October 06, 2007

6 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Colonial Surgeon John Harris

I could have counted the ships the ships that called here between 1801 and 1805 on my two hands and it is still an occasion when a ship from Home arrives. Some of Mrs. Kingdon's letters have fallen apart in my hands from being read, and when Mr. Macarthur was away, I almost read Blackstone's Commentaries on English law! Given how infrequent good conversation can be had, it's surprising that more of us don't go entirely mad. Thank God for Mr. Harris, the wonderful scoundrel that he is.

Sometimes I hunger to read a good book that I've not read before; Mrs. Lucas brought a fine collection with her, including many in French and German. My favourite was always The Sorrows of Young Werther, and now I have the book in English and in German, and Mrs. Lucas is very patient with my German. I still long for a cheap and dreadful London tale though, and join the clamour to the Captains when a ship comes in, begging and bribing for any spare copies of the London magazines. And not only for the fashion, like some of my friends!

A woman's mind should be challenged or it stultifies in the everyday concerns: to avoid that, as much as for any reason, I love the sheep and the stud book. That said, however, a woman may extend herself too far as I fear I may have done, keeping this house and gardens, managing staff, looking after my unwell daughter, organising entertainments and the stud, and looking after Mr. Macarthur's interests also. That is quite a burden, and writing in this diary only helps me to be clear about those responsibilities when what I need is a sympathetic friend. I had hoped Mrs. Putland could play that role, as Mrs. King had done to an extent, but the gap between what is right for this place and a Governor's orders make it hard for we wives and daughters to avoid the acrimony. Mrs. Putland has written me with her fulsome thanks for the party and hopes she may return the favour, and in the meantime can Elizabeth junior stay with her? If Elizabeth is well enough, she certainly can.

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