An unfinished autobiography by Gilbert Murray

By Gilbert Murray

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My father had originally owned two fine stations: Yarrowlumla, where the Federal capital, Canberra, now stands, and Winderadene, near Lake George. I think there was another, too, which he gave away, but of that I must tell later. There must have been a succession of droughts and floods. In one old letter I find mention of 15,000 sheep lost in floods; the water of the river Murray could rise 29 feet; and there was a pretty constant anxiety about the dry weather. Another letter says that if the sheep cannot be fed they can be boiled.

Leila was always kind to me, but she was very severe with Aubrey and Hubert. ' He took the advice but forgot the exact word and said 'Drumsticks', which left Leila completely puzzled. Leila was a fine horsewoman. She could drop her whip, jump down and pick it up and jump on again, without stopping the horse. She went away when I was ten to look after her uncle, Augustus Gibbs, who had lost his wife. I did not see -26- her again till the year 1884, when I was staying in the Isle of Wight and heard by chance that there was a rather eccentric Australian lady at Shanklin who rode a tricycle, an unusual accomplishment for women at that time.

To their suffering, and to all suffering, his response was instantaneous and generous, as refugee scholars from many countries have cause to remember. Yet he was hardly a typical humanitarian; he had, for one thing, an irrepressible sense of the ridiculous. And though he chose out of personal taste to abstain from meat, wine and tobacco, he was anything but a killjoy; he loved company, and was a brilliant raconteur and a most accomplished host, expert at drawing out the best that each could contribute and at making the youngest and shyest feel at ease at his table where poets and actors, cabinet ministers and foreign savants rubbed shoulders with raw undergraduates.

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