Royal Reels: Gambling


This fine mourning cover was addressed to C.H. Chomley Esq., Trinity College, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria and it had a single blue 2d Emu stamp of New South Wales cancelled with rays ‘201′ of Burwood, a Sydney suburb (Figure 1).

The reverse has a postmark of origin BURWOOD/ SP 3/ 1889/ N.S.W (Type 1D(i) 1887-1913), a transit duplex of SYDNEY/ 1/ SP 3/ 89/ 12 with the 3-ring oval N.S.W obliterator, a further transit of MELBOURNE/ 5L/ SE 4/ 89 and an arrival unframed PARKVILLE/ SE 4/ 89 VICTORIA (Figure 2).

Charles Henry Chomley was born in Sale, Victoria on 28 April 1868, the son of Henry Baker Chomley, bank manager and his wife Eliza, daughter of Thomas Turner Beckett. He was related to that circle of pre-gold Melbourne families which his nephew Martin Boyd later commemorated in his novels. Charles graduated B.A (1888), LL.B. (1889) from Trinity College, University of Melbourne, and he was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1891. In that year he married his cousin Ethel Beatrice Ysobel, daughter of William Arthur Callender Beckett, and his mother-in-law took him with her family to London for a year.

About 1893 he left practicing law to farm in partnership with a cousin Frank Chomley, and with a group of friends they settled in the King River valley in north-east Victoria. His mother who joined him, recalled it as ‘quite an exceptional little community there of a few families of our own class, mostly related to each other, their pretty homes, fine orchards and dairy farms within easy distance’. Charles was an Oxley Shire Councillor in 1896-99 and its president in 1898. After straining his heart he was forced to retire to Melbourne about 1900.

Charles then took to writing and journalism, and edited the Arena, a gossipy, illustrated weekly, devoted to the arts, politics and fashionable society. Lionel and Norman Lindsay provided cartoons, usually on political subjects. Despite its flippant tone, the Arena supported the suffragette movement and championed free trade. In February 1903 it took over the Sun but it ceased publication in 1904. Charles first novel written with his friend and former fellow-farmer Robert Outhwaite, The Wisdom of Esau, had already appeared, and he also wrote on incidents in Victorian history. In 1905 his second novel, Mark Meredith, a fantasy about life in a totalitarian socialist Australia, where political ‘unregenerates’ were sent to work in the cane-fields of Queensland.

In 1907 he sailed for England and became the editor and later proprietor of the British-Australasian, an established weekly, mainly catering for Australian expatriates. Every quarter he published a supplement on art and literature, with contributions from his relatives, circle of friends and prominent Australian writers and artists. He later published books and pamphlets on law, taxation, protection and free trade. Charles edited the British-Australasian until his death in London on 21 October 1942, predeceased by his wife in 1940, leaving a son and three daughters. The reason for his reception of a mourning cover while he was a law student at Trinity College, Melbourne in 1889 was not found.

This paper relies on the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Charles Chomley.

Addendum (August 2011):  An email was received from Peter Chomley stating that Charles Henry Chomley was his 1st cousin 3 times removed.  “The handwriting is very similar to letters from the family members of the time.  Regarding the reason for the mourning letter, I would presume that it was to inform him of the death of his cousin by marriage.  Sir william Foster Stawell who died in Naples, Italy on 11 March 1889.  Sir William was married to Mary Frances Elizabeth Greene, daughter of Anne Greene (nee Griffith) of Woodlands, near Tullamarine airport, who was the sister of Charles’ grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Chomley (nee Griffith).”

Peter Chomley has kindly provided me with a passport photo of C.H. Chomley (Figure 3).

Categories: Mourning Covers, Postmarks