The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESAY, JANUARY 30, 1889. "PRINCESS MIDAS.".
Almost everybody has seen references m the paperß to the lady financier and exploitress of mining enterprises who, AS well from the fact that everything she' toucheß turns to gold, as from her being a principal shareholder m the Midas goldmine has been dubbed " Princess Midas," but few people we fancy were aware that she may almost be claimed as a New Zealander. Yet such it appears is the case, for we learn from a very interesting biography which is published by the " Utago Daily Times," that this lady, who is known as Mhg Alice Cornwell, though born m England, was reared and educated m this colony, having come out to New Zealand with her parents at the age of 8, and being until the age of 17 at a ladieß* school m Dunedin — Mrs May's, Manor Lodge. She is said not to have been a very brilliant girl at school, and was not re-' markable for personal attractions, but " what she lacked m outward appearance was certainly made up for by the inward possession of generosity, kindliness and warmth of heart ; she gained for herself, m fact, while at school, the -sincerest friendship and wannest esteem of her companions, m whose minds Alice was associated always with goodness and amiability. Miss Oornwell remained m Dunedin until she was 17, when she bade good-bye to New Zealand to aocon> pany her parents to Victoria. In that colony, some three years afterwards she married an old man, a member oi Parliament, by name John Whitemau. The union does not appear, however, to have been a singularly happy one, from the circumstance that the pair have been living apart for the last ten years. And her parents, m order to get her away from surroundings which must necessarily have been unpleasant and distasteful to her, Bent her to a college m London, where for a time she devoted herself assiduously to the study of musio acd of art, and where subsequently she published three CT four Bongs. But after pas3fng several ex aminations m mnsic, and gaining honors m literature, her aoademic career was suddenly brought to an untimely end one morning by her receiving from Mr Cornwell a cablegram announcing the death of her mother (whose dying injunction was that Alice should resume her maiden narnej, and q request that she would return to Viotoria, Her father was m Ballarat at this time, and had become heavily involved m mining speculations. He had sunk £40,000 m an estate he had leased from >ir William Clarke, and had had no return, It was at this time that the energy and determination of character of Miss Cornwell first displayed themselves, and to some extent shadowed forth the brilliant fin anpial career^ tfte beginning of which was soon to follow m the wake of these events. Mr Cornwell's misfortunes would appear to have brought about an abnormally phenomenal change m his daughter's entire pharapter, and from the dreamy, sentimental young woman, whose interest was concentrated m her studies, she suddenly became a matter-of-fact Woman of the world, full of ambition, imagination, and energy. She had the interests of her family at heart, and devoted her whole time to thinking out projects, which should retrieve their fallen fortunes. She felt that the only way by T?hich she could successfully accomplish this wouiu l>e,« to use her own words, ' to make the estate m which the j money had beep gunk return it.' So, having posted herself up m all the geological details of the goldfield, and having after much inquiry satisfied herself that gold did exist m its vicinity, she formulated a scheme by which she could carry her ideas into effect. Money was borrowed and a shaft sunk, and within a foot of the point she had indicated, the course of the lead was struck. This was the starting point of her mining career. Soon afterwards she became connected with numerous other mining oompanies m New South Wales, but m no instance where she had not personally inspected and approved the claim. The idea of revisiting London m the interests of gold mining was suggested to her by tho late Lady Brassey, then on a tpur of the colonies, who pointed opt to her the facilities and advantages Bhe would meet with m tho great metropolis for floating mines of such a character as the Midas Ihe lady also invited Miss Cornwell to visit her, should she repair to London. Home accordingly she went, and the Midas — subscribed for five times over — was floated by her for £180,000, of which the shareholders received £150,000 net. This enterprise it was, of course, that made Miss Cornwell so publicly known. Other commercial ventures became soon afterwards associated with ; her name, amongst them that of the " Sunday Times," A curious circumstance m connection with this venture was that she made up her mind with regard to its purchase m 24 hours. Mr Phil Robinson, whom hitherto she had known only as a friend, but who from this time became associated with her m business, came to her one day about twe}ye o'clock with (ho new* that'
;he " Sunday Times" was m the narket. He advised her to buy, and aid down certain lines on which the eB ournal should be run, assuring her that jhould these be carried into effect, there t0 ;ould be not the shadow of a doubt that aE it would be a success. She took 24 pi hours to consider tho matter. Next iay, when at twelve o'clock, Mr Robinson called for her decision, he found Miss Cornwoll perfectly willing to close the ° bargain at once, provided that he t < would agree permanently to edit the a paper, take a small share therein, and conduct it on tho lines he hud j~ sketched out the previous day. The bargain was struck, and with a . circulation of only 9000 copies, the g "Sunday Times" started on its new i career and under its new management who have during the past 12 months m- * creased the circulation by 31,000. And / as showing the indomitable pluck and t determination of the woman, it may be mentioned that Miss Gornwell told the j writer the other day, m the course of a I conversation on the subject, that she \ will not be satisfied until her paper has t reached a circulation of of 250,000. Mr 1 Joseph Hutton is the editor m Mr ' Bobinson's absence, and there is also an ] able staff of contributors. Space is devoted, too, to American and Australian ' news, efficient oorrespondents being , stationed at chief cenircs of each of j these countries. The journal is one of < the oldest m England, having been established m 1822. Miss Corn well then embarked m electric lighting, and she purchased for £40,000 tho patent rights ot the Schanschieff portable light, fohe avers that philanthropic, as much as commercial, motives induced her to hazard her money m this venture, the Schanschieff portable light being specially adapted for mining, purposes, by reason of its immnnity from the danger of explosion. Miss Gornwell returned to Australia m April of last year, chiefly for the purpose of (to use her own words) ' assisting the management m handing over the leases quickly to the new company.' Having done this she journeyed through Queensland for the purpose of obtaining information for the " Sunday Times." During her trip, the Wyong estate which she thoroughly inspected and explored —was purchased by her for £252,000. The estate covers an area of 17,000 acres, a railway line runs right through it. There is a frontage to a lake of 12 miles, and a frontage to a river of 14 miles. *In some parts of the estate there is a rich loam 30ft or 40ft m depth ; and it possesses, moreover, an abundance of the finest timber m New South Wales—cedar, mahogany, eto. From geological reports it is estimated that there are 280,000,000 tons of gas coal on the estate, and the profit on this, if worked, is further estimated, m round figures, at £30,000,000. On it are a railway station and a township already surveyed. Miss Gornwell contemplates raising £1,000,000 m London for the purpose of working and developing this property, and she hopes m two years to see on it m full work four sawmills and four collieries. So sanguine is she of the ultimate success that will attend the developing and working of this property, that she has decided to retain for herself one-third of the shares m the company she is about to float m London, Numerous ventures are engaging the mind, and attention of Miss Conu^^atthoproaont. moment, bat with th^pHro have .neither Bpace nor time to deal. It may be mentioned, however, ( thqt she h,as partners m London, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as private offices m each of these places." Such are the salient points m the hiptory of the remarkauie carder of one Cf the most wonderful women of tho present day, one who possesßS a financial genfus which enables her to grasp all the details of enormous ventures, and who has already numerous large projects m hand among which are the Schanschieff Light, a new smelting process, and tbe formation of a great joint-stock scheme called the British-Australasian Mining Investment Gompany. . She is already said to be the possessor of three-quarters of a million sterling, and (says the writer of the article, from which the foregoing is compiled) "is as polite and agreeable m manner to a pauper as to a nobleman ; she is ever ready to give her undivided attention to the ideas, suggestions, or schemes of anyone, be he ever so humble m circumstances : a,nd if hie soheme have merits and be practicable, the lady \yill promise to give it her ' best consideration ' ; and she will, too." I