Royal Reels: Gambling


The 1d orange brown ‘Reading’ postcard of Victoria is postmarked with the fifth duplex PRAHRAN/ B/ JA 29/ 06/ VICTORIA with the barred numeral ‘69′ as obliterator, and it is addressed to the Rev. Haskett Smith M.A., Sandhurst Club, Bendigo (Figure 1).

The reverse has no postal markings and the message is difficult to read other than it implies that Haskett Smith has accepted to lecture locally, perhaps at the Sandhurst Club (Figure 2).

Surprisingly the prestigious and exclusive heritage Sandhurst Club is still debating the admission of women as members (as late as July 2005), and the club provides nothing about its rich history. It was opened in 1858 and has been at its present View Street, Bendigo address since 1893. This wall plaque is the only view found of the club (Figure 3).

The same paucity of information applies to the Reverend Haskett Smith M.A. in Australasia to the point that I was able to respond to the State Library of Victoria’s request to supply them with information about him. This English clergyman was born on 16 July 1847 and died on 12 January 1906. He was an author of several bible-related books as well as a known lecturer on biblical themes. If Elizabeth Hartrick had not presented her remarkable thesis for which she was awarded her Ph.D. at the University of Melbourne on The Magic Lantern in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, Haskett Smith would have been a veritable unknown. What follows is an abstract from her thesis relating to his lantern slide lectures in Dunedin, New Zealand and a brief mention of a similar lecture in Melbourne. Both were just a small part of her extensive research on lantern slide lecturers in Australia and New Zealand.

“For his Dunedin lecture season in November 1895, the Reverend Haskett Smith was able to enlist the endorsement of local clergy, Dunedin’s eminent Bishop Nevill presided at the first lecture….however he (Smith) was not attached to a church. In fact Smith’s visit to the colony was under the management of the ‘indefatigable celebrity hunter’ Mr. R.S. Smythe….Haskett Smith’s lecture’s participated in the ‘cult of places’ of armchair travel….an extended stopover at one or other location, with two and half hours of ‘numbers of deeply interesting photographs taken by himself…and a wealth of interesting detail”.

“The lecture titles all denote a romanticised view of the East – ‘The Crescent and the Cross’, ‘The Land of the Pharaohs’, ‘Myths and Marvels of Modern Egypt”,….’The City of the Great King and Round about Jerusalem’. However Smith’s lectures… reflected Christian scriptual fundamentalist interests and concerns which also sought to identify, excavate and accurately reconstruct biblical locations.” In the first-named talk involving Palestine he “was dealing with a subject which was literally at his finger tips, for he has visited the Holy Land frequently.” The Otago Daily Times commented on Smith’s vindication of the geographical descriptions in the Bible, and their remarkable accuracy.

There was a description of the use of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne for optical lantern entertainments in the presence of as many as 7,000 people, including the Governor of Victoria, Lord Brassey and his wife, and a brief mention of Reverend Smith commenting “I have given over 700 lime-light lectures, and have never been better served” by the services of the lanternist who showed Smith’s slides. The postcard presented in this paper shows that Smith was in Bendigo in January 1896, two months after his November 1895 Dunedin presentations . Proof of his performance at the Athenaeum Hall, Melbourne is confirmed by the picture of the Hall with the clearly shown name ‘Haskett Smith’ above the hall’s entrance (Figure 4).

The following paragraph was found in the New York Times Jan 12,2005 Archives dated July 6, 1891, page 3: A novel devoted to the life and religious theories of Laurence Oliphant was written by Rev. Haskett Smith who embraced some of Oliphant’s views and became a member of the Haifa, community. The scenes are said to be laid chiefly in Palestine, at Haifa or in the mountain home of the community at the Druse village of Dalieh, and Oliphant’s special views and methods of influence are all elucidated in the course of the plot. Haskett Smith contributed a chapter to Oliphant’s “Scientific Religion” containing the record of his own religious experiences, and he enjoyed in a full measure Oliphant’s confidence. The work will be entitled “For God and Humanity, a Romance of Mount Carmel.

A striking photo of Reverend Haskett Smith is seen in Figure 5.