Thursday, 25 September 2014

Ossian's Poems

In a collection such as the Library of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute, formed by and for its community, there will invariably be found many books with interesting and significant connections.

An early edition (1) of Fingal, an ancient and epic poem. In six books: together with several other poems, composed by Ossian the son of Fingal. Translated from the Gallic language, by James Macpherson   is just such an example.

A handwritten note on the title page indicates that the book was originally gifted by Hector McNeil to Robert Ross in 1762.

However our attention was drawn to a later inscription on the front free endpapers of this volume, in the form of a letter;

Ossian's Poems
These volumes are presented to Mr. John De Little, as a token of respect and admiration of that truly powerful parental affection for the welfare of his children, which  separates  him from those friends and relations with whom he has lived and had amiable relations for nearly a quarter of a century. The best criterion of their estimation being in their tears, and assertions of there goes "A truly honest man".
Should he enjoy a momentary pleasure, in perusing them It will more than compensate his (shall he name himself friend? And admirer ---
Bryan O'Reilly
139 Mecklinburgh Street
June 23rd, 1830

For many months we were unable to decipher the surname of the presentee, and it was only through the inspired work of FOLMI member Sue McClarron, that the name De Little was recognised and the question of how the book found its way into our collection could be resolved.

The date of Mr O'Reilly's letter is the key, because it was on June 26, 1830, that John De Little and his family left Ireland on the Cleopatra, bound for Van Diemen's Land, where Mr De Little was to take up the position of Superintendent of the Government Farm at New Town.

John De Little died just four years after his arrival in Hobart. Two of his sons, Robert and Joseph, had relocated to Launceston and were later joined there by John's widow. Robert and Joseph were important figures in the development of Launceston, and were connected with the design and construction of many of the City's buildings.

Both men served on the Board of Management of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute. Robert was Vice-President of the Institute from 1859-60, and donated one hundred pounds towards to cost of the Institute's new building. In 1861 he donated twenty volumes to the Institute's library collection, although the Ossian poems do not appear to have been among these.

It is more likely that this 12vo volume, rebound in brown calf with the binder's title Erse Poems, Vol I in gold on a red ground, was preserved among the De Little family for many more years, and found its way into the Institute in the twentieth century.

In publishing this first Irish edition of Ossian's poems, Richard Fitzsimons, a Dublin bookseller, participated in a literary sensation which lasted for more than a century, was an important marker in the genesis of the Romantic movement, and provoked a controversy which has exercised the minds of scholars to this day.

For the De Little family no doubt it was a treasured memento of the land John De Little had left, as Brian O'Reilly wrote "for the welfare of his children".

(1) Dublin: Printed for Richard Fitzsimmons in High Street, 1762. See the National Library of Scotland's Ossian Collection, Item 53 for this edition.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Rev H R Haweis, M.A.

In September 1895, Launceston was favoured with a visit from the Reverend Hugh Reginald Haweis, then undertaking the third leg of a world speaking tour which included Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific and Ceylon.

Rev. Haweis was a prolific author, noted preacher and gifted orator on a variety of subjects. Naturally the Launceston Mechanics' Institute was the venue for his public lectures in Launceston, and he spoke on three consecutive nights on the topics of "Music and Morals", "Tennyson, Browning, Oliver Wendell Holmes, with personal recollections and dramatic recitations" and "The music of nature and the music of man", the last with violin, whistle and other accompaniments. On the following Sunday he preached at St John's in the morning and Holy Trinity in the evening.

The Launceston Examiner provided extensive coverage of Rev. Haweis's lectures, describing him as possessing "a wonderful power of eloquence, his only fault perhaps being the extraordinary rapidity of his utterances." (5 Sept 1895, p.6) A small attendance on the opening nights was attributed to the unsettled state of the weather, but better crowds were reported at the final address on Friday night.

No doubt many in his audience would have been familiar with his ideas, as the Institute had in its library at least fifteen of his books, principally on religious and musical topics. His wife Mary was also a well-known writer and her book The Art of Beauty (1878) was held by the Library.

Additionally, the Library held copies of Cassell's Magazine, which Haweis edited for a time around 1870. It was under Haweis's editorship that Garibaldi, with whom Haweis had served in 1860, was persuaded to contribute his memoirs to the magazine.

Port. of Rev. Haweis engr. by G J Stodart from Music and Morals

Following Haweis's return to England he published a two-volume account of his world tours entitled Travel and Talk, 1885-93-95 : My hundred thousand miles of travel through America, Australia, Tasmania, Canada, New Zealand, Ceylon and the paradises of the Pacific in 1896. The Institute received its copy in May 1898, and surely readers must have turned eagerly to the second volume to read his impressions of Tasmania. If so they would have been disappointed. Despite the promise of the title, four pages only were dedicated to Tasmania, and most of those to a letter Haweis received from Bishop Montgomery on his return to London.

These volumes are now held in the Local Studies collection at Launceston LINC still carrying the original bookplates of the Institute. Other titles held in the surviving Mechanics' Institute collection include his best known works Music and Morals (in the 12th ed.), My Musical Life (1884), the five volumes in his Christ and Christianity series (1886-7), American Humourists (1883), and the early works Thoughts for the Times (1872), Speech in Season (1874) and Current Coin (1876).

A curiously belated account of the Reverend's life and career was contributed to the Launceston Examiner and published on 17 September, eight days after his departure for Melbourne;

REV. H. R. HAWEIS, M.A. (Communicated.) Now that this famous London preacher and lecturer has been heard in Launceston, some particulars concerning his life and work will be read with interest. Outside of Great Britain, Mr Haweis is far better known in America than in the Australian colonies, and the fact of his name not being so familiar to Tasmanians may account, in same measure, for the rather moderate audiences at his first two lectures in Launceston. He has preached and lectured on many occasions in the United States, and has also been one of the "Lowell" lecturers in Boston.
Mr Haweis was born in England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated and took his B.A. degree in 1859. After a few years' work as curate in the East End of London, he was appointed incumbent of St. James's, Westmoreland-street, Marylebone, where he continues to draw crowded congregations, his church, perhaps, attracting more leading men and women in the world of art and letters than any other in London. His best known works are "Music and Morals," " My Musical Life," (in which one can get a fine idea of Wagner's music), "Speech in Season," "Current Coin," "Winged Words," "Thoughts for the Times," " Arrows in the Air," and " Christ and Christianity." He has also written a number of hymns and "Unsectarian Family Prayers." Mr Haweis is a brilliant and a many sided man, and he has built up such a force of thought that it can be turned at will upon almost any subject, and his shrewd common sense, aided by his powerful intellect and subtle thought, enables him to dive beneath the surface and analyse swiftly and unerringly the various subjects which he takes up. As a preacher he excels in clear, logical, and common sense expositions of the Scriptures, and he thinks out and preaches upon the various social problems of the day. His language is simple, yet forcible, and it at once denotes the scholar, although at times he can soar into beautiful imagery. His illustrations are peculiarly apt and very frequently humourous, and he delivers sterling home truths in such a manner that they never fail to carry conviction to his hearers, and his earnestness and the intensity of his thought often lead to that wonderful rapidity of utterance which carries his congregation entirely with him. The great charm about Mr Haweis is his personality; he is thoroughly natural, and there is a powerful magnetism about him which attracts one and all. As a clergyman he is ever ready to extend the hand of fellowship to preachers of other denominations, irrespective of their creed or nationality; he is essentially cosmopolitan. As a lecturer he is both original and humourous, and he has the faculty of completely riveting the attention of his audience the whole time he is on the platform. His subjects cover a wide range, and include music, poetry, the drama, and science, and he has also given a series of lectures on "American Humourists" He has lectured on "Violins" and "Church Bells," on both of which he is considered an authority. When in practice he was probably the best amateur violinist in England. He is also accounted an excellent judge of violins, and numerous applications are made to him by professionals and amateurs alike for his opinion, which is always freely given. Mr Haweis was at one time editor of Cassell's Magazine; he also wrote for Good Words, and he was on the original staff of the London Echo for leading articles and musical criticisms. He was one of the select preachers appointed by the Dean of Westminster for the course of Services for the People at the Abbey, and he has at times lectured for the Royal Institution. He was one of the first to advocate the establishment of "penny readings" in London. He is in favour of cremation, and he has written a cremation prelude entitled "Ashes to Ashes." This is necessarily a short and incomplete sketch of one of London's foremost preachers and thinkers of to-day, and of a man who in the number and variety of his talents is probably unique.

Perhaps if Rev. Haweis's publicity had preceded rather than followed him attendance at his lectures would have been improved. The Reverend had elected to travel to Tasmania independently of his Australian agent, R. S. Smythe. In Travel and Talk, Rev. Haweis describes Smythe's promotional skills thus; "in every town I entered, my name in letters two feet long, white on a pale blue ground, stared me in the face, at the railway stations, on the omnibuses, at the hotels. The descriptive handbills were wonderful. One might suppose the whole civilised world was nothing but one vast listening ear, waiting for the least whisper that might fall from my lips." (Vol 2, p.149).