State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 73 Autumn 2004


Sandra Burt
Library Trustees at Work:
Letters from Barry to Childers 1859–60

These Six letters, written to Hugh Childers, are a representative sample of the correspondence Barry conducted on behalf of the Melbourne Public Library, from the earliest planning stages in the 1850s to the established institution it had become at the time of his death in 1880. Throughout, Barry displays a remarkable breadth of vision and liberality, combined with a practical grasp of detail. Maps, plans and photographs all figured in his grand scheme; certainly it is clear from reading the letters that the Library has never been ‘just about books’. Manuscripts and pictures were collected from the earliest days; records of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (Burke and Wills), letters from Victorian Pioneers, and the world albums of photographs among them. Painfully aware of the distance from ‘civilisation’ - the letters are peppered with references to the unreliability of the mail - Barry realised the need for the young colony to be as self-sufficient as possible. Hence the drive behind the Public Library, an interest that never flagged.
Hugh Culling Eardley Childers (1827–1896) helped Barry to realise some of his ambitions for the Library. After arriving in Melbourne in 1850, he was first appointed Inspector of Denominational Schools, then immigration agent and Commissioner of National Schools. Shortly thereafter he became Auditor-General and was nominated to the Legislative Council. When responsible government was introduced in 1856, he contested and won the seat of Portland in the Legislative Assembly and became Commissioner for Trade and Customs in the first ministry of William Haines. One of the first Trustees of the library, he also played a role in the planning stages. An interest in educational issues in general provided a link between the two men. Childers, like Barry, played an important role in the founding of the University of Melbourne as well. He became the first vice-chancellor and his position as Auditor-General enabled him to provide substantial sums for the founding of both institutions. In 1860, three years after returning to England, he was elected to the House of Commons, and over the next 32 years held a variety of ministerial positions under Gladstone, including the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. He maintained a sympathetic yet practical interest in Victoria, twice acting as honorary Agent-General for the colony, and was ever ready to help, making him an ideal ally Barry could call upon.
Barry was always at pains to cultivate people who might be able to help the struggling library and actively pursued men of influence. Men who had lived in the colony and returned to England were particularly sought after - apart from Childers (who was formally approached to act for the Library), Barry also looked to military engineer Sir Andrew Clarke and former Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe, among others, to assist. He networked long before the term came into popular usage. It became imperative to enlist aid of this kind as Augustus Tulk, the Chief Librarian, had been refused permission by Parliament to return to England to select suitable materials. Though in sympathy with Barry's aims, one wonders if Childers did not groan every time the mail brought yet another missive. Barry did not shirk his numerous duties and expected no less of others. Barry's knowledge of books may well have been as great, if not greater, than Tulk's; however, he did not have the time to devote to the matter. He did, however, have the contacts. His letters, full of industry and instruction, are at pains to tell Childers where to go, who to contact, what to avoid etc. He is constantly aware of the demands he is making and encourages Childers to contact others in order to spread the load. Barry was well informed and his suggestions are, on the whole, intelligent and exact. They show a degree of hands-on
management of the Library (born of necessity) not shown or required by Trustees today.
I have transcribed these letters from the originals, which are held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (qMS-2079). The State Library of Victoria holds typescript copies. The original transcriber added punctuation and made other alterations, and I am indebted to the Alexander Turnbull Library for kindly supplying a set of photocopies, allowing me to produce accurate transcripts. The typescript copies held by the State Library of Victoria are to be found at MS 8380, Box 599/1 (a). The copies supplied by the Alexander Turnbull have been pre-accessioned at PA 04/02.
Thanks are also due to my colleague, Gerard Hayes, for undertaking to verify certain classical allusions.
Owing to some cross-written passages, smudges and cramped writing, a few words have been impossible to decipher. These queries and all other editorial interventions are indicated in square brackets.

Letter One

Carlton Gardens Melbourne

My Dear Sir,
At last I am able to send you the thanks of the Council & full authority to carry out the good work you have so kindly undertaken. To this I beg to add my own & to assure you that I feel we are under deep obligations to you for the interest you so actively exhibit in your exertions on our behalf. The sum of £100 is remitted as you estimated that it would suffice to cover your outlay. If more be expended as a matter of course it will be necessary to bring the matter before the Council.
If money can be procured for the purpose we hope to succeed in establishing a Medicine School; when we will have to ask you to renew your communications with Dr Paget. However I must own I am doubtful on the subject as the calls upon the resources are frightful. The purchase of the Geelong Railway expenses of a new Registration some £40,000 & that of paying the return passages of some 6,000 vagabonds who went off to Port Curtis in search of a newly proclaimed gold field £15 or £20,000 eat largely into the public funds while every “local want” is trumpeted by each member who must be propitiated by a vote.
The Herald of this morning announces the retirement of Mr. Duffy from the Ministry. It has been said that he & the Ch. Sec. have not “amalgamated” exactly; what is to come of this has not even been speculated on. If a coalition can be accomplished, of wh I have my doubts as the opposition are very antipathetic & ambitious, the present Ministry will gain by the loss. Unless the retiring Minister can fuse his opinions with those he has so vigorously resisted & join his enemies, who mahap will not receive him he may not be very formidable as he has no party nor can he make one. He may find himself like Lord John Russell between Ld Derby & Ld Palmerston of use to either as they may use him but of no great use to himself.
The approaching elections will give an opportunity of testing the industry & vigilance of those who have fought Peels battle of the Registration. There is great difficulty in getting candidates of even moderate ability & character to come forward & this will ever be the case while our mainstay the gentry practice the privilege of absenteeism. This I look upon as the most critical period of our history - left to govern ourselves with the only materials at hand. The old Colonists absent, their sons too young to take part in the councils of the country there is imminent danger of the Government drifting by concession after concession into the hands of Messrs Don and Osborne & the members of the Convention.
The Library progresses admirably. I send you the last report of the Trustees from which you will see that the number of visitors bears a respectable proportion to that attending the British Museum. Our new room will be a beautiful addition.
Mr. Guillaume has sent up 2,000 vols which arrived by the Great Britain. The books are as far as yet examined good, but some defects appear & unfortunately in the long series. However we have serious fault to find with his prices & must insist on a very large reduction or I certainly will recommend a change. He has not made such allowance as we are justly entitled to & the strangest part of his proceeding is that he has for some books charged a higher price than we can obtain them for from his Partners Willis &c. as shown in their published catalogue.
We are getting a list of overcharges carefully prepared showing the excess above the charges presented by the several publishers in their printed advertisements & hope to find him reasonable.
We have now nearly £9000 in hand to expend so that is well worth his while to meet our wants in a liberal spirit If not we can send to Messrs Bohn, Quarritch [,] Longmans [,] Norgate & others for the works in their respective departments. In this I hope we may continue to have the benefit of your valuable assistance which will become now of material importance as Mr. Tulk will not be permitted to go home & as there is a much greater latitude for overcharge & imposition as we advance into the field of expensive literature.
No mail this month from England so I remain in ignorance of your intended movements. Should you have left England to return here before this reaches you, I have to hope you will not have suffered any inconvenience by the delay of a post in sending you the remittance & that you will have left matters in train to finish what you so zealously began.
Let me beg of you to present my best wishes to Mrs. Childers & to believe me Very sincerely yours
Redmond Barry.

Letter Two

Carlton Gardens Melbourne
My dear Sir,
This mail takes a Duplicate of the authority conferred by the University on you also of the Draft for £100 & a repetition of the thanks due to you for your very valuable services. As usual, the mail does not arrive this month, so I am yet uninformed of the progress you have made but augur well from your commencement.
The Beotian herd around us seems but little impressed as yet with the importance of the object you are engaged in carrying out but there is hope that as our numbers increase they may become more sensible of its value. The education of the adult Victorian is necessary for this, & the Library will do much for us in that respect.
As I informed you the Parliament would not allow Mr Tulk to go home so we have been forced to go on as before. Acting on your recommendation, the Trustees send their further order to Mr Guillaume & with this I give you a copy of the letter addressed to him. From the particulars into which I have entered you will observe how necessary it is to be strict with him. Having had many interviews with his father since his arrival here by the Lincolnshire I have explained matters fully to him & he seems quite aware of the justice of our insisting on our rights.
With regard to the money returned, Mr Guillaume will observe that it is to his interest to comply with our requisitions speedily - on so doing he will receive it meanwhile it lies unemployed of no benefit to him or to us. If your arrangements will allow you so to do when in London I hope you will be so good as to visit him & stimulate him to activity & despatch in completing the order now sent & impress upon him the necessity for the closest attention to our directions. Our public here is most vigilant & exacting & the newspapers too happy to find fault with everything & everybody, are ready to pounce on any blot. The Trustees propose to ask some of our fellow colonists in London to assist you if you have no objection in endeavouring to obtain for us from the Ordinance Admiralty Board of Trade India House Patent Office &c. Books Reports Maps which I have no doubt they will give us if asked for them by you. I understand that vast

Proof copy of Guillaume's 1854 catalogue of the Public Library, mistakenly describing it as being in South Australia. The correction has presumably been made by Barry. MS 11614. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

numbers, which would be of very considerable use to us are annually destroyed as there is no room to store them. Do Pounce on these for us.
Mr Latrobe[,] Sir William a'Beckett[,] Foster Clarke[,] Griffith[,] Mr Wilson who has been so useful & Mr Westgarth, would each help perhaps - the 2 first would be found antipathetic with the introducer of the Alpaca the Salmon & the Singing Birds. I was in hopes that by this mail we might have remitted £2000 for the purchase of works of Art. Unfortunately we could not get the money. It will give more time to collect information. Meanwhile it may be in your power to make enquiries. Brucciani of 5 Little Russell St. Covent Garden has been recommended as a good man from whom to get busts casts of statues & similar objects - to which with coins medals and Photographs we propose at present to limit ourselves. Pictures are out of the question with so small a sum at our command & I have not much faith in any copies when photographs are to be had. The coins gems &c. are as I understand executed in Sulphur or Gutta Percha & are to be obtained cheap as a help to readers of history these should be had.
Architectural illustrations are likely to be highly valuable as furnishing hints for our Builders of which they are indeed in want. Of these I understand admirable photographs are to be had at very low prices.
From what I learn it is said not to be prudent to take the models from the Chrystal Palace as many are reported to be roughly executed, but on this subject we must make further enquiries.
I hope that by next post I may send you further ideas upon this head. We suggest having 2 really handsome fountains in front of the building which will have a good effect & falling within the true definition of works of Art may lead the way in embellishing the Town.
The last report of the Trustees of which I send you a copy will show how we get on. I regret that I cannot send a copy of the drawing of the building as proposed. It is being prepared for publication in the Illustrated News.
My anxiety about the circulating department is very great as I feel confident that it will disarm the opposition of country members to what is styled “the centralisation of all in the Capital” & enlist the feelings of all classes to make this a great national institution worthy of
  • Melbourne
  • South Australia
as people still persist in addressing us.
I own I was not surprised at your observation respecting the change we have made in the University Statutes respecting residence in Term. But I think it will do good & no harm for it has disarmed the outside mob & silenced the perpetual outcry against our system of exclusion &c. &c. & in truth I do not think that many will avail themselves of the privilege. The compulsory courses are so numerous that but few can keep pace with the men who attend lectures unless they get private Tutors which will be more expensive than living in town & getting the best instruction without extra charge. The non-resident men are not [to] be entitled to run away with exhibitions & scholarships from the residents. If they win honours they are to be without emolument unless the winners come into residence.
Plucking the externs will teach the value of residence also.
You will think me I fear a terrible bore on these matters however you may wish for something to give zest to a visit to London by way of useful employment. You know Duffy has left our Ministry sadly disappointed I believe that there has not been a revolution thereupon old Evans succeeds him & has eaten much dirt at his election for Richmond. But are not all these things written in the Argus.
Pray accept my thanks again & give my best respects to Mrs Childers.
Believe me to be
Very sincerely yours

Redmond Barry
We dined Williams, Powlett & Dalgety last night at the Club. A success. They go home by the Malta Our new club house marches amain, it promises well. Omeo not arrived with electric cable & our Books.
[Written in margin of first page]
Let me entreat you to stir up old Barnard about our accounts he has made a sad mess of those of The University & brought us in his debt while he holds £5 to £700 in his hands.

Letter Three

Carlton Gardens

My dear Sir
Let me again thank you for your continued good offices, as advised by your letter of March 16. At our Degree day I had proposed to myself an infraction of the usual practice & intended to make a speech congratulating our young men on the attainment of the high

Melbourne Free Library [Melbourne Public Library], [ca. 1860] Albumen silver photograph. H92.354/2. La Trobe Picture Collection.

privileges for which they are so much indebted to your exertions but as one!!! young gentleman & alas one only came up for B.A. I did not think it a suitable occasion for an oration. So Alma Mater was not allowed to chuckle above her breath for her offspring. The indifference of our Public is too bad & we are set a task worse than that given to the Hebrews by their Egyptian masters & are expected to make bricks without either clay or straw. Let me note we have broken the back of the worse times. 2 matriculations & non-residence ought to attract St Courage.
By this mail I send £2,000 Bills of Exchange to Barnard placed at your disposal for the purchase of works of Art & have I fear bored you with a longa & verbosa epistola there anent.
We have asked you to [?] in aid several of our old friends & I am sanguine enow to hope that if they can be prevailed on to work with you much good may be done.
See the Quarterly for Jan 59 Title Patents. This shows what ask & you shall receive may lead to. Denison the Speaker would give us I have no doubt cartloads of Parliamentary papers of not much use to him & valuable to us The other departments I have named would do likewise Pray let me entreat you to put your shoulder to the wheel We have been sadly disappointed in not being able to send Tulk home & this cast on you a lions share of Trustee labor Knowing your disposition to help us we propose to you to employ Mr Wornum, of Marlboro House to carry out the details if you like him and he will act
He must be paid I suppose which will encroach on our small funds but that outlay may save us immensely besides we get the advantage of his acquaintance with the subject.
I have been strongly warned agst the Chrystal Palace & am told that in their hurry to furnish their vast museum they got inferior casts and gutta percha things which do not by any means truly represent the originals. Mind these gentry closely or we will get into terrible bad repute. For Heavens sake make yr Committee do something besides dining together & in particular work Clarke. He has pledged to give us all the ordnance maps engineers publications &c &c do not let him off.
The new wing of the Library is to be opened by Sir Henry Barkly on the Queen Birthday. The upper room is really very handsome & causes the proportions of the old room to appear dwindled. It will be christened the Victoria Room & they suggest a succession of suites of apartments. Next we will have the Patent room on the right the Albert Room & sic de similibus.
Mr Nicol has resigned his seat at the University Council which gives us a chance of a working member & I exercise my discretion in withholding your resignation for a while as I do not think we should be so ungrateful as to accept it until your present useful labors are completed.
But as 5 out of our 20 are absent & as we have the greatest difficulty in assembling 2 form a Quorum to carry on the business I think you would not approve of my not handing it in then as you give no sign of returning to us at present.
I fear you are terribly tired of my constant & d - iteration on these topics but there is a sad dearth of others on which to write Our new club advances apace & will be a credit to us if - we can pay for it. Politics here are stagnant with you rather the reverse if not in a maelstroom.
Mails late as usual Give my best regards to Mrs. Childers and
Believe me,
My dear Sir,
Very truly yours,

Redmond Barry
You are right about the Insolvent Law. Sir Geo was sadly disappointed at Mr Noel being made Comr. of the Court. We are much in advance of England in some of our legislation & wd be more so were it not for the pranks played by Fellows.

Letter Four

Melbourne Public Library

I do myself the honour to inform you that the Trustees of the Melbourne Public Library have remitted by this mail to Edward Barnard Esqre. Agent for Crown Colonies the sum of £2000 voted by the Parliament of Victoria for the purchase of Works of Art.
The carrying out of this important work has imposed a new duty on the Trustees, they therefore apply to you with a confident hope that you will in your capacity as Trustee give them the benefit of your co-operation, and that you will have no objection to associate with yourself the Gentlemen named in the margin [note, this list of names is to be found at the end of the letter] from whom they have reason to believe you may receive active and useful assistance in this as well as in other particulars.
The Trustees are so distant from the site of the objects in question and so ill provided with information as to the best mode of procuring them that it has appeared to them advisable to suggest to you the formation in London of a Committee of Gentlemen connected with this country interested in its social advancement and disposed to exert themselves kindly and energetically in promoting the immediate purpose of this communication.
In the course of such enquiries as they would make and such steps as they would recommend to be taken many sources might be discovered from which benefits of the highest value to us might be derived and our Society enriched by contributions of a kindred nature to those now sought.
It would be therefore perhaps well if you were to propose that the Gentlemen who consent to act on this Committee should wait upon the Secretary of State for the Colonies, obtain from him an introduction to the Trustees of the British Museum, Directors of the Marlboro' House School of Design, Kensington Museum, and the Heads of the various public departments, such as the Admiralty, Board of Trade, Board of Health, Board of Control India House, Ordinance Public Record Office, Horse Guards &c &c and having established thereby a recognized position, form themselves into Sub-Committees to attend at these respective Offices to request donations of the different publications which issue by their authority.
An article in the Quarterly Review for January 1859 on patents shews the generous liberality with which applicants are treated.
In some Offices the surplus accumulated publications are periodically destroyed, as there is not sufficient room in which to store them, of these such as would prove useful to us might be rescued from the flames.
Similar publications might perhaps be obtained on application to Departments of the Continental Governments.
By adopting such a mode of proceeding the interest taken by the people of this Country in the Arts which produce refinement would be made known! It may be fairly expected that these efforts of yourself and your Associates would be bountifully supported while the labor of the Gentlemen who second your endeavours would be much lightened.
We are already so beholden to the independent exertions of yourself and Mr. Forster for contributions from Cambridge and Dublin to the Library of our University that faith may be placed in the combined diligence of several of our influential Countrymen. Diffidence and delicacy are felt in offering suggestions as to the objects to be selected but as the money at the disposal of the Trustees is so limited and as much will be necessarily absorbed in the cost of packing, freight, and other charges It becomes a matter of moment that you should be informed of the system by which they propose the expenditure should be regulated.
It is not their intention to purchase pictures or Copies however excellent or cheap, Statues are likewise beyond their reach.
Photographs and Casts must represent these Departments of Art.
The Sum may be divided into four portions:
£500 for the purchase of Casts of Busts and Casts of Statues.
£500 for the purchase of Photographs Medals Coins and Gems.
£500 for the purchase of Alto and Bas reliefs and Miscellaneous objects.
£500 Expenses.
This approximate distribution will be a sufficiently convenient Guide for should a surplus arise in one branch it may be applied to any other to which you may deem it advisable to made an addition.
A List of such Works as appear suitable for the foundation of the Museum is sent it is so ample that should they all be procured the available funds will be fully employed. It is not meant that you should be restricted in your selection exclusively to these as it may happen that some, the Originals of which exist only in the Continental Galleries, are not to be procured in England, and that others of equal or superior merit may be obtained there but as this is the first step to the formation in this Country of the Public taste for Works of this description. It is most important that the objects now required should be those most effectual for that purpose.
The Trustees propose to be governed by the principle which regulated the first order for Books choosing them they began with a substratum of solid literature they now desire none but the most admirable illustrations of high ancient and modern classic art.
In this it may be prudent to recommend the exercise of a fastidious discrimination. It would be in the opinion of the Trustees more judicious to prefer a mutilated torso in its actual state to a statue portions of which have been at different times supplied however excellent the restoration may be esteemed to be, notwithstanding even the celebrated Venus and the Apollo of Belvidere be included in that Category. But doubtless the British Museum the Crystal Palace &c. &c. contain such a wealth of perfect specimens that you will be able to choose all which so small a sum as that at your disposal will admit without the necessity for recourse to either of these extremes.
To the Friezes and Marbles these remarks will of course not be held to apply, as the hand of destruction has spared but few of them.
In the 1st. Department it appears to the Trustees desirable to adopt the plan of illustrating the historic development of Art and to commence with a few specimens of the most salient
productions of Nineveh, Egypt Etruria and AEgina, taking those which exhibit the rudiments of characteristic National design and those which reached the highest degree of perfection.
The intermediate spaces we might hope to see filled up bye and bye.
The Grecian schools of Phidias and Praxitilles might be liberally represented.
The Ancient Roman School would be lightly passed over as the authenticity of many of them so-called originals may be suspected for as you are aware, in the times of the Emperors, many beautiful Greek statues were decapitated and for the heads of gods and Herves so displaced, likenesses of the Reigning Sovereigns or of Members of their families were substituted.
It will be sufficient therefore to take but a few undoubted types of that era, and proceed to the Italian Schools of Donatelli[,] Ghiberti[,] Michael Angelo[,] John of Bologna &c &c &c from which a number of the choicest works should be selected a few Examples of the style of Bemin de Poutie Roubilleu would lead to Nolukins [Nollekens], Bacon, Flaxman, Chanty, and each of the modern European Studios might furnish some distinguished copies.
The Trustees, in addition to providing means of elegant recreation may trace the outlines of a scheme of Public Instruction valuable in various ways marking the chief notable epochs of intellectual preeminence, fixing prominently the relative national differences of thought, peculiarities of manner of treatment capability of demonstration and excellence of execution and thus shedding light upon the religious political and social history of each of the principal families of the Human race.
You will agree with the Trustees I believe that great care must be taken to employ strictly honest and trustworthy persons to make the Casts.
On this they suggest a series of extensive enquiries before the orders are given.
The Directors of the British Museum Sydenham Palace, and Marlborough House School of Design have of course many competent men in their employment, from whom information may be obtained.
It is proposed.
1st That you insist especially that every Cast represent the object selected in the full size, and not in enlarged or diminished proportions.
2nd That it be taken from the newest approved mould, itself taken from the Original Statue.
On no account allow a Cast to be taken from a Mould which has been taken from a Cast. Independent of the injury done to a Cast by Mechanics to whom the task of cleaning off the seams or fins, as they are termed, is sometimes entrusted by negligent Artists, the expansion of the plaster at the parts of union of the portions frequently causes considerable difference between the Copies and the Originals.
Complaints upon this point have been made as you know respecting several objects in the Sydenham Palace.
Examine in particular when you visit it, the Celebrated Group by Michael Angelo of the Virgin Mary supporting the Dead Christ - Compare it with that in the School of the Royal Academy.
3. The seams or fins must be left on and will if thought advisable be removed here.
4. Stringent orders must be given that a sufficient quantity of Materials be used, distributed in due proportion neither too thick nor too thin and the parts well supported by metal.
5. No Oil or Paint should be applied.
6. A model Pedestal with simple machinery to enable the Statue to revolve so that it may be viewed in every attitude, should be sent, others can be made here.
Equal attention should be paid to secure the services of experienced and careful persons to pack the Casts. The loss by breakage will be serious unless due precautions be taken to add a sufficient quantity of fresh and elastic shavings or other suitable matter.
There are men particularly careful in superintending this work. Signer Luchesi, of No. 7 Mortimer Market Tottenham Court Road has amongst others been mentioned to the Trustees.
The Trustees are not so unreasonable as to expect that you will devote yourself or that the Gentlemen who may favor them with their assistance, will devote themselves to superintending the detailed execution of this order and as technical professional knowledge is indispensable on many points they consider that it may be advantageous for you to retain the services of a gentleman of cultivated taste who could not only give disinterested advice but undertake to superintend the Casting and packing and who would undertake to forward instructions as to the best modes of adjusting the parts and treating them when put together. The proper lights in which to expose the different objects.
The most approved method of exhibiting the Photographs &c. &c., with such remarks as may be deemed of use in directing the Trustees to fill up, add to or vary the plan of which I have given you a Sketch. Such a person would be found it is believed in Mr.[blank space] Director of the Government School of Design at Marlboro' House. We possess some of his works and from the reputation he has attained it may be expected that he would act conscientiously and honourably.

H.C.E. Childers. 1872. Photograph. UMA/1/1674. University of Melbourne Archives.

The accommodation which can be at present afforded for the reception of the works now sent for, consists of a Hall on the Ground Floor of the Original Building and a part of that of the new wing.
The 1st. is about 40 feet Square containing 4 Massive Pillars which support the 1st. floor and break the light thro' this visitors pass to the Stairs leading to the Reading Room.
The other is about 50′ × 40′ also broken by Pillars. The light is admitted to each from the front and rear by windows 12 feet high 4'6′ from the ground.
Thus right and left lights may be obtained and bays formed by Screens if such be advised.
I have trespassed on you at such length upon the 1st. portion of the subject that I must claim your indulgence.
I will briefly add that hitherto the efforts of the Trustees to render the Library worthy of the Country have been favored with success almost unexpected. That they place much reliance upon this auxiliary element of mental cultivation as eminently calculated to introduce a new stimulus for intellectual refinement. That they are sensitively alive to the danger of a failure and are apprehensive lest the first impression produced upon our Visitors may be apathy or dissatisfaction. They therefore see the necessity for your guarding those you may employ against the notion that anything is good enough for a Colony or that the Trustees will be content with objects of an inferior Standard, or with even a respectable mediocrity but that they require the best selection of the choicest objects of the approved Schools executed in the most perfect manner.
You will excuse I beg the urgency with which I venture to impress these views and I conclude by assuring you that the Trustees will feel grateful if you will assist them to the extent which they reckon on as within your power and inclination.
I have the honor to be
The Honorable
H.C.E. ChildersYour Obedient Servant
One of the TrusteesRedmond Barry of the
of theOne of the Trustees of the
Melbourne Public LibraryMelbourne Public Library
[Names in margin of first page of letter]
  • Mr. Latrobe
  • Sir Wm ABeckett
  • Mr. Justice Williams
  • Mr. Westgarth
  • Mr. H. Moore
  • Mr. Duerdin
  • Mr. Foster
  • Mr. Griffith
  • Mr. Wilson
  • Mr. Panton
  • Captn Clarke R.E.
  • Mr. Tulk

Letter Five

My dear Sir,
With this I send you the Duplicate of a letter addressed by me to Mr. Woodcraft of the Patent Office last month through you. In sending it I am happy to have anticipated the information given in the article on the subject in the Quarterly of Jan. last. I know of nothing more important to us than this collection [which] will prove to be as we have our modern Sidrophels & [?] who waste their time and cudgel their brains in working out problems solved long ago or proved to be visionary.
I have already inundated you to such an extent that I spare you at present from any further infliction and am Very truly yrs
Redmond Barry
Carlton Gardens

Letter Six

Melbourne Public Library
[Printed letterhead with drawing of the Library]

My dear Childers,
Do not be surprised to hear that we are waiting with anxiety (I will not say impatience) to hear something actual and tangible respecting your progress in the selection of the works of art for our Museum. No one knows better than you do the variable temperament of our ignoble vulgus & how necessary it is to keep pace with one's own original proposition to hold ground. Twelve months bring round so many revolutions in this end of he earth that it is considered a much longer period than with you & those who work from Monday morning till Saturday night from the 2nd of Jan to the 24th of Dec balancing their ledgers, if possible, on Sunday do not comprehend the intervals of repose in which the English people periodically indulge.
Eight months are told since we sent our last order to Guillaume & it is only now that he informs us of his being nearly ready to despatch some Books. Those ordered for circulation in the Country should have been here by this time. Indeed I am somewhat afraid that their non arrival will materially interfere with the successful working of our project. For the new Ministry are about to plough with one Heifer & while they have placed on the estimates for our Library the munificent sum of £1950! They propose to give £2.000 for Libraries in the country. Had our system a fair start once I believe it would have won its way steadily making the principal establishment a quasi Adult self-educating university with auxiliary colleges in every country Town the latter being admirers & supporters of the former instead of envious rivals.

First invoice of J.J. Guillaume to the Melbourne Public Library, April 1854. MS 11614. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

Now I am much alarmed lest one place may clash with the other & neither having a fair trial discredit may be brought on both.
Pray do poke up Guillaume. I have got him to correspond at last in a somewhat more respectful tone & find that firmness and a tight hand are very necessary to corrrect his carelessness & control a propensity for overcharges & saying the thing extremely like the thing which is not. He tells me that Mr. La Trobe paid him a visit lately & spent some time going over the books then ready to be sent out & that he approved of them highly. Tant mieux. - [?] &c.
With respect to the works of Art Do let me entreat you to stir up the Committee. I received a long letter from Clarke on the subject in which I see he fully acknowledges the value of my suggestion respecting the necessity of avoiding casts from casts taken from figures themselves cast - upon this point I suppose you cannot be too particular. Henry Moor writes overflowing with generous offers of assistance proposing to go to Italy (if necessary) at his own expense to aid in procuring what is required.
This is very gratifying; I find also that the proposal of names of collaborateurs for you has brought about the happy effect of a reconciliation between him & Mr. Wilson. I was delighted to hear of their having agreed to bury the hatchet and labor together. If Mr Wilson will bring to this new branch of labor but even a small portion of that steadfast & earnest love for doing good work which distinguishes him in his other praiseworthy doings he will place us under additional debts to him.
As I will confine this letter wholly to business I venture to impress on you the advisability of getting your Sub-Committee to besiege the various offices in force attacking The Patent Office first. A complete set, as it is said, has been sent to our Parliament Library, but the works have come out in numbers unbound. How they are to be arranged & analysed properly here it is impossible to say.
It strikes me that a scientific classification in chronological order as each branch if deserving has been developed and improved, requires more knowledge & skill than is possessed by any man here upon whom we could rely.
To have this effectively done it would be advisable to employ a man “eminent” (I hate the word) & well read up in the subject. Binding so large a series would be enormously expensive here. You know that My Lord Chelmsford gained great kudos by his success in Patent Cases. Now as you are en route to the Woolsack it might assist your progress were you to devote a little time to seeing that a good analysis is prepared.
The Bible Society next.
We want a complete set of the Bible & Testament in all languages & as many editions of the former in every creed & with every interpretation as possible. If you succeed in getting a Donation of these works we can well afford to have them handsomely bound by Riviere & forwarded thru Guillaume.
Maps we are sadly in want of indeed disgracefully deficient for these.
The Admiralty & the Ordinance Survey may be addressed & I have good reason to believe that the Offices in France would be liberal.
Clarke promised & vowed repeatedly to do something for us in this department. Tell him from me that two long years have occurred & that I do not see anything coming. He mention letter to me that there was a difficulty in knowing what Office to address. Suppose you try the Commander in Chief to begin with & then the Heads of the Engineers & Artillery.
The Public Records - Treasury Board of Health Stationers Office &c.
These will be had thru the Master of the Rolls. I am sure he will be found easy of access & liberal. If it be necessary to pay for the works at his disposal Guillaume might be directed to pay for them charging a small per centage for his trouble & for getting them appropriately bound. The Houses of Parliament I have placed last for as I suppose you have by this time got a footing in your House you will be able to work the Speaker. What a sad catastrophe is that of the loss of the Royal Charles. I cannot be too thankful that my mother & sister crossed the Channel in safety on that dreadful night. Should you ever visit Clifton my mother is to be found at Beaufort Buildings. I am sure it would give her much pleasure to receive you. I trust affairs march comfortably with you. Give my best wishes to Mrs Childers & Believe me
Very truly yours
Redmond Barry
I send the Duplicate of Prof. Irvings additional List of Books.
I have recd the D of Newcastles thanks for our address to H M on receiving the Charter. It is tant soit peu commonplace. Tonight our Prime Minister moves an address in the L S Assembly thanks H M (I was in great hopes that on the Legislative Council would have even moved - in time to be sent by the mail but they do not meet until Wednesday the mail goes tomorrow)
[Additional postscript cross-written at beginning of letter]
I applied recently to the Gov-Gen of India for a supply of native weapons & contributions of books published by authority of the Indian Government.
Received a most generous supply & a set of useful works.
The arms are to follow this success may be worth something in the progress of your negotiating for us.
Similar donations of books have come from
The United States -
In all we have received 1600 vols presented.
Letter One 15 March 1859
Dr. Paget. Sir James Paget (1814–1883), British surgeon and pathologist. Taught and practised at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Was knighted in 1877.
Port Curtis Queensland goldfield discovered about December 1853.
Mr Duffy Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816–1903). In charge of the Lands Department in the O'Shanassy Ministry in Victoria.Sir John
O'Shanassy (1818–1883) is the Chief Secretary referred to. He was Premier of Victoria in 1857, again in 1858–59, and in 1861–1863
Lord John Russell Prime Minister of Great Britain 1846 - 1852 and 1865 - 1866.
Ld Derby Prime Minister of Great Britain 1852 and 1858 - 1859.
Ld Palmerston Prime Minister of Great Britain 1859 - 1865.
Peels battle of the Registration. Barry is possibly referring to the Irish Registration Bill of Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of Great Britain 1834–1835, 1841–1846.
Messrs Don and Osborne Charles Jardine Don (1820–1866), a stonemason and former chartist, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly as member for Collingwood in 1859, claimed to be the first of his class to be a member of ‘any legislature in the British Empire’. Along with Osborne (whom Geoffrey Serle in The Rush to be Rich describes as‘ a prime rabble rouser’) Don was an active member of the Land Convention, organised in protest against the conservative land bill then before Parliament.
Mr Guillaume J.J. Guillaume, Chester Square, London, specialised in supplying books to the colonies. F.A. Guillaume took over his father's business in November 1858.
Messrs. Bohn, Quarritch[,] Logman[,] Norgate. English booksellers.
Letter Two 15 April 1859
Beotian herd Boeotia was a country district of ancient Greece, and the term ‘boeotian’ came to signify dull and stupid.
Mr Tulk Augustus Henry Tulk (1810–1873), first Librarian of the Melbourne Public Library.
Mr Latrobe Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801–1875). Superintendent of the Port Phillip District 1839–1851, Lieutenant Governor of Victoria 1851–1854. La Trobe continued to show interest in and support for Victoria after his return to England.
Sir William a'Beckett Sir William A'Beckett (1806–1869), first Chief Justice of Victoria, left the bench in 1857 and returned to England in 1863.
Foster Clarke John Leslie Fitzgerald Vesey Foster (1818–1900). Landowner, civil servant, Port Phillip representative in NSW Legislative Council 1846–1850 and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Williamstown (Victoria). Returned to England 1857.
Griffith Charles James Griffith (1808–1863) Pastoralist and member of the Legislative Council in Victoria for Normanby, Douglas and Follett. In England 1858–1862.
Mr Wilson Edward Wilson (1813–1878), the owner/editor of the Argus newspaper, who was in England 1859–60.
Mr Westgarth William Westgarth (1815–1889). Politician, historian and merchant. Member for Melbourne in the NSW Legislative Council 1850. In Britain late 1850s.
Brucciani the introducer of the Alpaca the Salmon & the Singing Birds Signor Domenico Brucciani, a cast-maker in Covent Garden. Probably a reference to Edward Wilson, who had a small zoo, and had attacked La Trobe, Stawell and Moor in the Argus.
Gutta Percha Gum of the Percha tree. Used as a waterproof covering to prevent evaporation, especially around telegraph wires. Also used extensively in the Arts.
Chrystal Palace. The Crystal Palace, a building of iron and glass designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park.
old Evans Probably George Samuel Evans (1802–1868). Barrister and member for Richmond and later Maryborough among other seats, in the Victorian Legislative Assembly 1856–1864.
Williams Justice [later Sir] Edward Eyre Williams (1813–1880). Became second puisne judge of the Supreme Court, Port Phillip District.
Powlett Frederick Powlett (1811–1865). First recorded president of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
Dalgety Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety (1817–1894). Merchant and financier.
old Barnard Edward Barnard, Agent for Crown Colonies in London.
Letter Three 14 May 1859
longa & verbosa espistola. Latin for ‘long and verbose letter’. Barry is here using a playful kind of dog-latin; a more correct form would be ‘epistola longa et verbosa’.
Denison John Evelyn Denison (1800–1873) Speaker of the British House of Commons 1857–1872.
Clarke Captain (later Sir) Andrew Clarke (1824–1902). Surveyor General and Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Port Phillip District. Elected to the first Legislative Assembly of Victoria. Later Acting Agent-General in London.
Sir Henry Barkly Governor of Victoria 1856 -1863.
Noel Wriothesley Baptist Noel (1827–1886) became Commissioner of Insolvent Estates in 1859.
Letter Four 16 May 1859
This letter is not in Barry's hand. Presumably he dictated it. This may account for the two notes following.
Mr Forster Probably John Foster rather than Forster. See note for Letter Two.
Mr. Director of the Government School of Design at Marlboro' House The missing name may be that of Ralph Wornum (see Letter Three)
Some of the gentlemen mentioned in Barry's list have already been covered. The others are:
Mr. H. Moore Henry Moor (1809–1877), solicitor, who was the second mayor of Melbourne, returned to England permanently in 1854.
Mr. Duerdin John Duerdin. Admitted to the Bar in London but not licensed in Port Phillip. Worked as a bookseller in Melbourne and was admitted to the Bar here in 1841.
Mr Panton Joseph Anderson Panton (1831–1913) Public Servant. Senior Commissioner at Bendigo 1854. Went to Scotland in 1858 to study art.
Mr Tulk Probably John Augustus Tulk of Edinburgh.
Letter Five 17 May 1859
Sidrophels. Sidrophel was a character from Samuel Butler's satire Hudibras (published in three parts from 1663–1678), an astrological quack whose preoccupation with the heavens has left him deficient in ordinary common sense. Barry here seems to use the name as a proverbial term for unrealistic and fanciful inventors, much as we might use ‘egghead’ or ‘boffin’ today.
Letter Six January 16 1860
Woolsack Seat of the Lord Chancellor of England in the House of Lords. A seat stuffed with wool. (Childers did not become a peer.)
Prof. Irving Martin Howy Irving (1831–1912). Professor of Classical and Comparative Philology and Logic at the University of Melbourne 1856–1870, who came to Australia with Henry Kingsley.
D of Newcastle Henry Pelham, Fifth Duke of Newcastle (1811–1864). Secretary of State for the Colonies. He had earlier refused Barry's request for official publications to be supplied without payment to the Melbourne Public Library. (See The La Trobe Journal No.72, p. 18.)
tant soit peu. French ‘a bit’, ‘somewhat’. So Barry is saying ‘It is tant soit peu commonplace’; he appears to be referring to the thanks rendered him by the Duke of Newcastle.