State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 71 Autumn 2003


Charles Joseph La Trobe. ‘Petrarch's House, Arqua’ 1830. Pencil and wash on paper. National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Collection, on loan to the La Trobe Picture Collection.


Charles Joseph La Trobe
Extracts from Private Journals

A Pedestrian in the Tyrol and Italy (1830)

‘Thoughts at Sunrise'
May 3rd. A glorious sunrise. To those who look out for good or bad omens a prosperous outset never comes amiss. Though in some measure a son of the prophets I am remarkably wrong headed or weak-headed I do not know which exactly, in all my attempts to act the seer — so that I feel myself some what in the same condition as Goethe describes himself to have done, when travelling once upon a time in a diligence between Lavater on one hand &…..on the other-:
Propheten rechts — propheten links; das welt-kind in der mitte
But nevertheless I accept the augury, & set forth with good-heart & hope. The only thing that bows down both body & spirit just at present is a most unmercifully heavy knapsack (21 + lbs) the contents of which have been considered again & again in the hope that the sum total might be lightened by knocking off one or another superfluous article. But not every iota seems decidedly & imperiously necessary, & I have no choice but to bear it, & no hope but that custom may here also prove itself second nature.
So here I resume my wandering dispositions for a season, — & while I am gliding over the surface of the two mountain lakes of Thun & Brienz (such being the course taken in the first instance, I feel some temptation to indulge in the intervals of that sweet & dreamy repose that will in spite of thought now & then steal over the spirits, amidst such [illegible] & solemn scenery in noting such ideas as may naturally be supposed to occur to my mind, at the beginning of a pilgrimage like that which I have now entered upon.
Though I make no rash promise. I have contrived to instil it into my brain, that I am not going to write a book — for I am aware of the peculiarly capricious structure of my genius, & that the very idea would be sufficient to clap an extinguisher upon those sparks which under another impression we may hope to display in these pages — No, I am not writing a book, not I indeed! (Remember I make no rash promises, however!) I have nevertheless put up 4 good goose quills & two or three blank cahiers like this among my baggage — with the design certainly of employing many a spare hour in writing — all that comes into my head, without order or particular design so that if bad & indifferent ideas should come uppermost, I am sorry to say that they stand a better chance of taking precedence than any good, that may from modesty or tameness keep in the background — in short I keep a journal of
thoughts & actions both somewhat irregularly inclined, & have as I said before: no idea of writing a book-
But I must apprize the favoured reader of these lines should such an one ever exist, of one very certain peculiarity of my disposition; & that is that I often take a tone & air of facetiousness when I am interiorly very much disposed to be serious: and such is the case now.
I am & may say that I have been for years struggling to reconcile my principles & my practice, & am more & more uncomfortable in the experience I have made, & am still making, that it is a vain attempt.
With others destinies I have nothing to do & cannot be supposed to be capable of defining them — but of my own I should feel & know something, though I am ready to own that that knowledge is more negative than positive knowledge. To make this more clear I may say, that if I through wilfulness & deafness to the voice of God & his Providence have supposed that the way & the path in which I was according to his will intended to move, has remained undiscovered by me: I have at any rate been shown in a manner too evident to be mistaken that such & such & such a path as I should have chalked out for myself was not the path of his choosing: this I call negative knowledge — Is it not such? — Now, as to this same life of wandering & vagabondising to which I have become so much attached, I have been often tempted to ask myself a serious question about it also, & wish I could depend upon my heart for a direct & serious & sincere answer. To summon the courage & impertinence to say Yea! clearly & consciensciously I cannot — And yet to say Nay would be to condemn myself point blank. Then comes in a species of worldly wisdom, & [illegible] enough suggests: ‘why, perhaps, if not quite a good or it need not be quite a bad route, & moreover the best to be hit upon in present uncertainty.’ However, comfortable as this suggestion is, it does not satisfy me. Supposing the words addressed to me ‘What dost thou here Elijah?’ I have but a sorry answer to give — Lord, I am on my road to the Tyrol, & mean to write, & paint, & botanize, & amuse myself as well as I can, & perhaps shall publish another — pshaw this is humiliating & leads me to say internally — Well! I almost hope that much as I love this kind of live [sic] & the pursuits with which I enliven it this will be the last summer of the kind. I have travelled enough in this manner, enough to satisfy ordinate desire, & if I do travel & spend my strength in future years in this manner, I pray God that I may have noble aims & nobler purposes! — such as will not leave me to sit down & think as I have, & I fear may yet have to think during the course of this summer. — ‘Alas — I have spent my strength for nought!'
In the mean time let me not forget to be thankful for goodness shown, & God's [erasure] forbearance: & never forget that every misery I miss is a new mercy!

An Adventure in the Snow'

May 11th. I am aware while commencing the history of this days eventful proceedings that it is very probable the true & faithful account which I am bound to give if I give any at all (& to be sure it is quite optional) will call forth many a ‘O fie'!
‘O naughty'! ‘I thought you had grown wiser & more prudent' & other exclamations of the same kind from such dear & favoured friends as may be favoured with the perusal of these sybylline leaves. ‘Well now hold your tongues for I hate palaver or I will say nothing about them but pass on directly with merely the mention of my having passed the Julier & being safely housed at Silva Plana in the Engadine. But such is the love of the marvellous & the pleasure we take in others mishaps & mischances that I am sure all would feel themselves debarred too much gratification & will therefore allow themselves to be bound over to silence on condition that I relate all fairly & fully:-
Well then. The morning proving bright I started as I had intended to ascend the valley — the snow was deep, the way devious & strong & scarcely sufficiently well tracked by one or two peasants who had preceded me, to give me constant feeling of certainty in my direction. After climbing through a pine forest from the openings of which I could look back upon the singular vale at the termination of which Tinzen lies — with its surrounding mountains & numerous villages I gained the hamlet of Rofna situated at the northern end of a small plain quite hemmed in by the mountains. Of the forms & dimensions of these I could form some idea as the clouds were light & shifting. Here somehow or other I was betrayed into the choice of a foot path or at least a track which seemed to indicate one which led me through deep snow for half an hour to the further end of the plain & to the steep & narrow glen which allowed an exit. Up this I toiled with many a pause from my faithless footing & many a thump from the masses of snow which fell from the pines under & round which I was obliged to climb. The crest brought me to a cluster of chalets, & from thence after scrambling down a declivity of unbroken & untouched snow I fell in with the proper road & followed it through a maze of immense fragments of slate rock to the village of Mühlen. This I passed without compliment or halt as the clouds in the rear were gradually thickening & envelloping the Tinzerspitz & his neighbours with that peculiar haze which every practiced eye knows to be a snow shower. At that time Stalla & Stalla alone was my object. The road now bordered a narrow ravine of great depth overhanging the foaming stream rolling down the valley & crowned by the solitary tower of an old castle now half buried in the pines. A bridge thrown across the stream just above the rock upon which the said tower stands takes the traveller to the right bank. Thus I kept toiling upwards through a terrible snowy & uncomfortable route till I gained the village of Marmels & soon after at Stallvedro. Another bridge crosses the stream once more & a quarter of an hour after I entered the village of Stalla which with its two churches cuts a singular figure in the midst of the high snowy mountain summits by which it is surrounded. During the latter part of my walk the air had cleared considerably & though I could not venture to hope that there existed the tokens of fixed fine weather, yet as it had held up tolerably till that hour there were reasonable expectations that for the afternoon at least it might continue to do so. If it should really do so the further uncertainty was rather an argument for than against something being a attempted granting & provided that the passage of the mountain was any way practicable. In
short I determined to risk something to proceed & push my point, rather than run the chance of being still detained for an indefinite period on the wrong side of the Alps. — With this resolution in my head as I entered the village; I was not in a condition to spend much time in rest or refreshment besides the state of my feet forbade inaction. I therefore took a draught of wine standing & thrust a bannock of bread into my bosom & started. I struck immediately into the left of two tracks (the right leading over to the Septimer & the Bregaglia) & followed it with a light stept & light heart for I felt certain that I should not repent my decision. The sun now shone out & the reflection of the snow began to produce its usual effects upon the eyes & skin, however I was too happy to find as I thought that there had been predecessors & to follow in their track as I thought, to care for the inconvenience & pressed forward -. I passed one or two hamlets & it was not till the last had been reached that I found I had deceived myself as to any one having passed the mountain since the snowstorm as there the tracks ceased. However the position of the pass could not be well mistaken & my first care was to gain the real road which partly owing to these said footsteps & partly from its being for the most part buried deep under the snow I had forsaken at any early period, & after floundering through two or three deep snow drifts succeeded to a certainty. There it was once for all under my feet, and though I can give no idea of the trouble & severe exercise of strength & reason which it cost me for nearly two hours longer (the time which elapsed before I gained the highest part of the ridge) I do not believe I ever for a minute together wandered from its direct line. The route is one of considerable breadth for the passage of carriages but the snow was now from 11/2 foot to 3 ft deep so that its character was very little to the purpose. Here I was guided by the tops of one two or three of the curb stones which ap [sic] — above the snow & which I was enabled to distinguish amongst the innumerable fragments which peeped above its surface by their regularity & form: then by closely observing the zigzag line preserved by the snow under which the road was buried & many other indications which cannot here be specified & which nothing but continual attention, ready wits, & considerable experiences could have rendered availing to me. But the fatigue of constantly dragging my way uphill through the untrodden snow & now & then the unavoidable plunge into the deep snow which filled up the hollows at the edge of the road, which more than once buried me & forced me down under the weight of my knapsac [sic] to such a depth that after several vain efforts to disengage myself I had no resource but to be still for a minute & gather fresh strength & this I can hardly give an idea of.
At length at length I stood on the ridge between those two stumps of pillars which are attributed to Julius Caesar, but which can hardly be the work of a Roman general commanding legions. By the bye if he did pass this way I hope he had better choice of weather & took a guide. — I would have willingly rested a little but there had been again a change in the aspect of the heavens & thick clouds began to drive forward from the westward & to curtain one of the granite summits surrounding me after another in a shower of sleet. I consequently put again forward & descending as
rapidly as the snow would allow me soon made my entry into a region where the route was more visible & less imperative attention necessary & here I had fully time to congratulate myself & thank God for the success of my hazardous experiment as I was overtaken in a blank tempest of wind & sleet which had it come down upon me at an earlier hour had rendered advance impossible. Here however it only acted as a spur & under its influence I soon gained the level of the lakes in the Engadine, & entered an inn at Silva Plana. My only penalty up to this moment is a face, eye & hands inflamed & discoloured by the refraction of the suns rays from the snow.

‘A Fit of Toothache'

May 24th. My first object was now to secure my letters, parcels &c having succeeded in releasing a good large packet of the former from the custody of Poste restante I retired to a bench in the castle garden to a quiet perusal. Pain & pleasure, satisfaction & vexation always travel in a post bag together & I had my full share of both. To the latter was added the fact that my valise was not in Inspruck & could not be so for a week to come, so that I must not only remain without needful subsidies of clothes & linen for that period but run the chance of its following to another port which I fixed should be Botzen. I now returned to Wiltau & spent the greater part of the day in writing. P.M. a certain hot wind, raising the dust in clouds & causing the spleen the vapours, ennui &c the whole company of blue devils to enter into an englishman's heart, arose & shook the loose window frames till I was quite wearied out. Added to this came a fit of toothache, but that was another matter & having been perfectly free since the horse doctor pulled out the last at Thun, I determined as the evil showed itself in a quarter where there was but little hope to act in an equally summeraly way. — I left my inn in that godless &c dogged humour which makes one feel indifferent to what is done with the head — marched in at a barbers a few doors off, asked if he would take a pull. He got a pair of plyers fixed them on the tooth gave a hearty tug & fairly dislodged the rebellion member — so cleverly indeed that his wife & daughter were quite delighted & as for him he could hardly believe his eyes. — Voici the following extract from my account book —
  • April. To 2 teeth out. Dr. Pury—Neuchatel — 6 francs
  • May 1 To 1 ditto — Horsedoctor Nägele — Thun — 11/2 francs
  • May 24. To 1 ditto. Barber Strauss — Inspruck — 10 Kreugers.
At this rate of arithmetical diminution I stand a chance of having my last tooth pulled out for nothing.

‘An Englishman in Italy’

June 5th. The day dawn early & its light gave me my first invitation to restlessness. Then about 5 o'clock the Pope & his mother begin to ring the bells of all the churches & [indecipherable] That of Heil Maria was not silent & being at the very porches of my ear soon gave me a thorough waking. Thus summoned I could not do otherwise than rub my eyes stretch myself — look around me & make some
preparation to quit the four-a-breast bed in which thanks to its hardness I had otherwise had a marvellously good nights rest. My eyes being naturally cast upwards in this first effort, very naturally rested upon the little vessel of holy water usually to be found hung in these countries over the head of the sleeper. Holy water, — thought I — holy water! & there was about two spoonfuls of it, but so tinctured by unholy dust & dirty fingers & still more unholy flies, fleas, & midges that I should hardly have guessed it to be such if I had no[t] known — so much good comes of knowledge at any rate. The room I occupied contained 3, four-a-breast beds & 4 of these vessels — this by the bye. — From the sight of this holy water, I fell into various deep & like most deep, sleepy reflections upon the faith & doctrines of the Church of Rome, her waterings, kneelings, forms & ceremonies, unctions — benedictions repetitions, (which I hold to be entirely hetrodox & sinful) penitences, confessions, absolutions — indulgences & other devilish & unscriptual practices — her garnishing & painting decorating — saint-worshiping — adoration of false gods — saints-bone, splinter, & rag faith & all the sinful trade of relics whether of the blessed cross really or of a broken table leg probably — her processions, flags, draperies, candlestics, nosegays & other deadly customs, & yielding to the unsanctified nature of the objects of my said consideration I verily should have fallen into that morning slumber which is so pernicious to the state of an intellectual man had not a furious concert from a string of mules passing through the street beneath my window roused me & brought me to the window.
The village of Civezzano lies on the side of the mountain above the vale of the Fersina & in a fertile & beautiful laberinth of mulberry trees & vines, inter mixed with wheat & maize. — The road from thence to the little town of Pergine leads through a country which seemed unusually fertile — & at this moment presented a very lively spectacle from the peasantry being employed at stripping the innumerable mulberry trees which fill the space between the scanty mountain stream & the hills. Their songs were above par — generally in two parts & possessed much of the Italian character. At Pergine I had not properly intended to halt but happening to fall in with an inn where German was spoken thought the opportunity too valuable to be neglected & took up my quarters. Leaving any description of its description till I have better light within & without & hasten to conclude a long, hot & busy day.
My solitary evening meal was soon noticed by a long backed poodle kind of dog belonging to whom I do not know but by his singular manner of pulling his fore paws together when begging, & his extraordinary thinness I make no doubt his master was a zealous catholic & that his dog kept the fast days much more to the letter than the household of which he was a member. Then the poor fellow eat the fish bones & salad I bestowed upon him with infinite thankfulness: & strange to tell; I all at once took it into my head that he had a wonderful resemblance to a French emigrant nobleman of the old school. His head was half grey & half black & combed all on one side & his eyes always in motion. This having taken possession
of my imagination I could not help thinking of good old consciencious worldly-goods-denying Jean L. who quitting his fair plains of Languedoc to come & live upon L — Hill in Dublin & then of the whole genealogy including Raymond de Will o’ Wisp — Gottfrey de Trudgomaniac — Lionel de Tinbreeches &c &c &c & ended by giving the poor canine representative the best morsels on the plate. — So much for a disposition to benevolence which I feel & rejoice to feel grows upon me, particularly towards all dumb beast, insects birds & fishes. -
The more I notice them the more I love them & feel pity for them let their nature be what it may. I feel that the whole creation groaneth because of man's iniquity & are less happy than they would have been, had he never fallen. — Good night.
June 6th. I[t] has been my constant object of wonder during this long tramp (which promises to be some 700 leagues long before I get back to the Simmenthal whence I set out) how in the name of all that is credible, I contrived, in former expeditions — making more exertion, heavier days journeys, sketching more, to my shame be it said. — to keep my pen pretty regularly going & keeping pace with my movements — yet such was the case then, & can hardly be said to be such now: as it often occurs as

Charles Joseph La Trobe. ‘Entrance to the Simmenthal, 1827'. Pencil and sepia wash on paper. National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Collection on loan to the La Trobe Picture Collection.

now that 2 days go by so fully employed that I have found no opportunity to use it comfortably. Now however, that I am arrived at ‘Padua beyond the sea’ & am likely to have a less active time of it for the next 10 days here & at Venice, I must work double lives, clear all old scores & set myself up again in with a fresh store of patience & perseverance for my return.
Voyons! — I quitted my quarters at about 1/2 5 in the morning — undecided as to the term I should put to this days march — but so much in awe of the heat in these southern vallies in the month of June that I threw off slumber at an earlier hour than usual. The sun was shining bright on the mountain tops but I was very glad to be spared his beam for the first few miles. — My route lay towards Levico over that tract of hills which separates the valley of the Fersina from that of the Brenta. Indeed though the road passes such to reach the spot where Levico lies, the fact is that no hill separates them the head of the latter from the former: as flowing from the slope of a mountain on the side of -
The first mile of the upward march presents a series of beautiful views which appear & disappear something like the scenes of a play so quickly do they present themselves & retire. No. 1 was the backward glance upon the fertile valley of the Fersina — the little town of Pergine at your feet & the imposing mountain background comprising parts of the several chains in the valley itself & those of the Adige & more distant Val de Sol.
No. 2 was a sudden & short lived peep to the right upon the first birthplace of the Brenta & the upper end of the Blue lake in which his waters first collect themselves. — This vanished & turning to the left a gap in the hills gave a back view of the castle of Pergine perched on its commanding rocky promentary. Then these closed & before you you had nothing but the confined vale by which you were to pass towards the Brenta. I was going to write this has nothing peculiarly interesting to deserve description — but I recollect that my eyes were most unexpectedly arrested in my passage by no less a phenomenon than — a potatoe field — an object I had not seen since my entry into Tyrol — an object so grateful to my eyes that I stopped short & in a sudden burst of affectionate admiration apostrophized it somewhat in this strain: ‘My eyes (rubbing them) a taty field! never dreamt of such a thing. — O potatoe, prince of roots — & potentate! comliest of weggitables! glory of the 3 kingdoms — without which nobody thinks of existing within their boundaries though not all stow thee alike: — an Irishman keeps thee in his head, — a Scotchman in his pocket, & an Englishman in his belly! &c &c. O thou &c.-'

Breakfast with Sir Walter Scott (1831)

22. [August] Took walk about 8 for Kelso. Coldstream — Kelso — abbey — a gig to Melrose which we reached without seeing Dryburg Abbey &c as we had intended thanks to the stupidity of our conductor — again delighted with Melrose bathing a la cigogne! — Continue our route to Galashiels — a little manufacturing bourg near Abbotsford.
23. After dispatching a messenger to Torwood Lee with letter of introduction to Mr. Pringle A & I set off to bathe in the Tweed — Abbotsford — & turn & go to the hall — where we spend a very pleasant PM & evening — meeting with every politeness from old & young & in good spirits at the proposal held out to us that we might perhaps have our wish gratified in seeing the curiosities of Abbotsford the following day if not Sir Walter Scott. An invitation to breakfast with him however which arrived in the course of the evening gave the finishing stroke to our expectations.
24th August. A visit to Sir W. Scott is surely worth perpetuating, but yet I am so more hurried when flying about the country in coaches with a companion than when I was alone & afoot that I have no spirit for journalizing & can only sketch hastily & without spirit those scenes which under other circumstances I should have delighted to put down for my future amusement -
We quitted Torwood Lee with Mr. G. Pringle about 1/2 8 & arrived after an hours ride at the ford & a minute after at the hall — The road to Selkirk from Kelso passes immediately behind it. You pass a fine gothic gateway enter a court & are received at the door by the one of the great stag hounds Nimrod. We passed the hall & entered the library where a few minutes afterwards we were joined by Sir Walter. He bears the appearce of great debility & this joined to his excessive lameness makes it painful to see him in motion. Apparently long habit has rendered him more indifferent to the embarrassment than one should suppose — There are very good portraits of him — His countenance is heavy in the extreme — but when he speaks & looks at you, all stupidity vanishes — his hair is quite white. — During breakfast at which his daughter presided & Mr. Lockhart assisted we made good acquaintce & nothing could exceed the amiability of his manner or the liveliness of his conversation — He afterwards undertook to be our cicerone in showing us about his beautiful mansion which in all its ornaments gives me much more pleasure than Alnwick Castle — I need not write about it for I shall not forget any thing I saw there. About 1/2 11 we quitted Abbotsford.
A long ride of six hours into Yarrowdale to Newark Castle — Mungo Parks birthplace — & the Duke of Buccleuch's seat at [blank] was spoilt by the rain. The evening we spent at Torwood Lee.
25. The weather cleared up again & I rose very early in pursuance of a sudden impulse walked down to Galashiels — & thence to the banks of the Tweed opposite Abbotsford where I spent a good half hour in taking as favourable sketch as could be got. Returning from thence I packed up at Galashiels engaged a little stupid boy & an ass that seemed to be its twin brother to take our baggage forward to the cross road at Whytbank & then returning to the Hall took leave of the family & with my companion went & caught the mail at 1 PM. At 4 we reached Edinburgh — a beautiful town surpassing my expectations in every way. -

A Bison Hunt in North America (1832)

October 29 To Start shift camp — this having become a chaos of mud and filth: the horse very stiff and having fed on acorns & mulberry bark. Starting we cross both of the creeks forming Le grand Bayeau. The weather clearing up tolerably reach the prairies [illegible] [illegible] resolved to encamp on one of the creeks adjoining. Leaving the rangers and others, our party diverge & soon discover wild horses, deer, and buffalo. Billet starts after one of the former leaving Mr E burdened with U S gun & [illegible] carbine. Mr I & Al start after 2 buffalo bulls & after a long [illegible] and struggle between impatience & problems I take leave & dash off after them: chace an old bull into a jungle & lose him. Turn off then & gallop a mile to a herd of 7 bulls to which I give a run of a couple of miles joined by Albert. Their movement & appearance genl behavior. After a run of a couple of miles over a rolling prairie with deep red gullies: separate one that I had wounded & chace him [illegible] into a low marshy jungle where he turns to fight: give him the other balls, none mortal & eventually leave him: mount a ridge & look out for Pawnies or my companions. Discover Mr. I & Al: & join them. Billet goes with us to seek Mr E & Uncle Sam & we turn southward to approach a gang of 30+ bulls — cows & calves that appear like dots in the distance; land marks. Take the wind of them & confirm to get them between us & the creek that should lead us to our camp. Shoot bulls near a notable clump of trees; one runs off & alarms the herd; they commence running & I take the rear of them & Mr I approaches from the side. A dashing chace ensues; after many a mile of this I reach the flank of the rear guard; single out a fat cow & bring her down in full career by a ball which broke her back. Her calf — old walloping bull in the rear; lend WI my gun & remain near my prize. Sometime after seeing W I about a mile beyond I ride to him & find that my second barrel had in his hands killed a heifer: — return to my buffalo & surrounded by a circle of wolves get the tongue: perform the same operation on his prize. Look out in vain for Al who had passed on in chace to the S ward &

Dustjacket of The Rambler in Oklahoma, published by Harlow Publishing Company, Oklahoma City — Chattanooga, in 1955. The book consists of the six letters (nos XI-XVI) from The Rambler in North America, describing the Ellsworth expedition. Source: John Barnes.

resolve to seek the camp which after some difficulty we reach after dark. Al not there; fire and sound the bugles at intervals for some time. Evidently lost for the present; think of him much during the night, doleful howling of wolves on every side. 10 buffalo killed by various parties. Uncle Sam's achievement: W. I. & self satisfied at having killed our buffalo in real hunters style. Many conjectures about A's situation generally supposed that he had gone South towards the Canadian distant about 8 miles; mistaking one creek for another — grass dead — prairies burning.
Oct 30. Out early with our 3 men all excellent trackers & 12 of the best rangers to seek our lost sheep — Hopes & fears. Repair to our hunting toward the situation of the killed buffalos — birds, wolves, cranes, deer, antelopes aspect of these prairies; interest created by every moving object; trail of a bear & unshod horse — get fairly on A's trail & follow it to the S E; buffalo discovered running in the distance & then a human figure in chace — gallop in the supposition of its being the object of our search. Two figures seen. The Pawnies furious gallop of a couple of miles to overtake & know the truth: turn out to be two rangers: difficulty to find the trail again. & when finding it turning S to keep it in the neighborhood of a creek turning to the Canadian. Mode of proceeding. Billet shoots at a deer very hard wild chace in every direction. The object of our search found, sain & [illegible]; our exultation & his adventures. Billet over throw. The party turns homeward in about 3 directions. The sand hills near the Canadian: view of the river & its valley with horses & buffalo: [illegible] lively home. Tonish catches another pony. Community of prairie dogs (marmots) near the camp. Singular little republic. Pass a contented pleasant eveng & quiet night &c: tremendous barking & howling of wolves: starlight: yellow anemone: pretty situation of the camp. Buffalo camp — jerking meat: feasting, &c &c.

On Official Business in the West Indies (1837)

May 21. Sunday. Went to the Morning Service (terrible rain & thunder betn. 4 & 6.) picturesque situation of the church but too small for the population. Titchfield seems to have been highly favd. in the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Griffiths — now in England — former incumbent as Miss Carron tells me not such a character — 30 years ago had his mistress after the manner of the country, or otherwise lived in fornication — Mr Orgill a good young man — but young, however that is a malady of which a man becomes cured only too quick. -
Church filled within & without. After ser ovr. the baptism of adults & infants, legitimate & illegitimate. — poor people — (singing singular) the poor women with their picaninys charged with their crime — some defend themselves — the white marble font & the black faces. The blood of X! cleanseth from all sin. What a comfort. Went to dine with genl. Williams — Mr Johnson of Altamont there. Their view of the present state of things & present measures is most discouraging — believe that Jamaica is lost from governt, not havg. taken means of making it the finest of & most flourishg. of colonies. What they would be at I do not know — as
there was more declamation than proof in the conversation — but they seem to think the time has been suffered to go by — That may be but I must get hold of something more explicit before I can fully understand the views of that party. They seem to subscribe most heartily to the capability & capacity of the negro however as to education they seem not to be satisfied with what is done — & as to religion — it seems that a very small modicum of that might suffice. (6 m)
May 22. Set off early as intended inspite of the monsoon rain & reached Hermitage to breakfast. W. Humphreys overseer. The brown sultana & sea spider. At Hope Bay called on the Westleyan leader, a brown man, Mr. Brown and got the details of his little Sunday School — The CMS had a school on the ‘neighFount’ c. late of Paradise but it is going to be given up on acct. of the non attendance of the scholars — then rode forward 10 miles to Ruff Bay or rather to Spring Gardens where I was kindly recd, by the proprietor Mr. Grossette — to whom the governor had given me a letter. A most splendid estate & house charmingly situated. In Jamaica they say you cannot open your mouth for less than a dollar, nor shut it for two. In the event I rode 4 miles by [indecipherable] to the Maroon Town Charleston where Mr. Findlay an agent of the CMS has a school house & school. The opinion here is same as at Mooretown that, considering the superior advantages the maroons are more backward than apprentices. Old watchmen on the estates a dreadfully neglected class. The present teacher the appce. of a wild Irishman. I rode up the hill to his cottage — his wife not yet arrived — why the Sch. was given up & now resumed I must learn elsewhere — returned along the sea shore to Spring Gardens Mrs. Grosette having accompanied me in her pony chaise — MIle la Baronne de Canzow

Charles Joseph La Trobe. ‘Works at Spring Garden Plantation, 1837'. Pen, Indian ink and wash on blue paper. H92.360/59. La Trobe Picture Collection.

daugt. of the Swedish ambassador — delight had from overlooking the bamboo grove. Mr. G agrees with me that the only thing which would really save the country & produce a wealthy state of things would be a greater number of resident proprietors with their families. He has a great deal of his estate (prod. 500 hogs) lying fallow from the impossibility of persuading the people to work for hire. (23 m)


With the exception of ‘A Bison Hunt in North America’, all the extracts are from manuscript journals held in the State Library of Victoria, and have been transcribed by Sandra Burt. The headings and subheadings are not by La Trobe.
A Pedestrian in the Tyrol and Italy (1830)
The extracts are taken from ‘Manuscript Journal of a Journey in the Tyrol, 1829-1830'. The journal, which is unusually revealing of La Trobe's personality and his private feelings, was the basis of his book, The Pedestrian: A Summer's Ramble in the Tyrol, and Some of the Adjacent Provinces. MDCCCXX, published in London in 1832, but the personal element which is so marked in these extracts is largely missing from the book.
Thoughts at Sunrise
La Trobe began his ‘summer ramble’ on 3 May, leaving from Erlenbach in the Simmenthal. The introspection prompted by the ‘glorious sunrise’ was omitted from The Pedestrian.
Propheten rechts, propheten links; das Weltkind in der mitte (Goethe): A prophet on my right, a prophet on my left — the child of the world in the middle. (Translation by Gregory Kratzmann, who points out that La Trobe's uncle, John Frederick La Trobe, was acquainted with Goethe.)
An Adventure in the Snow
A condensed version of the narrative appears in The Pedestrian, pp. 19-22.
A Fit of Toothache
La Trobe did not include this episode in The Pedestrian.
An Englishman in Italy
On 5 June La Trobe was at Trent, the site of the famous Council in the sixteenth century. He did not publish the anti-Catholic passage in his journal.
‘The village of Civizzano … had he never fallen’: cf. The Pedestrian, pp. 147-48.
La Trobe's playful apostrophe to the ‘potatoe field’ was not published.
Breakfast with Sir Walter Scott (1831)
The extract is from ‘Brief Sketch of Proceedings Summer 1831 after return to England accompanied by C de Pourtalès'.
A: Albert-Alexandre de Pourtalès, who accompanied La Trobe on the northern ‘ramble'.
J.G. Lockhart (1794-1854), Scott's son-in-law and later his biographer, was the editor of the Quarterly Review.
Scott died on 21 September 1832.
A Bison Hunt in North America (1832)
During his travels in North America and Mexico La Trobe followed his established practice of keeping Memoranda. His ‘Diary’ consists of nine small volumes, from 7 March 1832 to 19 May 1834. Grateful acknowledgement is due to the Gilcrease Museum Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for supplying this extract, with special thanks to Curator Sarah Erwin who kindly undertook the difficult task of transcribing the two entries dealing with the bison chase. La Trobe's published account of the incident is in The Rambler in North America (vol. 1, pp. 227-38).
Billet: In The Rambler La Trobe names him as Beatte: a Frenchman who had lived among the Osages, he was employed as a guide and interpreter.
Mr E: Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the Indian Commissioner who headed the expedition.
Mr I/W. I.: Washington Irving.
Al /A: Albert de Pourtalès, who travelled with La Trobe.
Uncle Sam: A double-barrelled fowling piece belonging to Ellsworth.
Pawnies: The Pawnee tribe was hostile to the Osage tribe.
sain: hale, in good health (Fr.).
Tonish: The French Creole employed as a jack-of-all-trades during the expedition.
On Official Business in the West Indies (1837)
The extracts are taken from the first of two notebooks (with daily entries from 10 April 1837 to 9 July 1838) which La Trobe kept during his mission to the West Indies.
The figures at the end of each entry record the distance travelled by La Trobe that day.

Charles Joseph La Trobe. ‘A hot day on the prairies of Illinois, 1833'. Sepia wash on paper. National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Collection on loan to the La Trobe Picture Collection.