Edward Lear and G.F. Bowen

Lear first met George Fergusson Bowen in Rome in 1847, accepted his invitation to visit Corfu, and even considered the possibility of taking a post at the University of Corfu. In a letter to Ann during his first visit to Corfu, he is “my very good friend Mr. Bowen.”

However, by 1858, when we can read his unmediated opinions in the diaries, Bowen has become a “brute” (11 September 1860) and a “beast” (22 August 1859). The reason for this change was no doubt Bowen’s scheming against Lear’s friend Franklin Lushington, a judge of the Supreme Court of Justice in the Ionian Islands at the time.

Becoming Chief Secretary to Sir John Young, Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, in 1854, he was then appointed first Governor of Queensland (1859, Lear heard of this on 10 May 1859), then in rapid succession of New Zealand (1867), Victoria (1873), Mauritius (1879), and Hong Kong (1883) until his retirement in 1887.

While in Corfu, Bowen married the Contessa Diamantina di Roma, who would be quite popular during their residence in Brisbane, according to “Diamantina Roma – First Governor of Queenslands’ wife. A biographical note” by the current appointed Governor of Queensland, Ms Quentin Bryce, AC. (More info.)

I found the links via Jim Potts’s Corfu Blues blog, where he posts the full poem quoted in the “Note:”

Diamantina Roma and the Postings of Governor Bowen

That selfish brute Bowen
Got Corfu, then Brisbane,
New Zealand and Melbourne !
Missed out on New South Wales !
Twenty years down under,
Sir Gorgeous Figginson Blowing+,
Too long for Diamantina,
A lady of  delicate health.
Ill on the day of the Ball.
Men of the toga, from Oxford
(Consolidate ! Assimilate!)
Cared little, if at all.
Diamantina of the isles of Greece,
Hosting endless boring dinners
And receptions great and small,
You always yearned for perfect peace
Amongst the Corfu olive groves.
I know when  it  began to pall.

Also of Learian interest is the announcement of an exhibition in 2012.

Jim Potts has recently published a book about The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History which can be previewed on Google Books.

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