Other men’s wives


The State of Westralia has been fairly rich in public men who devoted business hours to writing love letters to other men’s wives. Let’s see—there was H. W. Venn, who woke one fine morning to find himself nearly as famous as Abelard or Dean Swift. But that is old history. This is now.
This is the story of W. Bede Christie, a gentleman who occupied a responsible position in the Lands Department up till last year, when a discerning Labor Ministry selected him to go and lecture in New South Wales and try to attract cockies to this great country.
Step up, Mr Bede Christie. How many trustful women’s hearts have you broken, you sly dog? Step up, and you shall be the Paul of this Paul-Virginia idyll.

In 1906 William Bede Christie—surveyor, author, lecturer, business proprietor, land booster for the state, student of astronomy and authority on Egyptology—was 64 and married. Which is definitely time for a song:

He had been touring NSW to promote the quality of farmland here in WA and to attract farmers from over there to over here.

Accompanying him was Mrs Margaret Regan, a matronly woman who was separated from her husband. However, William and Margaret posed as husband and wife while on tour, and when the Wyalong Star reported that W. Bede Christie and his wife were in town, the news filtered back to Perth.

Christie was immediately recalled by the Government, but the most embarrassing aspect of the story—for him at least, and probably for Mrs Regan—was the publication of his letters to both his lover and her married daughter, Pearl Bould.

As letters written by a bureaucrat, they are not as steamy as I would like. But you do have to admire the old rascal.

Here is a sample of Christie’s style:

Pearl, darling,
I love you very dearly as it is. I know your nature so well as though I had known you for years. Knowing you longer, can only make me go on loving you with an affection that will always make both Mother [Mrs Regan] and myself desire you to be near us and with us.
Walter [Pearl’s husband] won’t mind my loving you like that, will he, dear? Nor will he mind you giving to me some of the love you are already giving to your dear Mother. I am sure he won’t, and we will be such a happy family, and when you have your little ones growing up around you, they will grow to love me too.
Wherever I go I grow to love the children; and I think they return my love for them. The watch chain I wear was presented to me with such a nice address by the children of a school I used to visit, and I keep that chain as the dearest treasure I have.
The happiness I have had with children is the only oasis in a very bitter life, and now I feel that Mother and I are going to enter upon a career of happiness which neither thought it possible that we could attain.

Christie’s mood could not have improved when, a couple of weeks later, Dryblower decided to use his satirical skills to offer a comment on the affair (giving Christie the nickname ‘Daddles’):

Ye bucks who are rowing strange craft on the sea
Take care how ye handle the paddles,
And when ye write loving epistles to she
Don’t fall in the soup-dish like Daddles.
If you must unburden your amorous chest
Of sentiment silly and sloppy,
You’ll find that this style is the safest and best
When writing to Lilly or Poppy:

The harp-strings are silent,
The harplet is broke,
And I have a violent
Desire to smoke;
The bull dog rehearses
My passionate verses,
And empty my purse
And broke is your bloke.

If you are in love with the daughter, as well
As in love with the old woman’s money,
Between them they’ll give you particular hell
If your pen ever tries to be funny.
If you live with the ma and the daughter’s away,
In writing to her don’t be careless,
For letters have habits of going astray,
This style is regarded as snareless:

Your dotty old mother
Likes sauce in her stew,
But I want no other
Consommé but you;
My pants she is patching,
A scheme I am hatching,
I think I am catching
The tickdollaroo.