Writing Lines 11

Letter to sister Frances Harris in Nelson, 29 March 1863

Holbrook Place
March 29 1863
My dear Frances

I received your kind letter yesterday and you may imagine that I was not a little surprised at the contents. I was going into the town when I met our little postman with three letters for me, so nervous that I was obliged to go into a friend’s house to read them. I had been looking forward to Kate’s marriage so long that at last the thought of it got entangled with the proverb ‘many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip’ and when the news did come it seemed quite unexpected.

I am really rejoiced that they have received the reward of all faithful lovers and hope they will live as long & happily as the beautiful princesses & kings’ sons in fairy tales do. How I wish I had been at home, it must have been such fun to get ready for a wedding in such a hurry, how you managed I cannot tell. Why did the ceremony take place in the Scotch Church? I hope you do not prefer it to the Church of England. The bride’s dress must have looked very pretty. Were they not both pleased with the presents? Did they know beforehand what they were? I like what you bought for mine very much indeed.

Give my very best love to Kate & Alfred & tell them I hope some day to pay them a visit. It happened rather strangely about the beginning of March it might have been on the fourth that I was buying some flowers and by mistake bought a beautiful piece of myrtle not thinking that is was a bridal flower.

I received a letter from Aunt Emma by the last mail with a pretty neck ribbon enclosed in it. She says she has received a very well expressed letter from you and wishes to include you in her list of pupils if you have no objection. She begs me to ask you, I am sure you will be very glad. Aunt Emma always criticizes my letters and points out the faults which I consider a great advantage. Do you ever write to Mrs Standish? I am sure she would be so glad to hear from you, she writes such kind letters to me. I hope Mary writes.

You must not believe all you hear about Frank, he has bitter enemies who are straining to destroy his character altogether. I have not heard any thing myself against him but I know evil reports have been circulated and which have been proved to have originated only in malice.

I received a letter from Susan last post, containing a lock of her baby’s hair (such a pretty colour). The letter was scarcely two months coming. I hope I shall see your dolls’ house some day, you have quite made my fingers twitch to make one myself.

One evening during lent I went to the Roman Catholic Chapel. I was not much edified or shocked, a great part of the service consisted of prayers similar to our own, but [the] principal thing lay in rising up & kneeling down which I most devoutly did fourteen times & also in repeating part of the Lord’s prayer, the Priest saying the other half the same number of times. Easter will soon be here, I wish I could go somewhere for a holiday. I would willingly give up all the expected amusements for a quiet [time] with a quiet cheerful family. The Opera company is expected, the circus & goodness knows what besides. I shall have plenty to put in my next letter. Tell mamma not to try her eyes writing to me. Tell Mary I like her essay on Charity, I have not written mine yet.

I have sent the verses you asked for. Mr D.V. said they were very good so I was not likely to lose them.

I meant to have written a very proper affectionate letter to Kate but alas! though the spirit was willing the brain would only suggest vile rhymes, so if Kate is indignant I will write very properly next time.

MS copy of letter to sister Frances Emma Harris, Nelson. Written at Holbrook Place, Hobart, Tasmania, 29 Mar 1863. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Single folio folded in half, watermarked Hammond Manufacturing Stationer.

Holbrook Place
One of three major roads bounding Birch’s Farm, the original 100 acre block that was subdivided in 1838 and 1844 and in 1857 became South Hobart. Holbrook Place was lined with mansions and was later named Davey St. ‘Settled by the merchant and professional classes, who wanted to get away from the noise and smell of Hobarton, South Hobart is Hobart’s first suburb.’ (Green)

The location of the house Charles Des Voeux rented in Holbrook Place is difficult to establish since there are no street numbers to pinpoint the address. Tasmanian Assessment and Valuation Rolls 1865-74 show that Des Voeux also rented (and at one time owned) a house at 138 Macquarie St. The Holbrook Place house, owned by Edmund Hodgson, is likely to have been near the present-day intersection of Davey St with Darcy St. Both addresses were considered desirable and were twice advertised with Des Voeux’s name attached.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) 8 Feb 1871: 1. Advertising. To let, the house, no 138 Macquarie street, at present occupied by C. Des Voeux, Esq. Possession on the first of March. For particulars apply to James Priest, 101 Davey street.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) 24 Nov 1874: 4.

ADVERTISING. Elegant & Superior household furniture and effects, Handsome cottage piano, silver plate & plated ware, &c. At Holbrook Place. GUESDON & WESTBROOK Have been favoured with instructions from Charles Des Voeux, Esq. (who is proceeding to Europe), to sell by auction, at his residence, Holbrook Place, THIS DAY, the 26 th November, at 11 o’clock, THE WHOLE OF HIS HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE AND EFFECTS, cottage piano, plate and plated ware, as follows: –

Why did the ceremony take place in the Scotch Church?

Trinity Church, Nelson, was established in 1849. It was built of wood rather than brick due to fears about earthquake resistance in the wake of the 1848 earthquakes in Wellington.

Nelson Examiner 7 Mar 1863: 2. Marriage. On the 4th March, at Nelson, by the Rev. P. Calder, Alfred William, second son of the late Henry Moore, Esq., Roadun, County Tipperary, Ireland, to Catherine, second daughter of Edwin Harris, Esq., C.E., of New Plymouth.

Give my very best love to Kate & Alfred & tell them I hope some day to pay them a visit
The Moores moved to New Plymouth in 1863, and Alfred resumed farming. Emily may have made good on her intention to visit when she returned to NZ in 1865. After arriving in Auckland from Hobart on the cargo vessel Crishna 14 May, Emily travelled south by coastal steamer sometime in June or July. (New Zealander 15 May 1865: 2) In late July she was a saloon passenger on SS Otago leaving New Plymouth for Nelson. She arrived in Nelson 30 July after being away from her family for almost four and a half years. (Nelson Examiner 1 Aug 1865: 2)

Aunt Emma always criticizes my letters and points out the faults
Direct reference to Emma Hill’s long-distance tutelage of Emily and her sisters. Aunt Emma’s letters have not been recovered.

I hope Mary writes
Mary Rendel Harris (1845-1932) was born in New Plymouth, NZ, and buried in Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, with her sister and brother-in-law Catherine and Alfred Moore. She married Carl Philip August Alexander Weyergang 21 Oct 1871 at St Mary’s in New Plymouth. August Weyergang died in 1904, aged 75, and is buried in Eltham, Taranaki. After his death Mary moved with her sons to Havelock North, then to Nelson. She was still in Nelson in 1925 at the time of Emily’s death, but afterwards moved to Marton where her married daughter Gretchen Briant lived.

Mary Weyergang donated Harris material to the Taranaki Museum on several occasions. As the surviving members of the Harris family, she and her children (and her Moore nieces and nephews) assume responsibility for the family records and paintings, as per the terms of Emily Harris’s 1910 Will which divided her estate between her sisters Catherine and Mary.

Children of August and Mary Weyergang:

    • Carl Herman Alexander Weyergang (1872-1932), married Minnie Constance Gilbert (c1876- 1971) 22 Sept 1909 in Nelson.
    • Ellen Gretchen Weyergang (1875-1954), married Edgar Llewellyn Briant July 1898 in Eltham.
    • Otto Philip August Weyergang (1878-1918), unmarried. Killed in France.

I received a letter from Susan last post,
Susan Brind, living in India with her parents-in-law and young daughter after the death of her husband two years previously. Susan (1834-1883) was the second daughter of John and Frances Newland, and had grown up near the Harris family on Frankley Rd in New Plymouth. James Brind and Susan Newland were married at St Mary’s in New Plymouth in 1858.

Their daughter Marion Susan (Minnie) was born in April 1859 in New Plymouth and the Brinds left for Calcutta in Aug that year. James died in 1861, and Minnie and her mother returned to New Plymouth in 1865.

John Newland’s diary charts Susan’s marriage, the birth of Minnie, the death of James and its aftermath. The Newlands received news of their son-in-law’s death 26 Apr 1861: ‘By the Airdale Mail Steamer this day we received the mournful intelligence of  the death of poor James Brind after a most lingering illness brought on by Sun Stroke and terminated in extreme paralyses.  He died on the Ganges Canal on his way to New Plymo. 26th. January. Susan his wife and child were accompanying him, she is in great grief and will for the present time remain in India. N.B.      The fatal visitation happened at Deyrah, Northwest Provinces, India, where he had a very good appointment as Assistant Superintendent of the Government Tea Plantation.’

Taranaki Herald 27 Apr 1861: 2. Died, On the 26th January, on the Ganges, on his way to New Zealand, after a lingering illness, James Frederick, eldest son of Colonel J. Brind, C.H., Bengal Royal Artillery.

Not long after Susan Brind’s letter reached Emily in Hobart, her father reported the arrival of a package in New Plymouth. Newland 18 Apr 1863: ‘Received dear Susan’s kind present from Scharunpore, India, almost everything arrived in splendid condition.’

One evening during lent I went to the Roman Catholic Chapel
Probably St Joseph’s Church, on the corner of Macquarie and Harrington Streets in central Hobart. St Joseph’s is the oldest Catholic Church in the city, celebrating its first Mass on Christmas Day 1841. (Hobart Catholic Parish: St. Joseph’s Church)

I have sent the verses you asked for. Mr D.V. said they were very good
Direct reference to Charles Des Voeux’s interest in Emily’s writing, and to her willingness to show her work to other readers. A different aspect of the Des voeux household is disclosed in a court report later the same year when Catherine Des voeux accused her cook Honoria Jane Foster of theft and Emily Harris, variously described as her nursery governess and housekeeper, was summoned as a witness in the case. Mrs Des Voeux’s accusations could not be substantiated and the case was dismissed by the magistrate.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) 28 Nov 1863: 2. Police Court. Larceny. Emily Harris deposed she was residing with Mrs De Veaux, and had charge of the household. Prisoner used to cook and wash. She had charge of the linen, and always put it in a cupboard. It was not any part of prisoner’s duty to put the linen in her own box. The box was locked, and she (witness) gave the key to prisoner. She had locked the box before Vickers came. She had not looked into the box before she locked it. She afterwards saw the box searched, and identified the articles produced as having been taken from it. The pillow slips produced belonged to Mr De Veaux. She knew it by the way it was made. She could identify the coarse towel produced by comparing it with another of the same kind (produced by witness). The apron produced belonged to Mrs De Veaux.

By Mr Lees: I don’t know whether the box was usually kept open. I made sure it should be locked on this particular day after the prisoner went out. There was an altercation between Mrs De Veaux and Mrs Foster about the loss of some half crowns, and there was an altercation. There was something said about sending the prisoner to the Factory.