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Charles Edward de Boos (1819–1900)

We regret to have to record this morning the death of Mr. Charles Edward de Boos, who in the course of his long life did much to benefit the country of his adoption, and who incidentally made existence happier and smoother for his contemporaries. Mr. de Boos died yesterday morning at Congewoi, Ryde, the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. C. C. Watson. The very mention of the name of the house in which he breathed his last will send the memory of old residents back to the days when the "Correspondence of John Smith of Congewoi" was enjoyed by every reader of the Sydney Morning Herald of a quarter of a century or so ago. Mr. de Boos was one of those few individuals who are endowed by Nature with the supreme gift of humour, tempered by a due regard for proportion and a strict observance of fact. He was the happy possessor of a vein of humour which seemed inexhaustible — the humour which is more effective than satire or direct denunciation in the reformation of manners. Not that he wrote with a purpose. The man bubbled over with healthy humour. He would see a thing patent to the eyes of all men, and his playful fancy would surround it with unexpected charms. His faculty of perception marked him as a great humourist, and it is now only to be regretted that his work lies buried in old times of newspapers. But it is refreshing even now to turn up old files of the Herald and to read "Random Notes" or "Collective Wisdom." The very title of the last-named series was an inspiration. It was the title Mr. de Boos gave to his sketches of the Parliamentary giants of his days — days in which Martin and Parkes and Jennings were flourishing, and in which one heard something of succeeding lights now better known to fame.

But Mr. de Boos was not solely or mainly a humourist. He was also a hardworking journalist, engaged on the Parliamentary staff of the Herald. Besides his work in "the gallery" he was employed in the writing of special articles on various subjects. One series of these was that headed "Random Notes," in which he recorded his impressions of various parts of the colony which he visited. But his work was particularly valuable not only to the Herald readers, but to the colony generally, when he wrote his interesting series of articles on the mining industry of New South Wales. These had the effect of impressing on the minds of people that there was a rich treasure within the borders of the colony which only required working. Probably it would not be the case with New South Wales that she would leap at a bound into fame as a gold-producing country, but the gold was there and would repay the endeavour necessary to securing it. It would not become us to say how far the articles written by Mr. de Boos for the Herald and published in these columns had the effect of directing effort to this profitable work. It is, however, fair to say that they operated in that direction, and when Mr. de Boos was appointed a warden of the goldfields in 1874 it was generally felt that the Government of the day had selected a man who had shown his fitness for the position. In the discharge of that work Mr. de Boos more than justified the appointment.

His life history may be told in a few words. Born in London on May 24, 1819, Charles Edward de Boos was to the day a contemporary of Queen Victoria. Educated at Addiscombe, he served as a volunteer in the Cartist war in Spain before he had got out of his teens, and then, finding little to attract him in the old country, he came to Australia. This was in 1839. ln those days the theory was that an energetic Englishman had only to take up pastoral pursuits in order to make a fortune, wherewith he could return in a few years to his ancestral home. Amongst the persons who realised that this theory does not always hold water was young de Boos, who found that the country he had taken up in the Hunter River district brought him no means of livelihood. Then he joined the press in Sydney, being employed on the Monitor and the Gazette. In 1851 he became Government shorthand writer in Melbourne, a position that he held for four or five years. Thereafter we find him again in Sydney, a member of the staff of the Herald, where he did the good work to which allusion has already been made. A striking tribute to the value of his writings is that even those of them which were written on ephemeral subjects, and which had politicians now forgotten as their heroes, may now be read with interest. The men are dead, and the writer is now dead, and the subjects, then of absorbing moment, have fallen into the waters of oblivion, but the humour of the sketches survives and the good workmanship appreciated by the Herald readers of years ago will appeal to all judges of style in literature to-day. In 1874 Mr. de Boos was appointed magistrate and goldfields warden, and in this capacity be did good service to the State.

For the last 15 years Mr de Boos, who was a prominent member of the Masonic body, and belonged to the New Brunswick Grand Lodge, lived in a retired manner. His wife died about 20 years ago, and he leaves issue: two sons, who reside at Temora, and three daughters — Mrs. Meikle (Waverley), Mrs. E. H. O. Smith (Chatswood), Mrs. C. C. Watson (Ryde). Another son, who was a solicitor, died a few years ago. The funeral will take place to-day, the place of interment being Rookwood.

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Citation details

'de Boos, Charles Edward (1819–1900)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Smith, John E.

24 May, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


30 October, 1900 (aged 81)
Ryde, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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