Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Tombstone Tourists . . . Jilted Aussie Girl Inspires Great Expectations

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Tombstone Tourists . . . Jilted Aussie Girl Inspires Great Expectations

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ellis and Malcolm Andrews

THOSE who get a kick from prowling cemeteries on their holiday wanderings, find many a treasure in an historic little Sydney suburban cemetery - including the grave of lady who is both virtually unknown, yet at the same time is a key figure in one of the greatest works of English literature.

Eliza Emily Donnithorne was the sole remaining child of a retired East India Company judge, James Donnithorne who moved to Sydney Town in 1836 after losing his wife and two teenage daughters in a cholera epidemic that swept Calcutta four years earlier.

Despite a licentious life in which he fathered several children in adulterous liaisons with Indian women, Donnithorne wanted Eliza to marry into respectable Sydney society.

But the headstrong Eliza rebuffed the well-bred young men invited by her father to Camperdown Lodge, their grand home in Newtown, a small community amid farming fields on the outskirts of Sydney Town.

And instead she fell for a lowly shipping clerk named George Cuthbertson, a worshipper at Newtown's St Stephen's Anglican Church that was attended and patronised by the Donningthornes.

Despite his fury, James Donnithorne could do nothing about the blossoming romance, that included Eliza inviting George to Cambridge Hall when her father made regular business visits to Melbourne - acts that sent neighbour's tongues into overtime.

When he died aged 79 in 1852, James Donnithorne was buried in the cemetery adjacent to St Stephens.

Four years later, Eliza and George decided to marry at Camperdown Lodge, but according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, "on the morning of the wedding the bride and her maid were already dressed for the ceremony, the wedding breakfast was laid in the long dining-room... the wedding guests assembled, the stage was set, but the chief actor did not keep his appointment".

Gradually the embarrassed guests quietly excused themselves, and the distraught Eliza ordered that the wedding breakfast be left on the tables and the dining room locked.

But she had the front door of the house kept ajar in case Cuthbertson should return, a chain preventing it from blowing wide open and a determined Mastiff deterring would-be intruders. …

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