A poignant little postscript to J B Were

The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, from which I’ll be drawing much of my “Entrepreneur Watch” material  is really a fascinating book.  It comes in 2 large volumes and comprises 67 chapters.  It was written by the journalist Edmund Finn some thirty years after the events it describes, drawing on his own experiences and the newspaper reports he wrote at the time,  and the papers and memoirs of Port Phillip citizens still living in the 1880s.  It is witty, racy and, I suspect, rather prone to exaggeration, bluster and mockery.

It’s rather self-referential in places, where Finn discusses the process by which the material was collected and arranged.  As Finn himself tells it, when he was researching the chapter about the Twelve Apostles (which I shall discuss more when I get to Apostle No 1. Rucker), J. B. Were expressed his concern about  digging up the past, reminding Finn that some of the people were still alive and that their children and grandchildren might take action against him. When he enquired what sources Finn was going to draw his material from, he offered to write up his own recollections and construction of the events.  Finn did not, as he suspected Were wished him to, incorporate the material into his own narrative but instead attached it as an appendix.

I’ll let Finn tell the story from here on in:

The next time I saw Mr Were was our last meeting in this world, and it was caused by the receipt of the following communication:-

Wellington, 1st May 1885, Brighton Beach

Dear Mr Finn- I have been under the doctor’s care for the last six months, suffering from an attack of jaundice, and have become very emaciated with wasting and loss of appetite.  I am ordered to Riverina for change of climate, and I leave on Monday morning.  If you can see me this evening, or at any time tomorrow, I am gathering some papers which I desire to hand you, and to have the pleasure of a short conversation with you.  The terminus is within sight,  and a very short distance from my house.  Yours faithfully, J. B. Were.

After reading the foregoing I handed it to a friend sitting by me, remarking that the “terminus” mentioned therein was intended as a way-mark to point to my intended destination; but something seemed to foreshadow it as the terminus of the writer’s long and not unnotable terrestrial career…  In compliance with his desires, I visited Mr Were that afternoon, and noticed such a striking change in his appearance and manner as to leave but little doubt that if not absolutely in sight, the “terminus” was not far off….Shaking hands with Mr Were, we parted with mutual good wishes; but I never saw his face again. (p. 992)

So, poor old J. B.  The terminus was, indeed, within sight and a very short distance from his house.

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