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Grosvenor (Jack) Bunster (1838–1904)

The Melbourne Herald makes mention that there passed away in the Homeopathic Hospital a few days ago a gentleman whose name was once familiar as a household word in the mouths of those who earned their bread on the troubled sea of newspaper literature – Grosvenor, better known to his intimates as "Jack" Bunster. The Herald says – The number of those who can remember the man in his best days is sadly dwindling, and the grass has for some time grown green on the graves of many of his old friends. But who still survive have pleasant memories of one who represented to the last the old Bohemian school of newspaper writers, who if they erred sometimes in discretion, maintained the battle right gallantly to the, too often, bitter end. As Sir Walter Scott quotes in Castle Dangerous:

The Knights are dust.
Their swords are rust.
Their swords are with the Saints, we trust

There are fewer men, indeed, who went through a more varied career in some respects than did "Jack" Bunster. Born in Hobart, the son of a colonel in the army, he started his young life on a whaling cruise. Subsequently, he travelled for a short time in India, eventually arriving in Victoria in the early sixties, where he was for some time a clerk in a bank, an office for which he was about as much fitted as was, at a later period, Marcus Clarke. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Press as a special sketch writer on the Morning Herald, then owned by George Rollins Levey, and speedily gave tokens of ability. In that capacity, indeed, he had not many compears, the more especially as what he wrote was charmingly pleasing, in spite of the fact that he did not by any means confine himeslf to the subject he was called upon to deal with. On the contrary, he generally cantered gracefully all round it, only returning to the starting point at infrequent intervals.

It was however, as a writer of short stories and specials that "Jack" chiefly shone, and we are proud to say that in this respect some of his best work was done for The Herald, to which columns he was during the later years of his troubled life a constant contributor. A marked feature of his style was the power of expressing an undercurrent of real pathos in the midst of much which sometimes verged upon the reverse.

It was only on the 9th of last month that we published one of those very sketches we have alluded to, entitled the Valley of Shadow, in which was described a way-worn and tired patient in a hospital, who, after they had drawn the screen around his bed, lay gazing at a star that shone through. Anyone reading it will think that poor "Jack" Bunster must have penned his own death song, so descriptive it is of the man's own life and character. And it ended thus –

"And, at least, there was his star. The morning light was stealing into its region and obscured its brightness. But the old man did not note this. Nay, the star seemed to gain in beauty as he gazed. So that when the moment came, even his sightless eyes, fixed upon his friend and comforter, seemed filled with the calm light of an eternal truth."

Let us hope that it was so, and that after a life close upon man's allotted span, he died calmly, peacefully and hopefully – though leaving no relations behind him to mourn his loss.

Peace to his ashes, genial Jack Bunster was ever a kindly soul, and seldom dipped his pen in gall. A few old Herald confreres pay him the tribute of a passing tear. Vale:

[Grosvenor Bunster was for a time in his youth a member of the Post-office staff, Hobart, and there are not a few of his old schoolmates who will read this notice of his last days with interest. The sketch referred to In the Valley of Shadow is published in another column.]

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'Bunster, Grosvenor (Jack) (1838–1904)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

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