Manuscript in ink on blue paper (24.3 x 19.5cm); an untitled poem of 7 quatrains; with an explanaroy footnote; signed and dated at bottom marginin the same hand "Brisbane December 2nd, 1861 - Samuel Gill Mee"; three newspaper cuttings on the verso, two dated 1861.
Well preserved, legible, some toning, newspaper cuttings with some loss. Very good. Item #1355
The opening quatrain of this unpublished poem reads: 'In a fierce flaming desert wild-laughing and leaping / Into its hell with demoniac groans; / And his murderer sleeping while wild dogs are keeping / Carnival over his body and bones!'
Mee's footnote, apparently referring to these opening lines reads: 'This is no imagination! Not a great distance from whence these lines are dated, a poor victim of delirium tremens leapt into a bush fire, and perished. He was the father of a family and its mother came looking for him! This case was known to the author, but (scarily like many others) was never chronicled! Bush taverns are rare friends to the native dogs! They save the Registrar of Deaths many a page; and deserts - like dead men - tell no tales. 'Samuel Gill Mee [1819 - 1909] was a newspaper compositor, poet, essayist, and lecturer who served the Brisbane Newspaper Company for nearly fifty years. I have been unable to find any collected works and he is not in Serle, but his poems appear individually in The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (1861), The Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (1868) and the The Queensland Times, the Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (1878) . There are also enthusiastic reports in the Brisbane Courier of lectures he presented on Robbie Burns and Marcus Clark and he penned at least two temperance pamphlets. In 1901 on his 82nd birthday he was presented with a purse of sovereigns by his employer for recognition of his forty years of service (he was still working) and was described by the paper as one who had "the love and esteem of all who had ever been associated with him." The same article continues, "Mr Mee is known to many as an essayist and a writer of verses and a lecturer...his verse and pen have done good service in the temperance cause, and he is a living example that a man need be in no degree morose through abstinence from alcohol and tobacco." He was known as one "who loves to look upon all that is best and brightest in mankind". This unpublished poem, however, offers six vignettes of tragedy and horror before imploring the reader in the seventh quatrain to; 'Spurn the dread source whence the tragedies flow!"
The Oldest Compositor in the Commonwealth
(From the Brisbane Courier, Saturday, 16th June, 1906)
Mr. S. G. Mee is the oldest compositor in the Commonwealth - if not in the world - still working "on his lines" at the case. Mr. Mee is now in his eighty-eighth year, and has been employed in the composing room of the Brisbane Newspaper Company since 1860. Although the sun is descending the western slopes, and shadows are lengthening eastward, physically Mr, Mee is still strong, and his mind is unimpaired. Possessing considerable
literary ability, Mr. Mee in early and middle life contributed to the Press many well-thought out essays on temperance and other subjects. He is well read, and his mind is embellished with some of the richest gems from the English classics. He has a retentive memory, which is stored with a large fund of interesting anecdote and incident illustrative of his long newspaper experiences in this and the old land. The charm of his personality has endeared him to all those who, like the writer and bis fellow craftsmen, have enjoyed the privilege and the pleasure of his friendship. Mr. Mee's nature detests all shams, and he has a deep feeling of reverence for everything that is good and true, and of that which tends to elevate the mind. Throughout his long career he has been a worker, using that word in its best sense; he has always felt that "honest toil is holy service, faithful work is praise and prayer." His life is happy and contented, and as peaceful as the drift of a barge with the tide. He takes the days as they come with light-hearted cheerfulness, believing that "what is, is, and that who' ' will be nobodv knows, so
why worry?" Contentment, Mr Mee thinks, is the only thing worth having. Unrest and worry, he says, bring anxious days and feverish nights, and fill many graves. As Matthew Arnold sings:
Our lives are songs ; God writes the words,
And we set them to music at pleasure;
And the song grows glad or sweet or sad,
As we choose to fashion the measure.
We must write the music, whatever the song,
Whatever its rhyme or metre;
And if it is sad we can make it glad,
Or sweet, we can make it sweeter.
Mr. Mee was born at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, in the year 1819 - the same year as the late Queen Victoria, and twelve months before the death of George III. Five sovereigns have therefore occupied the throne of England during his lifetime - namely, George III, George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, and Edward VII. At no previous period in the world's history have such great strides been made in literature, art, and science, as in that included in the life span of this grand old man in the art which preserves all arts. He was a lad in knickers when the first locomotive built for railway purposes - Stephenson's famous "Rocket"- hauled a load of eighty tons at the rate of eight miles an hour over the first railway ever constructed. He was quite a lad when Lord John Russell's great Reform Bill was passed in the House of Commons, and he well remembers the popular indignation when the measure was rejected by the House of Lords. He was still in his teens when the Free-trade Bill was passed, which "placed the shipping of foreign States on the same footing as British shipping." The great Catholic Emancipation Act (which had wrecked Pitt's first Administration, and also that of Grenville's) was passed while he was yet a young lad. He was 19 years of age when the first steamboat - the Great Western, 1340 tons, 225 horse-power - crossed the Atlantic, taking fifteen days to do the journey. He was 21 when Sir Rowland Hill's penny postage scheme was put into practice; and was 30 before the stamp duty on newspapers ceased to be compulsory. He well remembers the Chartist riots, which took place when he was about 20, and he was only two years older when Sir Robert Peel was moving in the Imperial Parliament for a "sliding scale" on imported wheat. "A great country like England," said the Baronet, "should be self-supporting, and should not encourage the importation of foreign grain."
Mr. Mee, at the age of 14, was apprenticed to a printer in his native town. After the term of his apprenticeship had expired, he was engaged by Messrs. Manning and Mason, of London. While with this firm he "comped" a large portion of William Howitt's " Student Life in Germany." He remained in the employ of this firm for a period of' five years and was subsequently employed in the 'Hertford Mercury," and afterwards on the oldest newspaper in England - the "Worcester Journal." He then went to Liverpool, and for some time worked on the " Liverpool Mercury." He afterwards returned to his native town, and for a, short time managed a little printing business for the
proprietor of the office in which he had served his time. He subsequently revisited London, but work was so slack that he failed to find employment. It was at this time that Mr. Mee made up his mind to undertake a journey which he had long contemplated - that of making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of one whose memory he had always revered: Robert Burns. He started from London with 5/ in his pocket, and, walking every inch ol the wav, with the assistance of a little Work obtained in the course of his journey, arrived at Ayr, the proud possessor of a solitary sixpence. Full of enthusiasm, he set out next day to visit the cottage where the bard was born. It was a cold January morning, and he gathered some snow-covered ivy from the Winnock' bunker i' the east / Where sat auld Nick in shape o' Beast, in the auld Kirk Alloway. He also visited the auld brig o' Doon, and gazed upon the monument erected in honour of the poet.
Mr. Mee subsequently visited Glasgow, Belfast, and Dublin, and afterwards returned to Liverpool a second time; and it was while here that he decided to emigrate to Australia. He arrived in Sydney by the ship Merlin on the 20th September, 1852. One of his fellow-passengers was the late Henry Jordan, afterwards Agent-General in England for Queensland. Mr. Mee's first situation was on the old "Empire", then owned and edited by the late Sir Henry Parkes. After working here for some time he was seized with the prevailing gold fever, and early in 1853, in company with a shipmate, he started for the newly-discovered goldfield Tambaroora. He soon discovered, however, that he was unfitted for a gold digger's life, and went to Bathurst, and worked for a short time on the "Free Press". He afterwards returned to Sydney, and obtained work on the " Herald." On account of the long hours, however, he. decided for a time to forsake the printing office, and accepted employment on Felton Station, then the property of Mr. A. Sandeman: He remained there six months, and was subsequently employed at Yandilla, Crow's Nest, and Calliungal. The happiest days of his life were spent on these stations, the owners and managers of which were very kind to him. Later on again he worked on the Armidale " Express," and then returned to Sydney, but finding business slack in that city he decided upon coming to Brisbane. Shortly after arrival he waited upon the late Mr. T. W. Hill, then overseer of the Moreton Bay " Courier" (at that time published
twice a week), who at once gave him a " frame." This was late in 1859 or early in 1860. For several years Mr. Mee worked on the night staff, but was afterwards appointed to a position on the " Queenslander," on which paper he has continued to work ever since.
In a letter to the writer in January, 1905, Mr. Mee said: Success in life is, as a rule, meted out on a monetary basis. To have a substantial account at the bank is by many (Samuel Smiles among the number) deemed the greatest, if not the only success. Judged by this standard, I am a notoriously non-successful man. However, if I have not wealth, I have that which I value more highly than anything else -the love - and esteem of those
who know me. Emerson, continued Mr. Mee, in his essay on " Character"- says:" I revere the person who is riches, so that I cannot think of him as alone, or poor, or exiled, or unhappy." Mr. Mee values very highly a number of letters, essays, and portraits which he has received from men and women eminent in the literary world, notably from the late Lord Shaftesbury, the late Professor F. W. Newman, the late J. Brunton Stephens, the late Marcus Clarke, the late Baron von Mueller, and from Mrs. Campbell-Praed.
'Happy and' contented at his work, Mr. Mee in his-daily life,"is realising to the utmost the beautiful lines of James Brunton Stephens in his "Convict Once":
Pleasantly, almost too pleasantly, blendeth to-
day with to-morrow;
Hours are as moments - a twinkle of white
wings, and, lo! they are gone.
Day bringeth work without bondage, and night
bringeth dreams without sorrow;
Pleasantly, almost too pleasantly, life is