ALS to her daughter Janet Ranken. RANKEN, Mrs. S. HUTCHISON.
ALS to her daughter Janet Ranken.

ALS to her daughter Janet Ranken.

[Sydney or Scotland]: 21 August, 1829.

Three-page ALS in a neat but unfinished hand, 228 x 185 mm., original red wax seal, stamp for the Sydney post office but not otherwise marked, very good.

A charming and rather rare example of a woman writing from Sydney in the 1820s. The letter was written to Janet Ranken, the wife of the important Bathurst pastoralist and settler George, one of the first to take up land in the region. On George Ranken see a long entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and the well-regarded 1916 memoir The Rankens of Bathurst. The only mystery about the letter is whether it was written in Scotland (where it is probably likely that Mrs Hutchison was still living) or Sydney (the sealed letter has only one postal stamp, for Sydney): was Janet Ranken's mother also an immigrant to New South Wales?

A charming and rather rare example of a woman writing from Sydney in the 1820s. The letter was written to Janet Ranken, the wife of the important Bathurst pastoralist and settler George, one of the first to take up land in the region. On George Ranken see a long entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and the well-regarded 1916 memoir The Rankens of Bathurst. The only mystery about the letter is whether it was written in Scotland (where it is probably likely that Mrs Hutchison was still living) or Sydney (the sealed letter has only one postal stamp, for Sydney): was Janet Ranken's mother also an immigrant to New South Wales?

The letter was written to her daughter Janet "Jenny" Ranken Hutchison, who had then been living in Bathurst for several years, having married the pastoralist George Ranken in May 1821 before the newlyweds sailed on the Lusitana. Ranken leased property from John Piper in Sydney, and was one of the first to be granted land in Bathurst, naming his property Kelloshiel, to which property they moved in 1823.

This letter dates from 1829, when the Rankens were firmly settled in Bathurst, and her mother opens with some pointed chiding of young Mrs. Ranken, who has let her duties as a correspondent slip, the more so as reports have reached her that she George have had a new child, a daughter, as long ago as December 1828, and yet "not one word from George or you" (the lack of any mail "was not the way you used to do on similar occasions" notes her mother primly). Mrs Hutchison includes an interesting aside that "you have often spoek of coming home but so long as you are so [word] in the family way I do not see how it is posable".

The rest of the long letter is taken up with fabulous gossip regarding all of their acquaintance, all told in a breathless and sometimes startlingly direct style: "we had Jessie and Tibbie Taylors here lately about a week", starts one passage, "as poor and as proud as ever" A mutual friend Marion has got word of the death of her husband, "but I am one among many who does not believe he is dead." Her son Peter is up to his old tricks ("if he knew the anxiety that his old Mother and Sisters are in about him"), and her daughters are "all in the usual (?) way often complaining tho nothing deadly I think amongst them". A mysterious Mr. Smith, well known to Janet, "is nothing at all going about like an old beggar man, patching and working with Bees…". While the uppity "Mr and Mrs Otto have now got - to the astonishment of the natives - a gigg, but tho it is now nine months since she got it she has been just once in it." Their niece Jean Otto is down to buy her "wedding draws" (?!), and is to be married to an "active steady young man a writer" who had stayed many times with the Otto family. And so on.

The letter concludes with a return to her heartfelt wish that she could know about what is happening in Bathurst: "I wish you would let me know what you are doing with your boys and how many is begun to learn and what is Miss Rankin [sic] like and all about them."

A short obituary of Janet Ranken was published in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser for 25 October 1883, noting that she had initially stayed in Petersham while Kelloshiel was being laid out, but not noting who she was living with at that time - it is possible that the letter, that is, dates from Petersham.

Price (AUD): $2,500.00  other currencies Ref: #4211185

Condition Report