# 41119


[SYDNEY; NEW ZEALAND] Correspondence of an English traveller, 1879-80.

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A small archive of ten manuscript letters by Ronald Le Scrimgeour addressed to family members back in England, written at sea on his outward voyage to the Antipodes on the SS Cuzco, in Sydney, and in Kumara, New Zealand, between September 1879 and March 1880.

Manuscript in ink, comprising a total of [36] pages quarto and [6] pages octavo; with several small pen-and-ink sketches (including a schematic sketch of Sydney Harbour); the ten letters are addressed variously to Ronald’s sister (‘Dearest Old Lady’), his brother Hyde, sister-in-law Edith, and children; on good quality paper, extremely well preserved, without foxing or insect damage.

Internal references tell us that Ronald was a university-educated gentleman from Malvern in Worcestershire. His four shipboard letters are eloquent, lively and conversational with humorous observations on fellow passengers and highly detailed accounts of life at sea. They include descriptions of São Vicente and São Antonio in the Cape Verde Islands, from where he writes to his sister that ‘Major Chard the Rorkes Drift man is on board’ the ship Egypt – ‘he dined with us the next night, so I can now say I have dined with Major Chard’, and of Cape Town (with a sketch of Table Mountain from the harbour).

I. Sept 14th [1879] S.S. Cuzco. [6] pp.

II. Sept 21st [1879] S.S. Cuzco. [4] pp.

III. October 8th [1879] S.S. Cuzco, Southern Ocean. [4] pp.

IV. October 19th [1879] off coast of Australia. [2] pp.

The five letters written in Sydney are crammed with vivid descriptions: first there are brief accounts of Adelaide – particularly its Botanical Gardens and flora, handsome civic buildings, and an exotic and delicious passionfruit dessert – and Melbourne, but the bulk of the content relates to Ronald’s time in Sydney in the summer of 1879, where he socialised extensively with the family of Frederick Darley, Chief Justice of New South Wales. He describes the entrance through the Heads and the majesty of the harbour, ‘the most lovely place there is’, with ‘altogether a more compact and finished look than Melbourne’; ‘The Exhibition is in a lovely situation on a promontory just above the Botanical Gardens and overlooking the Bay. The Gardens here are splendid, I shall go to them every day. Oh the moonlight, see Naples and die indeed, see rather Sydney Bay by moonlight and live to recollect it. Never saw such a sight, the light is like daylight, you can read by it easily’. A wide range of subjects is covered: cicadas (which he refers to as locusts); the Blue Mountains by train, including a trip on the Zig-Zag railway, and a bush walk to Govett’s Leap; an ‘expedition’ by steamer up the Parramatta River, on which he makes a sketch of Hunter’s Hill and visits the orange orchard at Ryde; collecting and devouring oysters in a little bay on the North Shore; a visit to the fine art gallery at the Exhibition; a visit to Brisbane, ‘a wretched place’, ‘the only pretty part’ being the Botanical Gardens; a description of a ‘Chinaman’, ‘there are heaps of Chinese shops in Sydney some of them have funny things in but I shall not tell you about them so what I bring home may be new’; visits to Maitland and Newcastle; a trip around the bays of Middle Harbour, where he visits a waterfall (Willoughby Falls?); he collects and preserves over 50 specimens of wildflowers; he befriends the grandson of Sir Alfred Stephen.

V. October 29th [1879], The Exchange Hotel, Sydney. [6] pp.

VI. Nov 12th [1879], Petty’s Hotel, Sydney. [4] pp.

VII. Nov 25th [1879], Sydney. [3] pp.

VIII. Nov 28th [1879], Petty’s Hotel, Sydney. [3] pp.

IX. Dec 30th [1879], Sydney. [4] pp.

In January 1880 Ronald departs for New Zealand on the Garonne. His final letter, written from Kumara on the West Coast of the South Island, contains an account of the journey overland by trap from Christchurch via Otira Gorge, and a description of a visit to the goldfields; a highly detailed account of the process of sluicing is given, as well as of the procedure involved in staking a claim.

X. Feb 17th 1880. Kumara, New Zealand. [6] pp.

Ronald left New Zealand – again on the Garonne – on 8 March 1880, returning to England via Melbourne, Adelaide, Suez and Naples.