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Eustace Reveley Mitford (1811–1869)

by Pat Stretton

This article was published:

Eustace Reveley Mitford (1811-1869), satirist, was christened on 25 May 1811 at St Pancras, London, son of John Mitford, barrister, and his first wife Sara, née Woodward. Eustace was proud of his family, especially his great-uncle John Freeman Mitford, first Baron Redesdale. Later Eustace claimed to have joined the navy and to have served in Spain against the Carlists. He married Eliza Sanders on 7 November 1834 at Ledbury, Hereford; they had eleven children.

Migrating to South Australia in 1839, Mitford bought and farmed eighty acres (32.4 ha) near the Sturt River. He also tried droving and mineral exploration. Usually in debt to family and friends, he was gaoled briefly for insolvency in 1856. In 1861, claiming to be the 'real discoverer', he challenged (Sir) Walter Hughes's right to the rich copper deposits at Moonta. He pressed his claim, without success, through a select committee in 1863 and a petition to Queen Victoria in 1869.

Mitford continued to live at Edwardstown, but found his true vocation in 1867 when he began publishing in Adelaide a weekly journal, Pasquin: Pastoral, Mineral and Agricultural Advocate. It reviewed plays and books and campaigned on behalf of the oppressed—such as prisoners and destitute children—but its chief aim was to 'aggravate our subscribers in every possible way', and Mitford had a sure eye for what would annoy South Australians most. Introducing the grape was 'a great mistake'. Democracy was another: 'democracy and dishonesty, universal suffrage and universal pillage . . . are synonymous terms and inseparable results'. Adelaide's architecture was 'mediaeval Clapham Common Gothic with a tendency to the Old Bailey Tuscan'. The colonists were wrong to sack the 'conscientious' Judge Boothby. Their hero Surveyor-General Goyder, who gave the copper to Hughes, was hopelessly incompetent. Wakefield was 'an ignoramus' and £1 an acre for land was ruining the colony.

Satire resists description. Here is Mitford at his lethal best:

People in England are profoundly astonished to hear that the land has not cost the Government or the country a single farthing—that, in fact well, to put it as mildly as possible—that we stole it!—took possession, you understand, in the Queen's name—just as they used aforetime to burn alive respectable ladies and gentlemen in the name of the Deity—and that when the native rangers attempted to remove the sheep found trespassing on their lands, we shot them like dogs, also in the name of the Queen—and then sent missionaries—very nice men, in white chokers—to inform them of a beautiful new kind of religion, which strictly prohibited theft and murder, or to covet a blackfellow's land or his lubra or his waddy, his boomerang or his beer, or anything that is his, or any other man's. Of course the blacks were deeply impressed with the sanctity and consistent justice of a religion, which was to save their souls, but played the very devil with their bodies, their lands, and their kangaroos. We make as much fuss about permitting settlers to occupy this land as if we had a right to it.
Mitford died of a chest infection on 24 October 1869 at Edwardstown, leaving an intestate estate valued at less than £80, and was buried in the Anglican cemetery at St Mary's. His wife, three daughters and six sons survived him; the journal, Pasquin, ceased after his death.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Depasquale, A Critical History of South Australian Literature 1836-1930 (Adel, 1978)
  • M. Middleton, Mitford’s Marion (manuscript, c.1990, held by Marion Historical Society)
  • Report of the Select Committee of the House of Assembly on the Tipara Mineral Claims, Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1863, vol 2, paper no 51
  • South Australian Register, 18 Oct 1869, p 3, 25 Oct 1869, p 2
  • Bunyip, 30 Oct 1869, p 2
  • Adelaide Punch, 25 Oct 1879, p 6.

Citation details

Pat Stretton, 'Mitford, Eustace Reveley (1811–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




24 October, 1869 (aged ~ 58)
Edwardstown, South Australia, Australia

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