A quick refresher.
Henry Whittall Venn was a pompous, portly windbag with a huge moustache. After being sacked by Forrest, he passed his final years at Dardanup where he died of heart disease on 8 March 1908.
End of refresher.
Venn is remembered for two things: trebling the mileage of the government railways, and having been an aging lothario.
Guess which one Dodgy Perth is going to celebrate?
At some point, probably early 1901, Venn was at a party when he met a young, but married, actress. We don’t know her name, which is a pity, so I’m going to call her Eve. She needs to be called something.
Since he was 56 summers old, you would think that Venn would know better than to act like a giddy teenager and believe in love at first sight. But that’s precisely what he did.
However, it had been a long, long time since he had been courting young ladies—in fact, he had been married for nearly three decades.
Eve was sitting out on the rear verandah at the party. Venn approached her awkwardly and asked what she was doing there all alone. She replied that she was listening to the frogs in the dark. It was quite clear that the beautiful actress had no interest in the older man, but that wasn’t going to deter Venn.
Without being invited, Venn sat next to her, and kept staring at her pretty eyes with ‘lingering, yearning feelings.’ If Eve noticed his strange manner, she was too well bred to mention it.
But if she found that situation awkward, how much more so when Venn stiffly declaimed some lines from Milton he vaguely remembered from school:
Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,
Dearer thyself than all…
Eve cleared her throat and pronounced the poem “very nice.” Realising that his fumbling courtship was a disaster, Venn grabbed at her and tried to say something romantic. All he could mumble was “You have cold hands.”
At this, Eve stood and, wishing Venn a good evening, joined her friends inside. With them, she laughed about the stiff government official who had clumsily attempted to seduce her in the dark.
To be continued…