I’m currently writing a biography of Walter Stevenson Davidson (hereafter to be known as WSD), who came to Australia as a very young man in 1805, got caught up in the mutiny against Governor Bligh in 1808, then went to China as a trader. He made a fortune through illegal opium smuggling, returning to Britain a very wealthy man. He became a banker and a businessman, with speculations in many Australian projects.
Currently I’m toying with Australian Nabob: Walter Stevenson Davidson – but anyone who can think of a really good title gets a copy of the book as a prize. Don’t hold your breath though!
In the course of my research and writing, I have often come across interesting but tangential people, places, ideas – which I call my Dead Darlings.
Here are a few so far:
Stuart Alexander Donaldson came out to New South Wales in 1835 with WSD’s nephew, Patrick Leslie. Patrick was sent out by WSD to manage his pastoral stations, Donaldson was sent out by his father to work with Richard Jones, a Sydney trader and WSD’s partner in a pastoral station, Collaroy. Donaldson subsequently went into politics and was the first Premier of NSW. He also had an affair that led to the birth of an illegitimate son in 1841 – which one of my commentators subsequently found in Trove. Thank you Kerry!
Augustus Bozzi Granville was the Davidson family doctor. He was a remarkable man, an Italian patriot who played the guitar, became a ship’s surgeon in the Royal Navy, became friendly with the British consul in Naples, William Hamilton, and joined with him in bringing the Elgin marbles to Britain. His Autobiography, which is available online here is so extraordinary that it led me to speculate that he may be the original for Patrick O’Brien’s Stephen Maturin.
Not a person, but in I think Jane Austen is stalking me, I reflected on how much WSD’s return from China as ‘a single man of good fortune’ follows the pattern of many of Jane Austen’s men.
Also not a person (or not any more), but WSD’s Egyptian mummy is very definitely a Dead Darling.
Merchant mandarin: the rich life of WSD
Nice – I like it! The only problem is there’s an important book on the British in 19C China called Merchants and Mandarins – so it’s a bit close. But thank you.