Edith Mary Humphris.

Adam Lindsay Gordon and his friends in England and Australia online

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Online LibraryEdith Mary HumphrisAdam Lindsay Gordon and his friends in England and Australia → online text (page 1 of 37)
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Dear Sladen,

I am proud to accept youi' kind dedication of
this Life of Adam Lindsay Gordon, both as a proof of
your personal friendship and on account of my feeHngs
towards the subject of your memoir. Gordon was a fine
poet and a fine sportsman, and it is curious that in a
sporting nation like ours his great merits have not been
more generally recognised. As a sportsman he could
hardly be beaten in his own line. As a poet he had a
Swinburnian command of rhythm and rhpue without
ever letting the music of words overlay the sense as the
great master was so often tempted to do. In his racing
and hunting poems you can hear the drumming of the
hoofs, and he took his rhymes flying, like his hedges.
Then behind this robust, open-air Gordon there was another
man revealed in the poems, a proud, lonely, sensitive man
with something Byronic in his view of life. Most pi'ecious
also was that power of sudden pathos which he possessed,
an emotion which is so much more effective when in a
virile setting. Gordon was a true sportsman in that he
conceived sport to be the overcoming of difficulties, the
hard ride across country, the yacht in a breeze, the man
against the savage beast. He had a horror of pseudo-
sport, the wholesale purposeless killing of small birds or
beasts, the persecution of the badger, the otter, or any of
the other pretty wild things which give beauty and variety
to the countryside. We need in this country a more
healthy public opinion upon this point. I love that verse
of Gordon's — I am (juoting from memory and may not
be word-perfect —



" But you've no remorseful qualms or pangs

When you kneel by the Grizzly's lair.
On that conical bullet your sole chance hangs ;

'Tis the weak one's advantage fair.
And the shaggy giant's terrific fangs

Are ready to crush and tear ;
Should you miss— one vision of home and friends,

Five words of unfinisli'd prayer,
Three savage knife stabs, so your sport ends
In the worrying grapple that chokes and rends ; —

Rare sport, at least, for the bear."

Yours sincerely,

Arthur Conan Doyle.
July 16, 1912.



I The Life of Adam Lindsay Gordon ... 1

{By Douglas Sladen only)

II Famous Sayings of Gordon which are Proverbs

and Household Words in Australia . . 75

III A Talk with Gordon's Widow .... 79

{By C. R. Wilton, M.J.I.)

IV How Gordon Rode in Australia, as told by

His Friends 91

V Gordon's Connection with Major Baker (Sir

Thomas Durand Baker) . . . . .114

VI Reminiscences op Adam Lindsay Gordon . .119

{By his Ocmsin, Miss Fraiice.s Gordon)

VII Table of Descent of the Family of Gordon of

Hallhead and Esslemont 127

{Supplied by the courtesy of Miss Frances Gordon and
Col. Wolrige Gordon)

VIII Gordon's Father — A Cheltenham Colonel

Newcomb . . . . . . . .134

IX Adam Lindsay Gordon, O.C 142

X The Knock-out of Edwards by Lindsay Gordon . 160

XI Another Boxing Chapter — " Such as Jem Earywig

can well Impart" . . . . . .169

XII Gordon in the Cotswolds 177

XIII The Scene of "How We Beat the Favourite" . 190

XIV The Race described by Gordon . . . .199
XV Gordon and the Ever-faithful City — Worcester . 206

XVI "And Black Tom Oliver" 220

XVII The Steeplechase Riders — George Stevens, "Mr.

Thomas," William Archer, etc. . . . 237



XVIII Gordon as a Poet 254

{By Douglas Sladcn only)

XIX A Key to the Principal Allusions in Gordon's

Poems 287

XX Poems not included in the Collected Edition of

HIS Works .329

XXI Bush Songs attributed to Gordon . . . 350


I The Komance of Adam Lindsay Gordon . . 355

{By Douglas Sladcn only)

II The Descent of Adam Lindsay Gordon . . 366

{Constructed by John Malcolm Bulloch)

III The Gordons op Hallhbad ..... 368

{By John Malcolm Bulloch)

rv Gordon's Lively Great-grandmother . . .377

{By John Malcolm Bulloch)

V Adam Lindsay Gordon's Naval and Military

Kinsmen 386

{A Table constructed by John Malcolm Bulloch)

YI The Letters of Adam Lindsay Gordon to Charley

Walker 387

VII Other Letters written by Gordon, including
the Famous Letter to his Uncle, given in his
own Handwriting 420

VIII Notes on the Gordon Country in South Australia

MADE IN November 1887 430

{By C. D. Mar.kellar, Author of "Scented Isles and
Coral Gccrdens")

IX Reminiscences of Gordon ..... 438

{By the Hon. Sir Frank Madden, Speaker of the
Parliament of Victoria)

X Mr. George Riddoch's Reminiscences of Gordon 444

XI Mr. F. Vaughan, P.M.'s Reminiscences of Gordon 451

Xn Letters about Gordon, chiefly from his Literary

Circle 456


Facing page

Adam Lindsay Gordon on his Favouihtb Stbeplechaser
"Cadger" ....... Frontispiece

Drawii by an officer in the 14th Regiment at St. Kilda, Melbonrne.
(See p. 449.) Rcjwodiiccd by pcrviission of Gcorrjc Riddvch, Esq., of
Koorinc, South Australia.

Cheltenham College Aa it was when Gordon was at

School there ........ 1

Drawn by the late D. J. Humphris, architect of the old College
Chapel shown on the right, etc. ; grandfather of Miss E. M. Humphris.

Miss Frances Gordon, Daughter op Capt. R. C. H. Gordon,

Scots Fusilier Guards, and Cousin of the Poet . 6

Adam Lindsay Gordon at the Age of Thirty ... 6

From a daguerreotype sent by him at the time of his marriage,
to his uncle. Miss Gordon's father. By j)erniission of Miss Frances

Thomas Pickernell, Esq., the "Mr. Thomas" who rode

Three Winners in the Grand National . . .16
Reproduced from Bailys Magazine.

Black Tom Oliver . . . . . . . .16

(See Chap. IX. ) From a photogi'aph in the possession of the late
Edmund Holland of Prestbury.

Captain R. C. H. Gordon, Scots Fusilier Guards, Uncle

of the I'oet ......... 20

From a miniature lent by Miss Frances Gordon.

Adam Durnford Gordon, the Cheltenham Colonel New-
comb, Father of the Poet, and for Eleven Years
Hindustani Master at Cheltenham College . . 20
From a miniature lent by Miss Frances Gordon.

Rat-Catching with Variations ...... 30

A sketch to which he gave this title, by Adam Lindsay Gordon.
Reproduced by perinission of Miss H. IValJcer,



Facing page

The Traditionary Site of Gordon's Leap at Mt. Gambier 36

(See p. 37-8.) Reproduced by permission of the " Sov^th Australian

DiNGLBY Dell, Gordon's Cottage near Robe, South

Australia ....•■••• 38

Eeproduced by permission of the " South Australian Register."

The Cottage at Glenelg, Adelaide, where Gordon Lived

while he was a Member of Parliament ... 42

From a photo by the late S. Milbourn, Junr., given by him to
Mr. Sladen for reproduction.

A. L. Gordon when he was an M.P. in South Australia 44

Reproduced by permission of the Sydney Bulletin Go.

Gordon on "Viking," the Horse on which he won several

Steeplechases 50

(See p. 100-103.) Given by the late S. Milboimi, Junr., to Mr.
Sladen for reproduction.

Adam Lindsay Gordon in his Racing Colours ... 68
From a sketch by the Honble. Sir Frank Madden, Speaker of the
Parliament of Victoria, made after a race at Flemington, and
reproduced by his permission. " That tilt of the peak of the racing
cap was quite characteristic." — Sir Frank Madden.

The JNIecca of Australian Literature — Gordon's INIonu-

ment in the Brighton Cemetery near Melbourne . 74

Given by the late S. Milbourn, Junr., to Mr. Sladen for repro-

Mrs. Adam Lindsay Gordon 80

Given by the late S. Milbourn, Junr., to Mr. Sladen for repro-

EssLEMONT, Aberdeenshire, the seat of the Gordons of
Hallhead and Esslemont, now the Property of

Colonel Wolrige Gordon 118

Drawn by Miss Frances Gordon and her brother. Reproduced by
Miss Gordon^ s permission.

Xo. 4 Pittville Villas, Cheltenham, where Gordon's

Father resided when he first went to Chblteniiam . 134
Photo by J. A. Williams, Cheltenham.

No. 25 Priory Street, Cheltenham, where Gordon was

living at the time of his departure for Australia . 134

The house mentioned in "An Exile's Farewell." Photo by
J, A. Williams, Cheltenham,


Facing page

Trinity Church, Cheltenham, where Gordon's Father,

Mother and Sisters were buried . . . .138

Lithographed from a draiving by GordotC s friend, George Rowe.

Sweet St Mary's, the Parish Church of Cheltenham . 158

From an engraving by H. Lamb.

" Hark ! the bells on distant cattle
Waft across the range,
Throngh the golden-tnfted wattle,

Music low and strange ;
Like the marriage peal of fairies

Comes the tinkling sound,
Or like chimes of sweet St. Mary's
On far English ground. "

A. L. Gordon in " Finis Exoptatus."

Jem Edwards's Boxing Saloon in the Roebuck Inn,
Cheltenham, showing the Mantelpiece which caused
his Knock-out in a Eound with Gordon . . .162

(Seep. 163.) Photo hy J. A. Williams, Cheltenham.

Two Portraits of Jem Edwards the Earywig, the Middle-
weight Champion, who had a Boxing Saloon at
Cheltenham and taught Gordon how to Box . .166

He won all his great fights. He has the bird's-eye handkerchief
he wore round his waist in his fights e])read on his knees in the
left-hand picture. Photo hy Mr. Dimn, Free Library, Cheltenham.

Jem Edwards's Grave in the Cheltenham Cemetery . .168

Stephen Miles, the caretaker shown here, was himself a humble
follower of Jem Edwards. PhotobyJ.A. Williams, Cheltenham.

The Late George Stevens, Rider of Five Winners in the

Grand National 172

(See p. 243-4.) Mentioned in "How We Beat the Favourite."
By permission of his son, George Stevens, Esq.

George Reeves, the Cheltenham Riding Master, who gave

Gordon his First Lessons in Riding and found the

Money for Tom S a vers' Early Fights . . .172

From a photograph lent by the late Mrs. Villar, daughter of the
late Fred Marshall.

Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who brought the Order for
the Light Brigade to charge at Balaclava, and was
the first to fall 184

Reproduced from the Illustrated London News of 1854.

Knoverton House 192

The chief feature in the scenery of ' ' How We Beat the Favourite."
A typical Cotswold Manor House ; the fa9ade is very beautiful, but
the race passed on this side. Photo hy J. A. Williams, Cheltenham.



Facing page

Mr. Alfred Holman's (formerly Bob Chapman's) Training

Stables 196

A landmark of the Prestbury racecourse, on which Gordon rode
" Lallah Rookh " in the Berkeley Hunt Steeplechase, 1852. Mr. W.
Holman was the real winner of the race described in ' ' How We
Beat the Favourite." Photo by J. A. Williams, Cheltenham.

A Letter from Tom Oliver, with Directions to George
Stevens for riding " The Colonel " in the Grand
National . . . . . • • • .198

(Seep. 239.)

The Scene of " How We Beat the Favourite " (Knoverton
Lank) ........••

The stonewall that "Mantrap" and "Mermaid" refused is on
the right aud the fence with stone coping on the left.

The Wall in "How We Beat the Favourite" which

Gordon calls the Fence with Stone Coping . . 200

It stands on a steep bank. Both are 2>hotos hy J. A. Williams,

The Brook in " How we Beat the Favourite " . . . 204
"She rose when I hit her. I saw the stream glitter,
A wide scarlet nostril flashed close to my knee."
Photo by J. A. Williams, Cheltenham.

Sunday Recreations — A Scene on the Crowle Road . 208
A sketch by A. L. Gordon, to which he gave this title. It
represents Gordon and Charley Walker wrestling. In all these
sketches Gordon has a forehead curl. Reproduced by permission of
MissH. Walker.

The Old Plough Inn at Worcester from whose Stables
Gordon removed " Lallah Rookh." The Stables are
through the Arch to the left 212

Tom Oliver on " Birmingham " 226

Repi-odu^ed by permission of Mrs. Sliepherd, of the Stork Hotel,
Birmingham. From the oil-p)ainting which hamjs there.

George Stevens's ^Monument in the Cheltenham Cemetery 238
Photo by J. A. Williams.

George Stevens on "The Colonel," Winner of the Grand
National in 1869 and 1870, but called "The Unlucky
Horse " 242

Reproduced by permission, from the oil-painting in the piossession of
his son, George Stevens, Esq.


Facing ■page

Four Steeplkchase Sketches i?y A. L. Gordon . . . 256
Lent by Mr. T. D. Porter. Reproduced by permission of the
"South Australian Register."

A. L. Gordon Steeplechasing ^ 286

Drawn by himself. Reproduced by permisswn of Miss H. Walker.

The Stone which Marks the Place where George Stevens


He was riding "The Clown," named after the horse in " How We
Beat the Favom'ite." (Seepage 242.) Photo by J. A. Williams,

Bob Chapman (Hard-Riding Bob) 344

' ' There's lots of refusing, and falls, and misliaps ;

Who's down on the chestnnt ? He's hurt himself, p'raps.
Oh ! it's Lindsay the Lanky, says Hard-riding Bob,
He's luckily saved Mr. Calcraft a job."

A. L. Gordon, 1852.

Reproduced by permission of Mr. Charles Travess, late Huntsman
to " The Cotswolds."

The Jane of Gordon's Romance 356

Reproduced by her permission .

Gordon and Charley Walker. The Walk to Brighton

— A Deviation from the Path ..... 364

"Refused again, by Jove! What a bunker! Take it here,
man ! " "Hang it, the path baulks me : give us a lead over. " From
a sketch by Gordon. Reproduced by permission of Miss H. Walker.

The Morning op St. Valentine's Day in the Broughton

Barn two hours after Midnight .... 394

The native rats distmbed by foreign bodies.

Gordon. Is that your arm or a rat, Charley, moving close to

my head ?
Charley Walker. A rat, I suppose ; I'm lying still.
Sketched by Gordon. Reproduced by permission of Miss H. Walker.

On pagi

Gordon Walking in the Rain 397

From a sketch by himself, Eepvduced by permission of Miss H.

Gordon Winning a Foot-race ...... 398

Sketched by himself. Reproduced by pei'mission of Miss H.

Gordon Carrying a Basket for a Girl on his Walk from

Worcester to Cheltenham ...... 400

Sketched by himself. Reproduced by permission of Miss H.


On 'pagt

A. L. Gordon 401

Sketched by liimsell. Meproduccd by permisbio/t of Miss H.

Gordon Walking from Worcester to Cheltenham . . 403

Sketched by himself. Eeprodicced by permission of Miss IT.


1853 (?) 405

Sketched by Goidou, Reproduced by permission of Miss H.

Gordon on "Cadger," Winner of the Metropolitan

Steeplechase . . . . . . . .421

Sketched by Gordon. Reproduced with the letter to Captain
R. C. U. Gordon. By permissio^i of his dauyliter. Miss F. Gordon.


(By Douglas Sladen)^

At this moment every Australian is subscribing for a
national monument to Gordon, the poet of the Australian
Bush. It is well that this Gordon should rise in bronze
from the heart of Melbourne, as his boyhood's friend,
General Gordon, rises from the heart of Africa in the
Public Gardens of Khartum. But Adam Lindsay Gordon,
like Charles George Gordon, has, in the words of Horace,
created for himself a monument more enduring than
bronze by his life-work, and his life-work forms the subject
of this book.

The Gordon Highlanders as a regiment are nulli secundus
in reputation for military valour. And these two Gordons,
who were educated at the Royal Military Academy ^
together, and whose friendship in their boyhood is a matter

^ The chapters signed by Mr. Sladen are written entirely by hiin. He
solely is responsible tor the opinions expressed in them.

^ General T. Bland Strange, R.A., who was at the R.M.A., Woolwich,
with both of them, and to whom I owe some of the most valuable infor-
mation about the poet's youth, wrote to me a few months ago —

"As to the two Gordons, they were the antitheses — of their generation
— one a grim, conscientious Puritan, the other a sensuous, pleasure-loving
poet and sportsman. Charlie, squat and unhandsome; Lindsay tall,
slight, active and wiry. I never heard anything to his discredit in his
military career. I heard he had to leave the Service because he had
promised to ride a horse at a race meeting for a friend. The owner (his
friend) became bankrupt and his creditors seized the horse. Lindsay
Gordon stole him out of the stable, rode and won the race, as he had
promised. Both Gordons came of the military caste. Charlie's father
was a General of Artillery, and all his brothers were in the Service ; Lindsay's
was an officer of the Indian Army and a great shikari : he became a
Professor of Military Subjects (really Oriental languages, D.S.) at Chelten-
ham College. His mother was also a Gordon, his father's cousin, which
perhaps accounted for Lindsay's eccentricity ! He was very short-sighted,
which perhaps accounted for the desperate jumps he would put his horse
at. He was a very lovable man, especially to women. I think Charlie
Gordon owed much of his stern character and success in life to constitu-
tional indifference to women. He had a smooth, almost hairless face,
but a desperate virility of valour."



of history, are above all things proverbs for reckless
bravery. Neither of them had ever seen fear. Both had
defied Death times without number.

It is difficult to believe that the wild Bushman had been
brought up in the same iron Christianity as " The General
with the spirit of a martyr." But it is a fact.

Unfortunately, in the poet's case the iron had entered
into his soul, and something of his wildness seems to have
been due to the longing of the merry spirit of his boyhood
to escape from the greyness of its surroundings. All true
poets are insurgents against Convention, whether they
wield a broad humanity like Shakespeare, or run amok
like Byron, Gordon's prototype. Even Wordsworth had
his dowdy unconventionality,

Gordon was very Byronic. He began with escapades
and eccentricities of dress. From a boy he loved to use
his fists, and, if he did not get into the School XI like
Byron, he had won steeplechases at an age when most
boys are absorbed in the sports of Public Schools. Like
Byron, he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Like
Byron, the shades of gloom closed in round his manhood
until he sank into an early grave. The phoenix rose from
the ashes of both. And, if Gordon's fame is not as world-
wide as Byron's, he has this to console him, that, while
Byron's hold on his countrymen is now intellectual only,
Gordon enjoys the passionate love of Australia. He is
Australia's hero, as well as her poet. Perhaps no poet
ever enjoyed such a personal devotion.

This book is wiitten with absolute candour. Others
might have felt an inclination to suppress the poet's letters
to Charley Walker, which form the most important contri-
bution to the study of Gordon's character ever published,
because they tell us in his own words that the rumours of
the wildness of his youth were true. I had no hesitation
in publishing them, though I knew what a profound
sensation their publication must cause in Australia, where
Gordon's personality is a personal matter with almost


every intelligent person. For they prove his sincerity,
that the remorse for sowing the wind, which is the keynote
of his more serious poetry, was genuine, and not the
affectation of a morbid spirit.

And their publication does more than that. They show
the evolution of the character, which was to stamp itself
not only on Australian poetry, but on Australian manhood.
In connection with Miss Humphris's brilliant chapters
about the life of Gordon and his sporting friends in the
nineteen years he spent in England, they help us to complete
the map of his life.

In England, as in Australia, he won the attention of
every one by his fearlessness ; and he won the affection of
all who Avere in his immediate circle by his merry spon-
taneous nature. But his lightheartedness led to his sowing
wild oats, and they seemed to his father so wild that he
shipped him off to Australia, not, we must believe, so much
with the idea of ridding himself of a nuisance, as with the
idea that his son's courage and adventurousness might be
turned to good account in the lawless atmosphere of the
Great Gold Rush. We may think this, because he procured
for him a commission for which the poet never applied, in
the South Australian Mounted Police. Gordon preferred
to enlist in the same corps as a constable, and from that
moment the steady improvement in his character began.

Gordon had many misfortunes and hardships in
Australia, but every year he grew more manly and
respected, and in his last days, when he was broken by
accidents and poverty, we find him the valued and intimate
friend and a favourite guest in the houses of the most
prominent men in their respective colonies, like the
Riddochs and the Powers,

I do not in the Preface purpose to go further into the

character of Gordon than to emphasise the fact that the

splendid fight he fought with hardships in the old Colonial

days made a hero of him, and a writer of heroic poems

second to none in our language.


This book is written to prove that Gordon, whatever
his faults, was a hero. The world has known for half a
century how manful his poems are.

But the object of a preface is to set forth the character
of the book itself — to tell the reader if this is the book he
has been looking for. So I must briefly indicate its con-
tents. It contains of course a life of Gordon, and a chrono-
logical table of the principal events in his short life of
thirty-six years, and a study of his poems. The reader
will take them for granted and wish to know the special
features of the book.

One of the most important of them will be found just
after the list of Gordon's sayings which have become pro-
verbs and household words — Mrs. A. L. Gordon's Reminis-
cences of her Husband. After a silence of forty-two years
she has, for the first time since his death, told the world
what she remembers of her famous husband. She told
it in a talk with Mr. C. R. Wilton, M.J.I. , by whose
kindness and that of Sir J. Langdon Bonython, editor-
proprietor of the (South Australian) Advertiser, I am able
to give it here.

What Mrs. Gordon does for the Australian portion of
his life Miss Frances Gordon does for the English. She
was the daughter of the favourite uncle to whom Gordon
always turned when he was in trouble. She saw him every
day for a year and a half, while he was living in her father's
house to attend the Worcester Grammar School. She
remembers all his home circle. She has preserved many
relics, including that admirable letter of A. L. (iordon
to his uncle, which is given in this volume in facsimile
to show what Gordon's thoughts looked like in his own
handwriting. It is to her too that we owe the picture
of Esslemont, the baronial mansion which played such a
great part in the culmination of the Gordon tragedy; it
is also through miniatures lent by her and reproduced here,
that we become acquainted with the beautiful and aristo-
cratic face of Gordon's father, the Cheltenham Colonel


Newcome, as beautiful as the Miss Linley who married
Sheridan, and the noble and dignified face of the uncle to
whom he owed so much. It is to her that we are indebted
for the daguerreotype of himself which Gordon sent home
at the time of his marriage to her father, the most authentic
portrait of Gordon in existence. It is to her that we are
indebted for his coat of arms (to be compared with that of
the Gordon of Gicht who became Lord Byron's mother) ;
it is to her that we are indebted for Gordon's earliest long

Online LibraryEdith Mary HumphrisAdam Lindsay Gordon and his friends in England and Australia → online text (page 1 of 37)