Town Life in Australia(txt+pdf+epub+mobi电子书下载)

作者:Twopeny, Richard Ernest Nowell

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Town Life in Australia

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INTRODUCTION.

The following work was originally written as a series of letters; but the epistolary form has only been partially retained. As it has necessarily been carried through the press without communication with the writer, who is now in New Zealand, errors may possibly have been committed, for which the editor rather than the writer is responsible; it is hoped, however, that these will not be found numerous.

A WALK ROUND MELBOURNE.

Although most educated people know that Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide are populous towns, I should doubt whether one Englishman, who has not been to Australia, out of a hundred realizes that fact. I well remember that, although I had taken some trouble to read up information about Melbourne, I was never more thoroughly surprised than during the first few hours after my arrival there. And I hear almost everyone who comes out from England say that his experience has been the same as my own. In one sense the visitor is disappointed with his first day in an Australian city. The novelties and the differences from the Old Country do not strike him nearly so much as the resemblances. It is only as he gets to know the place better that he begins to to notice the differences. The first prevailing impression is that a slice of Liverpool has been bodily transplanted to the Antipodes, that you must have landed in England again by mistake, and it is only by degrees that you begin to see that the resemblance is more superficial than real.

Although Sydney is the older town, Melbourne is justly entitled to be considered the metropolis of the Southern Hemisphere. The natural beauties of Sydney are worth coming all the way to Australia to see; while the situation of Melbourne is commonplace if not actually ugly; but it is in the Victorian city that the trade and capital, the business and pleasure of Australia chiefly centre. Is there a company to be got up to stock the wilds of Western Australia, or to form a railway on the land-grant system in Queensland, to introduce the electric light, or to spread education amongst the black fellows, the promoters either belong to Melbourne, or go there for their capital. The headquarters of nearly all the large commercial institutions which extend their operation beyond the limits of any one colony are to be found there. If you wish to transact business well and quickly, to organize a new enterprise--in short, to estimate and understand the trade of Australia, you must go to Melbourne and not to Sydney, and this in spite of the fact that Victoria is a small colony handicapped by heavy protectionist duties, whilst Sydney is, comparatively speaking, a free port, at the base of an enormous area. The actual production does not take place in Victoria, but it is in Melbourne that the money resulting from the productions of other colonies as well as of Victoria is turned over. It is Melbourne money chiefly that opens up new tracts of land for settlement in the interior of the continent, and Melbourne brains that find the outlets for fresh commerce in every direction. There is a bustle and life about Melbourne which you altogether miss in Sydney. The Melbourne man is always on the look-out for business, the Sydney man waits for business to come to him. The one is always in a hurry, the other takes life more easily. And as it is with business, so it is with pleasure.

If you are a man of leisure you will find more society in Melbourne, more balls and parties, a larger measure of intellectual life--i.e., more books and men of education and intellect, more and better theatrical and musical performances, more racing and cricket, football, and athletic clubs, a larger leisured class than in Sydney. The bushman who comes to town to 'knock down his cheque,' the squatter who wants a little amusement, both prefer Melbourne to spend their money in. The Melbourne races attract three or four times the number of visitors that the Sydney races do; all public amusements are far better attended in Melbourne; the people dress better, talk better, think better, are better, if we accept Herbert Spencer's definition of Progress. There is far more 'go' and far more 'life,' in every sense of these rather comprehensive words, to be found in Melbourne, and it is there that the visitor must come who wishes to see the fullest development of Australasian civilisation, whether in commerce or education, in wealth or intellect, in manners and customs--in short, in every department of life.

If you ask how this anomaly is to be explained, I can only answer that the shutting out of Sydney from the country behind it by a barrier of mountains hindered its early development; whilst the gold-diggings transformed Melbourne from a village into a city almost by magic; that the first population of Sydney was of the wrong sort, whilst that which flooded Melbourne from 1851 to 1861 was eminently adventurous and enterprising; that Melbourne having achieved the premier position, Sydney has, with all its later advantages, found the truth of the proverbs: 'A stern chase is a long chase,' and 'To him that hath shall be given.'

Passengers by ocean-going vessels to Melbourne land either at Sandridge or Williamstown, small shipping towns situated on either side of the river Yarra, which is only navigable by the smaller craft. A quarter of an hour in the train brings the visitor into the heart of the city. On getting out he can hardly fail to be impressed by the size of the buildings around him, and by the width of the streets, which are laid out in rectangular blocks, the footpaths being all well paved or asphalted. In spite of the abundance of large and fine-looking buildings, there is a rather higgledy-piggledy look about the town--the city you will by this time own it to be. There are no building laws, and every man has built as seemed best in his own eyes. The town is constantly outgrowing the majority of its buildings, and although the wise plan of allowing for the rapid growth of a young community, and building for the requirements of the future rather than of the present, is generally observed, there are still gaps in the line of the streets towards the outskirts, and houses remaining which were built by unbelievers in the future before the city. In the main thoroughfares you might fancy yourself in an improved Edgeware Road. In a few years Collins and Bourke Streets will be very like Westbourne Grove. The less frequented streets in the city are like those of London suburbs. There are a few lanes which it is wiser not to go down after ten o'clock at night. These are known as the back slums. But nowhere is there any sign of poverty or anything at all resembling Stepney or the lower parts of an European city, The Chinese quarter is the nearest approach thereto, but it is quite sui generis, and squalor is altogether absent.

The town is well lighted with gas, and the water-supply, from reservoirs on the Yarra a few miles above, is plentiful, but not good for drinking. There Is no underground drainage system. All the sewage is carried away in huge open gutters, which run all through the town, and are at their worst and widest in the most central part, where all the principal shops and business places are situated. These gutters are crossed by little wooden bridges every fifty yards. When it rains, they rise to the proportion of small torrents, and have on several occasions proved fatal to drunken men. In one heavy storm, indeed, a sober strong man was carried off his legs by the force of the stream, and ignominiously drowned in a gutter. You may imagine how unpleasant these little rivers are to carriage folk. In compensation they are as yet untroubled with tramways, although another couple of years will probably see rails laid all over the city.

It is a law in every Australian town that no visitor shall be allowed to rest until he has seen all its sights, done all its lions, and, above all, expressed his surprise and admiration at them. With regard to their public institutions, the colonists are like children with a new toy--delighted with it themselves, and not contented until everybody they meet has declared it to be delightful. There are some people who vote all sightseeing a bore, but if they come to Melbourne I would advise them at least to do the last part of their duty--express loudly and generally their admiration at everything that is mentioned to them. Whether they have seen it or not is, after all, their own affair.

In this respect a Professor at the Melbourne University, on a holiday trip to New Zealand, has just told me an amusing anecdote, for the literal truth of which he vouches. A couple of young Englishmen fresh from Oxford came to Melbourne in the course of a trip round the world to open up their minds! For fear of a libel suit I may at once say I am not alluding to the Messrs. Chamberlain. They brought letters of introduction to Professor S----, who proposed, according to the custom of the place, to 'show them round.' 'Have you seen the Public Library?' he began. 'No,' answered the Oxonian. Shall I take you over it?' continued the Professor; 'it is one of the finest in the world, well worth seeing; and we can kill two birds with one stone by seeing the Museum and National Gallery at the same time.' 'Well, no, thanks,' was the reply; 'it's awfully good of you, we know; but I say, the fact is books are books, all the world over, and pictures are pictures; and as for minerals, I can't say we understand them--not in our line, you understand.'

The Professor now thought he would try them with something out-of-doors, and proposed a walk to the Botanical Gardens, which was met with 'Don't you think it's rather hot for a walk? Besides, to tell the truth, one garden is very much like another.' 'But these are very large,' persisted the Professor; 'not scientific gardens like Kew, but capital places to walk and sit about in. There are a number of flowers there, too, which you cannot see at home.' Oxonian No. 2, however, came to the breach: 'We bought a lot of flowers at a shop in Collins Street yesterday, and we are going to send a hamper of ferns home; so that if you won't think it uncivil of us to refuse your kindness, we won't take up your time by going so far.'

Although somewhat abashed, the Professor thought of several other 'lions' which they might like to see, but was invariably met with the same polite refusal, till at last he gave it up as a bad job, and turned the conversation to general subjects. They had taken up their hats, and were saying good-bye. The Professor, who is a kind-hearted man, and was really anxious to be of service to the two friends, felt quite vexed with himself that he could do nothing more than ask them to dine. So, just as they were parting with the usual mutual expressions of goodwill, he asked in a despondent, almost prayerful tone: 'Are you quite sure there is; nothing I can do for you? Pray make use of me if you can, and I shall be only too delighted.' The reply was in a rather nervous voice from the younger man, who blushed as he asked the favour: 'Do you know anyone who has got a lawn-tennis court? We should so awfully like to have a game.'

The Professor introduced them to the head and to some of the undergraduates of the affiliated colleges close by, and heard very little more of them till they came to dinner with him a fortnight later, the day before they were to leave Melbourne. The conversation at dinner turned of course upon what they had seen during their visit, with which they declared themselves immensely pleased. But when asked as to the things which had most impressed them, it came out that Sundays were the only days they had gone out of the town; that they had not been to see a public institution or building, except their bank and the theatres. 'Surely you can't have spent all your time at the club,' said the Professor, 'though there is a capital library there; and, by the way, did you ever play tennis at Ormond College?' And then came the reply from both at once. It turned out that they had been to Ormond College to play tennis twice a day, except when they stopped lunch there. And then followed a technical description of the college tennis-courts, the Australian play, etc., etc.

But the cream of the story is not yet reached. The young men were to leave the next day for Japan, and the Professor waxed enthusiastic over the delights in store for them in that land of the morning. He quoted anecdotes and passages from Miss Bird's book, and repeated more than once that he envied them their trip. 'Well, yes, you know,' said the eldest, 'we've got several introductions; and I hear there are lots of English in Tokio, so that we are sure to get plenty of tennis.'

There are not many people who are likely to be so frank, not to say dull, as the Professor's friends; but how many people there are who travel round the world and see nothing! There is a moral in the story which is probably applicable to at least half of my readers, more or less.

Of the public buildings, which are scattered in considerable numbers about the town, the largest are the New Law Courts, which have just been erected at a cost of £300,000. They contain 130 rooms, and provide accommodation for the Supreme Court, the County Court, the Insolvent Court, the Equity Court, and for the various offices of the Crown Law Department. The plan is that of a quadrangle, with a centre surmounted by a dome 137 feet high. Still more elaborate and magnificent are the Parliament Houses not yet completed, the front alone of which is to cost £180,000. With regard to the architecture of these buildings, there is ample room for difference of opinion, but everyone will agree to admire the classic simplicity of the Public Library, erected some twenty years ago, which is planned with a view to the subsequent erection of a National Gallery and Museum, to complete a really noble pile of buildings. And it is well worth while to go inside. The Library is absolutely free to everybody, contains over 110,000 volumes, and has accommodation for 600 readers. An interesting feature is the large newspaper-room, where scores of working-men can be seen reading papers and magazines from all parts of the world. At the back of the same building are the painting and sculpture galleries, with which is connected a school of art and design. Behind these again is a museum. In the galleries there are a few good modern paintings, and a large number of mediocre ones. The statuary consists mainly of well-executed casts and four marble statues by the late Mr. Summers. The museum is only likely to be of interest to entomologists and mineralogists, the collection in both these departments being considered very good. The foundation and the success of the whole of this institution are almost entirely due to the late Sir Redmond Barry, who did almost as much for the University, which has also been exceedingly useful and successful from every point of view. As a building it is not equal to the Sydney University, although it possesses a splendid Gothic Hall, the gift of Sir Samuel Wilson, who now lives at Hughenden. In connection with the University is an excellent Zoological Museum, which is interesting to more than specialists.

Other fine buildings are the Government Offices, the Town Hall with its enormous organ, the Post Office, the International Exhibition--all built on a truly metropolitan scale, which is even exceeded by the palatial hugeness of the Government House, the ugliness of which is proverbial throughout Australia. But, perhaps, the class of buildings, which must in every Australian city most excite the surprise of the visitor, are the hospitals and asylums. There are no less than ten splendid structures in Melbourne devoted to charitable purposes. The Roman Catholics have built a fine cathedral, but it is not yet finished. The Church of England is collecting money for a similar purpose. Meanwhile the prettiest church belongs to the Presbyterians. None of the other churches are in any way remarkable. Anyone who has not seen the London Mint will find the Melbourne Mint worth a visit. The Observatory contains one of the largest telescopes in the world; and even if there are no races going on, the Flemington Racecourse is a 'lion' of the largest dimensions. There are four theatres, only one of which is well-fitted up. The visitor will notice that drinking bars are invariable and very disagreeable accompaniments of every theatre. One bar is generally just opposite the entrance to the dress circle, an arrangement which is particularly annoying to ladies.

Altogether, the public buildings of Melbourne do the greatest credit to the public spirit of the colonists, and offer substantial testimony to the largeness of their views and the thoroughness of their belief in the future of their country. There is certainly no city in England which can boast of nearly as many fine buildings, or as large ones, proportionately to its size, as Melbourne. And this is the more remarkable, remembering, that even in the existing hard times, masons are getting 10s. 6d. a day of eight hours, and often a very dawdling eight hours too.

The Botanic Gardens, just outside the town, are well worth a visit. They have no great scientific pretensions, as their name would imply, but are merely pleasure-grounds, decked with all the variety of flowers which this land of Cockaigne produces in abundance. Besides these, there are several pretty reserves, notably the Fitzroy, Carlton, and University Gardens, and the Regent's Park, which are all well kept and refreshing to the eye after the dust and glare of the town.

The proportions of the commercial buildings and business premises are on the same large and elaborate scale. Of the architecture, as a rule, the less said the better; but everything is at least more spacious than at home. The climate and the comparative cheapness of land give the colonists an aversion to height in their buildings, and even in the busiest parts of Melbourne most of the buildings have only two stories--i.e., a ground-floor and one above--and I can hardly think of any with more than three. The sums which banking companies pay for the erection of business premises are enormous. Thirty to sixty thousand pounds is the usual cost of their headquarters. The large insurance companies have also caught the building mania, and the joint-stock companies which are now springing up in all directions emulate them. The Australian likes to have plenty of elbow-room. He cannot understand how wealthy merchants can work in the dingy dens which serve for the offices of many a London merchant prince. In this matter, contrary to his usual practice, he is apt to consider the surface rather than what is beneath it; and it is an accepted maxim in commercial circles that money spent on buildings--which is of course borrowed in England at English rates of interest--is amongst the cheapest forms of advertising a rising business and keeping an established business going. Nobody in a young country has a long memory, and nothing is so firmly established but that it may be overthrown if it does not keep up with the times.

The general run of shops are little better than in English towns of the same size, if we except those of some dozen drapers and ironmongers in Melbourne, and two or three in Sydney, which are exceptionally good. Of these it may be said that they would be creditable to London itself. Both trades are much more comprehensive than in England. A large Melbourne draper will sell you anything, from a suit of clothes to furniture, where he comes into competition with the ironmonger, whose business includes agricultural machinery, crockery and plate. The larger firms in both these trades combine wholesale and retail business, and their shops are quite amongst the sights of Australia. Nowhere out of an exhibition and Whiteley's is it possible to meet so heterogeneous a collection. A peculiarity of Melbourne is that the shop-windows there are much better set out than is customary in England. It is not so in Sydney. Indeed Melbourne has decidedly the best set of shops, not only in outward appearance, but as to the variety and quality of the articles sold in them. Next to the drapers and ironmongers, the booksellers' shops are the most creditable. The style of the smaller shops in every colonial town is as English as English can be. The only difference is in the prices, but of that more anon when we go into the shops.

The river Yarra runs through the city, and is navigable as far as its centre by coasting steamers and all but the larger sailing craft. Above the harbour it is lined with trees and very pretty, and in spite of many windings it is wide enough for boat-races. Below it is uninteresting, and chiefly remarkable for the number and variety of the perfumes which arise from the manufactories on its banks. Next to the monotony of the Suez Canal, with which it presents many points of resemblance, I know few things more tiresome than the voyage up the Yarra in an intercolonial steamer of 600 or 700 tons, which goes aground every ten minutes, and generally, as if on purpose, just in front of a boiling-down establishment.

If the Australian cities can claim a sad eminence, if not an actual supremacy, in the number of their public houses, of which there are no less than 1,120 in Melbourne, I am sorry to say that they are as much behind London in their ideas of the comforts of an hotel as London is behind San Francisco. Melbourne is certainly better off than Sydney or Adelaide, but bad are its best hotels. Of these Menzies' and the Oriental are most to be recommended; after these try the United Club

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