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Monday, June 9, 2014

Advice to a colonial bride

In March 1791, almost immediately after her wedding, Anna Josepha, new wife of Philip Gidley King, boarded HMS Gorgon on the way to Norfolk Island. By the time she arrived there, in November, she was heavily pregnant -- and had a little boy in tow, Norfolk, the first of her husband's two illegitimate sons. And for the next five years she managed, somehow, in a tiny house on a small, remote island, not only looking after both the boys, but bearing children of her own.

One of her babies was Maria, born in 1793. In 1797, when Maria was four, the family returned to England. Two years after that, her father was appointed the next Governor of New South Wales, and gallant Anna Josepha accompanied him again, to become the first resident Governor's Lady.  Maria, however, did not sail.  She stayed in England -- until 1812, when she married Hannibal Macarthur, nephew of the Australian pastoralists (and founders of the Merino wool industry), John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Hannibal and his new wife set sail for New South Wales, where they set up their colonial home, The Vineyard, up the Parramatta River.

A letter written by a lady who was only known as "Mrs. E" either went with them, or followed on another ship. Though Mrs E was quite unfamiliar with the colonial frontier, she reckoned that running a household in Parramatta was pretty much like running a house in England, and so she filled the letter with wise advice.

And apparently it was useful, because the letter was treasured, and eventually handed down to descendants of the Macarthur family.

The book in which it is reproduced (along with recipes of the period)  was published by Greenhouse Publications in 1979. Margaret Barca did the research, and devised the format and general presentation. The design and calligraphy was by John van Loon.

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