‘Nine Years in Tasmania ‘
Louisa Anne Meredith (née Twamley) (1812-1895) married Charles Meredith (1811-1880) at Old Edgbaston Church, Birmingham on 18 April 1839. They arrived in Sydney in September 1839. In 1840, together with their young son, they went to Oyster Bay in Tasmania, where Charles’s father owned an estate named Cambria. The Merediths bought an adjoining estate, Springvale, and in August 1842 moved into their new home.
Mrs Meredith wrote an account of her life in Tasmania up until February 1850, which was originally published as two volumes in 1852. In her preface, she writes:
‘The great amount of misconception and the positive misrepresentations relative to the social condition of this colony, now prevalent, not in England only, but wherever the name of Van Diemen’s Land is known, also determined me to enter more into domestic details than otherwise I might have thought it pleasant or desirable to do.’
And it is precisely the detail which makes this book such a delightful read. Reading Mrs Meredith’s accounts of travel, her observation of the flora and fauna makes me yearn to have a conversation with her. There’s her account of trying to keep a possum named Willy as a pet. And a description of the Tasmanian Devil:
‘The “Devil” is the name universally given here to the Dasyurus ursinus, and, as I have never heard any other appellation applied to this very ugly, savage, mischievous little beast, I must be permitted to use the one hitherto bestowed on it.’
Mrs Meredith writes of convict servants:
‘I have now lived above nine years in the colony, the wife of a “settler”, and the mistress of a “settler’s” home, and during that time we have been served by prisoners of all grades, as ploughmen, shepherds, shearers, reapers, butchers, gardeners, carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, shoemakers, house-servants, &c., &c., and (with one or two exceptions) served as well and faithfully as we could desire.’
Her account of George Robinson’s ‘capture of the natives’ reflects the views of the time:
‘The debt of gratitude the colony owes to Mr Robinson can never be overpaid; by his capture of the natives, he saved the lives of thousands of defenceless persons, and was the means of restoring that prosperity to the colony which the accumulating number of murders was fast undermining.’
I may not agree with Mrs Meredith’s views here.
Reading this book led me to read more about the Merediths. Charles Meredith served in Tasmania’s first House of Assembly, and in a number of colonial offices until 1879. Louisa Anne Meredith wrote several books: fiction, non-fiction and poetry and won medals for her drawings of wildflowers. She was also an honorary member of the Tasmanian Royal Society.
I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Tasmania’s colonial history.
For anyone looking for more information about Louisa Anne Meredith, this link (which takes you to a .PDF) may be of interest.
Louisa Anne Meredith – Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society