Gems from History

Botanist and ‘father of evolution’ Charles Darwin arrived in Hobart Town in 1836 on The Beagle. He much preferred Hobart to Sydney Town:

‘If I was obliged to emigrate I certainly should prefer this place: the climate and aspect of the country almost alone would determine me… All on board like this place better than Sydney – the uncultivated parts here have the same aspect as there; but from the climate being damper, the Gardens, full of luxuriant vegetables and fine corn fields, delightfully resemble England. To a person not particularly attached to any particular kind (such as literary, scientific) of society and bringing out his family, it is a most admirable place of emigration. With care and a very small capital, he is sure to gain a competence, and may if he likes, die wealthy.’

The garrulous English writer Anthony Trollope wrote of his travels in Australia’s colonies:

‘It is acknowledged even by all the rival colonies that of all the colonies Tasmania is the prettiest… [it] may be said of the small island that, go where you will, the landscape that meets the eye is pleasing, whereas the reverse of this is certainly the rule on the Australian continent. And the climate of Tasmania is by far pleasanter than that of any part of the mainland… Everything in Tasmania is more English than is England herself.’
(Australia and New Zealand, by Anthony Trollope, 1873)

In January 1802, a French explorer, Nicolas Baudin, and his two small ships, Naturaliste and Geographe, staffed with artists, zoologists, geographers and botanists, ‘discovered’ and tried to learn about the nature and people of Van Diemen’s Land:

‘It is most extraordinary,’ wrote Baudin as he observed the shores that line what we now call the River Derwent, ‘to see that these dense forests, ancient daughters of nature and time, where the noise of the axe is never heard and where the vegetation is richer every day from its own products, can extend unimpeded everywhere; and when at the other end of the world one happens to see forests exclusively composed of trees unknown in Europe, of plants strange in form and various in their productions, one’s interest becomes more keen and more pronounced.’

French traveller the Marquis de Beauvoir arrived in 1870 and wrote of his explorations:

‘We took this road to go to Hobart Town, the capital; and would you believe that in this country, the nearest to the South Pole after Patagonia and Tawai-Pounammon, a classical English mail coach with four horses runs daily? We started at five o’clock in the morning; at daybreak the great outlines of Ben Lomond and Ben Nevis appeared to our left; it is the most smiling landscape possible: sometimes of fields intersected by hedges as in England, sometimes wild bush covered with herds; the metalled road, well engineered between rocks and torrents, is as good as any at home… Victoria is like an immense English lawn; Tasmania is a smaller Switzerland.’

Irish journalist John Mitchel was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1850. He and William Smith O’Brien, one of the

island’s most famous convicts, had taken part in the Young Ireland rebellion in 1848:
‘The mountainous southern coast of Van Diemen’s Land! It is a soft blue day; soft airs, laden with all the fragrances of those antarctic woods, weave an atmosphere of ambrosia around me. As we coast along over the placid waters, passing promontory after promontory, wooded to the water’s edge, and “glassing their ancient glories in the flood” both sea and land seem to bask and rejoice in the sunshine.’

Mark Twain, the American novelist, travelling through the colony on a lecture tour, arrived in Hobart in 1895:

‘Suddenly Mount Wellington, massive and noble like his brother Etna, literally heaves in sight, sternly guarded on either hand by Mounts Nelson and Rumney; and presently we arrive at Sullivan’s Cove – Hobart. It is an attractive town. It sits on low hills that slope to the harbour – a harbour that looks like a river, and is as smooth as one. Its still surface is pictured with dainty reflections of boats and grassy banks and luxuriant foliage… How beautiful is the whole region, for form, and grouping, and opulence and freshness of foliage, and variety of colour, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the promontories; and then, the splendour of the sunlight, the dim rich distances, the charm of the water-glimpses!’

Twain, true to his form, cannot resist the island’s contrasts:

‘And it was in this paradise that the yellow-liveried convicts were landed, and the corps-bandits quartered, and the wanton slaughter of the kangaroo-chasing black innocents consummated.’

Article: Tourism Tasmania


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