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Foster, Frederick Alfred (1831–1871)

We have to record a deplorable case of death from intemperance. The subject of our melancholy narrative was Mr Frederick Foster, a gentleman who came into this locality a short time ago with the intention of establishing a private school. His habitual intemperance however, more than any other cause, frustrated his plans and, as the sequel will show, hurried him in the prime of life to a drunkard's miserable end. From his own lips, and the personal statements of gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Queanbeyan who knew the deceased and his family connections, we learned that Frederick Forster was the son of a gentleman once holding one of the highest offices in the colony. His education was completed at Trinity College, Cambridge. He afterwards returned to the colony where he married the daughter of one of our wealthiest colonists, and whose dowry was very large. The newly-married pair immediately started on a wedding tour to Europe, where, owing to some unhappy circumstance, a divorce terminated the compact. Foster returned to Australia, and subsequently served in the New Zealand wars where he was wounded. He visited Tasmania, where he married again, and since that period of his chequered life appears to have run a wandering career. His wife he left in Victoria where she found employment in a ladies' seminary. He has written for the press, and not long ago contributed to the Empire an interesting article concerning the Malloon copper mine. He contributed one or two articles to this journal, his last, on life assurance, being published only a few days before his death. A rejected contribution, on the same subject, from his pen, still lies before us containing the old Latin proverb – now so strangely applicable to himself – demortuis nil nisi bonum. During his stay in Queanbeyan he supported himself on occasional remittances from his friends augmented by trifling amounts received for services rendered here. The facts deposed to at the inquest, held on the 4th instant, will best disclose the incidents attending the termination of the unhappy man's career. The coroner and jury having viewed the body of the deceased, which was that of a man about forty years of age, William Blewitt, being sworn, stated: I am a farmer at Lobshole. On Wednesday last, 31st May, the deceased Frederick Foster came to me at Queanbeyan, and asked me if I had any children to teach as he wished to get out of town "away from the confounded drink." I told him I had, and that there was another person near me who had children requiring teaching. Having engaged, the deceased next day proceeded on horseback to Lobshole, a distance of upwards of eighteen miles, being still under the influence of drink, but not so tipsy as he was on the previous day. When we got home in the cart he was in the room complaining of cold and shivering. I gave him some rum, less than a glass. He could not eat anything except a bit of onion nor yet did he drink any tea. He said that his stomach was raw. He drank the rum raw. On going to bed I gave him a little more rum. He lay before the fire wrapped up in an opossum cloak. Next morning he was all of a shake, and I gave him the remainder of the rum, about half a glass, which he also took raw. He could not take any breakfast, but during the day he took some fowl soup which he vomited up again. He said he had a pain in his chest, and requested some mustard which he applied as a poultice to his chest. He took about two pints of oatmeal gruel during the day, which he did not vomit. About five o'clock in the evening I saw him alive on the bed, and at six o'clock I called and asked him if he would have some tea, and he said "no, thank you." About half-past eight I went into his room in the dark and called out to him. On receiving no answer I felt the bed and found that he had left. My foot, on my walking to the door, came in contact with his leg. I got a light, and Henry Ward and I went in and found him dead, lying on his back on some sheepskins. Charles Tozer Smith and Henry Ward gave corroborative evidence. Constable Connor deposed that he searched the clothes of the deceased and found (produced) a looking glass, a knife, a purse containing a penny postage-stamp, and a letter addressed "Frederick Foster, Esq., care of John Gale, Esq., Queanbeyan." The letter bore the Geelong postmark, was signed E. Foster, and contained a postscript signed Emily. The pocket contained also another letter addressed "Fredk. Forster, Esq., Queanbeyan," marked "private," and containing only a blank sheet of paper. The medical testimony of Dr Lambert showed that the body was well nourished, the brain slightly congested, the stomach empty and very much inflamed, the liver pale, enlarged, and very friable, the kidneys very much diseased. The right auricle of the heart was filled with coagulated blood, and the general structure of the heart was much congested. In his opinion, the immediate cause of death was stoppage of the heart's action consequent on nervous exhaustion the result of a habitual intemperance. The jury returned a verdict to that effect. On Monday a one-horse dray, containing a plain coffin covered by a black pall, and followed by two horsemen, passed through town on its way to the cemetery, where just afterwards, unhallowed by the falling tears of sorrowing friends, lay the mortal remains of another victim of the demon of intemperance, who only a few days before had heartily cheered the speakers at a temperance meeting, applauding in his chains, it now appears, a liberty he was destined never to know.

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'Foster, Frederick Alfred (1831–1871)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/foster-frederick-alfred-27970/text35713, accessed 24 August 2019.

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