Friday, December 18, 2009

Bona Vista - Melbourne life in 1885

This is Bona Vista, built in 1885 and located in South Yarra.

It is now for sale. It is very unusual for a property in inner Melbourne to have this much land, let alone a lavender field:

and a lake:

and a turret and a ballroom (used by the owners as a kind of panelled games and trophy room, which made me feel a bit despondent).

So, I realise I can't afford this house (and trust me, it requires Quite a Lot of Redecoration Inside) but it did make me wonder what was happening in 1885 in Melbourne.

Elsewhere of course it was a stellar year for war torn boys own literature. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Germinal by Emile Zola, Arabian Nights by Sir Richard Burton, A Tangled Tale by Lewis Carroll and H Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines were all published.

And in Melbourne, were you to be invited to a wedding in West Melbourne you might just receive this invitation for dancing at 8 o'clock:

And the divinely seraphic Ruby Lindsay was born, sister to, and overshadowed greatly by her brothers Norman (who wrote The Magic Pudding), Sir Daryl (married to Joan Lindsay, see my post on these two here), Sir Lionel (influential art critic, illustrator, etchings artists) and Percy, all literary and artistic lions of the age.

I must say Percy, whom I had not previously heard of, sounds like the pick of the bunch. He is described in the Australian Dictionary of Biography thus:

"A charming Bohemian who enjoyed the company of convivial friends, Percy was the least ambitious of the Lindsays and the most competent painter in the family."

Ruby had some artistic talent too, and illustrated a number of books and theatre notices (like the one below) and also produced charcoal drawings.

(very rare and for sale for $6,500)

Tragically she did not live to receive either the acclaim or the equivalent to the nubile ladies and knighthoods which rained down on her brothers. She died in Ireland in 1919, one of the many victims of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

On a brighter note, 1885 saw the birth in Sydney of Frank Hurley, intrepid explorer and photographer with a clean modern eye:

and Dorothea MacKellar, author of the poem 'I love a sunburnt country', which is, I think Australia's national poem and makes me feel like crying when I hear it. You can read it here.

(Images etc (1)-(3) Bona Vista (4) National Library of Victoria (5) (6) Picture Victoria (7) (for sale) (8) (9) (10)


brismod said...

You always have the most interesting posts. I love the sound of the unambitious Percy.

Cath @ chunkychooky said...

You do have such a great blog. I hope to be described like Lindsay was too he sounds great... and if you are lucky enough to live in a house with a turret *swoon* and a lavender garden and lake * swoon and swoon* the very least you can do is use your ballroom in the way nature intended!!

Jane said...

Cath and Anita - we need more people like Percy in the world. It is also my son's name so I have a soft spot for anyone who also bears it!

Engracia said...

Jane, I love how this post began as potentially another interiors post but turned out to be a fabulous literary and artistic post about some truly wonderful Australians. It is a fabulous blog.

Laura said...

This is wonderful, and I have always dreamed of having a lavender field! I think we need more bohemians these days...everyone's far too ambitious. It's no fun.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

HI Jane
This is such an interesting post. I'm going to need to read it again to ponder all the interesting facts. And then.. run of to research them..

Funny I was only thinking last night of 'I love a sunburnt country'.. most likely as I was driving past the park and all the grass has turned to brown again.. Good thing we had a big downfall last night.

I'm off to investigate Ruby ... xx Julie

Millie said...

Please tell me Developers won't buy Bona Vista & carve it up Jane! I love, love, love Hurley's work, he's truly one of our great Aussie heroes.
Millie ^_^

Mise said...

"the most competent painter" - I love how that evokes an image of him working away on his sheds in his overalls, while all the others got on with their fussy ambition. Alas, they probably mean non-tradesman painting. I have such a yearning now for a lavender field. I enjoyed that post - it brought me places and now I'm going to check out the poem.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

This post was so much fun Jane. Vista is a magnificent place & I adore how you linked it to the times when it were built. My desire to visit Melbourne is now stronger than ever. You have opened up my world. Thanks too for your really..really kind comment this week. Wanted you to know our pup does not have cancer!! She may have to have surgery, but that I can deal with. Hope you and your family have a lovely pre-holiday weekend. I love the name Percy by the way. Just perfect. Hugs to you from Houston x deb

Pinecone Camp said...

I would love that house - I don't think I've seen that one before. Ahh, South Yarra is beautiful.
Now, about Joan Lindsay....I love Picnic at Hanging Rock. Movie and book. We didn't get to go there, on our last trip to Australia, but next time for sure. It's such a pretty spot.

The House That A-M Built said...

What a glorious place and such interesting times. I loved your comment over at my place re my chair.... the Queen or Kevin Rudd..., they wouldn't even be allowed to sit in it! A-m xx

brismod said...

How fabulous that you have a Percy in your family!

Jane said...

We actually have two because my son was named after his great grandfather, an English inventor of cars and other things. He certainly has the car gene. !!

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Sorry I'm late Jane...places to go, people to see !!
I absolutely love that house and I hope, whoever buys it will renovate it and bring the ballroom back to it's former glory, and, of course, the rest of the house. Do they 'list' houses in Australia like they do here in the U.K.?
If they are listed you can't do certain things to the buildings as they are of special architectural,historical or cultural significance.
Such an interesting post to me as, I love old buildings and hope that they preserve this one. XXXX

QueryCurio said...

thanks for the lovely blog on this grand property - i saw it in the local paper and went on Google maps to look at it, its the only substantial piece of land in inner city melb apart from Como, so its incredible that its up for sale

another amazing bit of history i found was that it used to be owned by Telstra! :D,3792052

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