Blanche Mitchell

Darling Point society was small and exclusive, made up of some of Sydney's most successful and wealthy individuals. It was said that Darlingpointonians had laws, manners and customs all of their own - liberal laws, graceful manners and pleasant customs. 'Outsiders' were not admitted without some trouble, however once in their circle no-one cared to leave, according to an 1857 article in the Sydney magazine Month.

Social life revolved around families and entertainments such as dinners, balls and concerts. Music was a popular nineteenth century form of entertainment, enjoyed in private homes and concert halls alike. They even had a popular song named after the area, "The Darling Point Polka" was published in the Australian Musical Album for 1863

Many families intermarried and close friendships developed amongst residents. "There was a snug coterie of society... at Darling and Potts Point and the South Head Road which had something more than the ordinary, loose, cold-hearted friendship, which commonly binds what is called 'society' together", wrote Nehemia Bartley in the 1890s.

Blanche Mitchell (1843–1869), youngest daughter of surveyor-general Sir Thomas Mitchell and Lady Mitchell, enjoyed a privileged upbringing, growing up at Carthona, Darling Point.

Her family later moved to Craigend Terrace, Woolloomooloo, living in reduced circumstances following the death of her father in 1855.

Blanche kept childhood diaries and notebooks recording her family and social life during 1850–1861. Her diaries give us a lively picture of what life was like at that time for a young girl in fashionable society. She records her close friendships, daily activities and social events in Darling Point and environs. Her days are spent visiting friends such as the Bradleys at Lindesay, attending St. Mark's Church and a dizzying array of social events and activities including balls, dinners and picnics. Even after she moved to Woolloomooloo, she maintained her close links with Darling Point society.

> Read Blanche Mitchell's complete diary online

Transcript: 
From 1858 to 1859 Volume II Commencing from January 27 1858
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181005
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Thursday 28th January 1858 Passed as usual, except two or three more quarrels with Jessie, which serve to make the time pass agreeably. Alice went to her drawing lesson. At five went to St Mark's to sing there, slept at the Bradley's. Friday 29th January Walked home at half past eight. Went to Mrs Logan's, from thence to Mrs Arnold's where we stayed an hour at German. I think, (but of course my opinion passes for nothing), that Mrs Arnold's pronunciation is very bad indeed, pronouncing Guegun as a hard 'g' and altogether just like English sounds. Alice went to her singing lesson. The Bradleys called in their carriage. Kate stayed about an hour there. I showed Minna and Alice all over the house. Were asked to go to Mrs Arnold's and take tea. Went there and danced till ten, when we came home. The girls were not nice girls, not being ladies, and their manners being rough, of course we don't like making friends with them, but they like making friends with us for there was a great kissing match at coming away. Heard that they have
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181008
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a scholar there, a Miss Atkinson, authoress of Gertrude. Saturday 30th January Rose very late, and was seedy all day. Finished the second volume of Byron's life. Alice and Dickey played chess. Dickey went to see Mr Willie Stephen, secretary at Mr Cowper's office, and heard from him that the Clerk of Petty Sessions at Molong having sent in some time ago his resignation, on account of wishing one of his friends to get into his place, that friend giving him £100 per annum, that as Mr Cowper refused to let his friend have it, he refused to go away and wished to withdraw his resignation. This, Dickey heard some time ago, and it put him into very low spirits, but today Mr S. told him that the whole affair was laid before the Executive Council, and that he was certain the withdrawal would not be accepted. This piece of news has given Dickey great hopes, and he longs for Monday, when we can see Mr Cowper. Dickey read out of London Stages, The Dukes Men. I read The Critic by Sheridan when I can, but I have got so many books to read, and I never read more than one at a time, for it confounds
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181009
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and puzzles my memory. There are Plutarch's Times, Xenoplion's History of Cyrus, Moore's Life of Scott etc. and numbers of others, which would be unnecessary to write here. I can only read them at night and in the morning, for in the day I am employed. Sunday 31 January Went to church. Sang there as usual. The Clerk gave Alice a note from Mr McArthur inviting her and I to an Evening Party on Tuesday the 2nd Feb. Intend to go. Returned with the Bradleys to Lindesay and am sorry to say, read nothing at all. Thus this day passed without any improvement. Sunday comes only once in six days, and that day ought to be set apart for religious improvement and prayers. Went to Church in the evening. Slept at the Bradley's. Monday 1st February Returned home in the omnibus, which was crowded with all sorts of people. Dickey came down to breakfast looking like a ghost. He was so pale, and frightened us all out of our seats. He is ill from the excitement which this appointment causes him. Went with Mrs Boulton to Sydney. Alice has got an engagement with the Bradleys
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181010
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to meet them in Sydney, as she is going to get her portrait taken. She waited at Jones' for them, while we went down to the Circular Wharf, got into a boat, rowed to the Waterview Dry Dock, where the Simla was, and went on board to see her. It was coaling, and therefore was in a very dirty state. While we were there, they commenced holystoning the deck, and the saloon; the din and confusion was indescribable. We then went to see Mort's Dry Dock on which £80,000 have been expended, no one would think so at first sight, for the Dock does not reach up very far, not being as yet finished, but that immense sum of money has been spent on what has been done. Returned with the Boultons to the house in the boat, dined there, and came away by myself in the five omnibus. Tuesday 2nd February Went to our respective lessons. A thunderstorm came on, but we started in it at five for the Bradley's. Ran nearly the whole way, as the lightning was very vivid indeed, and the thunder strikingly loud. But we arrived safe through it all, and found ourselves at the Bradley's at half past five. Mr Phillips was there. I sat with him for nearly two hours, and the
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181011
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Transcript: 
whole time he talked of nothing but the virtues and beauties of Emily ('the Countess' as he called her). This is the night of the McArthur's ball. Rain poured, but we went in the carriage at eight. It was a very nice party, at least everybody thinks so. I do not think the like, for no one ever introduced me to anybody, and as I did not know a single officer that was there of course they did not dance with me. Nevertheless I danced very much with Smythes and Skinners and those I did know, as my shoes, which are full of holes, will testify. But I think it a great shame that Mr McArthur, Kate or even Alice did not introduce me to anybody, and there were lots of gentlemen there, and there was Alice dancing round, because she knows people and gets introduced. But Mr M. did not behave at all well to me. When Kate and Minna and I were sitting alone on a bench, and they had been all dancing and I had missed that one, he comes up with a gentleman to Kate, introduces her, and then goes off again and brings up another, an officer, to Minna, who was sitting with me, and there was I left alone. He never introduced a single soul to me all night, nor took the slightest
Item 02: Blanche Mitchell diary, 28 January 1858-27 December 1858
28 January 1858-27 December 1858
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a6181012
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One of Blanche's early notebooks compiled when she was a child living in Darling Point, contains miscellaneous text and poetry including a sonnet relating to the wild Christmas Bush which grew in profusion along Darling Point Road.

Sonnet of Darling Pt, 25 Dec 1850

Pluck the red Christian bush
Preposterous man,
At theft it needs must blush
You never can -
For him who died upon the blessed cross
It bleeds not, - At this birth
The morning stars did sing
"Joy to the Earth"
Then every tree
Declared this glory
Well may this blush for thee.

Blanche Mitchell died of consumption in 1869, aged twenty-six years old. 

Darling Point Polka

The Australian musical album for 1863 [music].
Sydney : J.R. Clarke, 1863 (Sydney : Allan & Wigley)
Digital ID: 
a1774001
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The Australian musical album for 1863 [music].
Sydney : J.R. Clarke, 1863 (Sydney : Allan & Wigley)
Digital ID: 
a1774002
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The Australian musical album for 1863 [music].
Sydney : J.R. Clarke, 1863 (Sydney : Allan & Wigley)
Digital ID: 
a1774003
View collection item detail

Made possible through a partnership with Belinda Hutchinson AM & Roger Massy-Greene