# 24906

[DA COSTA, Benjamin Mendes, 1803-1868]

Manuscript letter addressed to early Adelaide merchant Benjamin Da Costa, from John Relfe in London, regarding Da Costa’s long-overdue payment for prints sent to him by Relfe which were to be sold in Adelaide. March, 1844.

$680.00 AUD

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Entire letter, bifolium (195 x 160 mm), manuscript in ink written on one side, headed ‘London, March 12 / 44’ and signed at the foot ‘Jno. Relfe’, the address panel on the outer side with London Ship Letter marking in red dated 13 March 1844, addressed to ‘B M Da Costa Esq, Adelaide, N S Wales [!]’; endorsed in Benjamin Da Costa’s hand ‘Relfe: 12 March 44 / Recd 30 Augt 44 / Ansd. 15 October 47 [!]’; complete, clean, and legible.

Transcript of letter:

‘Dear Sir,

I wrote to you on the 14th Sept. 1843 to solicit your kind & prompt attention to the disposal of Prints &c acknowledged to have been received by you as per letter received per Mr. Snooke 17th Aug 1842. I have again to solicit your attention to this application & beg to repeat that I shall feel much obliged by your forwarding per first opportunity the particulars of Sale & Bill for the amt. – by so doing you will confer a favor on Yrs. respectfully, Jno. Relfe’.

Philanthropists Benjamin Mendes Da Costa (1803-1868) and his sister Louisa Da Costa (1806-1898), were the oldest children of Benjamin Mendes Da Costa, a member of a wealthy Portuguese Jewish family that had settled in England in the eighteenth century, and his second wife. Young Benjamin and Louisa were, however, brought up in the Church of England. They emigrated to South Australia together, arriving in Adelaide on the Fairlie in July 1840. Benjamin, a merchant, set up his first business in Hindley Street, and later moved to premises in Grenfell Street. He prospered in Adelaide, acquiring in a relatively short time six town acres and fifteen country sections. However, after spending seven years in the fledgling colony Benjamin and Louisa returned to England in February, 1848. Benjamin eventually retired to Brighton, where he died in 1868; Louisa settled in London and did not marry. The major part of Benjamin Da Costa’s massive estate went to St Peter’s College (where a hall, house and scholarship are named in his honour) and to the Anglican Church in Adelaide, while most of the large sum inherited from him by his sister was donated to various charities and institutions, in particular hospitals: Louisa contributed the funds for a ward in the newly built hospital at Palmerston, near Darwin, and left a substantial part of her estate for the benefit of public hospital patients in South Australia (Louisa DaCosta Trust).

In this previously unpublished letter, John Relfe (who cannot have been the Cornhill bookseller of the same name, as he had died a short time earlier) is courteous yet firm in his insistence that Da Costa owes him money: an unspecified sum is long overdue to Relfe for the consignment of prints shipped to Da Costa in Adelaide almost two years prior. Da Costa’s own annotation on the letter records that almost another three years passed before Da Costa deigned to send Relfe a reply to his request: he answered this letter on 15 October, 1847.

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