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«Raffaello Carboni’s perception of Australia and Australian identity G. Rando University of Wollongong, grando This paper is posted at ...»

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Faculty of Arts

Faculty of Arts - Papers

University of Wollongong Year 

Raffaello Carboni’s perception of

Australia and Australian identity

G. Rando

University of Wollongong, grando@uow.edu.au

This paper is posted at Research Online.

http://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/19

Gaetano Rando

University of Wollongong

RAFFAELLO CARBONI’S PERCEPTION OF AUSTRALIA AND

AUSTRALIAN IDENTITY

Based on a paper presented at the Eureka 150 Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 25-27 November 2004 Carboni’s role both as participant in and chronicler of the Ballaarat uprising has historically been the subject of some controversial debate. Although the controversy regarding the veracity of Carboni’s account has long been settled (see below), Green, Serle and others who have commented on Carboni’s work have tended to relegate it to a mere chronicle without considering that The Eureka Stockade does in parts also present broader perspectives on Australia and Australian society, themes that Carboni was later to pursue in his subsequent Italian works displaying an Australian content. This paper examines the perceptions of Australia presented in both The Eureka Stockade and Carboni’s Italian works with a view to determining their author’s views of Australia and an emerging Australian identity and the way this is projected for an Italian audience.

What is revealed by this investigation is that The Eureka Stockade, more than a mere chronicle, does in fact provide a partial albeit idiosyncratic view of mid 19th century Australia from a non angloceltic perspective that is subsequently transported to an Italian context.

The genesis of this paper is an on-going project that aims to examine and analyse from an interdisciplinary perspective writings, oral accounts, theatre and cinema produced by short and long term Italian migrants to Australia and subsequent 1 generations of Italian Australians. To date the project has brought to light a considerable corpus of published and unpublished texts produced from the mid th 19 century up to the present time. Some hitherto unpublished literary texts have 1 been published in anthologies and a monograph-length critical study was 2 published in 2004. This study examines how the long-term Italian Australian migration experience has been expressed in the memoirs, autobiographies, narrative, poetry, theatre and film produced by its protagonists and presents some specific examples of the more general issues covered in a previous co-edited book.3 The way in which specific aspects of the Italian Australian experience is expressed in the corpus has also been addressed in a number of book chapters and journal

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Carboni as a political activist and as a writer together with an Italian translation of 1 G. Rando (ed.) Italo—Australian Poetry in the 80’s, Wollongong, 1986 provides a collection of 74 poems (written mostly in Italian, some in English) by eighteen first generation migrants.

G. Rando (ed.) Italo—Australian Prose in the 80s, Wollongong, 1988 provides a collection of sixteen short fiction texts written by sixteen first generation migrants with English translations of texts written in Italian.

2 G. Rando, Emigrazione e letteratura Il caso italoaustraliano, Cosenza, 2004 3 S. Castles, C. Alcorso, G. Rando and E. Vasta (eds) Australia's Italians. Culture and Community in a Changing Society, Sydney, 1992.

4 G. Rando, ‘Italian Australians during the Second World War: some perceptions of internment’, Studi d'italianistica nell'Africa australe/Italian Studies in Southern Africa, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2005), pp. XX-XX.

5 R. R. Cappiello, Oh Lucky Country. Translated with an introduction by Gaetano Rando, Sydney, 2003, pp.i-v [Sydney University Press Classic Australian Works series] 6 G. Rando, La Barricata dell'Eureka. Una sommossa democratica in Australia, Rome, 2000.

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includes an exegetical appraisal of its non-English elements.

Carboni is one of an extremely small number of Italian Australian writers to have been awarded recognition by the Australian literary canon, recognition which,

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untrustworthiness of Carboni’s account and Ernest Scott9 who — among other early historians he argued for a justification of the government position in relation to the events of Eureka — cast doubt on the validity of the book by stating that it was the work of a foreign agitator who hated all forms of constituted authority given that he had learned to hate the Austrians. The controversy surrounding Carboni’s competency as a writer in the English language was to develop into a long-running debate that has been conducted on substantially anglocentric lines that do not consider Carboni’s linguistic usage in its appropriate context as well as in terms of the generic types present in his texts. In the introduction to the 1942 Sunnybrook edition of The Eureka Stockade (significantly the first to appear after the original print run of 1855), H. V. Evatt enthusiastically compares Carboni to 10 Conrad and although Evatt’s position was based on political and cultural rather than literary parameters there nevertheless seems some genuine sincerity in his appraisal of Carboni as a writer. H. M. Green, however, finds himself at a loss in classifying The Eureka Stockade in terms of the literary parameters that form the 7 G. Rando, Great Works and Yabber-Yabber: The Language of Raffaello Carboni's "Eureka Stockade," St Lucia (Qld), 1998.





8 H. G. Turner, Our Own Little Rebellion. The Story of Eureka, Melbourne, 1913.

9 E. Scott, The History of Victoria, Melbourne, 1917.

10 R. Carboni, The Eureka Stockade The Consequence of some pirates wanting on quarterdeck a rebellion, Sydney, 1942, p. 2.

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introduction to the 1993 edition, focuses on Carboni's 'passionate observations, laced with polyglot whimsy and occasional bombast'.15 Literary critics and historians have has thus tended to acknowledge with some reluctance Carboni’s role as the writer of the only substantial eye-witness chronicle

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source for subsequent accounts of the events of Eureka such as W. B. Withers’ History of Ballarat (1870), Richard Butler’s Eureka Stockade (1893) and William Hill’s The Golden Quest (1926). It has also seems to have provided material for some literary works such as the goldfields chapters in Marcus Clark’s For the Term of his Natural Life (1874), Rex Rienits’ Eureka Stockade (1949) and Leslie Haylen’s Blood on the Wattle (1948). Cinematic productions of the Eureka Stockade have however tended to downplay Carboni’s role and to depict him as something of an Italian stereotype. The 1949 film, produced by Harry Watts with Chips Rafferty in the role 11 H. M. Green, A History of Australian Literature Pure and Applied, Vol.I, Sydney, 1971, p. 312.

12 R. Carboni, The Eureka Stockade, Melbourne, 1975, p. ix.

13 Ibid., p. xv.

14 Loc. cit.

15 R. Carboni, The Eureka Stockade, Melbourne, 1993, p. x.

16 B. Fitzpatrick, ‘Introduction’ in R. Carboni, The Eureka Stockade, Melbourne, 1947, pp. iii-v.

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while the 1985 television miniseries transmitted by ATN7 stresses not only Carboni’s flamboyant personality but also the view that he deliberately hid in the chimney of his tent during the battle and Carboni is not mentioned in the publicity materials issued in 2003 by the Eureka Film Co for its proposed production of a 17 feature film.

There is little doubt that Rafaele Domenico Crescentino Carboni (Urbino 1817 – Rome 1875) was an idiosyncratic figure both as a person and as a writer. As a young man he was attracted to Rome in the 1830s because of its cosmopolitan ambience and the opportunities it offered for acquiring foreign languages and learning about other places. More by chance than by specific intent he was drawn into Mazzini’s Young Italy movement for the unification of Italy under a republican system. This event was to inspire both life-long identification with Mazzinian idealism and an inclination to participate in revolutionary uprisings. He became actively involved in the 1848-49 Roman uprising, the Eureka Stockade, Garibaldi’s successful 1860 Sicilian campaign and, possibly, Garibaldi’s ill-fated Aspromonte incident of 1862. His role in the Italian events was, however, to prove far less prominent than at Eureka.

It was his participation in the 1848-49 Roman uprising which led to the establishment of a short-lived republic headed, among others, by Mazzini and Garibaldi, that, together with a passion for travel and the attraction of gold, ultimately led Carboni to Australia after he was forced to flee the city as a consequence of French military intervention which restored papal power. Carboni 17 http://www.eurekastockadefilm.com/ (accessed 15 September 2005).

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one to write in English and to publish in Australia and while parts of Salvado's account are as vivacious and picquaresque as The Eureka Stockade, the latter can to some extent be considered a more passionate and animated text than the other

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substantially concurs with Salvado on the positive values to be found in Australia's 18 R. Carboni, Buffi e Buffoni in R. Carboni, Lo Scotta-O-Tinge: Parte seconda, Rome, 1873, p. 780. Buffi e Buffoni is a dramatized representation of the 1848-49 Roman uprising against corrupt and autocratic papal rule and its subsequent defeat by the French army sent to support the pope.

19 Gerolamo Carandini, Marquis of Saranzo, arrived in Australia in 1842 subsequent to participation in revolutionary activity against the Austrians, Giovan Battista Cattabeni's period of residence in Australia during the 1850s was also the result of the failure of the 1848-49 Roman uprising (Cattabeni was a member of the same Roman Young Italy cell as Carboni) and Nino Bixio visited Australia briefly in 1855.

20 R. Salvado, Memorie storiche dell'Australia particolarmente della Missione Benedettina di Nuova Norcia e degli usi e costumi degli Australiani, Rome, 1851.

F. Gagliardi, Australia: Lettere alla Gazzetta d'Italia, Florence, 1881.

P. Munari, Un Italiano in Australia: Note e Impressioni, Milan, 1897.

See also R. Pesman Cooper, ‘Some Italian views of Australia in the nineteenth century’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 69, 1984, pp. 171-189.

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An ever-curious observer and commentator of the events that he witnessed and the people who were their protagonists, Carboni displays in his writings a consistent

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evident in The Eureka Stockade which contains a number of passages that can be considered somewhat more wide-ranging than the strict partisan reporting of the uprising and the associated victimological theme that have provoked adverse past 27 criticism of Carboni’s account. More than a mere chronicle, The Eureka Stockade 21 Rando, Emigrazione e letteratura, p. 28.

22 Ibid., p. 38-39.

23 Loc. cit.

24 Ibid., p. 34.

25 Rando, La Barricata dell'Eureka, pp. 12-15, 31-43.

26 F. Vitelli (‘Gilburnia and Eureka: Raffaello Carboni’s Freedom Narratives,’ paper presented at the Eureka 150 Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 25-27 November 2004) has overlooked the fact that most of Carboni’s other writings can also be interpreted as freedom narratives.

27 Those who in the past have criticised The Eureka Stockade on the grounds of its subjectivity, claiming that the account is little more than Carboni windging about the way he had been treated, have failed to recognize that victimological themes present a constant and long-standing element in Australian writing (for example Marcus Clark, For the Term of his Natural Life, Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore) —

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views, opinions, appraisals and judgments on Australia and Australians seen as a two-class society with both classes having collective negative characteristics, although particular individuals within both classes are viewed positively.

Within the immediate context of the Eureka episode Carboni presents the Australian ruling class and its minions as arbitrary, dictatorial and corrupt. The fees levied from the gold licences, as well as the fines imposed on diggers who did not have one, are seen as a revenue-raising instrument certainly not employed for the benefit of the people — ‘We want money says some of the paternals at Toorak.

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Italian and English writings, Carboni often employs the term gold-lace, sometimes 30 attributively (‘gold-laced Webster’ ), to refer to the government officials and also

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graphically described as an 'ass in the form of a pig... [possessing] in his head the brains of both the above-mentioned brutes’32 while magistrate Sturt who presided see R. Grainger, ‘Refugees, Minorities and Australia’s Victimological Culture: The Case of the SIEV X Tragedy,’ paper presented at the Minorities and Cultural Assertions Conference, University of Wollongong, 8-10 October 2004.

28 R. Carboni, The Eureka Stockade, Melbourne, 1963, p. 25.

29 Ibid., p. 23-25.

30 Ibid., p. 52.

31 Ibid., pp. 114, 130, 163.

32 Ibid., p. 11.

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by the immediate events surrounding the Eureka uprising, contains at times comments that are more wide-ranging as he reflects on a ruling class that, despite some exceptions, is attached to its privileges, its status and money and rules the colony in a manner that is decidedly undemocratic, arrogant, uncompassionate and merciless. Like the British ruling capitalist class the ‘money-grubbing

–  –  –

The people, on the other hand, are seen collectively as extremely rough and ready, attached to money like their masters and prone to consume vast quantities of alcohol, particularly rum and beer. When on arrival in Melbourne he is charged the

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