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3-231 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Smith, James,43
Narrative Discourse
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Plaint Text :
Private Written
Webby, 1989
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3-231-plain.txt — 3 KB

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Thursday 1 January
Last night the bones of Burke & Wills were deposited in their metallic coffins. The skull of Wills & feet of both had disappeared. Burke's skull a very fine one. In taking a cast of it some of the teeth dropped out which I procured. The woollen shirt of Wills still hung in tatters round his ribs. Mrs Dogherty (Burke's nurse) who had "stretched" his father & his mother, performed the last sad office for her darling, wrapping the cere-cloth round his bones & placing a little pillow beneath his skull. The room (the Royal Society's Hall) hung with black & dimly lit, with a catafalque & baldacchino in the centre, had a sombre & solemn effect. Wrote a species of requiem for performance at the Theatre Royal on the evening of the funeral. To the Exhibition of Fine Arts. The best local pictures are the "Weatherboard Falls" by E. von Guerard, a Canadian lake scene by M. Sonntag, and "Tea Trees & Creepers" by N. Chevalier, whose "Waterfall on the Parker River" has many fine points about it. But, alas for art in this colony! Guerard - the ablest, most conscientious & most industrious of the painters told me that his whole earnings last year were only £120 - less than the wages of any artisan. To the Theatre Royal in the evening - Akhurst's pantomime. Introduction very tolerable. Scenery poor. Chas Young as an oriental Dundreary excellent. Sang a clever burlesque of "Piff Paff" (Riff-Raff); the ballet girls have a clever imitation of the Maoris. Toute pensee traduite en personnages et en action, says Auguste Vacquerie, est drame, dans le sens large du mot. 
Friday 2 January
To the Princess's last night - "Wives as they Were", and the "Conjugal Lesson". Jefferson's drunken man is one of the best I have ever seen on any stage. The dull lack-lustre eye, the immobility of the mouth, the thickness of utterance, the limpness of limbs, the maudlin tones of the voice, the confusion of time, place & person in the memory, the dim sense of humour lighting up the foggy condition of his mind generally, the vague motion of the hands & the imbecile good humour of the man, are points of detail, each of which challenges a separate tribute of admiration. One special merit of Jefferson's acting is that he is absorbed in & by the character he sustains for the time being. To quote a favourite expression of his own, he never "travels out of the picture". He appears to be unconscious of the presence of an audience, & therefore never plays at them, When he is not taking an active part in the business of a scene, he fixes his eyes on those who are speaking, and does not endeavour to divert attention from them, or to defraud them of their legitimate applause, by the introduction of impertinent bye-play. In addition to which, he is scrupulous in "giving the stage" to the principals in the dialogue.
Wednesday 21 January
Public funeral of Burke & Wills. All business suspended. The procession about a mile in length, started from the Hall of the Royal Society, passing through Spring Street, Bourke St & Elizabeth Street to the new Cemetery. The footpaths lined with spectators, who also clustered on the housetops, on the awnings, at the windows, on cars, coaches, carriages & wagons, & wherever a view of the cortege could be obtained. From all the suburbs of Melbourne, & from the country districts people had been pouring in all the morning, & I should compute the number of persons who witnessed the imposing spectacle at not less than one hundred thousand. I rode in the same mourning coach with Bourke's