4a: 1835: a side-post on Conrad Martens

Posted originally on January 13, 2015 by Neil.

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

The London-born artist Conrad Martens arrived in Sydney in 1835. Wollongong historian Michael Organ (pdf):

Martens was with the Beagle for nearly a year (December 1833 – November 1834) working under Fitzroy and alongside the soon to be famous naturalist Charles Darwin. This was to be an important period for Martens as the close contact with such brilliant scientists as Darwin and Fitzroy was to profoundly affect the manner in which he was to view nature and express that vision within his art.

During the artist’s period aboard the Beagle the vessel was involved in a survey of the southern most coast of South America. This took him to places such as Port Desire (December 1833); the Straits of Magellan (January 1834); Port Famine, Mount Sarmiento, Cape Horn, and the Beagle Channel (all during February 1834); the Falkland Islands (March); up the Santa Cruz River (April – May); the Cape Virgin Islands (May); Chiloe (June); and Valpariso at the end of June, 1834. From June to November 1834 the Beagle was stationed at Valpariso, during which period Martens and the scientists made numerous excursions into the local countryside.

When time came for the expedition to move on in November 1834 Martens was signed-off by Captain Fitzroy, mainly due to lack of funds and shortage of storage space upon the Beagle in which to house him….

After leaving the Beagle in November 1834 Martens decided on travelling to New South Wales, possibly with the intention of settling there. He left Valpariso on 3 December 1834 aboard the Peruvian bound for Tahiti, where he arrived on 22 January 1835.

The route he took to New South Wales would basically follow that taken by the Beagle nine months later, and in many ways he was still acting as their unofficial artist.

Martens spent approximately seven weeks at Tahiti sketching and painting, before boarding the Black Warrior bound for Australia via New Zealand. He left Tahiti on 4 March 1835 and arrived at the Bay of Islands a month later, on 4 April. After spending six days at the Bay of Islands the Black Warrior weighed anchor on 9 April and set off on the final leg for New South Wales. She eventually arrived at Port Jackson on 17 April 1835, with Martens recording her passage through the Heads in a pencil sketch. Upon this work he also noted the prevailing weather conditions, revealing the influence of Captain Fitzroy who was an expert in the developing science of meteorology.

Throughout his time in Australia Conrad Martens would continue to experiment with sky and atmospheric features such as clouds, sunrise, moonlight, and storms; incorporating these aspects within his paintings with the skill of an experienced meteorologist and viewer of nature…


Fort Macquarie (site of Sydney Opera House now) from the north shore, 1836


Para Creek, Near Wollongong, Illawara District, New South Wales


Sydney Heads 1854

“The appearance when off the heads of Port Jackson is that of a wild and iron bound coast and the entrance that of a gigantic gateway, but the scene changes immediately upon entering the calm and beautiful islands, bays and headlands … the town of Sydney is seen tho’ still at a distance … and still further the faint outline of the blue mountains in the interior.” – Martens, 17 April 1835

Top poems 5: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) — “The Oxen”

I find the people of Hardy’s generation quite fascinating. A N Wilson’s God’s Funeral is one interesting account of why this might be so, but in brief this was the generation that grew up deeply influenced either by evangelical Christianity, or by Catholicism, or both, but took on the implications of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, and in Hardy’s case lived through the impact of World War I, during which this poem was published. The photo, from a History of the American Field Service in France, is captioned: “Funeral of Richard Hall, Christmas 1915”.

And we think we live in an age of change!

This poem may best be seen, perhaps, as about nostalgia for belief. On The Victorian Web you may find a couple of relevant essays: Thomas Hardy’s Religious Beliefs by George P Landow, and Image, Allusion, Voice, Dialect, and Irony in Thomas Hardy’s "The Oxen" and the Poem’s Original Publication Context by Philip Allingham.


Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

To quote Allingham:

Published in the Times on Christmas Eve, 1915, the lyric is founded upon the old folk tradition that, as Hardy’s mother told him as a child, the creatures whose ancestors witnessed the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem kneel to commemorate the event every Christmas Eve at midnight. Despite its seasonal setting and publication, on a first reading "The Oxen" seems hardly suggestive of the yuletide cheer one would expect…

the poem is neither picturesque nor sweetly nostalgic, but aches with a sense of loss and exclusion. "In ‘The Oxen’ the poet looks back regretfully to his boyhood days when he believed in miracles" (Firor 150) and was charmed by the naive folk belief in the kneeling of the oxen. As critics such as R. W. King (1925), Carl J. Webber (1940), C. Day Lewis (1951), Tom Paulin (1975), J. O. Bailey (1970), James Richardson (1975), F. B. Pinion (1976), and Trevor Johnson (1991) have noted, the dominant feeling of "The Oxen" is one of wistful regret or poignant loss at the passing of a secure world buttressed by the allied senses of legend, tradition, faith in presiding deity, and community…

By implication, the principal voice is that of a man who has grown in perception through education and experiences acquired away from his birth-place, while the contemporary who would urge a nocturnal visit to the "barton by yonder coomb / Our childhood used to know" (lines 11-14) has left behind neither his physical nor his spiritual origins (as suggested by the dialectal words "barton" and "coomb" and the archaic "yonder").

These deliberate regionalisms amounting almost to archaisms are idiosyncratic of Hardy’s style; here they serve to defamiliarize the common setting and assist in investing in the oxen a numinous power. This defamiliarization was recognised by C. Day Lewis when he spoke of the poem’s possessing "a golden haze of retrospect" (155). The urban, cynical, scientific, rational voice overlays that of a rural, naïve believer who once spoke the Dorset dialect rather than the standard, modern English of his adult counterpart, whose voice contains all the other voices of the poem…

Top poems 4: John Donne “Nativity”


16th century Woodcut by Titian in the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki collection

(No known copyright restrictions)

Seventeenth century near-contemporary of Shakespeare John Donne has managed to compact just about every bit of traditional doctrine on the Nativity into one sonnet!

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


A bit of a triumph, but not the best poem Donne ever wrote. The scene is indeed one for “faith’s eyes” rather than the stricter gaze of the historian, but who would complain too much?

Top poems 3: Robert Southwell “The Burning Babe”

It has been a while between poems here! With Christmas coming up, I thought I would post a few Christmas poems. This is perhaps the most bizarre, though I recall when first reading it at the age of sixteen being quite drawn by its odd imagery. I am no longer so sure of the theology it encapsulates, but that is another matter.


Piero della Francesca, Nativity (c. 1470), National Gallery, London



By Robert Southwell

As I in hoary Winter’s night stood shiveringe in the snowe,
Surpris’d I was with sodayne heat, which made my hart to glowe;
And liftinge upp a fearefull eye to
vewe what fire was nere,
A prety Babe all burninge bright, did in the ayre appeare.
Who scorchèd with excessive heate, such floodes of teares did shedd,
As though His floodes should quench His flames which with His teares were fedd;
Alas! quoth He, but newly borne, in fiery heates I frye,
Yet none approch to warme their hartes or feele my fire but I!
My faultles brest the fornace is, the fuell woundinge thornes,
Love is the fire, and sighes the smoke, the ashes shame and scornes;
The fuell Justice layeth on, and Mercy blowes the coales,
The metall in this fornace wrought are men’s defilèd soules,
For which, as nowe on fire I am, to worke them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to washe them in My bloode:
With this He vanisht out of sight, and swiftly shroncke awaye,
And straight I callèd unto mynde that it was Christmas-daye.


Southwell was a Catholic martyr. According to WikiSource, from which I took the original spelling edition above: “The Burning Babe was taken from a collection called St. Peter’s Complaint, printed privately and circulated shortly after the poet’s execution in 1595. Ben Jonson said that he would have been content to destroy many of his own poems to have written The Burning Babe.” The title link takes you to a modernised version.

For a Jerome Rothenberg book of the same name see illustrated Burning Babe.

Chinese art: Ren Xiong (1820-1857)

Ren_Xiong_Self_Portrait sat18

What a painting this is! Ren Xiong (任熊) was born in Xiaoshan, Zhejiang Province in the west of China. It is a self-portrait.

He is the son of poor farmers. He began to study painting in the village school but left to travel.

In 1846 he went to Hangzhou where he met Zhou Xian with whom he studied for three years. During the Taiping Rebellion, he and many other painters and scholars made their way to Shanghai, an island of safety protected by the westerners living there. This migration stimulated an already active intellectual society. The paintings became known as the “Shanghai School.” By chance, there were four outstanding painters in Shanghai at the time with the surname Ren, they’re called the “Four Rens.” Ren Xiong was the foremost of the four. He was strongly influenced by Chen Hangshou and painted a wide variety of subjects, including figures, landscapes, flowers, birds, fish and other animals.

The image on the right I photographed from my copy of Zhang Anzhi, A History of Chinese Painting (Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 1992).

Chinatown 26: Central Station to Chinatown 3

Still there, even if dwarfed by its surroundings, is Christ Church St Laurence.

Christ Church St Laurence is an Anglican Parish in the Anglican Church of Australia. We are of the Anglo-Catholic tradition and are in Communion with Canterbury. We acknowledge and respect the historical role of the Archbishop of Canterbury within the Anglican Communion.

Now you will appreciate that as an ecclesiastical nose-thumb directed to St Andrews Cathedral further up George Street…

wed15 017

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