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Dr Barrett


What follows is a copy of Dr John Barrett's typescript from c. 1977, deposited in the National Library of Australia, Canberra, MS 9453, Folder 21. It is reproduced here by kind permission of the Library and of John Barrett's widow, Margaret Barrett.

In this text original page numbers are inserted within { }.




Who was John Davies Mereweather?  To be sure, he was an Anglican clergyman who described his few Australian years in two books, Life on Board an Emigrant Ship ... (1852) and Diary of a Working Clergyman in Australia ... (1859).1 But what else?  His books have been useful. Vance Palmer used one of them to make a comment on the disturbance and coarsening of life in Victoria by the gold rushes. K. S. Inglis quoted the Diary on drunkenness at Christmas, and H. V. Evans cited its account of the Edward River district. Mereweather was also drawn on several times for That Better Country. Again, an anthology of colonial settlers' writings included a lengthy extract from the Diary, although the compiler admitted that little was known about Mereweather.2  

That anthologist spoke for most people. Mereweather came and went, an unknown. For a man who published his diaries, and seemed appreciative of his status and talents, Mereweather kept his person and background curiously hidden. Other people have not helped much. The Australian Dictionary of Biography does not even know Mereweather, although some with no greater claim to recognition have gained entry. Yet if Mereweather's books keep being mined by historians, it is more than time we got to know him better, even if his inner being still remains elusive and very private. 

One thing, at any rate, is clear: the reverend J. D. {2} Mereweather, B. A. (Oxon.) had risen on the social scale.

Family background

On his father's side, he came from a line of Bristol cork-cutters, craftsmen who made stoppers and bungs. His father, John, got the vote in the city of Bristol because he was apprenticed to Samuel, who similarly became a burgess because he was the son of Abraham, who was made a burgess in the 1730s because he married Sarah, daughter of a barber-surgeon named William Jarvis. All these Mereweathers were cork-cutters, and all became burgesses because of some link with tradesmen citizens.3 

J.D.M.'s father and half-brother Samuel began the social climb. When in 1826 Samuel became a burgess at the age of 28 years, paying 3s 4d for the privilege, he was a fruiterer. He was in business with his father who, although still described as a cork-cutter in the burgess records for 1826, was already a fruiterer in 1816.4  Their combined house and shop, and Italian warehouse,5  stood on a corner of Small and  Corn Streets, near the centre of Bristol. Both corners are now heavy with banks, and the Mereweather property was valuable in 1830. 

In that year they were charged a special church rate by the Parish of St Werburgh, based on the valuation of their property for the previous poor rate. (There was always something to pay, even then.)  The Mereweather valuation was £45.  Other combined houses and shops in Corn Street were valued, probably {3} undervalued at £30, £25 and as low as £8. The post offices and offices over were rated on £50, and the Country Market and part of the interior of the Exchange (property of the Corporation of Bristol) on £70. In adjoining Small Street, one dwelling house and warehouse was valued at £65, and William Pugh's house and shop at £10.  So, with property valued for rate purposes at £45, the Mereweathers were doing well.6 

As voters, John and Samuel regularly supported Liberal candidates. As Evangelical Anglicans, they were church wardens of neighbouring St Werburgh's, where they took their turn as treasurer and, presumably, obeyed the injunction to avoid bell-ringing as much as possible, since that only tended 'to prey on the funds of the Church'.7 

But, however careful, Samuel was not long for this world. In 1839, aged 41 years and unmarried, he died. He had done his bit to boost the family on the social scale, although not to enlarge and continue it. Later in that year, old John and his spinster daughter Ann, born 1800, leased the Corn street premises to others and moved out to suburban Clifton, where the former cork-cutter, and later fruiterer and member of the Exchange, could call himself 'gentleman' until he died at the age of 73 years in 1845.8 

Daughter Ann never married, but retained the large house at 2 Tottenham Place, Clifton, served by such persons as the faithful cook Hester Smith, to whom she bequeathed 'One Sovereign for each year she has lived with me, instead of {4} Mourning'. The house was one in a Georgian terrace, with four floors, and set high on a hill, with a view. It was all a far cry from the cork-cutting Samuel 'Merryweather', whose address in 1775 had been Redcliff Pit. The house passed to John Davies Mereweather upon Ann's death in 1875, and is now part of the residential accommodation for the University of Bristol.9 

While the Mereweather family was rising it was also declining. Samuel and Ann died childless. A sister did become Mrs Matilda Denning, and had three children, but they seemed to mean little to John Davies Mereweather, although one nephew was the Reverend Stephen Poyntz Denning (who died young). The mother of Samuel, Ann and Matilda had died at the age of 34, and J.D.M. was the only child of his  father's second marriage to Anna Maria Davies, who died in 1831 before her son's fifteenth birthday. 

Anna Maria had been born near Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthen, but was living at Abergavenny when she married. She brought a moderate but useful marriage settlement with her, and this may well have helped the Mereweathers set up in business. Later, her money seems to have helped J.D.M. very directly: a couple of years after his father's death, he benefited from some property that had been his mother's.10 

J.D.M. was probably a lonely child. Nothing has been traced about his schooling or life up to his twenty-third year – except that, for some reason, he was not baptised in St Werburgh's but was carried a few doors down Small Street to Christ Church, where {5} the  poet Robert Southey had been baptised. J.D.M. was born on 7 September 1816, and baptised on 3 October.11  But it seems likely that while he was provided with a Christian home, there was limited fellowship in it for him, losing his mother when he was 14, having a half-brother and half-sisters fifteen and more years older, and perhaps, in the end, having very strained relations with his father. 

It was only by a codicil to John's will, made in the year of his death, 1845, that J.D.M. inherited anything from his father. His half-sister Ann was the main beneficiary, and she was a considerable legatee, but J.D.M. got only £400, and then at almost the last moment.12  There can just be speculation about it. Perhaps John had spent so much on J.D.M.'s education, providing him with the chance of a reasonable living, that he felt justified in cutting him out of the will. Perhaps. Equally or more likely, John was disappointed in J.D.M., who might have carried on the business but would not, or whose religious views might not have been so evangelical as John's ...  It seems impossible to ever know, but it is another hint that J.D.M. might have been a loner, not easily fitting into the family, or finding any other place to fit. 

When, at the age of 22, J.D.M. entered Oxford University in the middle of 1839, Anna Maria was long dead, Matilda married and gone, Samuel newly buried, and John about to retire. Even St Werburgh's was living on borrowed time. Though the habit of an English church is to survive a thousand years and more, less than forty years later, with only eighteen {6} parishioners, this church was pulled down, and a new St Werburgh's built out at Baptist Mills, where a church was needed.13  What J.D.M. had known from birth was already fading away – the family, the home, the business, a church and some of the rest of the familiar neighbourhood. Perhaps he was not sorry. Probably he had never particularly liked them.

There was one thing, though, that he could say about his father, and did appreciate. He was able to enter Oxford as the second son of a Gentleman.14

Mereweather's Oxford

The nineteenth-century compiler of a list of Oxford students was warned to treat cautiously the claims undergraduates made about their fathers. There were 'many instances', wrote the admonitor,  'of drapers, hair-dressers, carpenters, mechanics ... who are described by their sons at Matriculation as "arm." or "gen." [armiger = squire; generosus = of noble birth]. The old "pleb." [plebeius = commoner] has almost if not quite died out'.15   Of course J.D. Mereweather was one such young man on 14 June 1839: the university had become acutely class-conscious, and was no place for Judes the Obscure or Bristol cork-cutter's sons, even when they were intended for the ministry of the Church of England.

But in some ways Oxford was getting better. The university was slowly reforming after a low era in the eighteenth century, when lectures were seldom given and little attended. Undergraduates had often been well-connected idlers; professors {7} too poorly paid to bother; and most dons neglectful. From about 1800, Oxford started to pick up. Colleges began to require matriculation by entrance examination, and the honours examination was introduced in mathematics and humanities (literae humaniores, mainly Aristotelian philosophy and ancient history) and, later, classics. Teaching improved, and although professors' lectures were independent of the examination system, they were increasingly given and even attended.16  Herman Merivale, for instance, Drummond Professor of Political Economy in Mereweather's time, made a 'great impression' lecturing on the colonies in 1840-2.17

Mereweather was admitted to St Edmund Hall, the most ancient of the societies (1278), but not very prestigious within the university. It was known mainly as a centre of Evangelicalism –  'the religion of Teddy Hall'.  Contrary to a common belief, this low church Anglicanism was strong at Oxford from towards the end of the eighteenth century to at least the middle of the nineteenth; and, although leadership among the Evangelicals had passed to Wadham College by the time Mereweather matriculated, St Edmund Hall and its vice-principal, John Hill, were still prominent in the movement.

But Oxford also seethed with controversy over Tractarianism, the Anglo-Catholicism that had burst on the university and the Church of England in 1833. The year 1841 produced that Oxford Movement's violently divisive Tract 90, an interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles in a 'Roman Catholic' sense, and the university's retort to it: condemnation, and the erection of {8} a memorial to the Protestant martyrs – Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer – who had been burned at the stake opposite Balliol College nearly three centuries earlier. In 1842, when a leading Tractarian, John Keble, ended his second term as Professor of Poetry, he was replaced not by his most likely successor, the Tractarian Isaac Williams, but by an – Evangelical, James Garbett. In 1843, the year in which Mereweather graduated, a prominent Tractarian, E.B. Pusey, Regius Professor of Hebrew, was suspended from preaching within the university for two years. Soon afterwards, following the secession to Rome in 1845 of the third great Tractarian, J.H. Newnan, families with Evangelical principles began to send their sons to safer Cambridge in preference to Oxford, where Evangelicalism began to decline.18

Religious controversy tended to distract Oxford from its internal reforms, just as Cambridge was distracted by the issue of admitting Dissenters to degrees and university offices. Cambridge sometimes admitted them as students but refused them degrees, while Oxford excluded them altogether. But both universities were under pressure, vainly resisted by Evangelicals and Tractarians together, to admit Dissenters; and admit them they did, in the 1850s.19  How distracting it could all be, was well recorded by Teddy Hall's vice-principal.

The disturbance excited by the undergraduates in hostility to the Junior Proctor was such that none of the proceedings could be heard: and as soon as the Professor of Poetry's Oration was over (all in dumb show) the Vice Chancellor {9} dissolved the Convocation ...

The Hon. Edw. Everett, Minister from the United States to the Court of Great Britain, was admitted to the Honorary Degree of D.C.L. – But it was this morning ascertained that he is an avowed Socinian. – Hence it was fully determined by a large number to vote against his admission. Tho' many cried non placet, yet the excessive noise of the undergraduates rendered it impossible for the Vice Chancellor to distinguish the cry and consequently he was admitted.20

Students of the 1970s had predecessors.

So Mereweather entered a low-church hall at Oxford at a time of religious controversy, significant transition, and considerable rowdiness within the university. The experience must have had a big impact on a young man destined for Holy Orders yet still sorting out his ideas. But if he kept a diary of these years, it has not turned up. Nor does anything revealing appear in the diary religiously kept by John Hill over many years.

With Henry George Livius it is frustratingly different. Livius was another Bristol boy, an exhibitioner of 1839-43, who entered with Mereweather at a more usual age, 17, than the other's 22 years. They took their final examinations together, but a couple of days later Hill's diary was shocked to record that the Junior Proctor had found Livius 'in a house of ill fame'. He was packed off, his father was written to, he was prohibited from taking his degree until the next year and Hill refused him testimonials for Orders. Poor Livius – {10} less controlled, but human. It is pleasant to be able to record that he did graduate (B.A., 1844; M.A., 1848), and that he was Rector of Keinton-Mandeville, Somerset, from 1851 until his early death in 1878. It is to be hoped that he received kindly the urgent young couples who came to the rectory door.21

With Mereweather it was different, almost no picture at all. Certain people 'drank tea with us:- also Mr Mereweather who is come to enter'.  Two years later, 'Mereweather responded well', which simply means that he successfully passed an oral and public examination in Greek, Latin, Logic or Euclid. Again, in May 1843, together with Livius and Lea, he was 'in the Schools ... for Writing, Latin, Logic', and he was admitted B.A. on 7 June.22  It does not help much. He was reasonably industrious but not particularly scholarly – it was the normal four-year pass degree that he took. He had been absent for two terms, like many other students, but no reason other than that they 'could not then be conveniently present' was required of them, and none was recorded.  He was not extravagant. The Battel [account] Books of St Edmund Hall indicate that Mereweather lived at an average level; he ran up around 10s a week, while other students were paying from about 7s to 14s. He was not found in a brothel, and probably was not inclined to celebrate his finals in one.  

It might be that Mereweather sat for a 'voluntary theological examination' established in 1842. Four terms, a year in effect, had to pass after the Arts examination before it could be taken, {11} and Mereweather's name remained on the Battel Books, as a non-residential member, for a year after graduation. It might have been so that he could take the theology exam, but nobody now knows.23 

Mereweather at Oxford is a shadow. How he was affected by the religion raging around him is best gauged from what he did and wrote after he left the university.

A theological position and a search for a living

On 1 January 1848, J.D. Mereweather preached on baptism. He gave the sermon in Holy Trinity Church, Hulme, Manchester, where he was a curate. He gave it, too, at the start of a famous Anglican controversy about the meaning of that sacrament. Bishop Henry Phillpotts, of the old high church school of theology, was then part way through a protracted and censorious examination of the Reverend G.C. Gorham, an independent-minded Evangelical whom the bishop charged with unsound doctrine because he allegedly denied baptismal regeneration. The Gorham case went on to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1850, and Gorham's victory reverberated through the Church of England.24 

An Anglican's theological position was usually indicated by the side he took – Phillpotts's or Gorham's. Tractarians supported the bishop: at baptism a spiritual new birth occurred; the soul started anew, sanctified from its original sin. Evangelicals took Gorham's side because they argued for a conditional regeneration. Baptism declared the promise of {12} sanctification and it could help the process, but it was no more than part of a process. Regeneration finally depended upon the baptised going on to grow in grace through faith, and the whole process – men like Gorham said – might begin independently of baptism. 

Mereweather allowed – as high churchmen normally did25 –  that the fruits of spiritual regeneration did not necessarily develop immediately or at all: the gift 'may be fostered; it may be neglected ... quenched'.  But at baptism the individual's free agency was given every help: it was ennobled, hallowed, sanctified. They were strong words; high church words, one would think. That the fruits might not come was a minor qualification in a sermon that laid major emphasis on baptism as the Christian rite with which 'saving grace [is] inseparably connected'; by which the Holy Spirit's influences 'then and there infused, protect the child from the consequences of being born in sin'; and to deny which, would be to make 'the Anglican Church ... a dishonest Church'.26  Something had happened to the young man brought up as an Evangelical: he had adopted some high church views. 

If St Edmund Hall had failed to confine Mereweather to the Evangelical mould, Oxford had not made him a Tractarian, either. He was ordained deacon in St Faith's Church, London, on 8 December 1844, and priest in the cathedral church of Llandaff on 28 September l845. On both occasions the officiating bishop was Edward Copleston.27  He was quite capable of attracting and influencing Mereweather, being impressive in person, appearance {13} and attainments, a man who unconsciously fostered imitators. 

As Provost of Oriel College, he had helped raise the academic standards of Oxford, and had been one of a group – the 'Noetics', which could perhaps be rendered as the 'Intellectuals' – that was critical of rancid orthodoxy and excessive dogmatism in religion. They wanted to preserve the mainstream of Anglican faith and practice, while enlarging the comprehensiveness of the Church of England. Copleston called himself a high churchman, but had scant regard for the Tractarians, and might be numbered among the broad churchmen.28  He hoped that the Dissenters would return, and – as a liberal Tory – supported their admission to universities, but deplored their claim to ordain men to the Christian ministry, and the determined rivalry shown by the Wesleyans. He blamed 'the overweening ambition' of Rome for producing Dissent, and was grieved by the 'flagrant dishonesty' increasingly marking the Tractarians. Exaggerated ideas always resulted when 'a school, or a party' developed, and Copleston stood for the Church of England – as he saw it.  When he took charge of his diocese in 1822, he set out to overcome many years of neglect (another cogent cause of the rise of Dissent?), and achieved a good deal in twenty years, while encouraging in his clergy a genuine churchmanship that avoided extremes.29  

Though long gone from the university when Mereweather entered it, Copleston was still a significant figure who offered a middle course among the Oxford currents. As for Llandaff, and Copleston's required knowledge of Welsh in every clergyman {14} appointed to a parish where it was spoken30 – Mereweather had a Welsh mother. 

In December 1844, Mereweather was licensed to the cure of Llanfair Chapel, in the parish of Llantilio,31  where the vicar for fifty-seven years (1834-1891) was David Davies. The church at Llantilio Crossenny dates from 1119, but the chapel at Llanfair – built for people who had too far to go to the parish church – was only about a year old when Mereweather took it into his care. It was one of Copleston's reforms, with a grant from the Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels, whose assistance required that all 168 seats must be forever free. It still stands, off the old Ross road, an early-Victorian, neo-Gothic building, very plain within and without, and possessing – at any rate, for an untutored eye – no architectural feature of interest. The only Mereweather survival are some entries in a baptismal register between December 1844 and December 1845 – the child of Jones (labourer), Higgs (blacksmith), Llewellin (labourer), and so on. One thing noticed was the number of illegitimate infants brought for baptism: perhaps baptismal regeneration did come into it.32  

But Llanfair did not satisfy Mereweather. Too many labourers? Or he did not satisfy Llanfair. He appears next in 1848 as the curate at Holy Trinity, Hulme. He preached his sermon on baptism in January, but resigned his curacy in the same year.33  He could not settle. His half-sister's Evangelical minister, John Hall, Canon of Bristol and Rector of St Werburgh's, wrote him a letter {15} of introduction in which Hall seemed to know all too little about him, yet managed to sum him up well: 'He is a very respectable young man, his character is I believe, irreproachable, but he has not been able to obtain his wishes in this Country'.34  

That was when Mereweather had decided to emigrate. In 1850 it would not have been hard to get a curacy, even perhaps an incumbency, in the United Kingdom. The number of churches and openings had increased in the 1840s, and the Pastoral Aid and Additional Curates Societies were providing financial assistance. The number of clergymen had also increased, so that Charlotte Bronte could open her novel Shirley (1849) with the words, 'Of late years, an abundant shower of curates had fallen upon the north of England ...'  But they were not sufficiently abundant to fill the vacancies in industrial slums or in the north of England generally, which – pace Charlotte – was often found uncongenial. The Bishop of Ripon, overseeing a strongly Dissenting northern industrial area that offered small automatic respect for an Anglican clergyman, had no graduate curate come into his diocese between 1836 and 1846. The poorest, most miserable parishes appealed to some men, especially Tractarians, but appalled many more. A London slum curate in the 1850s could expect considerably less money than the neighbouring schoolmaster or passing coachman.35  True, the clergyman who could find no position in England would not, but it would be harsh to condemn him out of hand for looking {16} for something 'better' further afield. Mereweather, strongly inclined to better himself, set out for Australia.

Unwanted after the voyage

Mereweather described at length many of his experiences in Australia and during the voyages to and from it. This description of the man behind the diaries is meant to help the reader appreciate them more fully, not to provide a substitute for them. So what follows is the barest outline of Mereweather's own account, supplemented, by material omitted from the diaries, with some comment on them. The reader needs to know that Life on Board ... includes three letters written by Mereweather in 1851-2 from the Riverina and Melbourne.36 

He was coy about the vessel that brought him to Australia, not even naming her. However, since some information is vital for all interested in ships and passengers' comfort (or otherwise), Mereweather sailed on the Lady MacNaghten. Built of teak at Howrah, opposite Calcutta, in 1824 and launched in 1825, the Lady was a three-decker, with poop and forecastle, and drew 19 feet of water. Her tonnages – 558 and 653 by old and new measurement – indicate a full-built vessel, a typical East Indiaman, although rigged down from ship to barque by the time of Mereweather's voyage. No stranger to the Australia run, having brought convicts to New South Wales in 1835, the Lady MacNaghten was owned and commanded by James Hibbert in1850. She carried to Adelaide twenty-eight cabin passengers, {17} including Mereweather, and their eight children, and another eighty persons in steerage, taking 111 days from Plymouth and 135 days from Gravesend, where Mereweather embarked.37 

He went on from Adelaide  to Melbourne by the smaller Sea Queen, for his intention was to work in the Port Phillip District, then a new and lightly-settled appendage of New South Wales, but about to become the independent colony of Victoria, suddenly gold-rich and populous. Choice of colonial work by a man looking for more than poor English curacies, might suggest some courage. It was in contrast to a generalisation about young English clergymen made a few years earlier: 'I have really done all that I could to get Chaplains for you; but in vain. We learn here [Cambridge] a love of ease and affluence; neither of which are likely to be got by a voyage to Botany Bay'.38 

But naive frustration might have prompted Mereweather's decision, rather than courage, for his preparations were hasty and a little presumptuous. He came armed, with two letters of introduction to C.J. La Trobe, Superintendent of the Port Phillip District, and three letters for the Bishop of Melbourne. One to La Trobe was written by Earl Grey on 4 February 1850, but Mereweather had sailed from Gravesend three days earlier. The Reverend John Hall headed his letter 'Bristol, Feby 21. 1850', and the Lady MacNaghten finally sailed from Plymouth three days later. Hall said little, and Grey wrote less – only that Mereweather had {18} been recommended by Mr Merivale (presumably Herman Merivale, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1848-60, and an Oxford professor, 1837-42).  So Mereweather presented himself with rather sketchy recommendations, and had allowed little time to get his credentials in order.39 According to Charles Perry, Bishop of Melbourne, Mereweather had utterly failed to do so. Perry flatly refused to license him, and told him why. 

I do not wish to hurt your feelings, or to cast any injurious reflections upon your character; but your testimonials are not sufficient to justify me in availing myself of your services. You have come here as a perfect stranger; & you have not brought me any credentials as to your character and qualifications for the ministry either from my own Commissaries in England, or from the Committee of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel or of the Colonial Church Socy; nor have you taken the trouble to obtained the regular testimonial of three beneficed clergymen, countersigned by the Bishop of the Diocese, wh. is always required in England, before a clergyman can be either instituted to a benefice, or licensed to a Curacy. However much I may lament, & I do sincerely lament, your disappointment, I must distinctly state; that you have only yourself to blame for it. If you had taken {19} ordinary pains to make enquiry before you left England, you wd. have saved me the pain of giving, and yourself the pain of receiving this refusal.  

With the sincere prayer that the Lord will direct & bless you ...40 

Mereweather's reply was indiscreet. A second letter from Perry rebuked a gentleman, let alone a clergyman, who dared to label as 'ostensible' a bishop's stated reasons for refusing a licence. Perry also mentioned – and retained – the references that Mereweather had presented: from Sir Thomas Phillips, the Reverend H.H. Jones and John Hall. Neither these letters, nor Mereweather's, survive. They were probably incorporated in the bonfire lit by one archbishop's wife, who decided to tidy up Bishopscourt before returning to England. One pity of this loss is that it cannot now be known if Jones was the Assistant Secretary of the S.P.G. – and he is the only likely Jones in The Clergy List for 1849. If it was this Jones who wrote, Perry's grounds for rejecting Mereweather are somewhat weakened.41

In any case, it seems strange that the bishop should so peremptorily refuse Mereweather's services. He was very short of clergymen, he told the S.P.G.

I want Clergymen for Mt Macedon, & Bacchus' Marsh; & expect shortly to have openings for others in the Bush. What I shd wish is, that there might always be one or {20} two temporarily located in Melbourne, where we wd find plenty of work for them, & ready to occupy any post in the interior where they may be needed ... 

It is tempting to be less than a gentleman and wonder if Mereweather were not right in charging Perry with covering up his real reasons for refusal. Was a young high churchman being rejected by this Evangelical bishop? But that was not the case. Perry ordained and was close to some young high churchmen, a Tractarian included.42   He was simply being honest and consistent in refusing to license Mereweather.  His letter to the S.P.G. continued: 

I have been placed more than once in an unpleasant position by applications from clergymen who have come out from England upon their own private responsibility, to be employed by me in this Diocese. I have resolutely refused all such, on the ground that I will not receive any clergyman from England or Ireland, who does not come accredited by the three friends, actg. as my Commissaries on this behalf; and I have already found reason to be thankful for using so much caution ... but at the same tine, very excellent individuals may ... do so, & then they naturally suffer great disappointment ...  A Rev. J.D. Merewether [sic] has just arrived, bringing with him no testimonial on wh I cd avail myself of his services ... 43  

{21} With sensible consistency or self-defeating inflexibility, Perry's mind was made up, and Mereweather had once more 'not been able to obtain his wishes'. 

There is this to be said for him: after his accusing letter to Perry, he took the unfavourable verdict well and seemed to nurse little grievance. In his Diary nothing is said about the refusal to employ him, and little that is even slightly critical of the diocese, its clergy or bishop; rather the reverse. Well after this, Mereweather was prepared to comment on Perry's preaching: 'Heard a very good sermon from the Bishop of Melbourne'.44  Even if there was some pride in his silence, there was still fair-mindedness in his reporting. 

And his reward was that two of Australia's high church bishops were prepared to hire him.

In the Diocese of Tasmania

Under a virtually Tractarian bishop, F.R. Nixon, Mereweather found his first employment in Tasmania. In October 1850 he took charge of the White Hills–Patterson's Plains districts, south-west of Launceston and today in the St Leonards parish. He seemed happy in the diocese, liking his bishop and getting on well with fellow ministers. He saw a good deal of the man who did much to secure his appointment,45 Archdeacon R.R. Davies, a strong supporter of Nixon, though not himself a high churchman. Mereweather left the colony just before a high-low storm burst upon the diocese, a hint of which is given in the Diary.46  

He also seems to have been popular with his people. {22} The one known complaint came from White Hills, which resented having to share their minister with Patterson's Plains. When Mereweather's ministry in these districts was ending, a petition signed by 108 heads of families in both districts was sent to Bishop Nixon, asking that he be allowed to remain. It protested 

the sincere regard we entertain for that gentleman – who from the great anxiety displayed for our spiritual improvement not only in his Clerical Duties on the Sabbath; but also by his unwearied Zeal in visiting continually and exhorting all classes within his District has gained our esteem and confidence.  And we do not hesitate to state with every respect to Your Lordship, that we shall look upon the removal of the Revd. Mr Mereweather from our District, as a severe and heavy drawback to the growing prosperity of the Church, and which will sever that good feeling, now existing between the Pastor and Parishioners which we believe is but seldom equalled.47 

 A clergyman could hardly ask for more. 

But Mereweather still left the district and the diocese, after only five months. He gives one explanation, a part-explanation, in his Life and Diary. He went from Tasmania, he says, after a squatter had told him how desperately the outback of New South Wales needed clergymen, compared with {23} well-supplied Tasmania. This led him to choose the harder task, so that, in March 1851, accompanied by Bishop Nixon's regrets and best wishes, he left for the more demanding  mainland.48 

It was something like that, but not quite. There was less nobility and rather more necessity in Mereweather's move. He had been appointed on the understanding that when the Reverend H.P. Fry returned from England, Fry's reliever in Hobart – the Reverend Frederick Brownrigg – would have prior claim to the White Hills chaplaincy. Dr Fry having returned, and money for clerical stipends being limited, the promise to Brownrigg had to be honoured – and Mereweather became simply a displaced person.49  But with a little more luck he might have found a home at last in lovely Tasmania. 

First resident clergyman in the Riverina

In local history, Mereweather is noted as the first rector of his Tasmanian district, but his similar 'historic first' in the Riverina has tended to be lost to sight. One chronicler, amid a sequence of errors, puts Mereweather down as a Presbyterian direct from Scotland; but at least he mentions him. The late Gordon Buxton, despite his ability and care, did not even do that. Writing outside his central period of study, Buxton mistakenly described the Reverend Henry Elliott as 'the Riverina's first resident Anglican clergyman'. But Mereweather had beaten him by three months. Elliott left Melbourne on 11 August 1851 to take up his residence at Albury, {24} but Mereweather had arrived at the more distant Moulamein on 23 May 1851. Certainly Elliott was the longer lasting – remaining until his death in 1858 – and perhaps he achieved more, but it is Mereweather who has to be given the honour of being the Riverina's first resident Anglican clergyman.50 

Although stationed about two hundred miles apart, it is surprising that Mereweather and Elliott made no contact. There were some obvious differences between them in that Elliott was married with a family; he was not a graduate, having been trained only as a catechist; and he had not been ordained priest. After serving among convicts on Norfolk Island, he had been ordained deacon by Bishop Nixon, which might have created a bond between him and Mereweather. Both men were still in their thirties, and had charge of neighbouring districts in a land in which distance was devoured by long journeys. Yet they seem not to have met, let alone combined their efforts in any way. Still, they were not bush-bred, and a strayed horse, a break in the weather, a swollen river system – many things – could keep two clergymen apart during twelve months. Nevertheless, W.G. Broughton, Bishop of Sydney and no longer young, travelled to meet both men.51 

Mereweather warmed to Broughton at once, and he was never pressed hard on the correctness of his credentials, or other procedural niceties, by this bishop. His copies of Certificate of Ordination were exhibited at the Sydney Diocesan Registry on 30 May 1851, soon after his arrival at Moulamein, but it {25} was not until October 1852 – after his Riverina ministry had ended – that he took the requisite oaths in the diocese.52 

The Diary covering the Riverina months really should be read. It is filled with interest. A mere flip of the pages, and there is Mereweather describing the bunyip; station homesteads; killing for beef; shepherds; drunkenness; the cost of tea, and its effects; his relations with blacks, his conclusion that they had no religion, and his attempt to learn their language; horses' perverse ways; the squatter who cheered anxious nights by reading Shakespeare; the wife who used to attend St Paul's, Knightsbridge; the black woman threatening to kill her new-born half-caste child; the beautiful Darling lily; stories of gold; the ex-convict with a small property; the skeleton of man and faithful dog starved together – and probably frozen, with ice an inch thick on the plains; the man who nearly died in scorching summer heat ... 

And the journeys Mereweather made, over hundreds of miles on horseback, across flooded rivers and in searing glare and choking dust ...  And the frustration of finding one-third of his days wasted, when travel was out of the question, and study impossible in some small and inconvenient hut ...53 

He tried – hard and manfully – but the Riverina beat him. He had no proper home, and no church. His sensibilities were none too soothed by the general run of inhabitants: 'I am not aware that my motives for living among the wild population of these parts are as much appreciated as one would imagine {26} they would be'.54  And his health suffered: his eyes were afflicted by the painful 'sandy blight' (ophthalmia) common in the bush. After fourteen months of Riverina pioneering, Mereweather was thankful to leave it for a Sydney parish.

Mereweather's churchmanship 

Through it all, Mereweather reveals his religious position, the pieces falling into a coherent pattern. 

While still in the Riverina, drenched, hungry, temporarily lost, and cut off by deep swamp water, he found a great tree – providentially provided, he thought – burning on a sandhill. Soon an equally distressed shepherd joined him, and they spent the night talking and sitting as near to the fire as they could. The shepherd regretted his past. Mereweather suggested that he try to make a better future, instead of dwelling on what had already happened.  But, later, Mereweather rebuked himself for his tendency to offer merely 'moral and worldly advice', instead of the religious counsel that alone could change behaviour.55 

He was deeply religious, but no true Evangelical. He was too reticent and reasonable, too appreciative of worldly wisdom and worldly beauty. He sought balance, but to the end of his life he seemed to worry about whether he had found it. He was apparently immune to what was considered worldly grossness: Livius, not Mereweather, was found in an Oxford brothel; shepherds, not the pastor, were drunk and blasphemous at Riverina inns. But he was still worldly. He sought a life {27} that was decent, orderly, comfortable, beautiful. But was that a redeemed life? He remained sufficiently the son of an Evangelical home – or house? – to be troubled by the question. It posed itself most clearly in his later years in Venice, but it was already formed when he had to sit on a log with an Australian shepherd and talk a wretched night away. 

In this earlier time, Mereweather's attempt at balance came out in his churchmanship. Those who read his published diaries will notice that he had little time for Dissenters or Catholics, those two extremes.56  Yet on the voyage out he allowed two Wesleyans and a Presbyterian to take communion at his hands, for an interesting mixture of reasons: they did not deny 'the great doctrines of Christianity' (Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement); their wish to partake virtually amounted to an acceptance of Anglicanism; they were willing to kneel; and they placed themselves under his authority as far as behaviour on the voyage went.57 

Mereweather was very much an Anglican: read him on the excellence of the catechism, or 'the not-to-be-evaded rubrical command'. He inclined towards high church views and practices: 'the priestly functions' were ideally 'exercised in priestly robes'; yet he was not absurd about it, and recognised that a stiff, starched surplice could not be carried in saddle-bags.58  And if he was to speak well of, and amicably share services with a Tractarian in Sydney, he had done exactly the same with {28} an Evangelical in Melbourne.59  He was essentially of the via media, pleased when he moved to Sydney to find that his two leading laymen held 'common-sense, unexaggerated views  concerning ... doctrines and discipline'.60 

On the voyage out he read The Doctrine of Holy Baptism, published in 1849 in connection with the Gorham case, by a Tractarian who was soon to secede to Rome – Archdeacon R.I. Wilberforce. Mereweather found it 'almost too cleverly argued'.61  He probably preferred another work he was reading, an exposition of the two sacraments by Bishop John Jewel, the  sixteenth-century opponent of both Catholics and Puritans. Certainly he showed both respect and reservation when he heard the Bishop of Melbourne preach on baptism 'a clear, logical and impressive discourse, of what is termed the Low-Church school'. He was interested in the bishop's passing comment on baptismal regeneration, but was clearly unimpressed by Perry's Evangelical position at the Australian bishops' 1850 conference.62  In that year, Mereweather published in Melbourne his Manchester sermon on baptism,63  and early in the next year heard 'a very excellent sermon on baptismal regeneration' preached by the extremely high church Bishop Nixon.64  On baptism, Mereweather was to the high side of central. 

By this time, he was frequently using and praising a Manual of Family Prayers by the Bishop of London, Charles Blomfield.65  It has been said that Blomfield's churchmanship 'seemed inconsistent'.66  He opposed both extremes in the controversy over baptismal regeneration,  but took a position that was {29} probably not displeasing to the Tractarians (or Mereweather), although in general – without being an Evangelical – he was an arch-enemy of the Oxford Movement. He condemned the 'cathedral' or 'musical' service in parish churches, of which the Ritualists were fond.[67]  Yet the latter was what Mereweather – with Welsh blood, after all – was pleased to introduce in the Darlinghurst court house. Sung services, like the surplice that Mereweather wished he could carry in the bush, and the coloured frontal to the altar that he introduced to St Paul's, White Hills, were dubbed Tractarian innovations. In such matters, Mereweather was something of a Ritualist.68  Beauty drew him always. 

It might have been no coincidence that Mereweather responded more readily and warmly to the high church bishops, Nixon and Broughton, than to the low church Perry. Nixon was 'one of the most worthy and talented bishops which the Anglican Church possesses', an 'excellent prelate'. Broughton was a 'truly Christian bishop'. Poor Perry was merely 'thin and very acute-looking'.69  This had nothing to do with Nixon and Broughton being prepared to license Mereweather, while Perry was not. Nixon's description was in no way modified after Mereweather was told that he could not be retained in the Tasmanian diocese, and Perry's was an immediate impression made well before he pronounced that Mereweather could not even be accepted in the Melbourne diocese. 

Certainly, if Mereweather moved from a central position it {30} was definitely towards the high church. But he was essentially a non-party man, neither frantically high nor fanatically low. He had moved up the ecclesiastical scale from St Werburgh's, Bristol, but not so far that the Evangelical firm of  Thomas Hatchard70 would not publish both his Life and Diary, and he professed a distaste for 'ecclesiastical polemics'.71  Oxford, although unlikely to have given him a good formal theological training,72  might have warned him against any extreme. His own interest in colour and drama, combined uncomfortably with personal reticence, might have drawn him away from bleak Evangelicalism without taking him into flamboyant Tractarianism. Bishop Copleston, favouring latitude rather than precise definition and rigid conformity in doctrinal matters,73 doubtless had his influence. In Australia, during this era of significant and bitter debate, Mereweather was comparatively young, often isolated and yet continually moving into different circles. It could have been very confusing, but Mereweather was consistently pragmatic, moderate, reasonable. In another single word, he was Anglican. 

Sydney and return to Europe

In October 1852 Mereweather took up duty at Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, suburbs of Sydney. Broughton had left for England, and inefficient old Archdeacon Cowper was in charge of a diocese staggering under the impact of the gold rush, shortages, inflation and too few clergymen. It made it easier for Mereweather to find employment, but it did not make his {31} task easy.  

As in distant Moulamein, so also in Sydney: he had no church building. But in the suburbs at least things were moving. A committee had been trying to acquire a schoolroom. Mr Robert Campbell, son of the original merchant Campbell, donated land for a church. Mr James Riley had given land as an endowment, and several hundred pounds were in hand for building a 'Norman or Pointed style church', designed by Black, to seat three hundred, as soon as the conveyance of land had been completed.  A new Tractarian friend, the Reverend W.H. Walsh, gave Mereweather help in urging the work forward despite the economic difficulties of building at that time, and the laymen seemed willing enough. Yet Mereweather was not to see his church. It was St Michael's, Flinders Street, that eventually appeared, its foundation stone being laid in 1854, after Mereweather had left the colony.[74] 

He claimed that 'privations in the bush' had impaired his health, and it might have been so. His former neighbour, Henry Elliott, reported that 'Clergymen, generally speaking, lose their health in a comparatively short time in all the Australian dioceses'. Sydney worked no cure, either, and that was not unusual. As Broughton once put it: 

W.H. Walsh is going Home sick. Cowper is failing; his curate (King) is unequal to heavy duty and so is his name-sake at St Andrews. Allwood is laid up. Grylls {32} has gone Home in a feeble state, and his curate is in poor health. Alfred Stephen (Walsh's curate) is likely to break down. The Churches in Sydney could all be closed because of this. 

Broughton at 62, and the 73-year-old Cowper could still work harder than any of the young men, he asserted.75  Mereweather was another who found that he could not take it; and he left Australia for ever on 25 August 1853. 

He had not achieved much. Refused in one diocese, serving a five-month term in a second, and two short ministries of about fourteen and ten months in a third, he was not much more than a bird of passage. He served nowhere long enough to become well known, or to lay solid foundations. He still found no place where he belonged. Yet he seemed to do no harm and some good. For a time, individuals would have remembered him with gratitude, and a few clergymen might have found their paths easier because he had already been there. Above all, he did for Australia – and the voyages to and from it – the enduring service of turning intelligent eyes upon them, and describing what he saw in clear and forthright language. He was a good reporter, if no settler. 

The Pauline, a barque of 523 tons, took Mereweather from Sydney,76  the steamer Java carried him from Batavia to Singapore, and he went on by P. & O. steamer to Ceylon and Suez. This being some fifteen years before the opening of the canal in 1869, he crossed the isthmus to Cairo in a {33} two-wheeled omnibus drawn by four horses, a journey of about  seventeen hours, the horses being 'changed sixteen times in the space of eighty miles'.77 

In Cairo – indescribable and licentious – he found that 'the Englishman may be distinguished by his having the same supercilious touch-me-not expression of countenance as the camel'. Yet the experience of foreign parts, especially this slow journey of five months, had more than ever convinced Mereweather of one thing about the English, when he arrived at Southampton early in 1854. The Anglican faith – 'equally remote from tendency to Atheism on the one hand, and to Superstition on the other' – was the best the world could offer. Perhaps there was warmth in that thought as he stepped ashore in a miserable February drizzle.78

A resting place in Venice

When Mereweather was still battling with the harsh Riverina district of New South Wales, he had expressed a hope of 'settling down quietly in England, or obtaining a responsible chaplaincy in the South of Europe'.79  What he did was settle in Venice. Apparently he went there in 1855. Possibly his appointment as chaplain to the British residents of that city was made official only in 1860. Different dates are given, but it would be true Mereweather form to arrive casually and have his position regularised later, not least in the administratively difficult Diocese of Gibraltar. He retained the post until he retired in 1887, and he continued to live {34} in Venice until his died on 18 June 1896, when he was in his eightieth year.80 

Mereweather lived in part of the Palazzo Contarini – one of the mansions of the Contarini family81 – on the corner of the Grand and San Trovaso canals. This large building, originally fifteenth-century Gothic, with a new facade added in the seventeenth century, was in a fashionable and particularly charming area, and near the Academy of Fine Arts. The British community was small and select, dominated for many years by Sir Henry and Lady Layard – he a politician and diplomat, the excavator of Nineveh, and an authority on art; and she a very leading lady long after his death.82  In such circles the ungentlemanly settlers of the Riverina could be dismissed from mind, and the Bristol fruit shop was probably best forgotten.83  As a final personal adornment, in 1886, the year before Mereweather retired, he was made a Cavaliere (Knight) of the Crown of Italy 'for Philanthropic Services in 1882',84  There is no indication of what these services were, but those who know how easily Italian honours could be won suggest that Mereweather would have had to do very little to receive the title. 

Nevertheless, it should not be imagined that life in Venice was all fine art and sunsets, even for Mereweather. Italy was passing through troubled times as it attempted to escape from foreign interference, liberalise its separate and absolutist states, unite them and build a prosperous Italy in an impoverished country. Not until 1866 was Venetia given its {35} freedom from Austrian control, and Mereweather would have shared some of the alarm and strain of that year. As Sir Henry Layard described it: 

At present the city is in a mournful condition. There is great poverty and suffering, and a complete stagnation of all trade. To add to the misery, the thousands who were employed in the Arsenal and other public establishments have been dismissed, and are starving. The Austrians, as usual, are doing every manner of mean and petty thing to humiliate and irritate the people they are leaving, instead of parting company with them generously and gracefully. They have stripped the Palace of every article of furniture, down to the gas and water pipes, tearing up all the parquet floors to make packing cases ...  

These constant delays have been very trying to the poor Venetians ...  Yesterday the first detachment of Italian troops arrived ...  In a moment the canals were lined with flags. The people at last seemed to think they were really going to be free, after their many disappointments. The flags were only out for a few minutes, and were then withdrawn as suddenly as they had been put out, because the Austrians were still in possession, and these demonstrations were not yet sanctioned.85 

For the rest of Mereweather's life, neither Venice nor United Italy generally were simple havens of peace. 

Then there wore problems of a more domestic nature. Like any householder anywhere, Mereweather had to such things as enquire {36} about fire laws.86  But living in Venice was harder than that. William Dean Howells was U.S. Consul to Venice from 1861 to 1865. In his last four years there he lived in the Palazzo Giustiniani just across the Grand Canal from Mereweather, where there is now a plaque to his memory. But Howell's memories of Venice were not all good. Many things were wrong: the restrictions and scandal-mongering in society; the obligation to take sides for or against Austrians; the decay of opera, and the modern Venetians' indifference to art.87 

More than that, on the domestic scene he lived in a palace owned and inhabited as usual – 'about equally divided between our own landlord and a very well known Venetian painter' – but so lacking in 'modern improvements' that life became 'as in most houses in Italy, a kind of permanent camping out'.88   People could eat more cheaply and far better in America than in Europe: 'even well-to-do people know nothing of abundance – a dish of soup, a plate of cauliflower, boiled beef, figs – this is dinner, and, remember, the only meal of the day. The rest is coffee and expectation'.89

Howells surely exaggerated, and he was an American. The Englishman Mereweather was probably less used to modern improvements, but there is no reason to expect that his quarters were any better equipped. He had known hunger at times in New South Wales, and various inconveniences connected with travel, yet he still allowed that Venice posed problems for visitors. The inns did not abound in the 'animal comforts' looked for by Englishmen. The labyrinthine city lost them.{37} The climate upset them. The locals robbed  them.  

And so our compatriots, who, in general, do not speak the language of the country, finding themselves ...  over-charged at the inns and cheated by the shopkeepers ... suffering also from bile in spring, and insect bites in autumn; sirocco and heat in summer, and heart-piercing cold in winter, become uneasy in their temperaments, get through what they consider their work as soon as they can, and are thankful when they are enabled to turn their last retreating look on the majestic Campanile of S. Mark's.90 

If travellers had difficulties, so did foreign residents; but Mereweather solved these problems. 

As his comments show – and flashes in his diaries – he had a sense of humour besides a sense of dignity. He was interested in languages – there was his presumed knowledge of Welsh, and his attempt to learn an Australian aboriginal dialect – and he picked up Italian. He got to know Venice thoroughly, and to love it, in which there was eventually to lie one of his sharpest personal difficulties. 

Meanwhile, he had more immediate problems. He had to have enough to live on, and Venice was not a rich living. Few chaplaincies on the Continent were. As late as 1892 a bishop complained of 'miserably small ... barely sufficient' stipends, mostly raised locally and through the offertory at services.91  Church societies sometimes gave a little help, and the Society {38} for the Propagation of the Gospel gave Mereweather aid at least from time to time between 1867 and 1887.92  Still, Mereweather always seemed to have sufficient private means to cover the costs of travel and times of unemployment. He had inherited some money from both his parents in the 1840s. He was the principal legatee of his half-sister's will in 1875, a will classified as 'Under £8,000' but probably not too much under. In 1896 his own will amounted to almost £3,000.93  Mereweather was not wealthy, but he seemed to avoid serious want without great personal exertion. He just had to be careful. 

As in other places – at Llanfair Chapel, in Tasmania, the Riverina, and even Sydney – Mereweather was something of a pioneer in Venice. Years earlier, chaplains had been attached to the British embassy in Venice, but Mereweather's was the first independent appointment and the first of any kind for some time.94  There was no English church when he came, and only a fund and an urgent need for a church when he retired.95  For thirty years or so, Mereweather held services in his own home. It was not a flourishing cause. On his Primary Visitation in 1868, Bishop Harris found 'a little flock of twenty, of whom eight remained for Holy Communion in the Palazzo Contarini, where the Chaplain ... has ingeniously worked in a tiny oratory as the chancel of the room devoted to divine service'.96 

But then the Diocese of Gibraltar as a whole was weak. Anglican work on the Continent was purely defensive, begun {39} soon after the Reformation, to protect British residents from Geneva even more than Rome. In 1842, while congregations in northern and central Europe remained under the Bishop of London, those on the shores and islands of the Mediterranean were formed into a new bishopric of Gibraltar. The problem of supervision caused the change, but that did not make it go away. Synods and conferences were impractical. Clergy serving 'summer' chaplaincies changed each month, and those in winter resorts changed each season. By 1892 only half of the ninety chaplaincies were permanent – that is, maintained throughout the year – and even there the ministers changed frequently. There were no endowments, and no source of funds other than the offertory and church societies. Where the S.P.G. or the Colonial and Continental Church Society paid most they also held the right to nominate the clergy (the bishop could only sanction the appointments), and this applied to most chaplaincies. Nor did the laws of France and Italy permit the bishop to hold property; trustees had to do so. The diocese had problems.97 

One episcopal problem was sometimes J.D. Mereweather. A truculent independence among Continental chaplains was complained of by bishops,98  and this seemed to be part of the trouble in Mereweather's case. When W.J. Trower became Bishop of Gibraltar in 1863, he was not immediately impressed by Mereweather. He considered that the services at Venice were not very satisfactorily conducted, and he was reminded of some of his 'Scotch troubles'.  This suggests that some liberties were taken with both the bishop and the services, but the latter {40} were not in the direction of Ritualism: the only trouble Trower had with that was in the cathedral at Gibraltar.99  Anyway, Trower soon changed his mind about the services at Venice, and he got on to a better relationship with Mereweather – although it was there that the trouble had started. As the bishop wrote to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel: 

You are aware that my predecessor [George Tomlinson] conceived himself to have a grave cause of displeasure with Mr M. and that on my seeking explanation he so conducted himself as to suspend the usual relation between a Chaplain and his Bishop. This was, I believe, in some measure owing to failure of post. At any rate ... I re-opened a correspondence with Mr M.  I hope that the usual relations may be considered to be now restored.1 

There are shades of Mereweather's offence of Bishop Perry here: he could be touchy and defiant. He could also be mollifying: to the S.P.G. the bishop recommended Mereweather's request for aid, which was received in the following year. Trower's successor, Bishop Harris, twice reported happily on visits to Venice in the next few years.2 

Nevertheless, Mereweather seems to have made little impression as a pastor. St George's opened just after his retirement, with apparently no acknowledgement of the minister who had served Venice for thirty-three years ...  No confirmations were listed for Venice between 1874 and 1884 ... .3  A bishop commented in 1886 that no work was done among  seamen in {41} Venice, except by a lay reader sent out by the British and Foreign Sailors' society;4  which was in marked contrast with what many chaplains did. Of course Mereweather was an old man then. Perhaps he was one of those whom Bishop Sandford had in mind when he remarked that the Church had sometimes 'suffered from chaplains staying too long at their posts'.5  But had Mereweather ever been very effective?  The customary eulogy from the bishop whenever a clergyman retired or died has not been found for him, making the diocesan archivist wonder if Mereweather had been 'not a very vigorous or significant chaplain'.6  The archivist's hunch is probably right. 

William Dean Howells might almost have been preparing Mereweather's epitaph when he wrote:

For such is Venice, and the will must be strong and the faith indomitable in him who can long retain, amid the influences of her stagnant spirit, a practical belief in God's purpose of a great moving, anxious, toiling, aspiring world, outside ...  The charm of the place sweetens your temper, but corrupts you ...  One's conscience, more or less uncomfortably vigilant else where, drowses here, and it is difficult to remember that fact is more virtuous than fiction.7

Mereweather as a writer in Venice

In 1866 young Thomas Barrett-Lennard (later to be Sir Thomas, 3rd baronet) passed through Venice and scribbled in his diary, 'We go into St Marks ...  We then go to call on Merryweather ... {42} Merryweather comes to dinner & afterwards we go into Piazza to drink coffee and hear band play. Rather too cold ...' Next day,  after lunch, Mereweather takes the visitors to a shop to buy lamps to be sent home, and the travellers go out after dinner to meet him in the Piazza – 'but he does not turn  up'.  Early the following day the travellers leave Venice, and Mereweather is not mentioned.8 

That is the way it goes with Mereweather: people admit that he exists, but leave it hard to get to know him. It could be thought that such a perfunctory encounter might have cooled the – unexplained – acquaintance; but Barrett-Lennard, along with Thomas Phillips Price, M.P. for North Monmouthshire, is named as an executor of Mereweather's will eight years later. The will gives some explanation of the connection with Price. This executor's father (the reverend Canon Price, of Llanarth) and mother had helped Mereweather when he once 'required their aid and encouragement'. Once again, there are no details. 

Yet there are details of a sort in the will that shed some light on Mereweather's private life.  Remembered in it were Lorenzo Piccolotto – 'old and valued servant' – and Luigia his wife (£200); Julia Guidi – 'trusty and attentive housekeeper' (£200); god-child Margaret, daughter of Captain Joseph Greaves, of the Austrian Navy (£150); Madame Louise Stipperger – 'old friend' (£150); Edward Gabriel – architect, of London, and 'dear old family friend' (£150); Catherine Harmer – 'valued servant of my deceased friend Adrienne Comtesse d'Ezdorf' (£100); Maria Torusso – kinsman of 'the jeweller Tassoni' and 'known {43} and respected ... for many years' (?); Maria Adelaide Maraini – 'dear young friend' (£100); Monsieur Edouard de Zuccato, British Vice Consul at Venice, £70 – 'a. souvenir of our pleasant friendship'. The executors were suitably rewarded, some particular gifts (from among furniture, books, plate, pictures, watches, jewels) were added to the money bequeathed to certain individuals, and the remainder went to Captain Chevalier C.E. Arfwedson, of the Swedish Cavalry, and his four children – especially to Jacques, Mereweather's god-son.9

There are at least two things of interest in all that. If the Church of St George did not remember Mereweather, he did not remember St George's, either. Also, though remaining a British subject, Mereweather had become fairly well Europeanised in his affections. 

But what Mereweather published from Venice is the best guide to him as a person, and it highlights a conflict in his heart and mind. As a preacher, he wrote about the Christian faith; and he also wrote – as a 'dramatist' and 'poet' – about classical mythology, about Venice, about the 'spirit' of 'beauty'. He was a worshipper at both shrines. His problem was to reconcile them satisfactorily. 

After a dozen years of getting to know Venice, Mereweather published a guide to the city that becomes something of a guide to his own inner struggle. The book was addressed to those travellers so hassled by Venice that they were glad to look their last on St Mark's.  Mereweather wanted to help them understand the true spirit of Venice,10  Whether he helped {44} visitors or not, he certainly impressed an Italian reviewer by the way he skilfully introduced much historical and topographical information, and by his withholding the usual condemnation of the ancient republic as cruelly tyrannical.11 The imaginative method Mereweather adopted was to take up the Semele of Greek mythology and turn her into a wealthy and  lovely orphaned daughter of a noble Angle-French marriage, who was free to make a careful guided tour of Venice. Mereweather was alleged to have heard her story told by a raconteur while returning 'from India to England, by way of  Alexandria, Trieste, Venice ...'12  This was at least partly autobiographical, and there was probably a good deal of autobiography in the rest. 

In itself, the story of Semele seemed to have little plot or dramatic movement, according to the Italian reviewer, and it lacked a variety of characters and passions.13  But there were passions there, and a drama, that the reviewer missed. Semele at first travelled through Europe intent on charitable works, as well as improving her mind by the contemplation of beauty. But she becomes lonely and disdainful, self-centred, obsessed by beauty until she demands to see the Spirit of all Beauty. One winter's night, on the island of San Francesco nel Deserto, her wish is granted. Amid piercing fire and lightning the 'more than god presented himself to her in all his unshrouded ineffable splendour' – and Semele went mad. Five months later she died.

There is nothing original in that: the Semele of the ancient Greeks died in similar circumstances. But it says a good deal {45} about Mereweather. The neo-Platonism in the book was not necessarily troublesome, for there is nothing anti-Christian in the notion of a 'spirit', an 'essence', a 'universal' that is more real than the world of sense, which alone gives meaning to that world, and which may indeed be beyond our power to comprehend – to see and live. Semele's trouble did not lie in philosophy but in self-indulgence. Charity was forgotten in a selfish quest for more and more beauty to thrill her senses. So, also, with Mereweather?  Was this his own great struggle? 

Educated and with just sufficient means to indulge some taste for art and leisure, he was also an ordained minister of the gospel. In the richness and indolence of Venice – despite troubles of state, and poverty in the lanes – the lesser taste could consume all energy for the greater task. In Venice the will had to be strong, Howells had written, if there was to survive 'a practical belief in God's purpose of a great moving, anxious, toiling, aspiring world outside'.  Mereweather knew it. So he turned his guide book into a moral tale. Semele's fault was not likely to find many imitators, for it was a materialistic age, not artistic. Most folk were caught up in positivisme des moeurs modernes. Yet some might fall into Semele's pit, 'loving Beauty and Art, Spirit and Embodiment, with a frenzied enthusiasm, excluding all rational consideration of human duties and every-day life'.14  In writing for them, Mereweather analysed and warned himself. 

His next three publications were conventional clerical tracts in which he tried to concentrate on the gospel and a world in {46} need of it. Unlike his Australian diaries, these religious writings do not deserve reprinting: Mereweather tried, but hardly succeeded. There was a pamphlet on the uniting of all religions, which appeared in both Italian and English.15  Most of it was either over-simplified or over-written – Whiggism in the Decorated style. The English Church was ancient, the English Reformation a matter of the people re-asserting their old independence, and the English system the most practical form of Christianity. Continental Protestantism encouraged private judgement to the point of atheism, and Rome was flatly 'idolatrous and polytheistic': witness the new 'monstrous and unscriptural' dogma of the Immaculate Conception [1854]. The Papacy and its terrible tyranny over the minds of men had to be destroyed, but a council of democratically elected representatives from every diocese – and equivalent groups – among the rest of Christendom could iron out their differences. All non-Christians could be 'prevailed upon to join in the happy brotherhood, by laying aside what is false in their respective systems, and returning that which is true'.  It was arrogant nonsense, the world simply coming to the Anglican table. But it sounded a democratic note – the people had to be involved, and the trouble with Rome was partly that the people were kept at a distance; they rejected or they feared, but they were not involved. These were not new ideas: much the same may be found in contemporary issues of the Colonial Church Chronicle and in such books as Canon Wordsworth's Journal of a Tour in Italy.16 

But if it was typical, it was at any rate topical. Pope Pius {47} IX – expelled from Rome, restored, frustrated and beleaguered – had issued in 1864 the encyclical Quanta Cura, with its attached Syllabus of Modern Errors, an attack on liberalism and secular government. When liberal Catholics and their governments were further aggravated by the promulgation of Papal Infallibility in 1870, much of the territory of the Papal States was joined to Italy by force and plebiscite, Rome became the seat of Italian government, and the Pope - in his own phrase – 'the prisoner of the Vatican'. These were the years in which Mereweather published his anti-Papacy tract, identifying himself with the Italian cause as well as Anglicanism. Perhaps it seemed to him then that he was on the winning side, and that the Papacy could be destroyed; yet, as a foreign resident in a Catholic and disturbed country, it must have taken courage to put his name to this booklet. Mereweather tried to fight the good fight. 

In 1870 he published another sermon.17  This was at the end of a decade that had seen clashes between parties in Church and State; the appearance of On the Origin of Species, which seemed to many to undermine God's act of creation; and of Essays and Reviews, by critical Anglican scholars, which seemed to deny all inspiration of the Bible. However much religious controversy was disliked, said Mereweather, it was impossible to 'go walking on tranquilly as if no tempest were howling around us'. His counsel was to reject the higher critics and to refuse dangerous debate with the agnostics. He pointed Anglicans to the 'revealed Word', interpreted by the Church; and he recalled the Church {48} itself to a proper observance of its own rules on regular communion and regular giving. Differences of opinion might be tolerated on some points of ritual, but the 'omission of this Offertory and Holy Communion invalidates the character of the Service as a comprehensive act of Christian worship'. It was 'a fine frame with the picture taken out – a body without the soul'. The Anglican, travelling among foreigners who worshipped images and broke the Sabbath, and living among all the deceits of the world, could find security within the old bulwarks: the Bible, the Church, baptism, confirmation, communion, true doctrine and, at the last, absolution ... 

and whose consciences, my brethren, are not on their death-beds troubled with many weighty matters? – indeed, is not our whole life a death-bed? 

Yet there was comfort. The Holy Spirit, who abided in the Church, provided for 'the two great phases of humanity – heads that deeply think and hearts that deeply feel'. 

Mereweather was no deep thinker, but he felt a lot. He felt it mostly for himself, one suspects. There was always a dissatisfaction with where he was, until he found Venice. Then the restlessness came from a conflict between duty and delight, service and sloth, Christianity and Art. 

In the end, he probably drifted far along the easier way, but in his third parsonical piece18 he tried to combine religious inspiration with poetic ambition. It might well be a case of sackcloth and ashes to read seriously thirty-two pages of verse {49} of this kind: 

Ecce Homo! Very man!
He who in Time's fulness came,
Woman-born, to suffer shame,
Death, and anguish here below,
Parrying thus the fatal blow
Aimed at man through Eve the Mother,
By that Heaven-discarded brother
In a serpent's form appearing;
Satan, who, his God forswearing,
Roameth through Earth's garden ever,
Lion-like in search of prey.

But Mereweather solemnly thought he was serving Christ and culture. 

He did better, as an old  man of 75, with a drama in verse about Ariadne, deserted by Theseus but loved and saved by Bacchus.19  A woman cries: 

Playthings are we to men, mere children's toys,
Loved, petted, played with, shattered, swept away.

Ariadne herself addresses love:

How hast thou leapt on me, and filled my heart
With joy and anguish, peace and war! 

She knows 

Fulness of life that spirits cannot feel
Being bodiless ... {50}

But later she must 

                    ... wander here and there
Torn by incertitude; and my young life
I'll gladly give to those who want more life.

And Angelos tells her: 

Lies, Lady, can be made or short or long,
According to the bent of him who speaks;
But truth, like inspiration, has strict bounds,
Which must be reached, but never overleapt.

Many lines did not sustain such quality. One modern literary critic, asked for a quick opinion, remarked that the verse was competent and read quite pleasantly, although Mereweather's control of language was uncertain, his conception was conventional, and his play would not be easy to stage. It was an imitation Greek tragedy, heavily influenced by Shakespeare, with overtones of Keats and Tennyson and some lingering eighteenth-century elements. It illustrated, of course, the common nineteenth-century British interest in southern Europe.20 

Mereweather explained to W.E. Gladstone how he came to write this Bacchus and Ariadne.21  For thirty-five years he had been fascinated by Tintoretto's picture of the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne, and to impress the painting on his memory, when he might be far away, he determined to write a drama 'clothing the forsaken one with flesh, and giving her human speech and passions'. At heart he agreed with what a German scholar had seen in Ariadne: {51} 'sunk in joyless deathlike slumber; and then again, awakened, joyous and raised to the skies in a saviour's arms, an emblem of the soul's immortality'. 

It was Mereweather allowing another glimpse of himself. A lonely man. A man with human passions, after all. A clergyman seduced by the art and leisure of Venice, yet still hoping for a Saviour. 

And the old bachelor found at last someone who was a kind of Ariadne for him.

Grave no. 2761, Stockholm

There were some unexpected people mentioned in Mereweather's will. Captain Greaves, of the Austrian Navy, was one. Captain Chevalier C.E. Arfwedson, of the Swedish Cavalry, was another. And, greatest surprise of all, Mereweather laid it down that his remains – 'without regard to necessary expense' – must be buried in grave numbered 2761 in the Stockholm cemetery. 

When this puzzle was mentioned to an intuitive Oxford librarian,22  she at once remarked, 'I suspect a woman'. This was a little shocking, for there was and is no reason to doubt Mereweather's strict propriety. She was right, though. When the Arfwedson family was traced, a story came to light.23 

Captain George Frederick Greaves and his wife Ann (nιe Richards) settled in Venice about 1849, with their large family. Their home was the Palazzo Contarini. After Mereweather came to take rooms in the same mansion, he became friendly with the family – and 'particularly' with Ann. In 1871 Ann's daughter {52} Adela married a young Swedish officer, Charles Edward Arfwedson, of the Royal Life Dragoons, and left Venice for Sweden.  In 1875 Ann wanted to visit her daughter, but worried about whether she should risk the journey. She consulted Mereweather, who encouraged her to go, so she went – to her death, through pneumonia. They buried Ann in Stockholm. 

Mereweather felt responsible for Ann's death, and 'very romantically wanted to rest beside her after his own'. He had never been to Stockholm, but he chose to lie there beside Ann Greaves, rather than lie in Bristol with Ann Mereweather. There is little doubt that, in an entirely proper way, he loved Ann Greaves, and perhaps she loved him. The Arfwedsons have always believed that it was Ann who was meant when he dedicated The Seven Words of the Cross (1880) to 'a dear friend long absent yet ever present'. 

Over Mereweather's grave these words were inscribed: 

Here sleeps the sleep of death
John Davies Mereweather
Knight of the order of the crown of Italy
English chaplain at Venice
from 1855 to 1887
He was born in Bristol
on the 7:th day of September 1816
and died in Venice
the 18:th day of June 1896
31:psalm 6:th v. 

{53} Through a lonely life, a series of disappointments, a ministry that was at best undistinguished, the temptations of idleness and art, and the many weighty matters that may trouble a death-bed, he still wanted to hope a great hope. The verse of the psalm he chose reads:  'I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord'.



1.        The full titles are Life on Board an Emigrant Ship: being a Diary of a Voyage to Australia, and Diary of a working Clergyman in Australia and Tasmania, kept during the years 1850-1853; including his Return to England by way of Java, Singapore, Ceylon, and Egypt. Both books were published in London by Hatchard. 

2.        V. Palmer, The Legend of the Nineties, Melbourne, 1963 edn, p. 38; K.S. Inglis, The Australian Colonists ..., Melbourne, 1974, pp. 110-11; H.V. Evans, 'The Inside Sailors', Wagga Wagga ... Historical Society Journal, no. 3 (1970), pp. 36-7; J. Barrett, That Better Country ..., Melbourne, 1966,  pp. 4, 169-70, 171, 175, 177, 187; J. Hale (ed.), Settlers ..., London, 1950, pp. 181-200. 

3.        Bristol Record Office, MSS., Burgesses, 1786-1812, p. 70; 1774-80, p. 76; 1732-9, p. 163. 

4.        Ibid., 1818-28, p. 113; Christ Church, City of Bristol, Register of Baptisms, 3 October 1816 (Bristol Record Office), where John's occupation is given as fruiterer. 

5.        Mathew's [sic] Annual Bristol Directory ..., 1832, p. 204. 

6.        Bristol Record Office, MSS., Parish of St Werburgh, Church Rate Book, November 1830. 

7.        The Bristol Poll Book. 1832, 1837 and (for John only) 1841; Bristol Record Office, MSS., Parish of St Werburgh 1773 Ledger. 

8.        Bristol Record Office, MSS., Register of Burials in the Parish of St Werburgh; Mereweather and Davies Family papers, Bristol Record Office 13458/23; The Bristol Poll Book, 1841; John Mereweather's will, Public Record Office, London. {n2} 

9.        Ann Mereweather's will, Somerset House, London; personal visit, 1976; Sketchley's Bristol Directory, 1775. 

10.      Bristol Record Office, MSS., Mereweather and Davies Papers, 13458/39 (Genealogical notes), 13453/21 (Marriage Settlement, 1812, and note dated 1847). 

11.      Ibid., 13458/39; Bristol Record Office, MSS., Christ Church, City of Bristol, Register of Baptisms; Southey plaque in Christ Church. 

12.      John Mereweather's will, Public Record Office, London. 

13.      John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century, Bristol, 1887, pp. 459-61. 

14.      J. Foster, Alumni Oxonienses, 4 vols, Oxford, 1891

15.      W.G. Dimock Fletcher, St Michael's Vicarage, Shrewsbury, to J. Foster, 2 August 1888. MS. included in Bodleian copy of ibid., vol. 1. 

16.      V.H.H. Green, British Institutions: The Universities, Penguin, 1969, pp. 44-6, 55-61, 206-08. 

17.      F. Boase. Modern English Biography, London, 1897, re-issued 1965, vol. 2, p. 850. 

18.      J.S. Reynolds, The Evangelicals at Oxford, 1735-1871, Oxford, 1953, pp. 58-120. 

19.      Green, pp. 62-4, 67.

20.      Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Diaries of the Reverend John Hill, 20 vols, 28 June 1843 (67/14). {n3} 

21.      Ibid., 8 May – 12 September 1843, supplemented by Foster's Alumni and a little sympathetic imagination. 

22.      Hill's Diaries, 13 June 1839 (67/12), 22 June 1841 (67/13), 5 May, 7 June 1843 (67/14).  Responsions is defined in The Oxford University Calendar, 1844, p. 111. 

23.      Battel Books, 1840-4, St Edmund Hall Library; Assistant Archivist, Bodleian Library, to author, 15 June 1976. 

24.      See J.C.S. Nias, Gorham and the Bishop of Exeter, London, 1951. 

25.      See, e.g., the Australian bishops' 1850 majority statement, quoted in A. de Q. Robin, Charles Perry, Bishop of Melbourne, Perth, 1967, p. 201. 

26.      J.D. Mereweather, The Type and the Antitype: or, Circumcision and Baptism. A Sermon preached on the Feast of the Circumcision, 1848, in Holy Trinity Church, Hulme, Manchester, Melbourne, 1850, pp. 11, 5, 6, 10. 

27.      National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Llandaff Episcopal Register, 1819-1851, pp. 181, 187. 

28.      F.L. Cross (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, London, 1957, pp. 341-2; G. Faber, Oxford Apostles, Penguin edn, 1954, pp. 106-7, 115-17. 

29.      Edward Copleston, A Charge, delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Llandaff ..., London, 1842, pp. 3-8, 12-13; ibid., London, 1845, pp. 30-1, 16, 5; Dictionary of National Biography, 1963-4 edn, vol. 4, pp. 1099-1101. 

30.      Copleston's 1845 Charge, p. 12. He insisted upon English for the services (pp. 9-11). {n4} 

31.      National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Llandaff Subscription Book, 1820-1856.

32.      Inscription in Llanfair Chapel; Llantilio Crossenny, Register of Baptisms, no. 3, 1813-1864 (parish church). The vicar in 1976, the Reverend J.H. Selby, gave the writer the kindest of hospitality; nor was Mr Selby the least bit surprised at the number of illegitimate babies. 

33.      Central Library, Manchester, Archdeacon John Rushton's Visitation Returns and miscellaneous notes, circa 1850. 

34.      J. Hall to C.J. La Trobe, 21 February 1850, Letters of Introduction to C.J. La Trobe ..., Public Record Office, Melbourne. 

35.      O. Chadwick, The Victorian Church, London, 1970, pt. 1, pp. 522-3; pt. 2, pp. 244-5; K.S. Inglis, Churches and the Working Classes in Victorian England, London, 1953, pp. 36-7. 

36.      On pp. 75-92.  Copies of Mereweather's books are known to be held by the following libraries: Life on Board ..., Mitchell, Sydney; University of Queensland; British, London:  Diary of  a Working Clergyman ...,  La Trobe University; Mitchell, Sydney; State (S.A.); State (Tas.); State (Vic.); University of New England; University of Queensland; British, London. 

37.      From shipping lists and other records, R.T. Sexton, of Adelaide, painstakingly supplied much careful information. Also, Archivist, H.M. Customs and Excise, Library Services, London, to author, 13 September 1976. {n5} 

38.      The Reverend C. Simeon to the Reverend S. Marsden, 10 November 1835, Marsden papers, vol. 1, p. 549, Mitchell Library, Sydney. 

39.      Letters of Introduction to C.J. La Trobe, Public Record Office, Melbourne. Grey's letter would have been informative to the colonists, if only they had believed it; but the Argus, 13 July 1850, wrote:  'A SHOCK! – A passenger arrived by one of the last English vessels with a letter addressed, in Lord. Grey's own hand-writing, to His Excellency Charles Joseph La Trobe Lieutenant Governor of the District of Port Phillip'. It was the description of the Superintendent as 'Lieutenant Governor' that startled the Argus. It did not think that La Trobe would fill this position, assuring its readers that Sir Emmerson Tennent was to be appointed. 

40.      Perry to J.D. Merewether [sic], 15 August 1850, Bishop's Private Letter Book, no. 1, pp. 51-2, Diocesan Registry, Melbourne. 

41.      Perry to J.D. Mereweather, 21 August 1850, Bishop's Letter Book, no. 2, pp. 171-2, Diocesan Registry, Melbourne. Sir Thomas Phillips was probably the former mayor of Newport, Monmouthshire, knighted for his part in putting down a Chartist riot in 1839, and by this time a London lawyer (see D.N.B.). Hall was Rector of St Werburgh's, Bristol. 

42.      See A. de Q. Robin, Charles Perry, pp. 213-15, on J.H. Gregory and H.H.P. Handfield. {n6}

43.      Perry to Secretary, S.P.G., 17 July 1850, Unnumbered Bishop's Letter Book, Diocesan Registry Melbourne. For a similar instance, see Perry to the Reverend W.Trollope, 26 March 1850, Bishop's Private Letter Book, no. 1, p. 13.  For educational requirements, besides 'the love of the Saviour in their hearts', see Perry to Mr Robert Blair, Sydney, 5 July 1850, Bishop's Letter Book, no. 2, p. 116. 

44.      Diary, p. 88.  The closest he came to caustic comment was in Life, p. 81:  'A Bishop may refuse to license a clergyman ... without assigning any cause for so doing'; and Diary, p. 73, where Perry's dissent from his fellow bishops' view of baptismal regeneration is rather sharply commented on. 

45.      Information from the Archives Office of Tasmania, quoting C.S.O. 24/269/5265; Hobart Town Gazette, 31 December 1850. 

46.      Diary, pp. 71-2; cf. Life, p. 81. See N. Batt and M. Roe, 'Conflict within the Church of England in Tasmania, 1850-1858, Journal of Religious History, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 39-62. 

47.      Photocopied material supplied by the Archives Office of Tasmania, from C.S.O. 24/274/5596, 24/277/5796.

48.      Diary, pp. 84-5; Life, p. 75. According to Wood's Royal Southern Kalendar, V.D.L., 1850, p. 85, there were fifty-three Anglican clergymen for a total population of about seventy thousand. For a discussion of the numbers of clergy in Eastern Australia in 1850, see J. Barrett, That Better Country, pp. 77-82.  Cf. O. Chadwick, The Victorian Church, pt. 2, p. 244.  

49.      Archives Office of Tasmania, G.O. 33/72. {n7} 

50.      B.C. Proverbs, A History of the Parish of St Leonards, Launceston, 1969, p. 5; W.J.H. Hastie, The Story of Moulamain (N.S.W.), 1851-1951, Moulamain, 1951, pp. 11, 68; G.L. Buxton, The Riverina, 1861-1891, Melbourne, 1967, p. 89; E. Strickland, The Australian Pastor. London, 1862, p. 64; Diary. p. 93. Mereweather is recognised as the first resident clergyman by H.A. Evans, 'The Inside Sailors', Wagga Wagga ... Historical Society Journal, no. 3 (1970), p. 37. 

51.      Ibid., pp. 163-5.    

52.      Information from K.J. Cable, 31 January 1976, and the Registrar of the Diocese of Sydney, 23 April 1976. 

53.      Proper footnoting is not given here, since the purpose of these paragraphs is simply to encourage the reader to search out a copy of the Diary and start browsing. 

54.      Diary, p. 121. See also p. 184, for the possessiveness of those who paid his stipend, and their resentment of calls on his services by free-loading Darling River squatters, a hundred miles away. 

55.      Ibid., pp. 135-7. 

56.      Ibid., pp. 236, 247-8. 

57.      Life, pp. 39-40. 

58.      Diary, pp. 66, 238, 134-5. 

59.      Ibid., pp. 237-8 (W.H. Walsh, a Tractarian), 20, 30-1 (Daniel Newham, an Evangelical). 

60.      Ibid., p. 224. 

61.      Life, p. 27.  See J.C.S. Nias, Gorham and the Bishop of Exeter, p. 122. {n8} 

62.      Diary, pp. 20-1, 73.

63.      See note 26. 

64.      Diary, p. 85. 

65.      Life, p. 6; Diary, pp. 93-127. 

66.      The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 178. Cf. Chadwick, The Victorian Church, pt. 1, pp. 214-16. 

67.      Nias, Gorham ..., p. 167; A. Blomfield, A Memoir of Charles James Blomfield, London, 1863, vol. 2, p. 157.  

68.      Diary, pp. 249, 250, 80; L.E. Elliott-Binns, Religion in the Victorian Era. London, 2nd edn, 1946, p. 233; Chadwick, p. 212 ff. 

69.      Diary, pp. 85-6 (cf. 71), 164, 20. 

70.      See Arthur L. Humphreys, Piccadilly Bookmen: Memorials of the House of Hatchard, London, 1893. 

71.      Diary, p. 165. Cf. pp. 71-2. 

72.      Attempts to introduce a theological tripos similar to the classical tripos failed (V.H.H. Green, The Universities, p. 61). 

73.      See Nias, pp. 169-70. 

74.      K.J. Cable to author, 31 January 1976; Empire (Sydney), 24 December 1852, p. 1759. See also Diary, p. 237. {n9} 

75.      Diary, pp. 166-8, 170, 184, 260; A. Strickland, p. 70 (and. p. 81, for the information that Elliott died at the age of 44, after a year of debility, a severe fall from his horse and, finally, dysentery); W.G. Broughton to Edward Coleridge, 13 July, 15 August 1850, Broughton Papers, microfilm, reel 2, Australian National Library, Canberra. Broughton died in 1853, aged 64 years. 

76.      Sydney Morning Herald, 24, 26 August 1853. Mereweather's name is not listed, but this is the only ship that fits the Diary's date and other details. 

77.      Diary, p. 354. 

78.      Ibid., pp. 358, 368-9 

79.      Life, p. 78. 

80.      The Clergy List, 1898, says that he was chaplain from 1860 to 1888; The Times, 26 June 1896, p. 10, says 1855 to 1887; Report ... 1887 of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, p. 129, speaks of Mereweather having resigned; see also his epitaph, quoted at the end of this biographical sketch. 

81.      According to a Venetian specialist, Peter Lauritzen (telephone conversation with the writer, April 1976, in Venice), it would  have been the Palazzo Contarini Corfu, not the Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni built on to the earlier building and often confused with it. 

82.      Dictionary of National Biography, supp. vol. 22, for Layard. On his wife's queenly role, note Lonsdale and Laura M. Ragg, {n10} Things seen in Venice, London, 1912, plates on pp. 56, 149. 

83.      Sir Henry, however, could safely associate himself – as patron – with workmen and industry. In 1867 he took 2,000 workers from his Southwark constituency to see the Paris Exhibition; and he was also the founder of the Venice and Murano Glass and Mosaic Works Company (W.N. Bruce [ed.], Sir A. Henry Layard ..., 2 vols, London, 1903, vol. 2, notes on pp. 235-6). 

84.      Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1892; The Times, 26 June 1896. 

85.      H. Layard to Mrs Benjamin Austen, 14 September, 14 October 1866, in Bruce, vol. 2, pp. 233, 234. 

86.      Archivio Veneto, Venice, 1871, vol. 1, pt 1, p. 213 (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice). 

87.      W.D. Howells, Venetian Life [1866], ch. 21, and pp. 24, 64, 324. 

88.      Ibid., pp. 360, 363. 

89.      M. Howells (ed.). Life in Letters of William Dean Howells, 2 vols, New York, 1928, vol. 1, p. 53. 

90.      J.D. Mereweather, Semele; or the Spirit of Beauty. A Venetian Tale, London, 1867, p. ix.

91.      Bishop of Gibraltar [C.W. Sandford], The Work of the Church of England on the Continent, London [1892], p. 6. 

92.      C.F. Pascoe. Two Hundred Years of the S.P.G., 2 vols, London, 1901, vol. 2, p. 929a; The Clergy List, 1887. {n11} 

93.      Somerset House, London, Wills of Ann and J.D. Mereweather. 

94.      The Times, 26 June 1896, claimed that Mereweather was the 'direct successor' to Dr William Bedell, who had left in 1610. This was far from being the case, yet emphasises the absence of Anglican clergymen from Venice for a considerable time before Mereweather's arrival. 

95.      Report ... 1887 of the S.P.G., p. 129. St George's, a tastefully converted warehouse in Campo San Vio, and basically the gift of Sir Henry Layard, was opened for worship in 1889 and consecrated in 1906. (see Anglican Church Magazine, vol. 7 (1909), pp. 2-3; L. & L.M. Ragg, p. 53.) Nothing in it seems to commemorate Mereweather. 

96.      Colonial Church Chronicle, 1869, p. 10. Cf. ibid., 1871,  p. 130, when fifteen communicated.

97.      See The Work of the Church of England ..., op. cit. 

98.      Colonial Church Chronicle, 1864, pp. 201-6. 

99.      Trower to C.P. Golightly, 14 August 1864, 21 February 1867, Correspondence of C.P. Golightly, Lambeth Palace Library, MS. no. 1810, folios 155, 182-3. Cf. Trower's cleverly cool paragraph in Colonial Church Chronicle, 1865, p. 183. 

1.        Bishop of Gibraltar to S.P.G., 2 August 1866, Letter Book: Gibraltar and the East, Letters Received 1, p. 484 (S.P.G., Westminster). 

2.        Colonial Church Chronicle, 1869, p. 10; 1871, p. 130.  {n12} 

3.        A Pastoral Letter from the Right Rev. C.W. Sandford ..., Oxford, 1884, p. 68. 

4.        Ibid., 1886, p. 23. 

5.        The Work of the Church of England ..., p. 6.  His main point, though, was that it 'suffered still more from chaplains not staying long enough'. 

6.        D.H. Simpson, Honorary Archivist, Diocese of Gibraltar, to the author, 23 December 1975. 

7.        Howells, Venetian Life, pp. 35-6. 

8.        Diary of Thomas Barrett-Lennard, D/DL F231, County Record Office, Reading, 5, 6, 7 May 1886. 

9.        J.D. Mereweather's will, made in 1894, probate granted 23 October 1896, Somerset House, London. The witnesses were Alexander Robertson, D.D., Scottish Minister in Venice, and Julia Robertson. An unfortunate gap was left after Maria Torusso's name, and it is to be hoped that she got the intended £100. Adelaide Maraini was also left 'the Carrara marble bust of our Saviour done by her talented father Pandiani'. 

10.      Semele; or the Spirit of Beauty ..., 1867, preface. 

11.      Professor D. Riccoboni, writing in Archivio Veneto, Venice, 1871, vol. 1, pt 2, pp. 413-15.  Dale Kent, who kindly translated the review, pointed out that it could have been for this sort of service that Mereweather was made a Cavaliere in 1886. However, no dates seem to fit, and one is quite specific – 'Philanthropic Services in 1882'. {n13} 

12.      Semele, p. xi. 

13.      Riccoboni, p. 414. 

14.      Semele, p. x. 

15.      La Chiesa anglicana e l'universale unione religiosa, translated by O. Tasca, Bergamo, 1868; The Anglican Church, and Universal Religious Union. Bristol, 1870.

16.      Christopher Wordsworth, Journal of a Tour in Italy, with Reflections on the Present Condition and Prospects of Religion in that Country, 2 vols, London, 1863.  See, e.g., vol. 1, pp.150, 186; vol. 2, pp. 311-12. 

17.      J.D. Mereweather, On Weekly Communion and Faith in Church Ordinances: a Sermon preached at Venice, on 24th October, 1869. London, 1870. 

18.      J.D. Mereweather, The Seven Words from the Cross. A Lenten Exercise, London, 1880.  

19.      J.D. Mereweather, Bacchus and Ariadne: a Drama, London, 1891. It was also published as Bacco ed Arianna ..., trans. by Daniele Riccoboni, Venice, 1895. 

20.      Alan Frost gave these first impressions. 

21.      Mereweather to Gladstone, 10 April 1895, pasted in a British Library copy of Bacco ed Arianna. It was apparently the complimentary copy sent by the author, perhaps in the hope that Gladstone might make a contribution to the cost of producing the play – as Riccoboni, of the Collegio Marco Polo, was alleged to want to do. {n14} 

22.      Mrs  P.C.H. Wernberg Moller, Assistant Librarian, St Edmund Hall, who gave the writer much assistance. 

23.      Claes Arfwedson to the writer, 13 September, 5 November 1976. Mr Arfwedson is the great-grandson of Mrs Ann Greaves and son of Jacques. He owns Mereweather's very fine gold watch, and his wife wears Mereweather's seal as a bracelet: it shows a human figure struggling with a serpent.