Archive for January, 2021

21/01/2021

The Reviv’d Fugitive: A Gallant Historical Novel

 

 

She render’d a Visit to Madmoiselle of St. Hubert, to shew her what part she took in that sorrow which that ill News did cause her, and resolv’d not to leave her very soon, she gave Orders to keep that Visit private, that she might not be disturb’d. They related to one another very agreeable things on the conformity of their Inclinations; they exclaim’d against that blindness of Fate, that had produc’d such cross oppositions in their Amours, in managing so ill their Inclinations; they both storm’d against the rigour of the Edicts, and a Thousand times wish’d to have them re-establish’d in the same condition in which Henry the Great had left them…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I last ventured into my list of books for Chronobibliography, lo, these many—well, not years; but as it turns out a year ago, sigh—I pointed out the increasing tendency, from 1690 onwards, not only for a novel to declare itself so, without any fudging about it being a true story, but for the fact that a book was a novel to become a major selling point.

We see this clearly in the title page of Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive—which unfortunately is one of those books where the title page is more interesting than anything behind it.

We’ve met Peter Belon before at this blog, as the author of the infuriating Sham Prince scandal-novel, The Court Secret, and as one of the translators of Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac’s Agnes de Castro: Nouvelle PortugaiseThere’s not a lot out there about him personally (do you know how annoying it is to search for information and have your own posts come up first?), but he seems to have been of French Huguenot extraction; while in 1664 he published a translation of a paper in French on “Sr Walter Rawleigh’s great cordial”, in which he refers to himself as a “student in chymistry”.

The best source of information about Belon turns out to be the 2019 book, Early Modern Ireland And The World Of Medicine: Practitioners, Collectors And Contexts, edited by a J. Cunningham. The chapter by Peter Elmer, Promoting medical change in Restoration Ireland: the chemical revolution and the patronage of James Butler, duke of Ormond (1610 – 88), discusses, “Pierre Belon, a Huguenot physician patronised by Ormond who was involved in efforts to promote a spa at Chapelizod near Dublin”, and offers the following intriguing comments:

In the same year, he sought to secure an ecclesiastical licence to practice medicine and surgery in England, testimonials certifying that Belon was a Londoner by birth, was well skilled in medicine and surgery, including optical ailments, and was well versed in all aspects of pharmacy and chemistry. No licence, however, was granted in 1664, nor in 1667, when it would appear Belon was once more turned down by the licensing authorities…

…which might explain why, like so many others, he turned to writing to support himself. Also—

A year later, in 1668, he would appear to have been taken under the wing of the court, where he held minor office as ‘one of his Majesties Servants in Ordinary’. In all likelihood, Belon had attached himself to the circle of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, whose passion for chemistry was second only to the restored monarch…

…which throws an interesting light upon Belon’s attack upon James in The Court Secret.

But though it references Belon’s writing, this chapter is (properly enough, if disappointingly from our point of view) focused upon his medical career.

Despite the patronage of two dukes, in 1690 Belon was still supplementing his income by writing. While the title-page of The Reviv’d Fugitive foregrounds “NOVEL”, its use of “historical” is interesting. Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl Of Salisbury, which deals with events from the 13th century, refers to itself as “an historical romance”, which is about right; while the anonymous author of Reginald du Bray preferred “an historic(k) tale”. Belon’s use of the more modern term is misleading, however: though it does touch upon real events, far from dealing with “history” as we think about it in this context, his work is set only some five years in the past. “Gallant” also seems an odd word to use, though perhaps it simply meant “of gallantry”.

Meanwhile, I’ve come across no specific reason for Belon’s dedication to “Her HIGHNESS the Dutchess of Brunswig, Lunebourg, and Zell” (Brunswick, Lüneburg and Celle); and frankly this looks like a shameless publicity stunt. A bigger issue at this distance is just who Belon was referring to: there was the Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen, who in 1690 married Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (thus becoming the Duchess of Etc.); but there was also Sophia Dorothea of Celle who, after much manoeuvring on the part of her parents, was declared Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle in 1680; who in 1682 married the future George I of England; and who in the critical year of 1690 supposedly began an affair with Count Philip von Königsmarck, with disastrous consequences for both.

Which, to paraphrase the poet M. K. Joseph, is interesting but not relevant. Alas, I can stall no longer in getting to the work itself.

The Reviv’d Fugitive bears an unfortunate resemblance to my previous entry for Chronobibliography, Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue. Both overtly deal with the effect upon French Protestants of the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the religious tolerance introduced under the Edict of Nantes in 1598, and forced many Huguenots to convert or flee—or die. In reality, both use this backdrop merely as the excuse for a bit of inconsequential amatory fiction—which seems particularly odd with respect to Peter Belon, given both his own background and his anti-James, pro-William writing. To be fair, there is a bit more substance here than in that other piece of nonsense, and certainly more of religion.

On the other hand, “inconsequential” is being polite. At least half of The Reviv’d Fugitive is almost pointless, a supposed comedy of love at first sight and mistaken identity, but which is (even allowing for the vagaries of 17th century literature) so badly written and spelled, it’s nearly impossible to follow at some points, and entirely impossible to be interested by.

(The available online copy is also a very poor one, with several patches of repeated pages; which at least has the benefit of making it shorter than it appears.)

Briefly, “the Knight of St. Hubert”, a French Catholic, falls in love with a beautiful young woman who he sees at the opera. After some farcical misunderstanding and general angst resulting from her resemblance to a young Marchioness who is involved with our hero’s cousin, unhelpfully called the Viscount of St. Hubert – no-one in this has a name – he discovers her to be a Mlle. de Chanlieu.

A friendship develops between the two cross-purpose couples, which expands to include our heroine’s brother, who completes the set by falling in love with Mlle. de St. Hubert.

The Knight is not particularly bothered by the fact that his new friends are Huguenots: as we will see repeatedly in English literature over the next hundred years or so, a “good” Catholic is one who is not too Catholic; we get this while the Knight is first hunting for his elusive love:

Those marks of a true right Hugonot, or Protestant, were not capable to divert him from the satisfaction he propos’d to inform himself throughly at Charanton, which is the place where those of the Reformed Religion have a Church allow’d them. He return’d to his Inn, well satisfied with so happy a discovery, and resolv’d to go thither the very next Day to Church. But it was his ill fortune not to find there what he sought after. The King had not yet caus’d the Edict to be Proclam’d, which forbids the Hugonots to suffer any Roman Catholicks in their Assemblies; and that which might have rais’d some scruple in the Knight, (who was an absolute worthy Person) could not yet produce any in him. He remain’d in the Church very quiet during the whole Sermon, which that Day was deliver’d by an eminent Preacher; and he being not a Romanist by meer stubbornness and Caprichio, he found nothing in it that was either horrid or black…

However, Mlle. de Chanlieu is not so accommodating. The Reviv’d Fugitive gives us an amusing sliding-scale here, suggesting that Protestants are more devout than Catholics, and wives more likely to be converted by their husbands than vice-versa. Thus, it is acceptable for Mlle. de  St. Hubert to marry M. de Chanlieu, because that could end in her becoming Protestant; but it would be wrong for Mlle. de Chanlieu to marry the Knight of St. Hubert, because that might end in her becoming Catholic.

These quibbles are Belon’s, however: Mlle de Chanlieu is stauncher in her feeling that in marrying the Knight, she would be putting her love ahead of her religion.

She must struggle hard with herself, however, particularly in the face of the Knight’s desperate pleas—which Belon, in effect, presents as “Jesuitical”:

…he did particularise to her the secret motions of his passion, and omitted nothing to make her approve of so Heroick a Love. Must it be that through a diversity of Faith (said he) you should refuse to give he yours, which would render me most happy? believe me, Madmoiselle, the Orders of the Court shall never make me to act any thing to your prejudice: You shall ever be the Mistress of my Heart, and I shall sacrifice with pleasure my Fortune to my Love. Then would he change Discourse, to inform her after what manner they might Love without agreeing in their Religions; he seem’d by these Arguments to set both their Hearts in a perfect harmony, and that nothing could oppose it; he offer’d at making some agreements as to the differences of their Belief, but she for her part unwilling to venture any thing of that nature, called him a Love Casuist, she told him that he look’d on their difference in Opinions, but by the most advantageous Light, and that he spoke but by halves concerning their difficulties: Yes, Knight, I suspect you, added she, and If I distrust my self in Love, why may I not suspect you?

Mlle. de Charlieu’s battle with herself causes her to blow hot and cold upon the two men courting her, the second being a M. de St. Sauveur, a Huguenot. She is bolstered in her sense that she ought to choose the latter by her confidential maidservant:

La Grange, (so was the Maid nam’d) who knew after what manner she was to manage her Mistresses mind, had never directly oppos’d herself to her pleasure, not to affrighten her passion on the suddain, she had contented her self ’till then, to dexterously insinuate to her, without affectation, some hatred for all that was Catholick, and whether through that Motive, or for some other secret Reasons, she never ceas’d speaking well of St. Sauveur; yet perceiving that now her heart was on the point of determination, she made her so powerful a representation of the evil consequences which see did foresee, thereby to retard the course of a tenderness, which was taking a Road so contrary to her desires, that at last she did quite byass her. She said that so strong a passion could not be cur’d, but by violent Remedies; that to that effect, she was accustom her self with some Gentleman worthy of her; that that was an easie way to destroy the Ideas of a primary flame…

We subsequently learn that what looks like La Grange’s devotion to the cause, and to an extent is, is significantly encouraged by fat payments from St. Sauveur.

St. Sauveur’s courtship of Mlle. de Chanlieu is facilitated by the Knight’s absence upon his military duties. We get some “historical” background here, though of events of only a few years prior, with the Knight being called away to participate in the Siege of Luxembourg. (I think Belon has his dates wrong here, placing the Edict of Fontainebleau before the siege when it was the other way around, 1684 and 1685, respectively.)

Though Mlle. de Chanlieu does not love St. Sauveur, she has no doubt of his love for her. She is even morbidly attracted by the idea of martyring herself for her religion by marrying him; and she is weakening towards him when word is received that the Knight has been wounded, and is suffering from a dangerous fever. This causes a total revulsion in Mlle. de Chanlieu’s feelings: she can no longer pretend, to herself or others, the strength of her love for the Knight.

Peter Belon’s presentation of the struggle between romantic love and religious devotion is completely unpersuasive, too much telling and very little showing, with neither party displaying much sincerity about the latter; but in the next section of The Reviv’d Fugitive he is horribly convincing—because in St. Sauveur’s reaction to his rejection, he offers, alas, nothing that is not depressingly recognisable to this day:

    …his Resentment prevail’d above his reason, and vex’d to have been the Cully of a Woman, he resolv’d to have no considerations for a Person who had so little regard for him.
    There is nothing so dangerous as a Lover, who thinks himself play’d upon by that Person of whom he is favour’d, his Love frequently degenerates into fury, and nothing is capable to put a stop to his fatal designs. St. Sauveur resenting a wrong which he look’d on as the highest of scorn, prepossess’d on the other hand with his good Qualities, pass’d on the sudden into extravagancies, and resolv’d to revenge himself, at any rate forever. He remember’d that an Italian had frequently mention’d to him a compos’d Perfume, which might easily be inclos’d in a Packet of Letters, and which at the very first opening would attack with his suttle and corrosive parts, whatsoever offer’d it self to them.
    He was not ignorant how jealous a young Lady is of her Beauty, and that treachery seem’d to him proper for his revenge, he was resolv’d to make use of it, to punish that which he call’d the infidelity of a Demon…

Belon also offers the following piece of editorialisation…and ditto:

Without dispute, Love frequently produces a strange Metamorphoses, and if it is a fine thing in it self, he yet sometimes begets Monsters. St. Sauveur had always pass’d for a brave and good Man, incapable of an ill Action, and some little vanity which he naturally had, did not hinder but that he had acquir’d the Reputation and Esteem of gallant Men. Mean time his Passion having seiz’d his Brain, he fansied that he had right to revenge himself of an unconstancy, and his despised flame continually offering it self to his Eyes, he resolv’d in that infatuation, to satisfy himself at the cost of his Honour and Conscience…

Having sent off his little love-token, St. Sauveur departs France for Holland, leaving behind a confidential servant to gather intelligence on his plan’s success:

…he learnt by his Man’s arrival the mischief which his Perfume had caus’d, in taking away Madamoiselle of Chanlieu’s Life with her Beauty; that that Tragedy had surpris’d divers Persons, and that at the first noise of it it had hastened to join him at the Rendevous. Never was Man more deeply struck than he was at that Relation, he fell into a kind of Swound, which depriv’d him of is Senses, and at last coming to himself again, he continued making reproaches to himself that mov’d compassion; he twenty times call’d himself the Executioner of the fairest Person in the World, and passing from invectives to a giddiness, he secretly felt a sorrow which devour’d him…

Yyyyyeah… Not much “compassion” over here, I must say.

But while St. Sauveur is left to his deserved torments of conscience, Belon relieves the reader’s misapprehension. It turns out that the victim was not Mlle. de Chanlieu, but La Grange: she, still eager in her twin causes, intercepted the package and, believing it to be from the Knight, opened it herself to investigate the contents.

Returning home from the wars, St. Hubert is not slow to take advantage of Mlle. de Chanlieu’s softened feelings:

…St. Hubert, who knew what Corrective she made use of, did so well play his batteries that way, that he never shot at random; he set himself up for a Master-mender of both the Religions, and dexterously applying those softenings which Monsieur de Condom has made use of to delude the Reformed, he had perhaps led her into some of those kind of Pitfalls, if she had had less of inlightning, and of fortitude.

(Ahem. This gentleman, Jean de Monluc, later Bishop of Condom, advocated “freedom of conscience” with respect to religious faith, although reading of the fine print reveals he believed that the conscience of the Huguenots would lead them to obey the king and be reabsorbed back into the Catholic church.)

Matters then reach a crisis:

    The Edicts, and the King’s new Declarations did then cause an infinite number of innocent Persons to shed tears, and forc’d a great number to flye from a Countrey where their minds were kept under such a severe slavery. Madmoiselle of Chanlieu did so ingenuously disingage her self from those false shadows which Love us’d to lull her Conscience asleep, that she vow’d to follow the example of so many generous Fugitives, and to abandon her own Countrey…
    She openly chid her Brother on his sluggishness, and told him things grounded on so firm and Christian a Moral, that peradventure he had resolv’d not to be of the numbers of the Temporisers, if he had less permitted himself to be possess’d with his passion…

Mlle. de Chanlieu then calls upon the Knight to prove the depths and generosity of his love for her by helping her flee the country, an act that will effectively separate them forever. After several pages of angst and speechifying, he agrees: with M. de Chanlieu staying behind for the present to quickly put the family’s affairs in order, the Knight escorts Mlle. de Chanlieu and her new maid to the coast and arranges for some fishermen to row them out to a ship bound for England.

He soon has cause to regret his co-operation:

He frequently did go to the Sea-shore, as if to ask news of his Mistress; and some days being pass’d in an unparallel’d expectation of Letters; news was brought by another Packet-Boat, that the first had wracked against an Hollander, and that the storm was so high, that they had not sav’d so much as the Crew…

A friend and fellow officer advises the grief-stricken Knight to go to Holland himself, to inquire more closely into the disaster. He does so, but almost immediately receives confirmation of the worst in the sight of a gown he knows very well to be Mlle. de Chanlieu’s hanging in a merchant’s window. The shopkeeper admits that he bought it from a man who had been among those scavenging the debris from the wreck, which was tossed up on the shoreline.

Travelling around aimlessly, except in an effort to assuage his grief, the Knight ends up in the Hague—as it turns out, in the very rooms previously occupied by St. Sauveur. There he finds papers left behind that spell out the entirety of his connection with Mlle. de Chanlieu, including the plot which ended (as he believed) in her death. Depicting himself as wracked with guilt and remorse, St. Sauveur declares his intention of expiating his crime by burying himself in the wilds of South Carolina.

(We won’t debate whether the punishment fits the crime…)

The Knight then learns that several bodies were also cast up on the shore, including one of a woman found with jewels sewn into her clothing. This final confirmation sends him back to his military service: he hopes that activity, in territories with no sad associations, will help him to move on. However—

    In that conflict of Thoughts, there happen’d one very surprising, which was that he believ’d, in going to make his Campaign the Ghost of that illustrious Person would reproach his Conduct, and would blame him for having made War against Persons that were of her Religion.
    That consideration did stay him in the Province of Dauphine; besides he being not over much prepossest with the Opinions of the Catholicks, he found that they acted with too much rigour against innocent Persons, which were charg’d with imaginary Crimes…

The Knight’s lingering ill-health is made an excuse for him to request leave. He ends up in Marseilles, where he haunts the docks and the shore—and where he presently gets a surprise:

…the pleasure which the Knight took to be on Ship-board, having obliged the Governour to invite him one day to Dinner on one of the largest that was in the Harbour; he was interrupted by an Officer, who gave him notice, that one of the Visitors had found some Protestant Subjects on a Dutch Vessel, which the storm had forc’d in…

Sure enough:

But how great was St. Hubert’s surprise at their coming! he thought he saw amongst them Madmoiselle of Chanlieu; and taking for a fantasm, what doubtless was a real Body, he fancied himself to be in an Inchanted Island, or that at least this adventure was nothing but a Dream…

The “reviv’d lovers” are left alone by the tactful governor, and we hear Mlle. de Chanlieu’s story: that it was her maid, not herself, who was drowned; that she was wearing her, Mlle. de Chanlieu’s, own dress with the jewels sewn into it, to keep them from the rapacity of the fishermen who transported them. (This woman sure does churn through maids!) Furthermore, her life was saved by a passenger on the Dutch ship with which her own collided, who turned out to be – surprise! – St. Sauveur on his way to America. He subsequently died, having confessed his plot to her.

This is all very well, but as the Knight’s friend, the governor, points out, the reviv’d Mlle. de Chanlieu is still a Huguenot fugitive, and strictly he is obliged to take her prisoner and report his having done so at court. He leaves the two of them alone again, and voila!—

    According to all appearance there was but little remedy to be found to wholly free themselves from troubles, and had she not resolv’d to dispute of Religion with him, at that time he intended to speak of nothing but Love, peradventure that she had never seen an end to her miseries.
    She was perfectly instructed in the Roman, as well as in her own, and the Knight, being accustomed to hear her frequently decide divers Controversial points, he began to receive that which proceeded from her delicate mouth as Oracles, and at last was of Opinion, that in spight of his Director he might enter into a particular examination of his Belief. The hard usage against the poor Protestants had already given him some Ideas of their Innocence, and of the Injustice of their Cause, he a-new consulted his own Conscience, and pierc’d by those Instructions that were given him, he believ’d that without allowance to his Love, he ought to be of the Religion of that Person whom he so tenderly lov’d…

The two are secretly married as quickly as it can be arranged and, after much necessary manoeuvring (involving, among other things, the Knight’s desertion of his military duties), make it safely out of the country—

…they pass’d through the Milanese, and took the great Road into Germany, and from thence the Road to London, where one may remain as incognito as in Paris.

 

15/01/2021

The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors, or The Heroes Of Cornwall

 

 

For many a mile, through many a sultry day,
In vain these heroes o’er the mountains stray,
When fortune deeming it was monstrous hard,
That men so spirited should be debarred
From falling in with Brady’s treacherous crew,
And proving what a valorous heart could do,
Made the keen eyes of all the party see
The looked-for robbers sleeping ‘neath a tree:
Gladly they saw the rascals snoring lay
Then fixed their bayonets and—ran away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop the presses.

We have spent some time considering the question of “the first Australian novel“, which despite arguments of provenance is generally considered to be Henry Savery’s Quintus Servinton.

Without disputing Savery’s title, it has recently come to my attention that there was an earlier work of—if not fiction, exactly, then non -non-fiction – the first poem to be published in Australia as a free-standing work – The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors, or The Heroes Of Cornwall: A Satire In Three Cantos by someone calling himself “Pindar Juvenal”. This humorous work tells the story of a band of citizens who, disgusted with the failure of the army to capture the Tasmanian bushranger, Matthew Brady, set out to do the job themselves.

This is today a very rare work, with only a couple of copies of the original document still in existence and its authorship still in dispute. The copy held by the State Library of NSW has a handwritten annotation on its title page (see above) suggesting that “Pindar Juvenal” was actually “Robert Wales of Launceston”…though who Robert Wales was is also in dispute. The Oxford Companion To Australian Literature refers to Wales as “an officer of the Tasmanian courts”. However, in a 1947 edition of the Launceston newspaper, the Examiner, an academic called Dr Morris Miller comments that he has, “Read a reference in the Hobart Town Courier of 1830 to Robert Wales as editor of the Launceston Advertiser.” Either one of these positions would have given Wales sufficient cause to hide behind a pseudonym.

But Wales is not the only one nominated for authorship. In fact, we have a competing annotation in the copy of The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors held by the National Library in Canberra, which states that the author was one James Atkinson, about whom I have not been able to find anything out.

The third nomination is Evan Henry Thomas, an important figure in Australian publishing at this time. In 1822, his poems first appeared in the pages of the Hobart Town Gazette: the first poetry to be written and published in Australia, albeit that it was not released in book form. By 1824, Thomas was the editor of the Gazette—and in fact was the author of the editorial against Governor-General George Arthur that got publisher Andrew Bent imprisoned for libel.

There was an effort made to sort out the authorship of The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors nearly twenty years before Dr Miller’s research of the 1940s. In 1928, the proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society published a short paper by Arthur Jose reporting on an exhibition of early Australian publications at the British Museum, including a copy of the poem by “Pindar Juvenal”. Because of the work’s great rarity, Jose summarises it.

He then poses a question that anyone reading this poem must ask themselves:

“Just a cheap witticism, you think, a ‘pipe’ of the kind fairly common in the early days. But at whom was it aimed? And why publish it in 1827, when Brady had been caught by John Batman early in 1826? Many of the details (I have not enlarged on them here) seem stupidly irrelevant if they do not refer to something that actually happened. But I cannot find in any book available this side of the oceans any chase of Brady that could have given rise to the story. After all, a satire must be intended to satirise something. Can anyone tell what?”

Jose’s plea received a response from the editor of the Proceedings, in which he highlights the poem’s historical importance and addresses the authorship debate. With regard to its intent, the editor references an article in the Tasmanian newspaper, the Argus, from 1911, which called the poem, “A satire on the military forces for their repeated failures to put an end to the bushranging of those evil days.”

He then points out perhaps the most important thing of all about this work: it was probably Australia’s first banned book. Copies of it, it seems, were literally burnt.

Perhaps we need to keep in mind here the lessons of Henry Savery’s other important work, The Hermit In Van Diemen’s Land. While much of its satire is today inexplicable, at the time of its first appearance it was absolutely understandable, to the point of getting Andrew Bent sued for libel again (this time, to his great cost). So just because later readers do not “get” the references is no reason to conclude that the satire has no point.

And in fact, I think the clue to the satire can be found in the details of Matthew Brady’s career—despite the fact that he had been captured and hanged the year before. Considered incorrigible, in 1823 Brady was transferred to the brutal penal colony of Macquarie Harbour on Sarah Island, from where, despite the “Alcatraz” conditions, he and a band of confederates managed to escape in a small boat. Over the next two years, Brady became one of Australia’s “popular” bushrangers: he had a reputation for not resorting to violence except in self-defence, and for considerate treatment of women.

The highlight, so to speak, of Brady’s career was his gang’s occupation of the town of Sorell, during which they captured the local garrison after ambushing the soldiers stationed there upon their return from an unsuccessful day spent searching for, you guessed it, Matthew Brady: giving them a night in their own lock-up.

Furthermore, Brady became one of the many waging a personal war against George Arthur—even issuing a satirical “wanted” poster for the much-hated Governer-General. The furious Arthur responded by escalating the reward for Brady’s capture, and then taking to the field himself. But while Brady was eventually cornered, and though his capture is attributed to the actions of John Batman (who is famous and infamous for too many things to be discussed here), it seems that the bushranger’s downfall was due to the infiltration of his gang by an informant.

So if we place The Van Diemen’s Land Warriors in this context, it makes sense as part of the ongoing campaign against George Arthur, despite the demise of Brady. Perhaps we should even read “Captain Snip”, the tailor who leads the band of “warriors”, as Arthur himself. Alternatively, perhaps the “warriors”, named only by profession rather than name, were meant to be sketches of certain prominent citizens of Launceston: a reading bolstered by the wish-fulfillment aspect of their ultimate fate.

(BTW, at the time Tasmania, or rather Van Diemen’s Land, was divided into two “counties”, with the territory north of the 42nd parallel, including Launceston, part of “Cornwall County”.)

After opening with the author’s dedication to his “best and most sincere friend” – himself – The Warriors Of Van Diemen’s Land begins with a statement of its manifesto:

War, and those gallant souls, I proudly chant,
Whose lion hearts did bravely fiercely pant—
To capture Brady, and his ruffian band,
Who reigned the terror of Van Diemen’s Land;
I sing the meeting of the valiant crew,
Who met to argue what was best to do,
What was the sure and most effectual plan,
To take the lives of Brady’s murd’rous clan;
Oh ! Wellington, the feats that I’ll report,
Will make thy brav’ry dwindle into nought;
The fields of Talavera—Waterloo—
Were nought, compared to what the muse will shew!

From here we pass to a gathering of citizens airing their grievances, among which we find the failures of the soldiers and so on up the chain of command:

He wished to axe the gentlemen if they
Did not with him most solemnly enveigh
Against the silly rules and measures planned
By Colonel Arthur, Governor of the land,
Who sent out soldiers to destroy the band?
Soldiers, indeed! why he himself would fight
A dozen such, and put them awl to flight!
But as he always acted on the square,
He’d rather have the angry battle fair,
And fight one soldier, if one soldier dare…

After agreeing that they must band together and take action, the next matter of business is who is to command this new militia. Each man suggests himself, and offers up his qualifications for the job. The town tailor is eventually appointed, he having beaten two men both hindered by wooden legs:

At last they all with one accord agreed,
The Tailor’s action was the bravest deed,
And each resolved to make this daring trip
Under the charge of gallant Captain Snip,
Who proudly—fiercely girding on his shears,
Exclaimed come on, I’ll clip the villains’ ears!

The band’s first venture comes to nothing, as it is belatedly discovered that they charged their weapons with boot-black instead of powder; besides the Baker loading his musket-balls and “powder” in the wrong order: mistakes which have some immediately positive consequences:

Well might the Grocer’s little ’prentice puzzle
To find the cause (though loaded to the muzzle!)
His gun would not go off and shoot,
That noble animal—the bandicoot!

Well might the wond’ring Baker try
To ascertain the reason why
His gun so obstinate refused to fire
And gratify his murderous desire;
Because if real powder had been used,
The musket would have still refused
To breathe destruction to the kang’roo-rat,
Which on a log most impudently sat…

Having returned home to fix their weapons, the band sallies out again and has – as it then believes – its first encounter with Brady and his gang: an encounter that (as per my header quote) ends rather ingloriously. However, after the initial panic, they steel themselves for the job – the bushrangers are, after all, still sleeping – and, creeping up, fire away:

…kindly harmless every bullet passes,
And spares the lives of five or six jackasses…

****

The startled animals their long ears pricking,
Jumped up, and proved themselves alive and kicking,
For, cocking their tails, o’er hill and dale they bound,
Leaving the warriors masters of the ground,
(Except a few who’d shut both eyes to fire,
And did not open either to enquire,
Before they ran, how many robbers bled,
Or whether the whole, or only part were dead…)

Others are in the vicinity, and drawn by the sound of firing. Suddenly finding themselves at gunpoint, the warriors are ordered to drop their weapons and hastily obey:

And thirteen men were hapless prisoners made,
Who thought if yielding would obtain them quarter,
T’were better to do so, than to risk such slaughter;
Meekly submitting, every hand was tied
Before th’ affrighted prisoners descried
Their stout and gallant conquerers to be,
From the 40th Regiment of Infantry…

…who of course were also out hunting Brady, and are disinclined to listen to their prisoners’ indignant claims of innocent citizenship. The captives plead their case before a magistrate who, after a few unkind words about their lack of bravery, discharges them. He also consoles the soldiers:

My gallant friends, I must allow to you,
There’s greatest praise and every credit due,
In spite of your unfortunate mistake,
An error very natural to make;
So natural indeed my mind conceives,
The devil himself would take them all for thieves…

The warriors are still getting over their fright when they walk almost into the arms of the very people who, at that moment, they least wish to see:

Alas! whilst busied setting stitches,
And mending his company’s ragged breeches,
The unsuspecting Captain Snip descries
(With terror equal to his great surprise)
The daring Brady with his lawless band,
Around himself and hapless comrades stand…

Snip does his best:

When thus to him did Captain Snip reply
With chatt’ring teeth, and tearful sorrowing eye
Upon his trembling and submissive knees;
My Lord—your Excellency—your Honour—please
To spare our lives, we’re not (as you suppose)
Armed as your Rev’rences most daring foes,
But only sportsmen bearing guns to shoot
The kangaroo-rat and bandicoot…

Warned by Brady that they have only ten minutes to live, the warriors fall to their knees and begin confessing their sins, which causes some eyebrow-raising amongst the bushrangers, who observe that they are innocent men compared to these “honest citizens”. After some debate, they agree to spare their prisoners’ lives—but mete out a round punishment first:

With cat-o nine-tails, and with one accord,
Most kindly liberally did award
To every private volunteer, the sum
Of fifty lashes on his naked b-m,
By way of what they called a pay or pension,
Due to their services and good intention…

Brady then confiscates the trousers of the sobbing crew, and sends them on their way:

In such a glaring dishabille, alas!
Through streets of Launceston compelled to pass
The girls and women vowed t’was monstrous rude
For men to walk about the town so nude;
While every ragged little urchin screeches,
‘Pray what’s the price of buck-skin breeches’?
At last they gladly each arrive once more
Safely within his own respective door,
Resolved no more in search of fame to roam,
To mind his business, and stay at home.

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15/01/2021

…girds loins…

.

{…girding noises…}

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