Sunday, July 11, 2010

Octavia my love, where art thou?

Octavia Hamilton was a contralto who flourished in Melbourne in the late 1850s and through the 1860s. She had several children to unknown fathers, shacked up with a gent above a wine shop and made her husband pay for it! She is looked upon generally as a scandalous figure and a model of what was wrong with 'professionals' as stage-folk were then called.

When I dug into the census of 1841 I found something interesting. She was fifteen years old when her future husband, Augustus Graham Moon was lodging with the family. The only lodger. Well, slap-me-happy if they didn't get married that very year. Mr. Moon must have had his way with Octavia under her father's roof. That's gumption.

And all these years I had been feeling sorry for the hard done by Mr. Moon. Was Octavia (Frances Eliza Scrivenor) really Melbourne's operatic tart-in-chief or was her behaviour a long campaign of revenge? I'll never know. She is hard to find. Almost impossible. The only route I have open to the little red-corvette that resides in my brain is the tarmac road of her daughter's descendents who married well and had a large branch here in Victoria. Not only her, but Octavia's wider family also came out as well including brothers and so on. Her father, a Grays-Inn lawyer became insolvent twice and made it out here and earned a better living.

I love wicked old Octavia. Her name is so Roman, so epic, so historic, so made for a bigger stage that her life could contain. Let us hope I can uncover an picture of the woman that was the original O.H!

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