Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Taphophile Tragics - On praising Caesar

What did Shakespeare have Mark Antony say:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
This post is dedicated to the memory of James Barnet, who in his position of 'Colonial Architect' designed and project managed the construction of the new General Post Office in the second half of the 19th century. His was an influential position, a position which he held from 1865 until 1890, and during which he produced over 1,350 works. He listed on his retirement 169 Post and Telegraph offices, 130 Courthouses, 155 Police Stations, 110 lock ups and 20 lighthouses. During his time as Colonial Architect there were 20 separate Parliaments, 16 Ministers and nine different Premiers. . Barnet resigned as Colonial Architect on 30 June 1890. Shortly afterwards the Colonial Architect’s Department was abolished.

So why do I prevaricate? I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him - yeah, yeah, I know; that is already done. In Barnet's case, in my opinion, the good that he did lives after him, and the evil is interred with his bones. In this case, 'evil' is going to far, as any person is a product of his time. And I base my opinion of only two pieces of information. For starters, Barnet was an argumentative egotist. Yesterday, I alluded to the disagreements he had with parliament, the press, and investigators with regard to the spandels on the GPO. But he had this sort of disagreement with many of his commissions. He was nowt but a public servant, albeit a well-placed one. I figured him to be an egotist when I read that one of the heads on the GPO is his, and I include it as the final photograph here.
However, I am most aggrieved by his headstone. And yes, that may not have been his choice or his doing. But would a man of Barnet's strength leave that to his descendents? And it is not his side of the headstone to which I object. It is the obverse, the side dedicated to his wife, Amy Gosling Barnet, who departed this world in 1889, just before her 60th birthday. JJB did not die until 1904, which leads me to conclude that he had input to his wife's marker. That is her as my lead photograph, nursing her first child, Amy. JJB married Amy Gosling in Hackney, east London in July 1854 and a month later the couple sailed for New South Wales as assisted immigrants. Amy was the daughter of a builder, John Gosling, and his wife Elizabeth. The Barnets had 4 daughters and three sons, two of who also became architects. But look at Amy's epitaph.

Her name is not mentioned anywhere! Arrggghhh!!!!!

Yes, within the cameo it says Mrs Barnet. Lordy, lordy, lordy. Talk about goods and chattels ... So, am I praising him, or burying him? The good lives on, so therefore the bad should be laid to rest?

This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

12 comments:

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Another well deserved boot grinding.

Kay L. Davies said...

I'm so glad women's lot has been improved. I thought I was imagining that her name wasn't there. I was sure I just couldn't find it.
K

Ann said...

Isn't argumentative egotist part of the job description for government architect. They are still arguing with the government.

Peter said...

A nice follow-on from yesterday's post, I will never look upon his work in the same way.

Gemma Wiseman said...

Incredible that his wife is just an attachment. Amazing that this should ever be an acceptable perspective/practice. I wonder if Barnet's behaviour contributed to the termination of Colonial Architect? Intriguing, informative post!

Joe said...

Fascinating Julie. Thank goodness attitudes have changed.

Deb said...

We have a similar vein running through our posts this week. Thankfully times have changed somewhat.

Mark said...

Great post. Grafton would not look the same without Barnet, so many buildings.

CaT said...

yes, here i see that every now and then as well, on the older graves....
its weird! and sad... i presume also at that time it was the women that took care of the upbringing of their children, for example, and thus the next generation... of women AND men!

in some parts of the world its still like this. im glad i dont live there!

hamilton said...

and I bet he was a difficult man to live with. so in death as it was in life; she had no voice, no name, no opinion...

Nicola Carpenter said...

What a fancinating post!

Herding Cats

Joan Elizabeth said...

Having inadvertently made an omission in the inscription on my mother's grave I am not all that picky about the words that appear ... maybe like me he didn't want to go to the expense of doing it again.