fact they were not required at all from the first, I left, not from any misunderstanding or disagreement between us, on the contrary Mr Browne wished me to remain, but officially speaking I resigned, because I saw it was merely an honorary situation which my friend Browne offered to me when he thought I had nothing to do. On my return to Melbourne I set myself to look after some employment, but little time had I for this when I was attacked with a very severe illness which completely prostrated me for some time. An epidemic prevails here at present, which tho’ it goes by the name of Influenza, must be something very different in its nature to the disease known as such at home. I was laid up for weeks with it, and so much reduced I could hardly move, and only now am I beginning to get round again; when strong enough I must try and get something to do, for I am thoroughly tired of being so long idle. In the meantime I am stopping with Kilgour – who I must say has shown me every possible kindness. Such is my present position, not particularly bright or encouraging, but we must hope for the best.
One thing I must tell you about myself which I think will gratify you, as I know it was a matter connected with me about which you felt some anxiety when I was at home, and that is that I have been for some time practically almost a Teetotaler – entirely so as regards spirits, and I have found the beneficial effects of abstinence in this respect to be such that with the help of God I mean to adhere to it.
I suppose William told you of, or perhaps you have seen the letter itself I wrote to him some time ago respecting Lambeg. A most unhappy, inconsiderate and intemperate production; an ebullition of angry feeling and passion that I hardly thought I could be guilty of. In it I believe I made use of some insulting expressions towards my Father – and William, what they were I do not remember, but whatever they were they must have been undeserved and uncalled for and I feel exceedingly sorry I made use of them. If any excuse can be admitted in the matter the only one I can offer is that what I did was done on the impulse of the moment without taking time for reflection; if I had I most certainly would never have written such a letter, which no sooner was it gone than I repented of having sent. William’s kindness to me certainly merited a different kind of acknowledgment. All I can say is that again I feel truly sorry for what has occurred. I trust this may prove a warning to me for the future against being betrayed into violent outbursts of passion either in word or action.
Poor Captain Hepburn died in the beginning of this month; disease of the heart I believe was the cause; his death was rather sudden at the last, he had been complaining for a short time previously but nothing serious was apprehended till the day before his death. I did not even know of his being ill before I heard that he was dead. I would have gone up to Smeaton at once to attend the funeral but I was confined to bed at the time and could not stir. This is a great blow to the family. Father and eldest son both gone. George is the eldest son now living and I fear he is hardly competent to take the management of so large an establishment as that of Smeaton. You have heard of course of the outbreak in New Zealand of the natives or Maories against the Europeans. The natives not only oppose the appropriation of the land by the whites but want to shake of their allegiance to Kuini Wikytoria as they call her – and have a King of their own under whom all the tribes are to unite. This insurrection is becoming formidable and creates some alarm here. The New Zealanders are men that can fight and do fight well and hitherto they have had the advantage. The troops of all the colonies here have been dispatched to the scene of war; all that were in Melbourne left lately with the Commander in Chief, General Pratt. The volunteer movement goes on here with great spirit as well as at home. The different corps pay great attention to drill, exercise &c and present a very creditable appearance. They are our only military guardians at present and they seem fully aware of the importance of trust confided to them. Great interest is felt in Garibaldi’s proceedings – a subscription has been got up in Melbourne for the purpose of presenting him with a sword the hilt of which is to be of Victorian gold. Special religious services conducted by the various denominations have been held for some time every Sunday evng. in the Theatre Royal, and judging from the attendance, the Theatre being crowded on every occasion, the movement so far has been successful.
Altho’ we are in the middle of winter here, the season so far has been very mild, different it seems from the kind of weather you have had at home, where I see by the papers that it has been quite unparalleled in its long continued severity; the rise in the price of provisions must be telling very severely on the poorer classes. I hear that Beef & Mutton were as high as 1/6 p lb. I read of some fearful disasters occurring on the coast. Is Ireland going to be abandoned altogether by the Irish? The emigration to America that seems to be going on, and the recruiting for the Pope must be draining the population considerably.
I pity poor Aunt Hamilton very much, how
desolate she must feel deprived now of all her children. James’ loss must have
been a sad affliction to her. John Morgan’s death must have been felt severely
by his Father & Mother, more particularly from the circumstances connected
with it, far from his home and among strangers. And now my dear Mother – I must
conclude for the present. I heard from Charlotte & mean to write to her soon.
Give my most affectionate love to Father and Livy who
m I am glad to hear
is well. Hoping in my next to be able to give you some better account of
myself, I am my Dear Mother as ever your affect. son
Back.... John Gayer of Dublin and children