Blaxland letter | State Library of New South Wales

Blaxland letter

Jane Elizabeth Blaxland, c.1835, by unknown artist
Oil on board  ML 446

Jane Blaxland wrote this long, chatty letter to her sister Anna Walker, who lived in Tasmania and was unable to attend the Sydney wedding of her niece, Elizabeth Ritchie, to Charles Boydell on 2 May 1837. Jane has 'cross-hatched' her letter (written in both directions across the page) which was a common paper-saving practice in the 19th century.

In her letter, Jane describes the Boydell wedding as 'the gayest I ever attended'. She provides details of the dresses of the bride and her attendants and notes that the festivities went on for two days. The wedding breakfast for 26 people was followed by a sit-down dinner and an evening party, with many additional guests 'in the way of merry dancing boys & girls'. These included the 'laughing' daughters of Bishop Broughton and Charles Boydell's younger brother, William. The next day there was a picnic at Bondi and the party reassembled for more dinner and dancing at night.

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Transcript: Letter, 22 May 1837, Jane Blaxland to Anna Walker (Nee Blaxland) 

Newington, 22nd May, 1837

My dear Anna,

When I closed my last letter to you, I thought to have written again immediately, but in these busy times a month passes like a few days & I am astonished to think I have not yet fulfilled my promise of giving an account of the wedding, which did not take place 'till the 2nd of this month - it certainly was the gayest I ever attended and we kept it up for two days in good old style according to Mr Dowling's wish - We behaved most admirably on the occasion from the beginning to the end of the two days! and Harriotte bore the fatigue and anxiety of the whole affair with astonishing spirit and fortitude - the Breakfast she provided was handsome and well served - the Dinner good, and the Evening party very pleasant, now this, added to marrying a Daughter, was really much business for one day. The number at breakfast was 26, the only persons besides members of the Family were the Bishop, Mr Cartwright (his clergyman) and Mr & Mrs Townshend, Mr Boydell's most particular Friends, and the only persons he invited - nearly the same party assembled at dinner - in the Evening we had many additions in the way of merry dancing Girls and Boys - Mrs Broughton and her laughing daughters were amongst them - I wish exceedingly you and all your little party had also been amongst the number, Brother Walker too would have enjoyed it or I am much mistaken - Mr D was so elated that he proposed the party should assemble the following evening, which was gladly seconded by all - so after a picnic in Bondi Bay given by John & exceedingly pleasant we all met and danced the second evening most merrily away - the next day as you may fancy we were completely exhausted and glad to get home - I think I was never more fatigued. Poor Alick was the only one that suffered pain for all this pleasure, and he was very imprudent in the midst of a multitude of good things, and brought on a sharp attack of dysentery from which he is not yet recovered in strength - but I have not told you how well the Bride and Bridegroom behaved - most admirably and they looked so well! and spoke with such steady audible voices and did not shed a tear - now this according to my idea is most proper and they had my admiration the whole time. The Bridesmaides (sic) were first Eliza Dowling and Elizabeth Forster, next Martha and Susan all in white and then Loo, and I, in pale lilac which with the Bride's beautiful worked muslin pelisse over canary satin made a delicate assembly of colours and looked extremely well ranged around the altar where nine and twenty were standing of all ages from our dear Father who leaning on his stick looked a noble Patriarch in the midst of the group, down to Baby [Breton] who Mr Boydell begged might be present with [Eckards] old Mary Jones and her daughter Harriotte. Oh that with my pencil I could give you an idea of this most interesting assembly I ever beheld - there was almost every variety of Friendship, relationship and connection. The Grandfather acting as Father in giving away the Grandchild in the presence of the Mother, Grandmother, Step Father, Brothers, [Step Brothers], & Sisters (acting as bridesmaides) Uncles (John her guardian) Aunts (Bridesmaides) and cousins also Bridesmaides down to the third generation, with Friends and humble Friends good old Mary aside J Forster & Cousin were also there & George Gregory. Such a peculiar group is not twice seen in one's life - the Bishop was much pleased, and said he never attended so pleasant a wedding in his life - Baby was quite astonished and paid great attention to the whole ceremony she was perfectly quiet with surprise, and now tells every one she is married to the little ugly old man in the black and white petticoat meaning the Bishop and asks why he kept nodding his head over the book, a peculiar motion of the head he has while reading, which did not escape her - she is much improved since you saw her, both in temper and appearance - we had a letter from her Papa the other day wherein he says he shall not come out to join his regiment here as he first intended but he proposes going from England to India and returning here in 3 years should the climate spare him - his health seems improved and he and he does not seem to be thinking of marrying as it was reported, Mama, I think I told you of the pleasant letters we lately received from Mary & Polly's Billy Molle, as Baby says, her health seems quite restored by the Voyage, and she seems favourably impressed with the new world around her. Colonel Handson was exceedingly kind to them, on landing he was the first person they met on the Beach - he was waiting with his carriage to take them to Colonel Cadell's house, Mr Molle's uncle, with whom they were living when they wrote. You will be surprised when I tell you I am sitting alone in this large dining room the only one in the House - the blaze of the Fire and [Tas/Tat] snoring at my feet are the only sounds to be heard - Papa & Mama went to Luddenham this morning. John, George, and Arthur are at the Hunter, and Loo, & Uncle are dining with a party at the Bowermans - Alas! how the change that a few years has wrought with us strikes me now but I will not be unmindful of the many and great blessings yet spared to us, or I should be, than I am still less worthy. We have not heard from you lately - we shall be very anxious till we hear you are safe over your confinement - I should like much to be with you - but this is more than I can accomplish - Papa every day seems to dislike more the idea of our leaving home even for a short time we have not been from home on a visit, but once since you left and then I went with Eliza to the Campbelle's for only a few days - Louisa and I can never again go on a visit together as we once did we do not think it right to leave Papa & Mama, altho they are enjoying better health than usual just now - Papa's leg is well again I am glad to say - he walks without a stick -

Tell Susan - her Mother & Brothers are quite well they are living with Mr Riddle, her Mother as laundress and her Brothers to do anything their strength will admit of - Mr R says he is very much pleased with them they are so respectable in their conduct in general - I wish Mama had been fortunate enough to get them.

Now my dear sister I have written myself sleepy and stupid so I will wish you good night and god bless you, Brother Walker, and all your dear children and believe me my dear Anna ever your affectionate Sister Jane Blaxland.

Pencil Note:
Aunt Jane Blaxland's account of Cousin Eliza Boydell's Wedding