BEIT, Henry (1826-1881); SANDILANDS, Edward Vincent (1847-1871); GUTSCHMID, Felix von (1843-1905)
Group of correspondence from Henry Beit, land agent, Sydney, to E.V. Sandilands, cotton grower and Vice-Consul, Fiji. 1870-71.
Sydney businessman Henry Beit (1826-1881) was a land agent specialising in the sale of properties in outback New South Wales and Queensland, and also in the Fiji Islands. His correspondent, Edward Vincent Sandilands (1847-1871), was a young English cotton grower in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji, whose acquaintance Beit had presumably made when Sandilands had been in Sydney at some point. These unpublished letters reveal that Sandilands was partially relying on Beit’s financial backing to make his Fijian enterprise a success. After the complete failure of his Port Morton cotton plantation, E.V. Sandilands was appointed British Vice-Consul at Levuka. His life, however, was cut tragically short when he drowned in a canoe accident in the Fiji Islands in 1871.
The group comprises five letters written in manuscript in ink on Beit’s personalised stationery (210 x 135 mm) with his printed letterhead ‘5, Wynyard Street, Sydney’ and embossed stamp ‘Henry Beit, Sydney’, addressed to E.V. Sandilands in Fiji (the first four to his Port Morton plantation); all are complete, in fine condition; the original envelopes are lacking.
I. Sydney, 7 May 1870. 1 1/2 pages. Discusses joint purchase of land on Ovalau, Fiji, by Sandilands, H. Marsh and William Scott, for which Beit is lodging the conveyance document and arranging payment of Marsh’s and Scott’s shares (£39/3s each) to Sandilands’ account.
II. Sydney, 28 May 1870. 1 page. Letter of introduction for Beit’s friend, Felix von Gutschmid, who is to visit Fiji and is ‘desirous of becoming acquainted with the manners & customs prevailing in those interesting Islands’. Beit informs Sandilands that he has ‘assured Mr. von Gutschmid of a hospitable reception at your hands, which will always be reciprocated ….’ The letter, which commences with the words ‘I have much pleasure in introducing to you my friend Mr Felix von Gutschmid’, was almost certainly carried by von Gutschmid himself.
Felix von Gutschmid (1843-1905) would later become a high-ranking German diplomat who would hold a number of important posts in exotic locations such as Constantinople, Chile, and Tokyo. His visits to Sydney and Fiji were part of a world tour on which he had embarked after completing his studies in jurisprudence at Göttingen.
III. Sydney, 15 June 1870. ‘Per Susannah Booth’. 1 page. Beit mentions that he has forwarded any incoming mail received for Sandilands; ‘You will have learnt all about the Magellan Cloud’ [schooner out of Sydney plying the Fiji route]; ‘I shall be glad to see your cotton, you are quite right in not sending it in driblets’; ‘Wm. Scott has taken up the Drafts for his share in the land on Ovalau, he is about to get married, & of course perfectly happy & I hope you are the same’.
IV. Sydney, 29 August 1870. 2 pages. ‘I have today received yours of the 17 & 18 July. I will pay Clark[e] & Hodgson [wine merchants] as you request’; ‘Robert Massie has gone to England, you should have stated the amount you wish me to pay to him, Mrs. Massie is here’; ‘I will do what I can for your cousin Mr. Corbett, but wish you had mentioned by which conveyance he is to arrive.’; ‘I have … received advice of the sale of your Cocoa Nut Oil at £35 to £36.15 less 2.5%’; ‘I hoped to have heard of large shipments of your Produce on the way, I have endeavoured to induce the ASN [Australasian Steam Navigation] Co. to let the Auckland st[eamer] call at Port Morton, if I had been able to promise some produce they would have done so, they may still – the Fijis are attracting a great many persons, I hope they may be successful.’; ‘I think it unwise to send you the deed for the Queensland lands, it is no use to you there, it is far safer here. If, however, you wish to have it, it shall be sent.’; ‘The news per mail just to hand is unfortunate, I send you the paper’.
V. Sydney, 17 March 1871. 2 pages. ‘You are altogether mistaken in supposing that Mr. Bennet prejudiced me, but your disappointments arise from your misleading yourself, arising in a great measure from an over sanguine disposition & inexperience. When you reconsider matters, you will come to very different conclusions, it is no doubt desirable to accomplish as much as possible in as short a time as possible in a place like Fiji – & if you could get Capital advanced to you, it would no doubt be very serviceable, but very few will invest in Fiji, who are not themselves disposed to go there, & I am not. I offered to accept your Drafts against shipments of Cotton to a moderate extent to enable you to purchase beyond your means, but nothing more.’; ‘Mrs Massie expected Massies Sea Chest containing many things of interest, what became of it, did he take it with him? Let me know as soon as possible’; ‘I received no Coral or Seeds or Plants by the “Traveller” – I suppose in the bustle you forgot them.’