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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Countess Diamantina di Roma, Lady Bowen (and Bowen and Lear)

A nice Australian tribute on YouTube

An earlier posting of my own, and an extract from the 2004 oration by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, AC (Governor of Queensland at the time, now Governor-General of Australia, the first woman to hold that position):

"I wanted to know more about this captivating, exotic woman, of her serenity and kindness. And like many others who have read of the Bowens’ time in Queensland, I wondered about that couple’s relationship - the differences in upbringing and cultural traditions - yet encouraged by the impetus they gave, in partnership, to Australia’s northern colony, newly separated from New South Wales in 1859.

I was reminded too of the seeming contradictions in their temperaments. I am not the first to have considered this. The opening lines of a poem attributed to Jim Potts, currently with the British Council in Sweden, whose work Diamantina Roma and the Postings of Governor Bowen begins thus:

that selfish brute Bowen,
got Corfu, then Brisbane,
New Zealand and Melbourne!
Missed out on New South Wales!
Twenty years down under,
Sir Gorgeous Figginson Blowing…

Potts’ use of the word ‘brute’ and the sarcasm inherent in the corruption of Bowen’s name are taken directly from 19th century writer and natural history artist, Edward Lear, known the world over as the author of The Owl and the Pussycat.

Lear met Bowen on the island of Corfu and had lived there for some time in rooms near the Metropolitan’s Palace. He wrote of society under the British Protectorate as “having all the extra fuss and ill-will produced by a Court and small officials.” Apparently Lear’s particular loathing of Bowen appears in his personal correspondence."

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