"Social Background of Sir Paul Strzelecki
and Joseph Conrad”2


In Australian literature we can find references to the „Counts”: Dembinski, Gordonovitch, Kierski, Kosciuszko, Landowski, Rakowski, Strzelecki, Turno and Zaba.
Although they were all members of the Polish szlachta, not one of them possessed a title and so far as can be ascertained none of them ever made any claim to such title, with the exception of John Dembinski.10)

When the author of this essay asked the late Duncan MacCallum, a distinguished Australian historian why he called Captain Severin Rakowski „a Count” in one of his articles published in the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal (vol. 44, 1958, p. 305), the answer was - „Because he was a Polish nobleman”. Yet, Captain Rakowski never used any title and never made any claim to a title.
This answer simply reflected the general tendency among British or Australia historians to call the members of the szlachta — „Count”.

It seems that so far nobody in the United States has condemned General Thaddeus Kosciuszko or General Casimir Pulaski because somebody called them „the Count”. They are both venerated by Americans as national heroes and numerous monuments to these two men were erected in the States.

Similarly nobody so far has attempted to smear the name of Joseph Conrad because it so happened that the British sea captains at Port Louis called him „the Count”. Not one writer has put in doubt the character of Nicholas de Miklouho-Maclay, because somebody called him, for courtesy's sake, „the Baron”.

Yet today in Australia Sir Paul Strzelecki is singled out as a subject of character assassination by some writers. Not all Australians approve of mud slinging at a man who cannot defend himself.

The strong words of the late Bernard Cronin11) written in a letter of April 9, 1962, to the late Mouni Sadhu12) are relevant:
„Falsification and distortion of historical facts is going on all the time today, right under our noses. It is a sign of a very sick world.
In other words, men are busily engaged in destroying noble reputations and, conversely, building up ignoble one.
Edmund Paul Strzelecki is the current victim”.

Melbourne, January, 1979.

10) Votes and Proceedings, Legislative Council of Victoria, Session 1856-1857, vol.2, D13a, Select Committee on the Penal Establishments, p. 82-87; The Argus (Melbourne), 27-3-1858, p. 5, col. 7.

11) Bernard Charles Cronin (1884-1968), Australian author and journalist, founder of the Quill Writers' Club of Australia for many years the Chief Tutor in the Course of Freelance Journalism at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

12) Mouni Sadhu (1899-1972), Australian author of many books published by Allen & Unwin of London and translated into Spanish, Portuguese and German.