Reprint: Araluen Kendall by F. W. Hosken

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"We were young when you were with us, life and love were happy things
To your father and your mother, ere the angels gave you wings" - ( Kendall )

The recent death in Sydney of Charlotte Kendall, the widow of the poet Henry Kendall, and her burial in the grave where he lies in Sydney, recalls the fact that their first child, Araluen, who died in 1870, aged 13 months lies buried in a neglected grave in the Melbourne General Cemetery. The story of the sickness and death of this little child who was named after the New South Wales stream whose beauty always lingered in the poet's memory, and whose death inspired one of his most beautiful and pathetic poems provides one of the saddest pages of Kendall's life. In 1860 he migrated from Sydney to Melbourne hoping that away from dissolute companions he might successfully battle against his inherited weakness for drink, and trusting also as Melbourne was at that date much larger than Sydney, that he might find more scope and encouragement for literary work. He received so hearty a welcome that a fortnight later he sent for his wife and baby daughter. A home was secured opposite the Carlton gardens, and for a time his prospects were bright. Mr George Robertson heartened him by arranging the publiation of "Leaves from an Australian Forest," the appearance of which was afterwards described by Alexander Sutherland as "one of the most memorable events in Australian literature." He found many who, through admiration of his genius were anxious to assist him, and numerous poems from his pen appeared in the columns of "The Argus," "The Australasian," and other Melbourne papers. The income thus derived, however, was fitful, and his peculiar temperament and unsteady habits precluded his engaging either in ordinary journalistic work or other constant employment. He was soon forced to leave the Carlton house, and moved with his wife and sickly baby, first to a cheap tenement in Fitzroy, and then to a still cheaper one in Collingwood. Bowed down by poverty, disappointment, and anxiety, all his good resolves melted away. He became more and more unsteady, less capable of work and ultimately the wretched family were forced to hide their heads in a tiny cottage in Swan street, Richmond, where little Araluen, notwithstanding the assiduous attention of Dr Nield, after much suffering died on February 2, 1870. Mrs Kendall afterwards said that the wailing notes of the dying child haunted her husband throughout all the rest of his life. He wrote -
"In dreams I always meet
The phantom of a wailing child."
The poverty stricken poet was unable to pay for his child's burial, and in his reminiscences he wrote -
I only hear the brutal curse
Of landlord clamouring for his pay,
And yonder is the pauper's hearse
That comes to take a child away
Apart, and with the half grey head
Of sudden age, again I see
The father writing by the dead
To earn the undertaker's fee.
Little Araluen was buried in what was then known as "No Mans Land," in the north east corner of the Melbourne General Cemetery, near the corner of Lygon and Macpherson streets. Lovers of the poet know well the pathetic, heart-broken farewell of the parents to the little grave.
"Take this rose and very gently place it on the tender deep
Mosses where our little darling, Araluen lies asleep,
Put the blossoms close to baby. Kneel with me, my love, and pray,
We must leave the bird we've buried, say good bye to her to-day.
In the shadow of our trouble we must go to other lands,
And the flowers we have fosteredl will be left to other hands."
"Ah! the saddest thought in leaving baby in this bush alone,
Is that we have not been able on her craie to raise a stone,
We have been too poor to do it, but, my darling, never mind -
God is in His gracious heaven, and His sun and rain are kind;
They will dress the spot with beauty, they will make the grasses grow;
Many winds will lull our birdie, many songs will come and go.
Here the blue-eyed Spring will linger, here the shining mouth will stay
Like a friend, by Araluen, when we two are far away."
Alas, the little grave has remained untended ever since. It has recently been traced by Mr. Goddard, a member of the Australian Literature Society who discovered that in the same allotment are buried no fewer than 10 other little pauper babies, their ages ranging from 10 days to 10 months. I would suggest that lovers of Kendall in Melbourne might well undertake the responsibility of putting the grave in order, and erecting a simple marble tablet on the grave of his so dearly loved and mourned baby girl, and so fulfil the heart-longing of the poet when he wrote:-
"Let us go, for night is falling, leave the darling with her flowers;
Other hands will come and tend them - other friends in other hours."
First published in The Argus, 22 November 1924 [Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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Is the little grave still able to be viewed and perhaps tidied up or has it long gone? I love the poet's poem and would love to know more about the history of what has happened to the grave.


I've done a search on the internet and can't find a grave index for Melbourne General Cemetery. That isn't to say there isn't one, just that none seems readily available. It might be worth a visit to the cemetery to check with their administration office.

I notice that the office is open on Saturdays.Not sure when I can get to that, however.

As it was lunchtime and I work next door, I dropped in to the State Library of Victoria's genealogy section and checked the "Alphabetical Records of Burials - Old Melbourne Cemetery 1865-1922". There was no mention of Araluen Kendall in any index. I can only assume from this that she was buried in a pauper's grave without a ceremony, and hence wasn't listed. I'm not sure that the call to raise a tablet was ever answered.

Ironically the 'no mans land' where Araluen is buried is now front and centre as you walk in the main (north) entrance... I found the grave accidently as it is prominent and then searched to see is she was related to Henry the poet. And here I am. My question more than answered. The grave has presence hence my researching. You will find it by walking in the northern gate and looking along the first prominent east west path...central to the gate are from memory.
regards TC.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 22, 2009 9:23 AM.

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