Our online shop is open! National and international shipping are operational.
For more information please click here


Manuscript travel diary of a journey to Australia, New Zealand and the South Sea Islands undertaken in 1897.

In transit , 1897 Stock Code: 123347
Reserve Ask us a question


An engaging and detailed daily diary kept by an Englishman travelling to Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of Polynesia, which includes chronicles of cricket, earthquakes, and shooting sports. The volume opens at sea on 1 January 1897, with our unnamed diarist taking part in a deck quoit competition. The phrase "read, smoked and slept" sums up the tenor of the voyage out, undertaken with his friends Beattie and Spall. He makes observations of the weather, wind speeds and location (giving latitude and longitude) and shows an interest in maritime matters. Disembarking at Adelaide he tours the major locales of New South Wales and Victoria, including Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney. In June the cruise takes him to the South Sea Islands of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, visiting plantations and interacting with the native people; he gives a charming account of an attempt to purchase cigars for two Fijian women. Of particular interest is a list of items both gifted and bought during this leg of the journey, which include a whale's tooth, a Joa wood war club, bow and arrows, and a ceremonial club belonging to Chief Jaraganikoro of Suva, Fiji's capital.
On 9 January: "sighted land after breakfast - Kangaroo Island on the approach to Adelaide the first land since Nov 30 saw a bush fire on the island". With Adelaide as a base he and his companions buy a gun license and after having taken in some of the sights of this "very fine city", visit Meningie on the shores of Lake Albert where they shoot "a lot of rabbits", although this is by no means their only sport: duck, pelican, swan, opossum, kangaroo ("no kills") and "brushers" (a bushman's name for a small wallaby), all being fair game. As the heat of an Australian summer begins to build he notes that "flys sic are most troublesome, almost eat one up, obliged to wear fly nets over your head". Out in the bush our traveler joins in with a number of local cricket matches: "after noon played cricket" (23 Jan.); "Drove with Botten 10 miles to a cricket match, Meningie v Squatters Stations in which I played for Meningie - beaten by 6" (30 Jan.); "Meningie v the Creamery a local butter factory - beat them by 50" (6 Feb.). Next he takes the steamer Cintra for Melbourne; he goes to Flemington racecourse ("a very pretty course, you can see the horses the whole way"), and after "went on the horse round-a-about, which is on the sands by the pier", accompanied by a Miss Robertson; the account is peppered with references to lady companions, among which the entry for 9 March stands out: "evening sat with Miss Tookey in her room, a very pretty girl, 23 years old with about 500 a year"). There are visits to Geelong and Terang ("went on a merry-go-round the only thing there was to do"), "bush races", and a visit to Mount Noorat ("a grand view from the top, the mount is a distinct volcano sic"). He then takes the Sunderland-built steamer Westralia for Sydney ("the entrance to the harbour is very grand"), and notes "tried to get swindled but I being too sharp for them they failed". His time here includes a trip to the Tivoli music hall and theatres, a game or two of tennis and a visit to Manly ("a charming place").

On 31 May "Burgoyne persuaded me to come with him to the South Sea Islands" and on 3 June they set sail on the SS Jasmine ("shooting at albatross"), heading to Suva, capital of Fiji (8 June: "lovely hot day, nice breeze, sea calm. Knocking about the deck all day. 2 p.m. got into the tropics, & the haunts of the flying fish - saw two sharks". At Suva they take a steamer up the Riwa river ("sugar plantations cocoanuts & mangroves growing along the banks & bannas bananas". They visit "Fijian's huts sic & sat inside, they gave us a lot of things & we gave them pocket knives & tobacco. I hung a medal round the doctor's wife", they consume kava, then sail for Levuka on the Fijian island of Ovalau ("a charming island"); here he relates a delightful incident: in the "evening I strolled about the town, had a stroll with two Fijians girls sic, fine well made girls, with their hair decked with red flowers, but could not speak English, they made signs for me to buy them some cigars as I was smoking one, I went into a store & asked for some but was very pleased that they had none, as the store was full of Fijians. The girls followed me in & told the others my errand, whereupon I should have had to buy for the lot". Then to Labasa, on the island of Vanua Levu, and Samoa ("a jungle of cocoa nut, palm & fern trees bought tappa decorated barkcloth Samoans girls sic very pretty"), then Tonga, Ha'apai and Nuku'alofa ("saw in expection sic of 13 soldiers in the guard room"). Leaving the South Sea islands behind they sail for Auckland. Using this as their base they make detours to Thames ("a great mining town") and Rotorua ("had a hot natural Sulphur bath before breakfast spoke to several Maoris boiling mud ponds and geysers went out shooting with some Maoris at the hotel a white peoples dance, no Maoris allowed, only stayed about half an hour").

Starting around 21 July and up until the diary closes on 12 December the party stay in a whare (a Maori house) near Inglewood (some 19km inland from New Plymouth, in the south west corner of the North Island), where our diarist meet up again with Spall and Beattie, his companions on the voyage out. Much time here is spent cooking and planting (peas and root vegetables) and visiting local farmers, lightened by occasional trips into Inglewood and Kaimata, often set against the backdrop of a resigned endurance of persistent rain. However, on 14 August "before turning in we felt a serious earthquake shock". On 3 September there is an amusing and unusually detailed account of a local dance: "Arthur & I rode to a dance at Kaimata schoolroom 1 miles dancers composed of bushmen, farmers & country girls, all rode to the dance, music 2 violins & a piccolo, refreshments billy tea brewed in a bushman's billy can, sandwiches & a little cake, wore my dress suit only one about dancers & non-dancers who were larrikins Australian slang for a "rowdy" or "mischievous young person", all the ladies sat together at the end of the room like bashful schoolgirls. The programme was stuck up at the end of the room & the dancers were announced by the M. C. The two violins were a bar or two in front or behind of each other. Could not find our horses after, had to find them with a lighted candle hunting all over the paddock" (he also adds a list of his dancing partners). Then (15 September) "Arthur & I rode into Inglewood to see a Cintematographe sic at the town hall (a small building)" - "cintematograph" was a fairly common early mis-hearing of "cinematograph", the Lumière brothers' invention which was publicly premiered on 28 December 1895; this is an early reference to its use in the southern hemisphere. On 8 December they experience the Wanganui earthquake, a "very sharp & long earth quake. Shook our whare about". In the concluding entries our young diarist shows a fond attachment to the daughter of a local dairy farmer, one Rosalie Worm: "with her sunbonnet on & her hair hanging down she made a lovely picture we stood talking in the moonlight". The diary closes on 12 December with the line "strolled up to see Rosalie".

Included at the end is an interesting inventory of artefacts picked up in the South Seas: Suva, Fiji: "10 bow and arrows Chief's Club (Turaganikoro, Chief of the Town)" - Turaga-ni-koro being the Fijian word for the head of a village - war clubs (made of toa wood), walking sticks, tappa; Samoa: mats, necklaces; Tonga: kava cups. This is followed by a short glossary of Fijian and Polynesian words and a list of expenses, including haircuts, tobacco, a Winchester rifle (3 10 shillings), cartridges (1,000), straw hat and mineral waters.

There is something of the flâneur in this account, with much strolling, promenading on the sea front, and the taking of afternoon tea - a flavour, perhaps, of the ennui of late Victorian middle-class life; but there is also some of the excitement of a young Englishman's encounter with the exoticism of the southern hemisphere.

Confused? Read our glossary


Square quarto, Lett's Rough Diary and Almanac for 1897. Original red pebble-grained cloth, date gilt to the tail of the spine and to the front board within a belt device (stamped No.44), advertising endpapers on thin, very pale yellowish pink paper stock.


Comprising some 200 pages in a neat and perfectly legible hand, amounting to approximately 30,000 words.


Spine sunned, old pale splash stains to covers, a little rubbed and spotted, but overall very good.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book