LETTERS and DIARIES of Dorothy Dix
Dorothy Dix (Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer)
Transcribed and Edited by Elinor Howell Thurman, 2002.
[Inscribed on flyleaf:]
E. M. Gilmer
6334 Prytania st.
[Printed copy of poem pasted inside front cover:]
By Henry Edward Warner
Some of these summers Im going to go
Where peaks pierce the heavens or rivers flow,
Or down by the ocean where billows roll,
Or out where the quiet can soothe my soul
I and my diary, my Camera and I,
Down through the valleys or up near the sky,
Up by the edelweiss, down by the Sea,
And bring something home to LIVE with me.
All my vacations and yours what were they?
Something in passing, to just throw away?
A journey to Otherwhere Somewhere and Back?
Maps and time-tables, a suitcase to pack?
Old friends to leave and new friends to greet,
Nodding and passing in Holiday Street?
Going Somewhere with that restless expression
Marching along with a seasons procession?
Some of these summers! This holiday haste,
Packing, unpacking, forgetting and waste!
Give me a journey a jaunt that shall be
Forever a memory living in me!
Round trips from Here to the Promise of There
What from Today that Tomorrow can share?
Urge of a season an instinct to roam!
But give me some memories to bring back Home.
Take me to mountains or down by the streams
That water the flowers in my
But when I come Home, let my memories be
Something from Somewhere to LIVE with me.
Left New Orleans May 27, 1931 with Mrs Nolte, Ed & Daisy for summer outing - Stopped at El Pason [sic] where we were met by Mr & Mrs Barder and taken over to Juarez for a wonderful meal. Stopped at Alberque [sic] and were driven over the city by Mr Johnson. Then on to the marvelous Grand Canyon, which no words can describe - Arrived at Los Angeles on Sunday May 31 - Spent 4 agreeable days seeing old friends and visiting the sights among them the Mission Inn, and then proceeded to the marvelous Yosemite Park thro which we were driven by Meriwether & his wife - Arrived San Francisco on June 5th
June 6 
June 7 
Mr Willson took us by
June 9 
Went with John Fox & friend to Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill & Russian Hill, & among the palaces of the millionaires.
June 10 
Left on the Maunganui, Capt Torten, at 2 oclock. Small boat but most comfortable. Thirty seven passengers, mostly returning New Zealanders & Australians, quite an unusually interesting group.
June 20 
Awake at 5 a.m to see the sun come up like thunder above the mountains of Tahiti Traipsed slowly into the dock past the quarantine station which looks like a dolls house on a dolls island - On the dock the whole population had gathered to see us land for the coming of the mail steamer once every 24 days is the event of the [word crossed out: season] month, and although it was not 7 oclock when we tied up all the Europeans and Americans as well as the French and the natives were waiting for us. Some of the more prominent came on board for a good English & American breakfast corn beef hash & sausage & wheatcakes in lieu of the eternal tropical fruits of which they get deadly sick.
There are about 5000 inhabitants, mostly native & Chinese in Tahiti with a few French colonials who run the show, and a floating population of the sweepings of other nations, Soldiers of fortune, sons of rest, remittance men, ladies with shady reputations & no reputations at all, lovers who are minus wedding lines, authors, poets, painters in search of atmosphere & color. Zane Gray has a fine home here Gouvernor Morris one not so fine and there are a number of love nests pointed out to you which are inhabited by doves that once loved, but possibly peck now for I can think of no place on earth where love would be put to such a test as it is in this romantic spot where there is nothing else but romance, nothing to vary ones thoughts or bring in any other interest than the love theme. [Word crossed out: Stay] Feed me on apples, stay me with flagons, for I am Sick of love said Soloman [sic], surfeited with women & love & surely many another eloping husband & wife must have yearned for the old life & the old partners, & the [words crossed out: old uncongenial mates] grievances, plus the diversions of the life they had left[.] For in Tahiti there is nothing absolutely to do but to kiss, & go fishing, & swimming & boating & get drunk - There is no daily paper, no radio, no moving picture, no mail except once a month, no tennis, or golf, nothing to do but kill time which is the dreariest occupation on earth.
The island itself is a poets dream of the tropics - Jagged mountains, one over 6000 ft high, with lush valleys between in which grow oranges & papia, and cocoanuts - Tinkling water falls rushing down their sides like silver ribbons. A sea that is all the colors of a peacocks tail stretching out to the coral reefs across which breaks a 7 ft surf in sheets of diamonds. The strange entrancing growth of the tropics tall cocoanut trees, ragged leafed bread fruits, slim papayas, giant hibiscus pink, & white, red. Scarlet flamboyant trees houses smothered in purple & red bougainvilleas, the air heavy with the odor of ginger & vanilla, & pomeria. A thousand trees & flowers whose names we do not know all blended into a living mass of green & bloom. Men & women going to work, or idling by the way side with wreaths of flowers hung around their necks & crowning their heads - Little brown naked children scurrying around like rabbits in the bush. Fishermen setting their traps of woven bamboo. Women cooking meals in a kitchen whose only sides were a mat spread on sticks on the windward side, & whose only stove consisted of a few rocks pilled [piled] so as to hold the fire together & make a resting place for a standard oil tin in which taro was boiling - Houses built of reeds, with palm thatched roofs[.] Others, more pretentious with matting sides - Here & there a big semi-European house where some Westerner had sought refuge from a too rushing age, or where some love idyl was being lived out. Here a man with a bright colored bandanna handkerchief by way of clothes there fat women in baggy chemise dresses, with a scarlet hibiscus flower behind their ears, but heavy featured, with snaggled teeth, & in no ways resembling the South Sea [word crossed out: island] houris of legend - Such there are however, I am assured, tho I saw them not, & apparently they have their charm for it is said nearly every white man who comes here to live gets into some intrigue with a native woman - & that means his downfall[.]
[Note at top of page:] Potage Toheroa[.]
Arrived Rorotonga [Rarotonga] at 6 on the
morning of June 22 - This is an English
island, much cleaner & more orderly than Tihiti [sic], but far less
interesting - Drove around this island
thro cocoanut groves, but found nothing of particular interest. Took on 10000 cases of oranges, and met the
King, a grizzled gentleman who came aboard for a drink prohibition, at least as
far as the natives are concerned, obtaining here. Roratonga [sic] is chiefly interesting as
being the place from which the Maori set sail for New Zealand in their big 90
men canoes - Whence
they came to Raratonga [sic] no man knows, for it is a curious thing about the
natives of the South Seas that they seem to have no legends, to account for
themselves as they seem to have had no religion and no gods. Many people believe them to have descended
from the Egyptians as they have a number of Egyptian words in their
vocabularies - They use the word Ra, for
instance[,] for the Sun - They were
cannibals devouring the ennemies [sic] they killed in battle, often eating
their old people and partaking of any chance stranger as a tidbit. But such was, and still is the custom, of all
of the South Sea Islanders. In
Why the Maori left Raratonga [sic] no one knows - Some say that there was a terrible epidemic from which they fled in terror to the neighboring isles, & that probably some storm blew [word crossed out: them] some canoes into the harbor which is now Wellington.
However that may be they settled there
fought long & bloody wars with the inhabitants they already found there,
& were holding the land when the whites came along to dispute ownership
with them - In
person they are a fine & stalwart race, & they have a real intelligence
seldom met with in savage peoples. They
have been assimilated into the body politic, hold
office, one being a premier who ruled
June 29 
June 30 
At 2 p.m we left on the train for the chateau. Passed at first thro a lovely pastoral country in which the sheep were feeding. Then came mts snow capped & green firs with their limbs weighted down with snow. At eleven oclock we got off at the National Park Station & drove 15 miles thro the snow to the chateau. The ground was covered with snow, & all the way we could see looming before us the three volcanic mts, rising abruptly from the plain, white as alabaster from peak to bottom & with a thin spiral of smoke, flame edged, coming from Naughowie (phonetic spelling) [Ngauruhoe] the centre of the group - The moonlight glinted on this enchanted scene & made it something of ineffable beauty. When we arrived at the Chateau we found it an imposing modern resort hotel, the centre for the smart winter sports, tobogganing, sking [skiing] etc. A story book English butler threw open the door for us & led us to a tea table, already spread before a great open wood fire.
The Tongariro park [word crossed out: was] in which are these 3 sacred mountains were [sic] a gift to N. Zealand from a Maori chief who presented them to the state in 1887[.] [Word crossed out: Formerly] In the old Maori legend these volcanic mountains were inhabited by gods who either killed those who offended them, or bewitched them & kept them under a spell, for such awe were they held that strangers who crossed the plains wore wreaths of large leaves about their heads to keep them from committing the sacrilige [sic] of looking upon the holy [word crossed out: place] peaks. The Maori who lived near by did not need to veil their eyes but they avoided needless talk & said charms to avert misfortune as they passed by[.]
July 1 
Left the Chateau at 9 in
motor for drive around
In the afternoon I tramped thro the
little valley where the steam blow holes are, & the geysers, & sizzling
bubbling springs of water & mud. A
weird place, not six inches from hell[.] An educated Maori, who used more chemicals
[sic] terms than I ever heard took me thro & explained that volcanoes
& earthquakes have no connection with these steam jets &
The whole of this strange valley, filled with steam & smoke & strange odors was green & lush with what they call hot water ferns.
June 2 
Left Wairaikei [sic] by motor and arrived at Rotorua at 11 - Went to the Maori village, built in imitation of the old ones - Near the gate was a small house, set on stilts, which the guide, a fat Maori woman named Guide Nelly, said was the place in which her ancestors stored the heads of those they had killed & were to eat We Maori have always been fond of brains she remarked facetiously - In the center was a large hut ornamented with crude carvings stained red & yellow & blue - These represented the original Maori strong man, always with his tongue thrust out, & possesed [sic] of many eyes made of pearl shell appearing in different parts of his anatomy & as a sort of frieze around the carvings - The Maoris were expert spear throwers, and also used in battle a short, thick hammer of some black stone, & a cheerful little paddle like instrument carved from the bone of a whale which they used in breaking their ennemies [sic] jaw bones
We went thro another smoking, sizzling valley, but the most interesting thing was a little Maori settlement built on one of the heat centers - It was like a round knoll with a thin crust of earth, or rather the crystalline deposit this heavily charged water leaves when it evaporates, which was hot to your feet even with your shoes on. There were dozens of cauldrons of boiling water, & the place was crossed by running streams of boiling water. Clouds of smoke arose on every side & wafts of burning steam blew across it. But here the house wives had gathered for their daily baths. Some were washing clothes. Others taking a bath. In the hot steam dinners were cooking[,] potatoes boiling, cabbage simmering. Even a loaf of bread was baking. And in one tiny pool, no bigger than a wash tub 3 little tots sat up to their necks in the warm water. They had laid their clothes on the bank & had come to heat up as we would go to a fire[.] This village is called Whakarewarewa[.]
. Drove down to
A curious thing about N.Z is that when it was first discovered by Capt Cook it had no wild life upon it except a very small rat & a queer wingless bird. All of the animals now existent there were brought by the white man, & they still have no snakes, or poisonous insects, except a little spider that is found on the beaches occasionally. This leads many people to believe that N.Z was lifted bodily from the bottom of the sea & that it was never a part of the mainland of Asia as Australia probably is[.]
July 3 
Morning riding around Auckland which is a large & beautiful city - Went up on hill & saw the craters of two extinct volcanoes. Saw many handsome homes etc. Embarked at 2 for Australia on the Miramar, which flies between Sydney & Auckland[.]
July 7 
It takes 4 days to go over the Tasmian [Tasman] Sea which separates the two countries - Two days before we reached Sydney we ran into the worst storm they had had in 40 yrs & our little boat did some pitching & plunging, but at last we steamed thro the two splendid cliffs they call the Sydney heads into lovely Sydney harbor
July 8 
Spent day seeing city, going shopping & so on - Staying at Hotel Australia fine hotel but cold as an ice box. Left at 7. a m for Melbourne on a junky little R.R. No fire & we sat huddled up in our rugs with our feet on a chemically heated contrivance, just as people used to do in old fashioned English novels. Nearly froze all night as we bumped & thumped along over rails that were so uneven that it seemed at time[s] as if we left off of them altogether. Anybody who believes in government owned R.Rs should make a trip over this makeshift & see how politicians run one. Changed cars at Albury, which marks the division between Victoria & New South Wales, & got on to a standard guage [gauge] train, much nicer but still no heat. Fifty miles out Frank Russell, the star man of the Melbourne Herald came out to meet me. He is a brilliant man & writer & did 3 stories on successive days[.] The manager of the paper, an old man of Lord Northcliffes, asked me to lunch at the office to meet the heads of Depts - Fine lunch in nice oak pannelled [sic] room - Name Keith Murdock.
July 19 [sic should be 9] 
Sightseeing all over Melbourne. Drives to lovely parks, & residential streets[.]
July 11. 
Back again in Sydney. Drove all over city, & to Koala Park where we saw the native bears & Kangaroos, wallobys [sic] etc - Went to the beautiful beaches & saw the steel nets put across to keep away sharks which are so ferocious here that they frequently attack boats & when hard pressed by hunger come up on the beach. Saw the natives throwing boomerangs[,] a beautiful & weird sight as they came back in graceful circles to the hand that threw them[.]
July 13 
Motored up to Katoomba by Wentworth Falls, Leura Falls etc. to the blue mountains. Stopped for luncheon at Hydro Majestic Medlow Baths, a fascinating quaint inn with a curious collection of old prints in a long corridor. Beautiful views all along this drive, but the mts are not so picturesque as the Blue Ridge Mts[.] Reached Jenolan caves at night but we were so cold we didnt attempt to go in - Lots of little wallobys [sic] came around the house & followed us. These little beasts are minature [sic] kangaroos. They have pockets in which they carry their young as do the little kaola [sic] bears. Another queer animal in Australia is the furred, duck billed, web footed platypus that lays eggs & suckles its young. Another is the kooka burra or laughing jackass that laughs & laughs until you laugh with it. Australia is the home of parrots & cockatoos & has almost every variety of birds that they have anywhere, with several species peculiar to itself. The same thing may be said about its vegetable life. It has every variety of flower & plant other countries produce with many varieties that are indigenous[.] There are for instance over 300 varieties of eucaliptus [sic], that run from wonderful building material to the georgeously [sic] flowering accasias [acacias]. One[,] the wattle[,] is a most beautiful yellow, a symphony in yellow & green that fairly takes away your breath. In addition to its crops of wheat & corn & alfalfa, & fruit Australia has every kind of metal including gold we saw one nugget weighing 39 pounds - & almost all of the precious stones diamonds, emeralds, saphires [sic] etc, & practically all of the fine opals come from there at Lightning Ridge, where the fine black opals are found[.]
There are at present about 60000 full blooded - & 15000 half caste aboriginees [sic] about 13000 are nomadic & live in the primitive style of their forefathers using the fine sleek, stone knife & tomahawk. These are black & are believed to be the last survival of primitive man in the world. The whole of the interior of Aust. is an unexplored region where it is not safe for a white man to go. Aviators who have flown over it report it a hot barren sandy desert, or bleak mt ranges[.] Unlike N.Z. Australia was full of wild animals when discovered by white men & there is still big game hunting to be had buffaloes & deer abounding.
Probably no other country is richer in national resources than Australia, but to the outsider it is cursed with laws that prevent the development of any industry on a large scale. It had a big coal trade but successive strikes by miners who demand impossible wages have ruined it. The mines are shut down & people buying coal from England - No one can work under a basic wage fixed by law, often so high as to prevent employment - Labor unions run & ruin the country - A woman had a boarding house one waiter union told him he must have the wages of a head waiter got fired - Poor man, feeble but able to do the work of a boy couldnt because he couldnt take boys wage etc - Men dismissed & boys employed in their places throwing lots of men out of work as soon as the are 21 - R.Rs loaded down with civil servants who have votes - Great blocks of men before election put to work on imaginary R.R that will never be finished & for which there is no need[.]
As showing the tyranny put upon employees & work[er]s Mrs Sims told of a girl employed by them to work in a small retail butter shop. The girl lived so far from home that it was impossible for her to go back to lunch so she asked permission to bring her lunch & eat it in the store. After a few days of this the inspector arrived & told them this could not be, that the girl must be off of the premises an hour at lunch time. But Ive no where to go protested the girl. That doesnt matter returned the law, out you go or your employer will be fined and the girl had to go & parade the streets in rain, or snow, or heat - Another case was of an elderly woman who hired an elderly friend as a companion. Up comes the inspector & announces that the companion, because she receives a salary, must have 2 hours off a day. She has much more than that replied the employer, but it is all right with me if you specify any 2 hrs. A month later the inspector appears again & demands to know what the companion does in her 2 hrs. The employer says oh she takes a nap & reads or writes, or sews does anything she pleases - That wont do, says the inspector, she must be out of the house off the premises for 2 hrs - & forthwith fines the employer $250 altho the companion protests she cant possibly walk 2 hrs, & has no where to go
Employees who are not regularly employed are called casual employees & collect double wages so nobody hires an odd job done if they can help it - All overtime is double pay & employees try to drag out every job so they can get a few minutes. If an employer goes off for a couple of weeks & leaves a clerk in charge the clerk can claim a managers salary no matter whether he exercises any authority or not - Servants are hard to get, & seem to like to put their employers out will leave in the midst of serving a dinner, or do anything they think will put their employers at a disadvantage. Nobody feels it worth saving up for their old age depend on old age pension - The shearers demand so much for their services it came to more than the wool so many farmers didnt shear their sheep at all. - Probably nowhere is there such ill feeling between labor & capital as in Aus.
July 15. 
Left Sydney at 10.30 on the Tanda, Capt Pilcher, a small but very comfortable boat.
Spent the day in Brisbane, a big & handsome city.
Reached Townsville Coaled [sic] at night, & took on freight all day bags & bags of wool, & piles & piles of sandalwood. Townsville was formerly a great coal export town, [word crossed out: but] ships carrying coal to all parts of the world especially S.A & the Phillipines but the miners have killed the goose that laid the golden egg & now the mines are unworked & the trade gone[.]
July 25 
Reached Reboul in New Guinea, or rather the part that was taken from Germany in the war & that is technically known as New Brittain - The harbor is a beautiful bay fringed with cocoanut palms & with volcanic mts rising almost from the waters edge - Mr & Mrs Featherstone-Phibbs who have been our most charming companions this voyage took us in their car for a fine drive thro the little town that is smothered in bougainvillea & crimson & yellow crotons - Saw many groups of the natives, half savage creatures with hair dyed with lime to a curious yellowish red color, with long ear lobes & thick lips & flat noses. They wear only a short skirt, made of a simple piece of cloth called a lap-lap, but they stick hibiscus flowers in their nappy hair & feel all dressed up - Some by way of further adornment have necklaces of flowers close around their throats, with a single long green leaf hanging down their backs.
These men & women the women are all called Marys come down from the mountains where they absolutely live the life of the stone age make fire by rubbing 2 sticks together, go stark naked for the most part, or Eve like, wear a simple leaf for a dress, & subsist for the most part on bread fruit, bannanas [sic] & cocoanuts & the other fruits & nuts that abound. Occasionally they kill a wild pig, or snare a bird, or catch some fish if they are near the sea - They do no work, as why should they when nature has provided for them so abundantly - Fifty miles inland they are cannibals, & probably even these we saw have all partaken of human flesh long pig as they call it - Every now & then word is brought in to Reboul that some young boys & girls have been captured from one of the neighboring tribes, & taken off for a feast by a marauding party. They seldom attack the whites tho occasionally a settler on a lonely plantation mysteriously disappears. It is thought that a craving for salt may have something to do with cannibalism & one missionary enterprise fights it by giving the natives salt which they prize above everything else[.] In practically all of the South Sea Island[s] cannibalism still survives in remote places.
These natives have many cruel practices - One is that when they have a feud on with a rival tribe they seize a young woman belonging to their ennemies [sic] thrust fibres of bamboo thro her joints & into her flesh where they fester until she is one great sore[.] Then they dip their arrows into the pus & let the poison dry on them, use them in slaying her tribesmen. Recently a group of white proprietors were killed by having spears hurled at them as they were sitting around their camp fire & their bodies were shot so full of arrows they looked like pin cushions.
Few women ever come into civilization & the men who come generally only stay long enough to get a few trinkets they crave. Then they go back to the hills & forget the varnish of civilization they have known. They have little intelligence generally the mental development of a child of 6 or 7 - The young boys are called monkeys & trained for housework - They are very superstitious cut their heads to let out the pain when they have headaches.
[The journal ends here.]