In February 1874, Jack Gowlland RN, newly promoted to the rank of Commander, and his sister Celia left England to travel across the Continent to Brindisi. From there they sailed via the newly opened Suez Canal to Australia. Celia never returned to England. Jack drowned surveying Sydney Harbour within months of his return to his post as head of the New South Wales Hydrographical Survey, and Celia married one of his closest friends within a year.
Spanning twelve years, the letters to Celia - Birdie - that form this volume are from Celia's favourite brother, Richard, and his wife Jessie. They tell not only of family life in Victorian England - the vicissitudes of child bearing, unwelcome guests, making ends meet on a meagre income - but also bring to life some of the broader social changes taking place during the period. By 1874 Richard, an outstanding Civil Servant who rose to be deputy head of his department before his early death, was working in the Office of Public Building and Works. His articulate and engaging letters paint a vivid picture of his courtship and marriage to Jessie, and the birth and childhood of their six children, and refer also to his work, where he was involved with the planning of some of London's Victorian landmarks.
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