Sunday, October 4, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Another anecdote abut Smythe from the myesterious J.L.F. of the Hobart Mercury. This time from the 29th of July 1902
A few days ago, I got a letter from my old friend-and the public's old friend Mr. R. S. Smythe "the much-travelled, and, it may be added, "the much-read" in which be refers to the recent death, in Hobart, of the venerable bookmonger, William Legrand.
"What," says Mr. Smythe, "could possibly induce a Frenchman in those times to try his fortune in Van Dieman’s Land? But, I suppose there was a romance about going to the Antipodes, for a good many did go out, among them William Elliston, second son of the great actor. I met Legrand, and bought of him a charming book by Souvestre, ‘The Pleasures of Old Age.’ It bears the stamp of the Port Arthur Library. Of course I shall not care to read it for many years to come: it would not interest me."
Why Mr. Smythe should have any disinclination to know something beforehand of old age, and how he may make it pleasant is not easy to see. Most of us who have read "De Senectute" at school have looked forward brightly to our reaching 45! But Mr. Smythe's fishing up Souvestre's book in Legrand's old shop has reminded me of the romance of book-buying in that dingy, mysterious-looking store in Collins Street, which always seemed to be out of place in a comparatively new city. It looked like an accessible Hades, where the spirits of authors, Long dead and gone, congregated and talked about men and things, and received congenial visitors.
Amelia arrived in Shanghai, with her manager Smythe, Mr. Simmons and James Chisholm on the 15 th of July 1863. They booked into a Hotel and gave a series of concerts over five days but the place was under the the black cloud of Cholera; Boulanger, who had come to China to make some money for his Sydney based wife and child had died the day before they arrived at the Hotel Astor (now the Russian Embassy) and Robbio, fearing death by the disease had fled to Nagasaki as many foreign wives and families had done. They had committed to a small series of concerts which on at least one occasion was followed by a late night hotel party of rowdy and celebrated a nature. Shanghai had few single western women and had never see a professional singer as young or as pretty and in one night Amelia, as the star attraction made 1500 pounds and dozens of gifts. The party took the next available boat to Shanghai on the 20th which would prove to be equally dangerous, for what was supposed to have been a four day voyage turned into a twelve day one when the ship, the “Dolphin” was swept up in the edge of a Tornado and tossed around off course. rations were imposed and several times the ship looked like it was going to go under. They eventually put into safe harbour in the arms of an island of the coast of Korea before limping into Nagasaki.
Upon arrival in Nagasaki Bay it was noted by Chisholm that one of the two women on board the ship asked the Captain to bring a Japanese fisherman a little closer. The poor devil, dressed only in a loin cloth and probably not the handsomest of gentleman of his race, was looked at and disappointedly requested by proxy of the Captain to go back about his business. Such was Amelia’s first introduction to the Japanese.
Smythe claimed that the Amelia at that dangerous time was the only English woman in the city. The decision to open the country to trade had led to factional division between clans and within government. The day before the Bailey Company had arrived in China, a fleet under Admiral Kuper had sailed to Kagoshima to exact punitive bombardment on the Satsuma clans financial base, for their failure to hand over the assassins of a diplomat named Charles Richardson and his party. They did give Nagasaki a concert or two, even attending (and singing for their supper) at the bungalow of Thoams Blake Glover, the Scotsman who was in the following years earn himslef the respect of the Japanese as a nation. At his newly built bungalow he was also hosting Commander Skyryploff of the Bogatyr, so Amelia got to see her Russian Sailors once more.
Kupers fleet had been buffeted about during the battle of Kagoshima by the same typhoon that knocked about Amelia’s “dolphin” and when Kuper returneed to Yokohama, there arrived soon after, Miss Bailey, Mr Chisholm and Mr. Smythe and a certain Mr. Rudolofo Sipp, a temperamental pianist with a fondness for the bottle that guaranteed his name would slip from the feast table of history onto the floor to be swept up in the academic dustpan. Simmons, the magician had had an argument with Smythe over Amelia, although we don’t know the cause. Was it this that forced Smythe to marry Amelia in Nagasaki? Or did they marry in Shanghai under threat of Cholera? Or did they as I suspect, not marry at all? Either way, Simmons was a liability, having a limited repertoire and refusing to pact it over the course of a week or so. The effect of which was that each concert with the same audience attending over three days would receive different music and songs from Sipp, Chisholm and Amelia, but be subjected the same tricks seen the night before. Some punters were not happy.
After Yokohama, they sailed back to Nagasaki and on to China again, where Amelia teamed up with Martin Simonsen a danish born violinist of great skill and his wife Fanny. Sipp had gone onto America from Yokohama where Chisholm too had chosen to stay before his eventual departure for America a little under a year later. Once she left Shanghai where-in we know she gave three seasons of a week each in between the Northern Chinese cities that had European occupants, she sailed with Robert to Manilla, then to Shanghai where she did very well although resources have yet to be found and examined. Two thing during this period are certain, she wrote a letter to Poussard in Melbourne c/o the Argus extending an invitation to he and Douay to tour India, and she was pregnant, or had just had her eldest child, Bryan Bailey Smythe, who by the time she had left India was dead. Poussard replied and accepted, although the idea was most certainly Smythe’s, but Douay had suffered a sever nervous breakdown and Poussard arranged to meet Amelia and Robert in Ceylon in August of 1864, with Florence Calzado a comic singer of average ability, who arrived in Melbourne from England we-know-not-when and had entered into a ‘marriage’ with Horace serious enough to produce a child, who survived and ended up in France many years later. Florence had some skill, and had advertisied herself upon arrival sans agent, as Florence Beverley, contralto, then under the management of a Kate Howard, as Floraette Blanche Beverley. While with Poussard she used the name Calzado. I am assuming it was a confection of Poussards, having chosen the name after Torrio Calzado, the Havana born Opera Impressario that managed the Italian Opera in London sometime in the 1850’s. It might even bee that she was a real ‘Calzado’ being Torribo’s daughter. That would certainly explain her career bravely touted on little skill and so far away as Australia.
We can pick up Amelia’s trail again in Ceylon, where she started her great Indian tour of 1864-1867.