Page images
PDF
EPUB

RECOLLECTIONS

OF

BUSH LIFE

IN AUSTRALIA.

INTRODUCTION.

[ocr errors]

It is now more than ten years since Australia was at the zenith of its prosperity and reputation. At that time it annually attracted to its shores a considerable share of British capital and enterprise. Many of the resources of the country had been developed, with surprising skill and energy, by the Anglo-Saxon race, which has ever furnished the most industrious and successful colonists; and the progress of improvement was proportionably rapid. Australia was the land of promise. Companies were formed, which realized large profits. The most triumphant reports reached home by public and private channels, and these reports were confirmed to the fullest extent by the successful adventurers who returned.

A class of persons were induced to emigrate, who had hitherto never thought of casting their lot out of England ; and by all extravagant expectations were entertained-expectations which no natural advantages of the country could warrant, and no continuance of its prosperity could have fulfilled.

About the year 1840 the tide of fortune began to ebb. Immigration, the most important element of the welfare of an infant colony, was checked. The system of unbounded credit, which had produced its usual over-stimulating effects, was suddenly destroyed; and a panic ensued, bringing with it a series of pecuniary embarrassments, which almost amounted to a public bankruptcy, and caused a shock throughout the community, from

which the colony is only now recovering. 2d

Since this commencement of its adversity, Australia has been paying the penalty of having been over-praised and flattered in its prosperity. Its real advantages have been undervalued ; it has been blamed for faults not its own, and made responsible for casualties from which no country is exempt. In the overweening confidence of full-blown prosperity, the ordinary precautions had been neglected, the means usually thought necessary to ensure success had been dispensed with, and the most extravagant speculations had been made.

When the time of re-action arrived, an extraordinary fall of prices was the immediate consequence; and the over-sanguine colonist, who had ventured his all in the hope of a speedy return to the land of his birth with a competent fortune, found not only that the prospect of wealth was removed to an indefinite distance, but that he could no longer withdraw from the adventure, and that he must remain chained to the spot, unless he chose to retire with the loss of the greater part of his capital. · He had probably expended more on his stock and establishment than it would have been prudent to lay out, even if he could have had a guarantee of the continued prosperity of the colony ; and, in the moment of distress, he blames Australia for his disappointment, and not his own want of prudence and foresight.

Australia, it must be admitted, has failed to realize the expectations which it once had raised ; yet much that has been said in its praise is still undeniably true. Few countries have been more highly favoured by nature ; its many yet undeveloped resources, the interesting peculiarities of its animal and vegetable productions, the great success with which those of other countries have been naturalized on its soil, and its healthy and genial climate, all speak strongly in its favour.

It is not a country in which a large fortune can be rapidly made from a small capital; it is not a country in which thirst for gain will supply the place of knowledge of business, or in which haste and rashness will obtain the rewards of prudence and perseverance. In Australia, as elsewhere, markets are liable to be overstocked and prices to fluctuate ; like other countries, it is subject to natural casualties beyond the control of man; but it may be doubted whether, upon the whole, any country could with better prospect of success be adopted by the English

man who is urged by a spirit of adventure, or induced by the hope of improving his situation, to wander from his native land.

The pursuits of the interior, as is generally known, are chiefly pastoral,. and these necessitate an active, independent mode of life, which is congenial to English taste, and is singularly attractive to the young. In no position of life, perhaps (as will hereafter be shown), is business so much blended with amusement. For these pursuits the country still holds out an adequate encouragement, and will not disappoint the settler whose expectations are not raised unreasonably high.

If I am compelled to admit the ill-judged haste with which some of my countrymen entered into speculation in Australia, I must also bear testimony to the firmness with which they have met adversity. Whatever had been their previous education and pursuits, nothing could exceed the zeal and energy with which they have learned the business, and adapted themselves to the habits of pastoral life; and not a few among them, who had been brought up to luxury and refinement, have become so enamoured of their new existence, that they would not readily embrace åny other less independent, or, as we should call it here, more civilized.

During my residence in the interior, I was in the habit of noting down in

journal the principal events of a life so new, and the most interesting sights of a country so strange. I had at that time no idea of publication : my motive was to preserve, for my own satisfaction, the impressions made upon me by new objects while they yet retained their freshness; believing that, if it should be my fate to return to England, this record of my Australian life would be interesting to me hereafter; or that if my lot should be cast in the colony, it would be amusing to me to look back on the first impressions made by scenes which would then have become too familiar to excite remark.

It is from these notes that I have drawn up my.• Recollections of the Bush.'

Most readers know, or will readily guess, that “the Bush " is the name given to the districts which lie beyond the limits of the colony, and are occupied entirely as a grazing country. In these wild and extensive regions are now gathered such numbers of our countrymen, that in English society there are few who cannot mention some relation or acquaintance among the list of emigrants; and it is the hope of gratifying the curiosity of some of those who have thus an interest in our Australian settlements, which has cheered me on in the task of extracting from my journal such notices as, corrected by subsequent experience and observation, will present most clearly to the reader, in all its details, an idea of pastoral life at the antipodes.

The graver subjects of colonial politics, and commercial and statistical details, I leave to those who are better qualified to discuss them. My situation in a remote district, and the nature of my occupations, gave me no facilities for procuring any new or valuable information on these important points.

I have omitted as far as possible all beaten subjects, which, however amusing, have already been exhausted by others. It has been my object to confine my notices to scenes that I have witnessed myself, and to the life of which I have had eight years' experience, in the hope of making that experience serviceable to those who may tread the same path hereafter.

Bearing this main object in view, I have endeavoured to avoid all exaggeration, and to deserve at least the praise of strict impartiality-to write as one neither soured by disappointment nor elevated by success.

I would fain set before the young colonist's eyes, as clearly and dispassionately as I can, the mode of life he must embrace ; neither throwing over its hardships the air of romance and adventure, to captivate his imagination, nor drawing ludicrous pictures of its privations and incongruities, to shock his taste and love of refinement.

Such advice as my experience suggests I venture to offer; and if any one of my countrymen is dissuaded by a faithful account of a Bush life from adopting a course to which he is unfitted, or if any one, who still persists in his design of emigrating, is saved from the errors which have been so mischievous to many of his predecessors, I shall have the satisfaction of not having written in vain.

It is necessary to beg the reader's indulgence for the style of the following pages. I would not have shrunk from any degree of labour which might have been necessary to render them more fit for the perusal of the public, but I feared that, in making the attempt, I should deprive them of the air of freshness and truth, which I cannot but feel is their only recommendation.

« PreviousContinue »