AUSTRALIA VOYAGES SKETCHBOOK by the Wife of the Commander in Chief, Australia Station

Emily Cecilia Bowden-Smith & Nathaniel Bowden-Smith
Sketchbook and diary recording a round trip to Australia aboard Conrad’s last ship, written by the wife of the Commander in Chief of the Australi… Read more
Published in 1894 by N/A.

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AUSTRALIA VOYAGES SKETCHBOOK by the Wife of the Commander in Chief, Australia Station by Emily Cecilia Bowden-Smith & Nathaniel Bowden-Smith

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Sketchbook and diary recording a round trip to Australia aboard Conrad’s last ship, written by the wife of the Commander in Chief of the Australia Station and including a drawing of a kangaroo hunt.

Quarto hessian-covered sketchbook with tie; worn and marked, possibly a pencilled sketch on the upper cover which is inscribed with the artist’s initials: ‘E.C.B.S. 1896’. Yellow coated pastedown and flyleaf. The sketchbook was bought by Nathaniel Bowden-Smith in the UK while he was Commander in Chief of the Australia Station, recording its purchase on the flyleaf: ‘N. C. Bowden-Smith April 17th 1894 bought at Lymington while staying at Tolland Bay. I [lost due to trimming of 3cm of foreedge]’ Below this is a further pencilled inscription: ‘E.C. Bowden-Smith “Torrens” Oct 16 1896’ as well as various calculations and a sketch of a ship. On the pastedown opposite is a spidery inscription by Bowden-Smith made in old age ‘My Mothan(?) old Sketch Book E.C. Bowden-Smith’.

There are 34 leaves and 2 stubs so originally a sketchbook of 36 leaves; the final yellow-coated flyleaf is lacking. Bowden-Smith has used a mixture of diary entries and sketches. Her diary entries run to 12 pages with 13 full page sketches and a further 13 pages of vignettes, between 2 and 6 images per page, mostly ships. The longest sequence (pp9) of diary entries relates to Bowden-Smith’s round trip from London to Adelaide made in 1896-7, presumably alongside her husband on board the Torrens for the outward leg and the steamship Oroya on the return leg. At the end of the volume a second voyage to Valparaiso is briefly chronicled, beginning Sep 30th 1898 on the R.M.S. Magdalena. Additionally Bowden-Smith has recorded a 4 page list of ‘Birds of the South Atlantic & Australian Seas’ sometimes with reference to shooting, so ‘Wandering Albatross.... Shot from the “Torrens” Dec 7. 1896 in South Atlantic’.

Bowden-Smith’s diary entries for her round trip to Adelaide, 1896-7 detail her departure on October 26th 1896 from Gravesend, usually giving daily miles travelled with observations on sightings and events such as her unsuccessful attempt to fish with a ‘mutton chop’; fireworks to celebrate particularly rapid progress and occasional diversions such as ‘Had a shot with captain’s Winchester rifle.’ A couple of pages are very smudged; the writer mentions that they ‘passed a dead whale covered with albatross’ and on Christmas Day ‘our cabin flooded this morning, sea rough’ (sketched later in the volume). Bowden-Smith mentions having ‘seen some splendid icebergs’ and a ‘big fire’ on Kangaroo Island. The Bowden-Smiths arrived at the York Hotel in Adelaide on Sunday January 10th 1897; ‘found no letters at Cooks’ but enjoyed a drive to the Norton Summit and ‘went to the Theatre in the evening.’ There is the air of an official visit about the round of trips to the ‘Zoological Gardens’ (a drawing of a ‘Palm... from Chile, Botanic Gardens Adelaide’ appears later in the book) and Bowden Smith mentions being ‘photographed in morning’. Entries for the return leg record a trip onboard the Royal Mail Ship Oroya, which set sail on January 20th, 1897, holds a ‘Fancy ball on top deck’ and arrives at Deal in Kent barely a month later on February 24th. Nathaniel Bowden-Smith served as Commander in Chief, Australia Station, from 1892-5, being knighted in the summer of 1897 as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations - the couple’s first voyage presumably returning Mr Bowden-Smith to England in time for this event. Emily Cecilia Sandeman married Nathaniel in 1873; while serving in Australia the couple would have lived at Admiralty House, with its remarkable views across Sydney Harbour. A few years before their trip Joseph Conrad had served on board the Torrens and it was then that he wrote his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, meeting the novelist John Galsworthy on the vessel in Adelaide.

Bowden-Smith’s drawings begin with a full page sketch of the ‘Clipper Torrens 2,500 tons’, made on ‘Nov 18th 1896’ with annotations labelling each part of the vessel. A ‘Barque Nov 24. 1896 drawn from the deck of the “Torrens”’ follows with coloured images of signals flags as well as Trinidad from the N.W., and laid in ‘The Starboard boat, from behind the wheel...’ There are sketches of a misty Madeira and the lighthouse on ‘Cape Willoughby Kangaroo Island Jan 9/ 97’. Several sketches of boats including the R. M.S. Oroya, a schooner in the Gulf of St Vincent and a group of coastal profiles including Pages Rocks off Kangaroo Island, Cape Jervis and a ‘Katamarang in Colombo’. A single page of ink sketches includes a boomerang with a full page drawing showing ‘Kangarooing’ in progress - a Kangaroo under attack by two dogs; a third having already been killed by the marsupial; one page later is a drawing entitled ‘Digger drinking hell’ apparently showing an Australian bar building with a man lying prostrate in front of the door and another walking away. Other ships drawn later in the sketchbook include the S.S. Papanui of the New Zealand Shipping Company, the S.S. Aberdeen to Montevideo ‘passed through clouds of locusts’ before transferring to the S.S. Papanui, diary breaks off in May. Laid in, a group of postcards, photographs and ephemera from the Oroya.

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Publisher N/A
Date published 1894
Product code 8121

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