Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gordon of China in Melbourne

I'd heard there was a statue to General Charles Gordon in Melbourne - but last time I was in Victoria a long evening gaining acquaintance with the fine wines of the State intervened and I never found the monument. This time I went easy on the fine shirazs and cab saus and did locate the statue. I was intrigued as a) the only other statue to Gordon I know of is in London and b) that one doesn't mention China, only his better known exploits and death in Khartoum.

Of course Gordon (1833-1885), hyper-religious and homosexual, was 'Gordon of China' long before he was 'Gordon of Khartoum'. He was in Peking during the Elgin Mission that sacked and looted the city and though religiously convicted apparently helped himself a bit too. He was a superb cartographer and had mapped most of the surrounding area of Shanghai - which later came in useful. However, he was very pious, very 'churchy' and didn't make many friends in China.
The caption on one side of the monument reads - 'China 1863-4 - He rescued provinces from anarchy, but would accept no reward'

When the first foeigner hired to defeat the Taiping rebellion, Salemite high school drop out Frederick Townsend Ward, was killed on the battlefield leading the Ever Victorious Army against the Taiping rebels Gordon took over (after an ill-fated and short lived interlude of leadership by Ward's drunken second-in-command Burgevine). Gordon led 3,500 EVA troops to finally supress the Taiping around Shanghai - much to the acclaim of the Shanghai merchants (local and foreign) who felt the Taiping were queering their pitch.

When he returned to England he had been dubbed 'Chinese Gordon'. The Brits then packed him of to the Sudan where he was killed in 1885, revolver and sword in hand, reisiting a crowd storming his stairs in the British residence. As a hero of Empire he lost the 'Chinese Gordon' tag and became 'Gordon of Khartoum' being immortalised in many hagiographies and played in a movie by Charlton Heston who negated to play up the two central aspects of Gordon's character - religion and homosexuality.

So it was nice to see that Gordon's statue in Melbourne is prominent and mentions his Chinese escapade. It's right opposite the historic Windsor Hotel (seen behind the statue) where, like Lawrence Olivier before me, I always stay in Melbourne despite the creaking lifts, chintzy furniture and rubbish service.

The only question remaining is - why does Melbourne have a statue of Gordon in the first place - as far as I know he had no particular connection with the place?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but there is no indication whatsoevr that Gordon was gay. Sources please - or delete,

Anonymous said...

The statue in London, on Victoria Embankment, DOES mention China, but just some place names. The other main places where Gordon was active are also mentioned on the statue's pedastal.

It's not the only other statue of Gordon, there are lots of them - see Wikipedia, general Gordon > memorials

Anonymous said...

The Melbourne statue is just a second casting and identical to the London statue. They were made by Hamo Thornycroft. There is an excellent book about the two statues: "Hamo Thornycroft & the Martyr General" by Adam White, published by the Henry Moore Centre for the Study of Sculpture in 1991.
About your blog-text: Apart from my critical notes in two earlier comments - nice observations about Gordon, China and Melbourne. When I was there 2 years ago I had to see the statue and was not disappointed, a rather grand setting!

RS Gold said...

I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no indicator whatsoevr in which Gordon has been gay and lesbian. Solutions please * as well as delete,

Buy Runescape Gold
RS Gold

Runescape Gold said...

Genuinely impressed! Things are all very, specific, available is a outline from the difficulty. Its content has the data.