Saturday, 6 June 2015

Edward Mitchell - Gold Pen Maker, Silversmith and Jeweller - Beyond the Grave

Click for Part 1 - Birmingham & London, England
Click for Part 2a - Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria
Click for Part 2b - Ballarat, Victoria

Edward Mitchell

Part 3 - Beyond the Grave

You might think that the story of Edward Mitchell ended when he died but it didn't.

In James Bickford's - An Autobiography of Christian labour in the West Indies, Demerara, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, 1838-1888 - James notes that on the 11 October 1867 he 'wrote to Mr. Matthew Burnett, the Yorkshire Evangelist, and pressed him to come to Geelong, and commence his mission on the 21st November. His reply was, 'Can't come until next year'.''

Matthew Burnett (the Yorkshire Evangelist) had, according to the 'Temperance Record', 'commenced his labours amongst the working classes of Victoria, at Drysdale, near Geelong, in September 1863, and from that time until he left the colony, broken down in health, in 1872, his labours have been attended with almost unexampled success'. It goes on to explain that in 'November 1866, he commenced his temperance work at Sebastopol, and then at Ballarat. He laboured here for twelve months, lecturing almost every night, and visiting almost every day, and the result was that 8,600 persons signed the pledge.'

And so it must have been in late 1866 or more likely early 1867 that Matthew Burnett, on his way to Geelong, reached Ballarat.

I have searched through the Trove newspaper references for Matthew Burnett for the whole of 1867. He appears to have arrived in Ballarat in about the March, remaining there until early December of the same year. On his arrival there is a report which is quite interesting but could perhaps be said to say more about the writer than anything else. The writer was obviously not too taken with the Yorkshire Evangelist. The following was reported in the The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) (but appears to have been taken from The Star) on Tuesday26 March 1867.

Mr Matthew Burnett, also called the "Yorkshire
Evangelist," held his first working men's meeting
on Saturday evening, at the Volunteer Orderly-
room, Ballarat. As the proceedings were rather
interesting, we select this account from the Star:-
' All the sittings in the place were filled, and the
passages and doorways partially blocked up. The
chair was taken by the Rev. W.L. Binks the Ballarat
head of the Wesleyan denomination, who commenced
proceedings by leading off religious exercises. The
speakers of the evening, the Rev. S. Knight and Mr
Burnett, then successively addressed the meeting on
the advantages to be gained by the adoption of tea
total principles, which, it was argued would lead to
the better material condition of working men, and
also to higher religious attainments. The usual
arguments were by Mr Burnett urged in a very
forcible manner, and backed up with anecdotes
which were told with a passionate unction which
spoke well for the earnestness of the speaker, if not
for his style of oratory and indubitable violence of
contortion. Indeed, to judge from his physique,
which is by no means robust, it might be a question
as to whether Mr Burnett does not suffer much more
physical than mental exhaustion from his excessive
action whilst speaking. But perhaps this is a ne-
cessity of the position of an orator who seeks to
rouse his hearers out of their indifference, and force
their thoughts to follow his own. At any rate, and
howsoever acquired, a powerful influence was kept
up over at least a portion of the audience, who were
not slow to testify whenever a good point was made.
The greater part of Mr Burnett's address was taken
up with narratives of personal experiences, in which,
therefore, he was necessarily somewhat egotistical;
but he appears to have been singularly successful in
reclaiming drunkards from amongst the lowest class,
aud in helping unfortunates to become respectable
members of society.

The report, however, shows that Matthew liked to talk of personal experiences of the people he had converted.

The Ballarat Star (Victoria) of Wednesday 24 April 1867 mentions, at Matthew's fifth series of lectures, that, 'At its close, 69 persons took the pledge, several of whom had been notorious drunkards'.

A notice in the Launceston Examiner (Tas.) on Tuesday 28 May 1867 reports that

'THE Ballarat correspondent of the Geelong
Advertiser says :-Amongst those reformed
under the preachings of Mr. Matthew Bur-
nett, known as the " Yorkshire Evangelist,"
is a female bearing the name of Naylor, a
most noted character, who of late years has
acted as a procuress, and has been the owner of
several houses used as brothels, and situate
in Esmond-street, a most disreputable
locality. Since attending Mr. Burnett's ser
vices this woman has put the whole of the
houses into the hands of an auctioneer for
sale without reserve, and has taken a house
for herself in a less rowdy neighborhood.
Whether the reform will be of a lasting
nature remains to be seen.

Whilst Matthew gave a great number of lectures during his months in Ballarat, apart from the above newspaper references, he does not appear to have collected any conversions that could be used in later lecturers.

We have already learnt that Matthew's health broke down in 1872. 

The Ballarat Star -  Wednesday 6 March 1872

Matthew Burnett, the well-known temperance lec-
turer, to England for the good of his health. We

have no doubt that a sufficient sum will be collected.

The Ballarat Star -  Monday 11 March 1872

We understand that Mr Matthew Burnett, the tem
perance lecturer, will leave for England by the Hamp-
shire, which is advertised to sail on the 11th of next
month. He will probably be in Ballarat on the 24th
and 25th inst., and on the afternoon of Sunday, the
25th, he is to lecture in the Alfred Hall. On the fol
lowing day he will bid farewell to the people of Bal
larat in the Alfred Hall, and we understand that an
address will be presented to him there. Should his
health benefit by the trip to England, Mr Burnett will
return to Victoria about the end of the year. A meeting
of Mr Burnett’s friends will take place this evening,
the Prince’s room, Alfred Hall.

And briefly mentioned in the Bendigo Advertiser of Tuesday 12 March 1872

We know that Edward's funeral took place on 21 March so perhaps Matthew was travelling to Ballarat for the funeral and decided to use the time to give speeches and say goodbye to the people of Ballarat before his trip back to England.

The Ballarat Courier - Monday 25 March 1872

About 3000 persons assembled yesterday after
noon in the Alfred Hall, for the purpose of hear
ing an address from Mr Matthew Burnett, who
has labored so assiduously in the cause of tempe
rance. The subject of his discourse was " The
Salvation of souls." He preached from Proverbs,
xi, 13 — " He that wlnneth souls is wise;" and
James, xv, 20 — "Let him know that he which
converteth the sinner from the error of his ways
shall save a soul "from death, and shall hide a
multitude of sins." The rev. gentlemen spoke
for about an hour in his usual earnest and impres
sive manner, bnt he evidently suffered much from
the affection of his throat. He reviewed the
career and sufferings of the Saviour, and pointed
out the great necessity for activity and holiness
in the visible church. This holiness he re-
garded as the main link between all
denominations of Christians. He recapitulated
the names and exertions of men who had made
themselves prominent in the dissemination of the
truth, dwelling more particularly upon those of
the Wesleys, Whitfield, and Spurgeon, and showed
what their views were on the subject of saving
souls His address was listened to throughout
with deep earnestness and attention. The collec
tion realised £21, in addition to which, we under
stand, the Hon. Philip Russell, M L C., presented
£25 towards the fund for a testimonial to the
rev. gentleman, and the Hon. John Cumming,
ML.C, £5. This evening a grand demonstration
will he held in the Alfred Hall in connection with
Mr Burnett's approaching departure from the
colony, when many distinguished speakers are
expected to attend.

Interesting reference about the population of Victoria, underneath the article, which caught my attention.

The census returns just published brlng out
very clearly the surprising fact that one-half of
the present population of Victoria is native born.
The Australians here number 358,000 out of a
total of 729,000, and 329,000 of these Australians
claim Victoria itself as a birthplace.

Geelong Advertiser of Tuesday 26 March 1872

We take this from the Ballarat Star:
Mr Matthew Burnett, the well-known
temperance lecturer, who is about to make
a trip to Europe for the benefit of his
health, gave one of his farewell addresses
in the Alfred Hall, on Sunday afternoon
to an audience numbering about three
thousand persons. There was scarcely
room in the hall, and fruit cases and boxes
were brought into use as seats for the
ladies. The Rev. F. L. Wilson was in the
chair, and, after hymns had been sung and
prayers offered, Mr Burnett addressed the
meeting, taking for his text the 11th chap
ter of the book of Prophets, 13th verse,
"He who saveth souls is wise," and the
20th verse of the 5th chapter of St.
James, " Let him know that he who cou
verteth a sinner from the error of his ways,
to the truth, shall save his soul from
death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
The speaker was evidently suffering from
some chest affection, for he appeared to
speak with difficulty, and almost with pain.
His earnestness seemed to rivet the atten
tion of the audience, and in the course of
an address which lasted for about three
quarters of an hour, he spoke of the lives
of Wesley, James, Spurgeon, and others
whose careers had shown the good results
arising from an appreciation of, and atten
tion, to the verses of Scripture he had chosen
for the text of his discourse. The collec
tion amounted to £21. To the Burnett
fund the following liberal additions are
announced: - The Hon Philip Russell, £25:
the Hon John Cummins, £5.

Geelong Advertiser of Monday 15 April 1872 

At mid-day on Saturday the Sandridge
railway pier presented a more than usually
animated appearance owing to the embark
ation of a large number of passengers by
the Hampshire, most of whom were ac
companied down to the pier by friends.
Mr Matthew Burnett sailed by this vessel,
and was accompanied by a host of friends
who had come from Portland, Ballarat,
Geelong, and other places to bid him fare
well and wish him a safe and pleasant voy
age. The nett proceeds of the efforts: made
in Geelong and district to present Mr Bur-
nett with a farewell testimonial amounted
to £120 6s, and the total amount sub
scribed in the colony for the same purpose
was about £300. 

A brief mention of his leaving - The Ballarat Star - Monday 22 April 1872

Geelong Advertiser of Tuesday 24 September 1872 made the following annoucement:

The friends of Mr Matthew Burnett will 
be glad to hear that he has reached Eng 
land safely. He still perseveres in his reso 
lution to secure rest from public work.

Then the Ballarat Star of Thursday 19 December 1872 publishes a letter:

From a letter received by the last mail by Mr
David Ham from Mr Burnett, we extract the follow
ing items of interest to Ballarat folk. Mr Burnett
writes: —“ I have this mail an unusual heavy draw
upon me. You will see l am in Bowness, Westmore
land. I was strongly advised to come here for a few
weeks, or more, in order to try the hydropathic treat
ment. I have commenced with it, and feel very
sanguine that it will do me good, especially if I re-
main a sufficient time to give it a fair trial. I devoted
ten weeks to visiting in England, Wales, and Ireland.
It was ten weeks of excitement. I travelled through
parts of the counties of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire,
Derbyshire, Somersetshire, through Cornwall to the
Land’s End, then back to Bristol, where I embarked
to Swansea, South Wales, and then to Belfast m
Ireland. I visited counties Down, Tyrone, and Dublin,
then back to England by steamer. Travelled in
Cumberland, visited Whitehaven, then on to Preston,
Manchester, and Liverpool. This tour was a difficult
one, owing to the unsettled state of the weather. I
travelled by railway 1700 miles without an acci
dent. Visited 146 families, 70 of them belonging
to friends in Victoria. Everywhere I received
a hearty welcome from the people. I had private in-
terviews with George Muller and Robert Charlton of
Bristol, and Mr J. Budgett, S. R. Hall, and Dr Higin
-bottom, the oldest teetotaller in England, who signed
the pledge in 1806, Joseph Levesay, of Preston, and
many others. Whilst in Cornwall, I saw your brother
and his family; Mr James Uren’s honored father and
brothers and sisters; visited the friends of Mr F. N.
Martin, of Creswick. Whilst in Ireland, I was enter-
tained most hospitably by Dr Robinson, County
Tyrone, late, of Clunes; by Joseph Glenny, Esq.,
Newry, the venerable father of dear brother Glenny,
of Ballarat; visited all his sisters, and have plenty of
news for him. Visited the aged mother of the Rev.
J. S. Waugh. Saw Mrs Ham’s aged father, brother,
and two sisters; her dear mother was overjoyed to
see me. I visited near Newry, Bessbrook, justly
called the model village, where there is neither public-
house nor policeman; peace, prosperity, and plenty
reign among the people. l am determined to sail, if
possible, in February next. Tell all the friends who
wish to write, to do so by the first mail after the
Fix this textarrival of this letter.”

By 1878 he was again back in Australia.

The Gippsland Times (Victoria) on Monday 1 April 1878 reported that, 'Mr Matthew Burnett delivered a farewell lecture on "Reminiscences of his visit to England,". The report went on:

The lecture then described the places he
had visited in Yorkshire and Derbyshire
In the latter county he had the pleasure
of' visiting the relatives of a man whom
he had converted to his views on total
abstinence many years before at Ballarat;
a Dr Mitchell, a drinker of forty years'
standing, who had dissipated a fortune in
drink and gambling, but who turned round
at the eleventh hour, signed the pledge,
honourably cleared off £1600 worth of
grog scores, and who at his death was the
head of the Ballarat Temperance Society
and a leading church member. By these
relatives of Dr. Mitchell he (Mr B.) was
received with much honor and affection.

Matthew Burnett suddenly brings Edward Mitchell back to life again six years after he died.

All appears to go quiet again until a very brief mention of the name Dr Mitchell in The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) on Wednesday 29 June 1881 and again in the South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA) on Saturday 2 July 1881. It must have been that newspapers copied the reports from other newspapers.

The Burra Record (SA) on Friday 21 October 1881 reported the following:

Mr. Matthew Burnett at the Burra
On Saturday evening last, according to
announcement, Mr. Matthew Burnett held
his first working men's demonstration in
...From among these he
had selected the characters he was adver-
tised to speak about, and some of them were
known to some present that night, Mr
Burnett then depicted in forcible language
the character and condition of ' Big Ben the
Cornish Wrestler' and 'Little Johnny Paull
the Pugilist' when he first met them — men
who were noted not only in these colonies
from the early days of the diggings but in
Cornwall also. He also spoke of the misery
of their lives, and in touching words drew
forth the sympathy of the audience for the
mother of the one and for the wife and family
of the other as well as for the unfortunate
gamblers and drunkards themselves. He
then related the story of their conversion
first to temperance and then to Christianity
in connection with his own labors, and told
of the succeeding happiness and usefulness
and tranquil death. The next character
portrayed was that of ' Yankee Bill' and
the incidents connected with the reformation
and conversion of that man also were
listened to with close attention and the con-
clusion received with applause. Mr. Burnett
also related the way in which Yankee Bill
first came before an audience of many hun-
dreds in Ballarat, and gave the story him-
self of his conversion inducing seventy that
night to take the pledge. He said that he
had not long ago heard again of him and
that though some persons had accused him
of wrong, he believed that he was still keep
ing his pledge, and he would convey to him
the greetings of many friends in Burra and
North who remembered him with gratitude.
If his (Mr. Burnett's) work had resulted in
the reformation of thousands of working
men, it had also in the uplifting of hundreds
of those who were cultured and intellectual.
Doctors, Barristers, landholders, and others
had taken the pledge and embraced Christ-
ianity giving him the benefit of their influence
and example. One such was the son of a
lady in Birmingham, who was educated for
the bar but who took up the profession of
medicine and because famous as an occulist
not only in England and on the continent.
He was also an inventive genius and some
of his creations were to be seen at the first
World's Show of 1851, when he had been in-
vited to explain his inventions to some of the
crowned heads of Europe in the presence of
Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort.
The man fell through drink and gambling,
and to break away from old associations and
begin a new life, he came to Victoria but
his habits were too strong for him, and he
not only gambled away large sums but had
delirium tremens three times. He was
commonly known as the ' drunken Dr.
Mitchell.' By the power of sympathy and of
the Saviour this man was touched and he was
reclaimed to a virtuous and useful and
honored life. The details of his conversion as
related by Mr. Burnett were deeply interest-
ing and closely listened to, and the speaker
culogised the power of sympathy as having
been the means of saving J. B. Gough after
repeated falls, of enabling Father Matthew
to win 500,000 to temperance, and of placing
the speaker in his proud position an an apostle
of temperance and religion The last character
referred to was ' Dublin Sally' who was
described as having been one who had got
into trouble in Dublin then suffering trans-
portation to Tasmania, and then falling
lower and lower in Melbourne where she had
made her way after her time was out. When
the speaker first met her she was living in a
miserable hut and was under the constant
supervision of the police who regarded her
as a most degraded character. Her taking
the pledge as the result of kindly persuasion,
her gradual rise, her marriage to the man
with whom she had been living — Mr. Burnett
'giving her away' and the Chief Inspector
of Police being present as a friend glad to
see the change, -her conversion and the subse-
quent happiness of their lives were all re-
lated and the audience manifested their
gratification by frequent applause.

Whilst there were other references to the name Dr Mitchell after this report none contained any details. The West Australian (Perth, WA) on Tuesday 5 June 1883, however, mentioned the following:

Mr. Burnett gave the first
of his series of pictures from real life,-" Dr.
Mitchell, who, for 30 years, drank two bottles of
brandy per day." The sketch was remarkably
interesting, and, delivered with Mr. Burnett's
impassioned earnestness, created a marked im-
pression on the audience.

And a similar report in The Herald (Fremantle, WA) on Saturday 18 August1883:

...Mr. Burnett gave his No 1 picture from Real
Life in Victoria, "The late Dr. Mitchell,"
being a description of a man who drank two
bottles of brandy per day for 30 years, and
how he was won...

And in The Daily News (Perth, WA) on Saturday 18 August 1883

A fuller description was found in the Tasmanian News (Hobart, Tas) on Monday 28 April 1884:

Mr Matthew Burnett held a special
gospel temperance meeting for working
men and their families at the Town Hall
on Saturday evening.
...Mr Burnett then came to the subject of his address,
which was, "The remarkable conversion
to temperance and Christianity of the
celebrated Dr Mitchell, the clever oculist—the
man who drank two bottles of
brandy daily for 30 years.” The late Dr
Mitchell, a man of great genius, was born
in Birmingham, and was the son of one
of the wealthiest inhabitants of that
town. He was a most ingenious man,
and could accomplish almost anything he
took in hand. Drink, however, soon had
its powers over him, and but for his
gambling and drunken habits he could
have made his fortune. In 1858 he thought
by coming out to the colonies he could
retrieve his former position. Between the
years 1854 and 1857 he made £103,000,
but lost it all through drinking and
gambling. He was known on the
Ballarat goldfields, where he was staying
as “ Old Drunken Dr Mitchell.”
One night after he had spoken in the
largest church in Ballarat, to about 1000
persons, a lady friend of his (Mr Burnett’s)
told him if he could succeed
in winning the tall gentleman standing
at the door to temperance it would repay
him. The individual she meant was Dr
Mitchell, and he (Mr Burnett) replied
that by God’s help he would win him
over to the temperance cause. The next
day he went to the doctor’s house,and upon
meeting him presented him with a ticket
that would admit him at any time to the
platform where he was speaking. On the
Saturday night the doctor came ; he (Mr
Burnett) escorted him up to the platform
where he took his seat. He spoke that
night on “ The power of sympathy,”
and at the close of his address
Dr Mitchell rushed to the table, and said
in the name of God he would never taste,
touch, or handle drink again. The
next day the circumstance was talked of
all over the town, and the publicans pronounced
it to be a nine days’ wonder,
but the doctor never touched intoxicating
liquor of any kind after signing the
pledge. He did all he could for the
people of the town, and gave largely to
charities. After the good old doctor
had passed away, he (Mr Burnett) was
the chief mourner at his funeral. Mr
Burnett concluded his address by making
an appeal to all to sign the pledge.
Mr H . Glenny, J.P ., bore testimony to
what Mr Burnett had said about Dr
Mitchell, and said he was fully acquainted
with the circumstances of the
case, and they were just as Mr Burnett
had related them.

As an aside the report underneath the above gave details of the number of sheep lost at the time due to drought – unimaginable numbers!

The sum total (says the Western Independent) of
sheep lost to the colony during
the drought, the speedy termination
of which is now hopefully looked forward
to, amounts to upwards of 6,000,000.

In the above mentioned report of the meeting Matthew Burnett spoke at, the Hon. W. R. Giblin, Premier of the colony also spoke specifically about the current liquor trade:

The larger the supply of liquor
was, he considered, the larger would
be the demand. As an example of
this, he said the people of Madagascar
insisted in landing at Tama-
tave large quantities of rum from
Mauritius, the result being that
people were to be seen drunk everywhere
in the neighbourhood. The larger the
business done by the publican, the greater
enemy he becomes to the State, and the
less business done by the publican the
better he was to the State. It had been
very truly said at the last Cascade
Brewery Co.’s meeting that too much
was being done against them by
the temperance movement. Temperance,
he was sure, would do a great and lasting
good for the city, and the colony at large.

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas) on Thursday 15 May 1884 gives an example of the liquor trade response to the temperance movement through the following advertisement:


(See Mr. Matthew Burnett's Address )

used by Dr. Mitchell (two bottles per day
for thirty years), can be obtained at the
Wine and Spirit Stores of the under-
signed, which, in addition to his large and
well selected stock of Wine, Spirits, etc.,
etc., he is selling as usual. Single Bottle
retail, at Wholesale Prices, for Cash.
G. G. EADY (late J. Watchorn),
Royal Hotel, Liverpool-street,

N.B.-Dandelion Ale, a pure invigorat-
ing, non-intoxicating beverage.

I wonder what Edward would have thought about his name being used to sell brandy in Tasmanian; and twelve years after he had died!

The advert also appeared in the following newspapers:

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas)

Plenty of news reports followed for the rest of the year but none went into biographical details for Dr Mitchell. No references currently exist on Trove for 1885 nor 1886.

A search of the New Zealand newspaper site, Papers Past (another wonderful and free resource!), reveals an advertisement in the Otago Daily Times on 17 April 1885 of a lecturer by Matthew Burnett which is due to be held.

The first article appears in the Bruce Herald (Volume XVII, Issue 1642, Page 3) on 5 May 1885:

...Following is a sketch of Mr Burnett's address on Thursday evening :— The subject was " Pictures from real life.'' He commenced by saying that he would tell of real battles fought and real victories won.
...He would like to take his audience to the gold-mining town of Ballarat, which yet had a population of 60,000. There, as the result of 18 meetings for women, about 3000 mothers took the pledge. Two meetings were held every day. At a large meeting of 1400 he noticed a somewhat remarkable looking man. He had a strangely shaped head, a very long and very red nose. He (Mr Burnett) found that he was a confirmed brandy drinker, a great gambler, but a very clever and skilled oculist. His name was Dr Mitchell. He was born in Birmingham. His education was of a very high order, but; at college he learned to smoke, drink and gamble. No vice was more to be deplored than gambling in all its forms — cards, horse-racing, and such like. Dr Mitchell invented several things which he had the honor of showing to royalty — the “Mitchell '' pen was one of his many inventions. But for his fearful craving for drink, he might have attained to the highest position in the scientific world. Feeling that he was becoming a slave to drink, he left London and went to Victoria in the palmy days. Up to the time he (Mr Burnett) met him he had squandered £100,000 made in Ballarat. He became a byeword among the people for his profligacy. It was said that his brain was becoming softened, and he was deemed a hopeless case. But nothing was impossible with God, and he (Mr Burnett) spent many an hour in prayer for that man. He went to the doctor's house with great fear, and met with a very cold reception. With the utmost delicacy a platform ticket, which had never before been given to anyone, was offered him. The compliment was appreciated, and the doctor smiled and thanked Mr Burnett. After this, there was some genial talk and the doctor promised to come to the Saturday evening meeting. The doctor had been accustomed to drink two bottles of brandy a day. He resolved to gradually lessen that quantity. This was not the result of man's work, but of God's. He alone had the power to change human hearts and direct human wills. On the first Saturday he paid particular attention to his dress. " Now, Edward," said his wife, "see you do the right thing tonight." " I'll make no promises," said he, "but I'm going to the meeting." When the Doctor took his seat on the platform, the audience looked at him, and then gave ringing cheers. He bowed politely. And surely no gladder heart beat that night than the heart of Mrs Mitchell. Who could depict the agonies of a drunkard's or gambler's wife— the weary watching, the anxiety and grief. Mr Burnett's subject that evening was "Sympathy." And what, he said, could win men more than sympathy. Its power was incalculable. Mr Burnett told the story of his own rescue by a mother's prayers and influence, and Dr Mitchell's heart was touched. He rose when an opportunity was given, and signed the pledge. The audience rose to their feet with excitement, and the applause was loud and long. Afterwards the Doctor knelt in lowly penitence, and craved pardon for his sins, and gave his heart to God. Of course the tongue of malice was not silent, and a slander arose that the Doctor and the man who had been instrumental in leading him to such a marvellous change had been seen walking the street the worse of liquor, All kinds of means were resorted to for the purpose of making the Doctor ashamed, but he stood firm. He lectured afterwards on temperance, made money to pay off his old gambling debts, and after doing most useful work as a Christian philanthropist, he died greatly lamented by the poor who had experienced so much kindness at his hands.

The first mention of Edward's poor wife, Hannah. I dread to think what she had to put up with.

Another report appeared in the Tuapeka Times (Volume XVIII, Issue 1142, Page 5) on 6 May1885:

Mr Matthew Burnett, the Yorkshire evangelist and Gospel Temperance lecturer, arrived in Lawrence on Saturday, having addressed the people of Waitahuna on Friday evening and induced a number to sign the pledge there.
...Among all those who have come out of darkness into light, through the blessed work of Gospel temperance, there is none I hold dearer than Dr Edward Mitchell, of Ballarat, the genius and clever occulist, born at Birmingham, which has produced so many eminent men …
To return to the subject of my address Edward Mitchell was the son of a goldsmith, of Birmingham. He was the youngest son, and he used to delight in spending hours in the workshop, working at inventions with which he meant some day to astonish his father. One of his inventions is known as the Mitchell Gold Pen. He spent some years at college studying law but afterwards devoted his attention to medicine, making his special subject that of the eye. He went to London with brilliant prospects, and entered upon his professional career. But unfortunately in his young days he had learned to drink and gamble. I speak of a period when few, either professional men or clergy, closely allied themselves to temperance when it was considered the correct thing to drink wine with a friend and to take beer for dinner. But it was not long before Edward Mitchell got a craving for brandy. Still he found time, amid the pressure of his professional duties, to work at certain inventions, fifty of which were favorably received in the Old Land. Twice he was appointed on a Royal Commission, and once he was summoned by the Queen to Buckingham Palace to explain some of his inventions to the Prince Consort. At the Great Exposition he explained numerous inventions of his own to the crowned heads of Europe. But for the blighting curse of drink, Dr Mitchell might have ranked among the leading men of the nineteenth century. The craving for drink grew upon him, and the love of gambling got a firm hold of him. Soon it was observed that Dr Mitchell's hand had lost its steadiness, and he speedily fell from the high position which his genius had won for him. Feeling his position painfully, he withdrew from London in the palmy days of the Victorian goldfields, and took passage to Melbourne. Time rolled away, and Dr Mitchell had the ball at his feet but he drank and gambled until he had drunk and lost £100,000. Hope rose occasionally in his breast, only to be dashed again. He took delirium tremens. Strong men gathered round him by day and watched with him. By night no candle was allowed in his room. He became a raving maniac. He vowed when the attack was over never to touch drink again but he met in with boon companions, and spent his nights in gambling and drinking, while his patient and uncomplaining wife plied her needle in solitude. The noble wife of Dr Mitchell while alone would pour out her heart's sorrow to her Father in Heaven, and in the end the day of deliverance came. Dr Mitchell had sunk very low in the scale of manhood the saddest sight that the angels can witness this side of eternity. He sank so low that people regarded him as hopelessly lost, and called him Old Drunken Dr Mitchell. But there is no such being this side the grave and eternity as a hopeless and irreclaimable drunkard the grace of God can reach even them. While addressing an assembly of about 1,600 people one Sabbath evening at Ballarat, where Dr Mitchell was residing, I observed a man, with tall, well-knit frame, standing just within the door. I could see that he had known better days, and I noticed that his restless eyes followed me. On inquiry I was told the man was the notorious Dr Mitchell. People told me that if I could get Dr Mitchell sober and keep him sober it would be one of the greatest of living miracles. I called upon Dr Mitchell next morning. At first he received me coldly but when offered a platform ticket to admit him by the side-door to any of my lectures, he cordially invited me to come in. A platform-ticket had never before been offered to anyone in Ballarat. I left and on that day Dr Mitchell resolved to reduce his daily allowance of brandy from two bottles to one. On Saturday night the doctor came by the side-door on to the platform, and the people were astonished to see "Old Drunken Dr Mitchell." I told the life-story of J. B. Gough, and gave a brief outline of my own. I turned around and saw that the case of Dr Mitchell was not hopeless his face alternately flashed and turned deadly pale. I spoke a little longer. I urged those who were bound under the chains of drink to come forward and sign the pledge. I saw that Dr Mitchell's eyes flashed fire, and before I could say another word he rose, amid cheers such as I never heard before, stepped to the platform and signed his freedom. It was the dawn of a brighter and more glorious future for him. From that night until his happy spirit winged its flight to his home of rest, he kept his pledge. He lived to regain his position, and to pay off £1600 of debt, and to labor in the cause of temperance. On Saturday nights he gave lectures on the physiological aspect of the question. He returned to the church from which he was never known to absent himself afterwards. When his death came, he was followed to the grave by thousands of the working men, for whom he had labored.

The same report was given in the Clutha Leader (Volume XI, Issue 570 Page 5) on 19 June 1885. Other meetings were reported in the July and August but none with biographical information. However, by the September of 1885 more detail was reported in the Timaru Herald, (Volume XLII, Issue 3424, Page 218).

Mr Matthew Burnett, the well known colonial temperance lecturer, who is on a short visit to Tiniaru held three meetings yesterday.
...This dealt chiefly with the life of a certain Dr Mitchell, one of the old celebrities of Ballarat, Victoria. The vivid word picture given of the career of this man from life by Mr Burnett, was intensely interesting. The lecturer fairly carried his audience along with him from first to last— from the hum of the busy city of Birmingham, where Dr Mitchell spent his college days and, unfortunately, contracted a craving for strong drink and an infatuation for gambling at cards and billiards, to our sunny Australasian shores, where Dr Mitchell landed on a beautiful day a very outcast from the best society at Home, and an apparently confirmed drunkard and gambler. The lecturer then took his audience to Ballarat, and told them how by the saving grace of God he (Mr Burnett) prevailed upon Dr Mitchell to give up his evil habits, and turn the extraordinary genius and talent he was gifted with to the highest use among his fellow creatures.

The next report doesn't appear till 1886 and run from March until October but none with biographical detail until a report in the New Zealand Herald (Volume XXIII, Issue 7761, Page 5) on 6 October 1886:

Mr. Burnett in his address referred in the first place to some of the features of his temperance work in Victoria, and especially to one of his trophies," Dr. Mitchell, of Ballarat. The story was a thrilling one, and well told, but we have only space for the barest outline. Dr. Mitchell graduated in his profession at Birmingham, and was a man of such inventive genius that he had the honour of being summoned to Buckingham Palace by the Queen and the Prince Consort. He subsequently acquired drinking and gambling habits, and came out to Melbourne at the outbreak of the Victorian goldfields. Owing to his intemperance, he drifted out of Melbourne into the provinces, settling at Ballarat. He made £100,000 by his medical practice in 15 years, but lost it all by drink and gambling. The highest distinction was open to him could he have kept sober, but he drank two bottles of brandy a day, and at last sank so low, that the very children on the street pointed the finger of derision at him. He was induced to go to Mr. Burnett's temperance meetings, took the pledge, and, notwithstanding the doubts of his friends, and the wagers of betting men that he would fall, he kept his pledge. Turning again to the steady practice of his profession, he paid off every farthing of his grog scores and gambling debts in Ballarat, amounting to nearly £2000, and devoted the remainder of his life to rescuing others from the bondage of intemperance, which he had himself endured. In his own social sphere, and by medical lectures on the physiological effects of drink he did everything in his power to win men to the paths of sobriety and temperance, and to lead them to the great Physician.

And another report, this time in the Auckland Star (Volume XVII, Issue 236, Page 4) on 7 October 1886:

Mr Matthew Burnett, temperance advocate and evangelist, delivered his second address in the City Hall on Tuesday evening. …
The subject of the lecture was— Great central picture from real life in Australia The late Dr. Mitchell, the man of genius, who drank two bottles of brandy daily for many years, and how he was won with passages from his (Mr Burnett's) own life. …
Dr. Mitchell was born in that great manufacturing city, Birmingham, which had produced some of the greatest men of our own time. He was the son of a large and wealthy goldsmith of his native town. He chose the study of law, but finding that pursuit a very dry ne, he decided to become a doctor. He therefore went to College, where he learnt to drink brandy and gamble. Though he strove in London for many years to overcome the craving for the one and the fascination for the other, he failed at last, mad with desperation, broke away from the chains of association binding him to London, and embarked for Melbourne. So famous had he become in London as an inventor that he was twice summoned to Buckingham Palace by the Queen and the late Prince Consort. Easy would it have been for him to climb the golden ladder and attain the highest pinnacle of fame and honour, but he drank. His weakness accompanied him to Melbourne, where he might have amassed a splendid fortune, but his passion for drink compelled him to go to the provinces. From the time of his arrival at Melbourne till the speaker met him on Ballarat a period of 15 years had elapsed, and in that time the doctor, by his genius, had earned a sum of £100,000, and had spent it. He was spoken of pityingly as poor old Dr. Mitchell and the "drunken doctor, and yet he was a man of wonderful genius and talent. The doctor, hearing that the Yorkshire evangelist was to speak on a certain evening, attended the service, and he (Mr Burnett) observed the man with some curiosity. He inquired who he was, and was told that if he succeeded in converting Dr. Mitchell he would be one of the biggest, richest, and rarest fish he ever got into his temperance net. The speaker then narrated the incidents leading up to the conversion of Dr. Mitchell from drunkenness to total abstinence.

The last newspaper report on Papers Past was from the Te Aroha News (Volume IV, Issue 176, Page 2) on 30 October 1886:

On Tuesday last this well known and remarkably successful worker in the cause of temperance, arrived at Te Aroba from Paeroa.
...The lecturer took as the subject of his picture from real life, the late Dr Mitchell, of Birmingham," and in doing so referred to a number of very eminent men who first saw the light in that city, amongst them Joseph Sturge, John Angel James, Geo. Dawson, John Bright, etc. Dr Mitchell, the subject of the lecture, was the inventor of the Mitchell pen, and also of some important improvements in railway carriages. He was a man of great talents, but unfortunately at college learned to drink brandy and gamble. The doctor rose rapidly to eminence in his profession, and on more than one occasion was at Windsor by royal command. Drink, however, continued to gain its ascendancy over him, and he at last went with his wife to young Australia and there began life afresh. His fame and skill was marvellous and within ten years (at the end of which time the speaker first met him, were at Ballarat) he had made, lost, and gambled away £100,000, and became reduced to almost want and was looked upon and spoken of as a hopless case. The lecturer then in a most graphic manner recounted the story of how he managed to induce the doctor to come to one of his meetings, and how he signed the pledge, and afterwards became a humble Christian, soon regained a splend practice as a medical man, paid off some £1600 of drink and gambling debts he had incurred, and became a most ardent supporter of temperance work.

Sometime between the November of 1886 and the April of 1887 Matthew makes his way back to Australia. A report in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser (NSW) on Tuesday 26 April 1887 states that Matthew went into 'graphic account of the life of Dr.Mitchell, of Ballarat'. However, they failed to add the details in the newspaper.

The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW) provides a long report of a meeting in the Thursday 13 October 1887 edition:

Mr. Matthew Burnett's Gospel
Temperance Mission.
...He then stated that his subject
would be his "Great Central Picture from Real
Life, ' the late Dr. Edward Mitchell of Ballarat, the
man of genius, the successful oculist, the great in-
ventor, the man who drank two bottles of brandy
daily, the Prince of Victorian gamblers, and how
he was won. Birmingham had produced some of
the finest men of the 19th century, and among them
he might mention the names of John Angel James
the celebrated preacher of Carrs Lane chapel, who
laboured for more than half a century and built up
one of the largest churches in the city, leaving on
the roll 2000 active members; Charles Vince, who
ranked with Dr. Dale in his vocation ; George
Dawson, the fascinating preacher and lecturer ;
Joseph - the veteran philanthropist who
gave his time and money in the cause of negro
emancipation ; and the well-known representative
of the electorate in the House of Commons, the Rt.
Hon. John Bright. In the City Edward Mitchell
first saw the light, as the son of a wealthy gold-
smith. During the days of his boyhood he developed
those marvellous powers which he prominently dis-
played in after life. While other boys wasted their
time he was at work in his father's shop, at certain
inventions by which he meant to astonish the world.
For a few years he turned his attention to the study
of law; but finding it uncongenial to his taste, his
mind was afterwards directed to medicine, taking
up as his specialty the eye. It must be here stated
that during his college course he learned to drink
and gamble.
...In the case of Edward Mitchell, the
craving for the one, and the infatuation for the
other grew upon him.
...Dr. Mitchell went to London, the great emporium of
wealth, the seat of learning, and the centre of busi-
ness. In a few years he rose to occupy a distin-
guished position in his own special profession. He,
moreover, found time to prosecute his inventions,
and had the honor of being twice welcomed by Her
Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort to Buck-
ingham Palace. He, however, still continued to
drink and gamble, and gradually lost prestige and his
professional practice, and, ultimately, he left London.
With his young wife, he embarked for Melbourne,
and arrived here at a time when fortunes were easily
made and as easily lost. Here he secured an ex-
tensive practice. Crowds of patients came to him
almost daily, suffering from the blight, so peculiar to
these colonies. He could have amassed an immense
fortune and retired but he still drank and gambled.
He left Melbourne, going first to Geelong and subse-
quently settling in Ballarat, where he (Mr. Burnett)
met him. When they were told that he had
squandered £100,000, they might form some idea of
his capacity to gain money. He had lived at
Ballarat for four years and was generally known and
spoken of as the old drunken doctor ; no one
believed his rescue possible. Hearing of his (the
speaker's) work, the doctor, out of curiosity, went to
hear him. Observing his striking appearance and
marked attention to the address, he (Mr. Burnett)
sought an interview with him early the next morn-
ing. At first he was very coolly received, but in the
end he had the pleasure of presenting the doctor with
a ticket of admission to his platform, where he after-
wards welcomed him amidst the loud, demonstrative
applause of a large audience. That night he spoke
on the powor of human kindness, illustrating the
subject by the touching narrative of J. BT Gough's
rescue. At the close of his address he described the
poor drunkards as being like men and women cross-
ing a river on floating ice (as seen in Mrs. Stowe's
pictures of the fugitive slave), till they jumped upon
the opposite shore in the land of freedom. As he ex-
claimed, ' Who will do it to-night ?' in death-like
stillness every eye seemed fixed on Dr. Mitchell, who
firmly responded, ' I will.' Simultaneously the
people rose to their feet, threw up their hats and
waved their handkerchiefs as old Dr. Mitchell signed
the pledge. Wagers were laid that he would not
keep it nine days. But he did keep it, and, further,
he solemnly dedicated himself to God. For six years
years he never wavered in the path of duty ; he paid
off his gambling debts, to the amount of £1,600, gave
lectures on the subject of temperance, and was the
means of leading numbers to sign the pledge, until he
was called to his Heavenly reward.

The Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong, NSW) on Thursday 7 June 1888 gives some additional details not given in the previous reports viewed:

This gentleman addressed a large audience at
the Temperance Hall on Monday evening, the
main theme of his remarks being the late Dr.
Mitchell, of Ballarat. This gentleman was a
native of Birmingham, his father being the paten-
tee of the ' Mitchell' pens, so well known all
over the world. The doctor, who was endowed
by Nature to the height of genius, became so
expert an occulist in London that he was twice
commanded to attend at the royal palace in the
practice of his profession. Drink and gambling,
however, caused him to leave London, where no
man had had a surer and brighter road to fame
and fortune. Starting subsequently in Melbourne,
he again fell a victim to the same serpents of
drink and gambling, which also followed him to
Ballarat, whether he wended his way in later
years. There, and when a slave to alcohol to the
extent of two bottles of brandy daily, he was
completely reformed in a most wonderful way by
his (Mr. Burnett's) instrumentality. And he re-
mained true to temperance and all that was good
during the remainder of his days; his death,
which occurred not long since, being also happy
and hopeful.

The lecture entitled "My great central picture from real life, Dr. Edward Mitchell, of Ballarat," was again mentioned in the Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (NSW) on Saturday 2 June 1888 but did not go into detail.

A very long report was featured in the Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (NSW) on Wednesday 4 July 1888. A proportion of the article detailed the reporter's thoughts on the health of Mr Burnett.

Mr. Burnett held his first meeting in the
school of arts on Saturday evening.
...His subject,
then, was Dr. Edward Mitchell,
a man of genius, a prince of gamblers, and
how he was won. Dr. Mitchell was born in
Birmingham, England, that great centre of
manufacturing industry, which had produced
so many intellectual luminaries during the
nineteenth century. His father was a goldsmith,
and Edward worked in his shop till
one day he said he would like to be a lawyer,
and his father allowed his wish to be gratified.
He grew tired of law, which he exchanged
for physic, found the right channel
for his energies, and became a brilliant
specialist in eye disease. But he had already
begun to blast his career by learning to
drink and gamble before he had left college.
The lecturer here left his subject for a few
moments while he referred in forcible
and eloquent language to the curse
that existed in the first intoxicating glass.
He was in a position to certify that total abstinence
was the only lever to raise men
from the lowest depths of woe. The prisoners
in the gaols, amid the clanking of their
chains, would drop their heads and say that
it was drink and gambling that brought
them there. After his college course young
Mitchell went to London where he won the
highest laurels in his profession, and attracted
the attention of the Prince Consort.
But his fatal habits grew up an him, and he
left London for Victoria, arriving in the
latter colony when the gold fever was at its
height, and money was so plentiful that
people would light their pipes with a £5
note. Dr. Mitchell had no difficulty in obtaining
from 50 to 100 guineas from a
patient for a single visit; and in the course
of 14 years he had amassed a princely fortune
of £100,000, all of which he had gambled
and drank away. Eventually he left
Melbourne for Ballarat where he was known
as " the old drunken doctor." Mr. Burnett
then eloquently and graphically detailed
a series of incidents commencing
with the opening his of temperance mission at
Ballarat and leading up to the manner in
which he was the instrument by which
Dr. Mitchell was induced to become a
total abstainer. The subject was
dealt with by Mr. Burnett in a manner that
brought into full play that fiery enthusiasm
which is so characteristic of all his temperance
utterances. With considerable dramatic
force, which however he some-what
strained occasionally, the drunken doctor's
life and habits were delineated with much
force and vividness ; with the ultimate result that
only a tactician possessing a wonderful
insight into, and influence over, human
nature could hope to achieve. The address
appeared to make much impression on the
audience, who followed the lecture from
beginning to end with a closeness born of
sympathy, loudly applauding at intervals ;
and at the close almost bringing down the

Another mention comes from the Singleton Argus (NSW) on Wednesday 24 October1888:

Mr Burnett mentioning several subjects,
called upon the meeting to decide
which he should address them upon,
remarking that as he had but one evening to
spend with them, he could only give them
a very small portion of his experience. The
majority of the meeting being in favour of
the lecturer taking the "life of Dr. Mitchell"
for his subject, Mr B. proceeded to give a
brief sketch of his (Dr. Mitchell's) early
career. He described his subject as a man
of great genius. Trained at first with a view
to becoming a barrister, he afterward,
through distaste, of the subject, left it to
study for the medical profession, and
ultimately gained fame for himself as one of
the cleverest oculists of the day. So great
did his reputation become that his assistance
in matters pertaining to the eye was sought
by people from the farthest ends of the
country. But gambling and indulgence in
strong drink were doing their inevitable
work, and to, escape ruin, he emigrated from
his native home, Birmingham, to Melbourne.
But, followed by the same curse, he had to
leave Melbourne, proceeding thence to
Geelong and eventually to Ballarat, where,so
great had been the ravages drink had made
in his prospects, the people looked upon him
as utterly debased, and a hopeless irreclaim-
able drunkard. It was at this point in his
life that the speaker first became acquainted
with Dr. Edward Mitchell. Mr Burnett, then
went on to vividly describe the man and his
first meeting with him; his method of
inducing him to attend his lectures;
his final thorough reclamation from the
terrible evils of gambling and drink;
and his afterwards great influence for good.

More meetings were held in Queensland in 1889 but none of the newspapers so far reviewed contained any biographical details for Dr Mitchell.

Papers Past have articles which show the death of Matthew Burnett was reported in the February of 1896. It was reported that he died in England. I don't know how quick the post was in those days so he could have died the previous year. I wonder how many lives he saved.

Update - a picture of his grave stone - he died in 1896.  And click here for a picture of Matthew - scroll to the bottom of the web page.

Examination of the information provided about 'Dr' Edward Mitchell by Matthew Burnett during his talks as reported by the newspapers of the time.


The Gippsland Times (Victoria) on Monday 1 April 1878 references:

Yorkshire and Derbyshire
There is no trace of Edward Mitchell's family in Yorkshire or Derbyshire – they were from Birmingham from c1800 onwards. We know that Edward's wife, son and granddaughter moved back to Birmingham. His granddaughter later moves to Devon and then to Kent.

Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW) - Thursday 13 October 1887 references:

'son of a wealthy goldsmith'
His father was Robert Mitchell - silversmith and jeweller of Birmingham but yes he did work in gold and was also part of a delegation that went to London to petition for gold to be assayed in Birmingham in 1824.  I doubt he considered himself 'weathly' in the money sense having been bankrupted even after death.

...he turned his attention to the study of law; but finding it uncongenial to his taste, his mind was afterwards directed to medicine, taking up as his speciality the eye.
This needs to be investigated.

Dr. Mitchell went to London...and he rose to occupy a distinguished position in his own special profession.
We can find him (with most of his family) in London as per the 1851 census. He is lodging with another family which does not sound like someone occupying a distinguished position. Edward is listed as a Gold Pen Maker, Silversmith and Jeweller. No mention of oculist or eye specialist.

...honor of being twice welcomed by Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince Consort to Buckingham Palace.
This feels unlikely and I am not sure how this would be investigated. The 1851 census was taken on night of 30/31 March and assuming Edward and his family stayed in London he could have been there at the time of The Great Exhibition which took place, according to wikipedia from 1 May to 11 October 1851. Edward may have, therefore, have attended on the day that the Queen and Prince Consort were there? After writing this bit I then carried on searching Trove newspapers through the years and found a reference to The Great Exhibition!

With his young wife, he embarked for Melbourne
We know this to be accurate.

Here he secured an extensive practice. Crowds of patients came to him almost daily, suffering from the blight, so peculiar to these colonies.
There is no mention of this when he is on trial for the charge of coining and uttering.

He left Melbourne, going first to Geelong and subsequently settling in Ballarat, where he (Mr. Burnett) met him.
We know this is likely and that he was in Ballarat at the time that Matthew Burnett was.

He had lived at Ballarat for four years and was generally known and spoken of as the old drunken doctor
We know his daughter, Louise, married in Ballarat in 1862 and that Matthew had arrived in 1867 so it could be that Edward had lived in Ballarat for four years. We know from The Argus (7 June 1861) that Edward was known as Montague E. Mitchell alias "The Doctor,".

For six years years he never wavered in the path of duty;
We know Matthew was in Ballarat between March and December 1867 and this would be the window when he could have met Edward. Edward died in 1872. That gives a potential five years when he could have stay 'dry' which is close enough to six years when you are relaying a story 20 years later.

...he paid off his gambling debts, to the amount of £1,600
Not sure how we would prove this – unless anyone has any ancestor accounting books which showed a Mitchell of Ballarat paying off debts. Not quite sure how one could rack up that amount of debts though.

gave lectures on the subject of temperance
One would have expected this to be mentioned in the newspapers. Will have to try and find someone who has done research on temperance in Ballarat to see if they have ever found a mention of this.

As always this is not a polished piece of work by any stretch of the imagination but a work in progress.  Please leave a comment if you have an interest in Matthew Burnett and indeed in anyone else mentioned in these blog posts.

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