Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin" by John Nevin 1866

JOHN NEVIN snr (1808-1887)
DEATH of daughter Rebecca Jane NEVIN (1847-1865)

John Nevin (1808-1887)
Photo taken by his son Thomas Nevin ca. 1874
Copyright © The Shelverton Collection 2005-2009 Arr.

Thomas Nevin's father, John Nevin snr (1808-1887) was an accomplished poet. Three poems (to date) have been located in Australian libraries, and one published in the press. Although he died peacefully in his garden overlooking the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart in 1887, he had already suffered the loss of both daughters - Rebecca Jane in 1865, and Mary Ann in 1879 - as well as his wife, their mother Mary Nevin (1810-1875). He married again in 1879, and died mercifully four years before the death from typhoid fever of his youngest child, Constable John (William John aka Jack) Nevin (1851-1891). The last remaining child, his eldest and first-born son, photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), survived them all by decades.

State Library of Tasmania
TAHO Ref: NS434/1/155
John Nevin senior (1808-1887), photographed in 1879, aged 71 years, on the occasion of his marriage to his second wife, Martha Genge (aged 46 yrs).
Photo © KLW NFC 2012

Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865)
A few photographs by Thomas Nevin of his parents and siblings Mary Ann Nevin and Jack (William John) Nevin have survived and are held in family collections, but no information about the second sister Rebecca Jane Nevin was found until recently. It is just possible, even likely in retrospect, that this photograph (below) which surfaced at an auction in 2019 of a small collection taken by Thomas Nevin of family and clients and thought to be a photograph of his sister Mary Ann, is actually a photograph of his sister Rebecca Jane, taken just months before her death in 1865. If indeed it is Rebecca Jane, she appears to be frail and already at the advanced stages of an unnamed disease which would claim her life before the year's end when she posed for her brother. In her father's poem written on her death (below), he spoke of her as fragile, whereas her older sister Mary Ann, photographed by their brother Thomas a few years later, appears to be a strong and healthy young woman.

Subject: Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865) ca. 18 years old
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin, her older brother
Location and date: Thomas Nevin's New Town studio, ca. 1865
Details: verso is blank, companion photo to another early photograph of younger brother Jack Nevin from same collection.
Provenance: Sydney Rare Books Auctions 2019. Private collection.

The death of their sister on November 10th, 1865, was a terrible blow to this pioneer family. None could have paid a better tribute than her father in this exquisite poem, written and printed just six weeks after her death.

On the much lamented Death of
R E B E C C A   J A N E   N E V I N 
Who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley,
On the 10th NOVEMBER, 1865, in the 19th year of her age.


In early childhood's joyous hour,
We brought her from her native soil,
To seek some calm and peaceful bower
Far on Tasmania's sea-girt Isle;
While yet a gentle, fragile thing,
Her infant steps were tottering.

Here, by a mountain streamlet's side,
Its soothing murmurs lov'd to hear,
Or watch its limpid waters glide,
And cull the flow'rs were blooming near;
And tho' her life was mark'd with pain,
Was seldom heard for to complain.

Death early chose her for his prey,
For slow disease with stealthy tread,
Had swept the hues of health away,
And left a sallow cheek instead;
Like some young flow'ret, sickly pale , -
She droop'd and wither'd in the vale.

Full eighteen summer suns have shed,
Refulgent beams on that pale brow,
Ere she was number'd with the dead;
Beyond the reach of anguish now.
The wint'ry blast of death has come,
To lay her in the dark lone tomb.

Cut off in girlhood's hopeful morn,
She pass'd without a murm'ring sigh,
From friends and weeping parents torn,
To higher, fairer worlds on high.
She's gone to join the blood-wash'd throng,
And mingle with the seraphs' song.

The struggle's o'er - loved shade adieu! -
No more shall grief or pain molest;
The wint'ry storms may howl o'er you,
But cannot break thy dreamless rest:
Pluck'd like a rose from parent stem,
To deck a royal diadem.

Her life was guileless as a child,
Nor pride, nor passion ever knew;
A book, a flower - her hour beguiled,
Nor breath'd a heart more kind or true;
No longer kneels with us in prayer: -
Now I behold her vacant chair!

That head in pain shall throb no more,
Nor weary night of restless sleep;
The Jordan pass'd, thy journey's o'er,
And thou shalt never wake to weep;
When the last trumpet loud will sound,
Thou'lt rise triumphant from the ground!

Kangaroo Valley,
27th January, 1866.

This is the envelope in which the poem is housed at the University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections. The hand-writing may well be John Nevin's.


The poem is held at the University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections. The original catalogue entry showed an error with regard to the location: i.e. Kangaroo Valley NSW, to be corrected to Kangaroo Valley, Hobart Tasmania (renamed Lenah Valley in 1922), notified 18 July 2013. Assistance from Special Collections gratefully acknowledged.

Contributed by Libraries Australia
Title Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin : who died at the Wesleyan chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on the 10th November, 1865, in the 19th year of her age /​ John Nevin.
Author Nevin, John, 19th cent.
Published Kangaroo Valley [N.S.W.] : [s.n.], 1866.
Physical Description 1 sheet ; 29 x 12 cm.
Language English
Dewey Number A821.1
Libraries Australia ID 10001707

APA citation
Nevin, John (1866). Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin : who died at the Wesleyan chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on the 10th November, 1865, in the 19th year of her age. [s.n.], Kangaroo Valley [N.S.W.]- (to be amended to Kangaroo Valley, Tasmania.)

Two more poems by John Nevin snr (1808-1887)

"My Cottage in the Wilderness" by John Nevin, 1868. 
Mitchell Library NSW
Photo © KLW NFC 2009

State Library of Tasmania, Ref: P820A NEV.
Title: “Lines written on the sudden and much lamented death of Mr William Genge who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Melville-street, Hobart on the morning of 17th January 1881, in the 73rd year of his age” by John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, January 31st, 1881.

Family portraits by Thomas J. Nevin 

Mary Nevin, mother of Thomas Nevin and siblings, taken early 1870s
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collections 2007

Mary Ann Nevin (1844-1878), sister of Thomas J. Nevin,
dipping a glass at New Town rivulet, Kangaroo Valley Hobart Tasmania, ca. 1870.
Salt paper stereograph taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint  Private Collection 2012

Family portraits taken by Thomas J. Nevin of himself and three of his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day (top row);
his brother William John aka Jack Nevin, himself, his sister Mary Ann Nevin, and himself again (bottom row).
Copyright ⓒ KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collection 2007

The cottage that John Nevin built at Kangaroo Valley
“T. J. Nevin Photo” inscribed on verso, ca. 1868.
Courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

RELATED POSTS main weblog

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872