Elizabeth Macarthur, Michelle Scott Tucker

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Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World (2018) is Australian (Melbourne) author Michelle Scott Tucker’s first work. It doesn’t show. This is an assured account of the life of a woman whose name we all know, but who has always – till now – lived in the shadow of her husband John.

Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850) was born in Bridgerule, Devon where her father was an affluent farmer, in or aspiring to the lower reaches of the landed gentry, and able (and willing) to provide his daughter with a good education. She married army Ensign John Macarthur in 1788 and when, on half pay and needing to support a wife and young son, he joined the newly-formed NSW Corp as a Lieutenant, she sailed with him on the Second Fleet to Sydney Cove, the only officer’s wife to do so.

Michelle points out that Elizabeth was only 9 years older than Jane Austen and that the circumstances in which she was raised would be familiar to readers of Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. I’m friends with Michelle and on reading the early chapters of her book was imprudent enough to text her, asking if she thought Elizabeth was a ‘Lydia’. “No idea,” she replied, “I don’t make stuff up”. And she doesn’t. Although her account gets along at a cracking pace, it is clearly documented at every step.

To get back to Elizabeth’s Lydia-ness though, I formed the definite impression that Elizabeth was both strong willed and besotted by John. When their first child is born it is clear marital relations had begun before the marriage, indeed it is probable Elizabeth accompanies John on an uncomfortable trip to London in late pregnancy just to be out of sight of family and villagers doing simple arithmetic; there is that lovely cameo on the front cover, so different from the responsible matron (below) she was to become; she alone of the officers’ wives accompanies her husband to what was little more than a campsite on the other side of the world; and later, although I accept she was a devoted mother, I also suspect that when John returned from his long sojourns in England, bringing with him the older children, it was John she welcomed first not the children. Well, maybe the first time anyway.

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Elizabeth Macarthur, undated, State Library of NSW

Elizabeth Macarthur’s letters home have always been an important source for writers about the early days of white settlement in NSW. We are lucky that she was a constant correspondent with her childhood friend, Bridget Kingdon, daughter of the Anglican vicar at Bridgerule, because to her she allowed herself a little more freedom in writing than she did to her mother. After Bridget’s untimely death in 1802 Elizabeth continued to write to Bridget’s younger sister, Eliza. Later, when John was forced to return to England, they exchanged letters about family and business (though Elizabeth’s to John have not survived) and we also have correspondence between Elizabeth and friends she made in the colony, notably Capt. John Piper.

Elizabeth’s story is often told in Elizabeth’s own words, using short excerpts from her letters, giving an immediacy to the writing that makes the biography flow like a novel without resort to passages of imagination, so-called ‘faction’. And we end up with not just Elizabeth’s story but a whole new perspective on the early years of the colony.

In a way I’ve had years to prepare for this review and it was my intention to have reviewed by now Watkin Tench’s two accounts of the first days of white settlement, MH Ellis’ John Macarthur (1955) and the Eleanor Dark reimagining of first contact and the early days of settlement, The Timeless Land (1941). As it happens I only got to the Tench (here, here).

Tench writes of his shock at the terrible state of the convicts on the arrival of the Second Fleet and Scott Tucker fleshes this out, as the Macarthur’s cabin on the voyage out was actually down with the women convicts. Briefly, with the Second Fleet the British government ‘privatised’ the transport of convicts and the successful tenderers and their ships captains economised on the food and conditions of especially the male convicts in order to sell the left over supplies at extortionate prices on arrival in Sydney. Of the 1017 convicts who were despatched from England 258 died, from starvation, illness, from being almost constantly in irons.

The Macarthur story is well known (to Australians). The initial farm, Elizabeth Farm, on the river at Parramatta (20 km up river from Sydney Harbour). The land grants at Cow Pastures, 20 or 30 km further out, which eventually became Camden Park. The importing of merino sheep, from South Africa and from the King’s flock in England. John’s two long absences in London (1801-05 and 1809-17), the first for a court martial and the second after he, now a civilian, led a rebellion against Governor Bligh. The slow growth of the fine wool industry to serve the mills of England and the Industrial Revolution.

Scott Tucker slowly and surely builds a lawyerly case for John’s fecklessness, right from the beginning. The rushed marriage, his constant disputes with his fellow officers, duels, risky business decisions, grand plans for the future. As he gets older he complains of frequent debilitating bouts of depression, interestingly recognised as illness by both the sufferer and Elizabeth, eventually interspersed with bursts of mania until we, and his family, recognise that he is out of control, in modern terms is bi-polar, and his sons become his guardians.

The bulk of the story concerns naturally Elizabeth’s management of the family business while John is away. He and later their older sons are valuable envoys in London, but they must be supported in style and Elizabeth must manage the flocks, the horses, the home farm and orchards, the large numbers of convict servants and farm workers, the younger children – the boys were schooled in England, keep the accounts. Above all she must improve the quality of the wool and get it off to England. She has some standing in Colony society both as a modest gentlewoman and as a relatively (though not always!) prosperous businesswoman. Scott Tucker does not think she mixed with convict and emancipist women, but on the other hand neither does she seem to have been a social climber.

There is a proper emphasis throughout the account on the Eora people who were displaced by the colonists, beginning with early friendly relations. But as the original inhabitants, and particularly the Gandagarra from the mountains enclosing the Sydney basin, begin to fight back, Elizabeth’s attitudes harden and she goes along with the retributive raids by government forces which culminate in the 1816 Appin massacre.

Right at the end Michelle allows herself a little whimsy:

Elizabeth was a real-life Elizabeth Bennet who married a Wickham instead of a Darcy – albeit a Wickham who loved her as much as he was able.

So no, not a Lydia.

As John became increasingly incapable of dealing with his illness, he demanded, in 1831, that Elizabeth leave him. In 1833 the family confined him to Camden Park and Elizabeth who had been living with other members of her extended family was able “to return to dear home” at Elizabeth Farm. John died in April 1834, and Elizabeth, without ever carrying out her oft expressed wish to return to Bridgerule, in February 1850.

 

Michelle Scott Tucker, Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World, Text, Melbourne, 2018

see also:
Author Interview, Michelle Scott Tucker (here)
Lisa at ANZLitLovers’ review (here)

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Vanity Fair, Thackeray

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William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) was born in India while his father was employed by the East India Company, was shipped back to England to start school on his father’s death in 1815, and during a short stopover at St Helena had the ex-Emperor Napoleon pointed out to him (wiki).

During his lifetime he was apparently second only to Charles Dickens (1812-1870) in the ranks of great Victorian novelists, though really only Vanity Fair (1847-48) of all his works has endured. He regarded Dickens as a ‘sentimentalist’ and himself as a ‘realist’ though in fact he made his reputation as a satirist, and his authorial interpolations in this novel hark back to novelists of the previous century like Fielding (here).

I have never studied this period, between Jane Austen (who died in 1817) and the early Australians who began writing novels in the 1850s and 60s (here), so was keen to begin filling in the gap, though I have still to write anything about Austen’s contemporary, Walter Scott who remained influential (with guy writers anyway) throughout the nineteenth century.

Vanity Fair, all 18 31 hours worth! playing on the truck speakers as I drive, is to some extent Historical Fiction, in that the events it describes take place three to four decades before it was written. And in fact it overlaps by a decade the last years of Jane Austen’s fiction. This provides considerable interest as both authors discuss the lives of the wealthy middle class, although from radically different angles. Austen from the point of view of the landed gentry interacting with upwardly mobile naval officers and merchants, Uncle Gardiner in particular; and Thackeray from the point of view of stockbrokers and entrepreneurs only one or two generations removed from the slums, whom he satirises for aspiring to gentility, and their sons in Wellington’s army or the East India Company.

In this novel without a hero the central character is Becky Sharp of whom I have often heard and never before met. We first see Becky on her last day at Miss Pinkerton’s where she had been a tutor and her late father before her, drawing master. She is going with her friend, final year pupil Amelia (Emmy) Sedley for a couple of week’s holiday before commencing as a governess with Sir Pitt Crawley.

I could take the next 800 words and still not give you a lucid summary of the plot, but here is a very brief overview. Becky’s mother had been a dancer and Becky had lived very rough indeed until accepted at Miss Pinkerton’s. She angles first for Emmy’s fat, well-off brother, Joseph, home from the East India Company, without success; goes to Queens Crawley where the dissolute Sir Pitt uses her as a secretary and his young daughters are ignored; looks for a while like she might become companion to Sir Pitt’s wealthy sister; is found to be secretly married to Rawdon, a captain in the guards and Sir Pitt’s younger son; the aunt disinherits Rawdon.

Meanwhile Emmy is promised to her childhood sweetheart George Osborne, a lieutenant in a line regiment and is secretly loved by William Dobbin, George’s friend, a captain in the same regiment and whose fathers look down on each other in their capacities as merchants and stockbrokers.

Emmy’s father is bankrupted; George is forbidden to marry her; but with the connivance of Becky and William does anyway; and is disinherited. They all go down to Brighton in Jos’s carriage. Napoleon escapes, war breaks out, and in May-June 1815, in the days before Waterloo, they make their various ways to Brussells. There’s lots and lots more, centred around Becky and Rawdon living on Becky’s wits and Rawdon’s card playing, living well on nothing per year as Thackeray puts it, and describes in some detail as many novelists don’t what misery this causes amongst the lower classes who provide the services and don’t get paid.

There must be a century and half of scholarship around Vanity Fair on which I have chosen not to draw, so these are just my own impressions. I see the ‘Fair’ of the title as reflecting not what we might think first – a field full of merry-go-rounds and amusements – but more a marketplace, as in a horse fair. Thackeray refers repeatedly to ‘Vanity Fair’ in the text as though it were conceptually at least a place, a place where the aspiring middle classes trade furiously for advantage, selling their sons, their daughters, their honour.

The final question I wish to consider is, Is Becky Sharp an early Independent Woman? She certainly has an independent spirit, was taught early by her parents how to deal with (the non-payment of) creditors; cheerfully as a young woman seeks employment – and refuses to do one scintilla more than that for which she has been contracted. She approaches the idea of marriage with the repulsive Jos Sedley calculatingly and without sentiment. It comes as a surprise then to find her married almost without explanation to Rawdon Crawley, though she deals with his predictable disinheritance with characteristic cheerfulness. Thackeray discusses the disadvantages of not having a mama to do her marriage-dealing for her, which reminds me of early Australian author Catherine Martin:

We sometimes forget that the freedom of choice in marriage which is permitted to women of the Anglo-Saxon race has the effect of making some of them regard the institution on cool business principles. It is an ‘arrangement’ made by themselves instead of by the mothers, as in France. [An Australian Girl (1890)]

Becky is cold-blooded in her self-promotion, and in her mothering, and Rawdon is happy to do what he is told. Thackeray makes it clear in his oft-declared imperfect understanding of women that he doesn’t like her particularly, especially in comparison to the milksop Emmy. He has Becky solicit and receive gifts from her husband’s superior officers, and if she doesn’t actually go to bed with them that is probably more reflective of the morals of Thackeray’s mid-Victorian period readers than of Becky’s own. If she were a Rosa Praed heroine she would have ditched Rawdon by the half-way mark and married into money and a title.

 

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair: Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society, first published in Punch over 19 monthly episodes, London, 1847-48. Audiobook: Brilliance Audio The Classic Collection, read by John Castle, 2008


Sun. With about three hours of the book left to go I am having an unexpected couple of days off. If I happen on any surprises between now and posting on Tues morning, I will let you know.

Mon night. The big surprise was to see that the novel takes not 18 but 31 hours. After a long day’s work I still have “three hours” to go, Dobbin has grey hair and still pines after Amelia, Jos has grown prosperous in India, and Becky and Rawdon … well for those of you, like me, who haven’t seen the TV series, that would involve spoilers.

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Yesterday (Sunday)I had to drop off granddaughter and friend at the movies (Black Panther) and came home via Crow Books. A couple of you, Lisa Hill and Kate W probably, have spoken of the cheering properties of book-buying, not that I need cheering, but I was positively elated to come across this near perfect 1958 hard back edition of The Pea Pickers for just TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS. More so as the boring Patrick White next to it, which I already own, was $55. As you can see I picked up a few others which were on my list (and a couple which weren’t).

 

Love and Freindship, Jane Austen

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Jane Austen (1775-1817) is everybody’s favourite novelist and certainly one of the most influential. As Walter Scott makes clear in his 1815 review of Emma which I posted last week (here), the publication of Austen’s novels from 1811 on marked a clear turning point in English Literature, through both her subject matter and the simplicity and clarity of her writing.

I have been reading Elizabeth Jenkins’ Jane Austen (1938) and wished to write on this occasion about Jane’s early years and in particular the reading that led her to taking the paths she did. Sue at Whispering Gums wrote a proper review of Love and Freindship (here) back in 2012 and if you want to know more you should read it, but I will give a brief overview now and then get down to Austen’s reading and writing until she was 35 (!), when her first book was finally published

Love and Freindship is meant to be a story in letters, and it is, sort of, but not in the way that Lady Susan is for instance, where we construct the story from an interchange of letters between a number of parties. Instead, a woman, Isabel, writes and asks her friend Laura to give Isabel’s daughter Marianne “a regular detail of the Misfortunes and Adventures of your life”. And so the story is told episodically, over a series of letters from Laura to Marianne.

The young Jane Austen’s purpose was to parody the cult of ‘Sensibility’, the idea, spread by Gothic novels, that young women should preference feeling over common sense. When you think about it, it is an idea which persisted throughout the nineteenth century – that women of breeding would swoon when confronted with shock, would fade away to a shadow for love lost, would go into hysterics and so on – and which Austen confronted in different ways in all her novels.

Of course Austen had two other purposes: to practice her writing which she did from a very young age, with the encouragement of her father; and to amuse her family who passed around the three bound, hand-written volumes of her final copies and had readings of her work, both by her and by others. By the time Jane was 19, these volumes of sketches and short stories, not including Lady Susan, totalled 74,000 words.

Briefly, a stranger comes to Laura’s parents’ house. The stranger, called variously Lindsay and Edward is a comely young man with whom Laura falls instantly in love, and her father “tho he had never taken orders” marries them.

One of the joys of the story is Austen playing pranks with geography as the protagonists dash from Wales through what seems like all the counties of England by a very roundabout route to London and finally, in a day!, to Scotland.

Edward first takes Laura to his aunt’s where he runs into his father whom he is constantly seeking new ways to defy; then to his friend Augustus with whose wife Sofia, Laura forms an instant bond. They throw their arms around each other, vow to be friends for ever, and share all their secrets.

From there it gets even more nonsensical as Augustus is arrested for unpaid debts and the other three do the only thing they can do, faint on the sofa. Edward sets out for London to find Augustus, the girls follow soon after though without success and end up as I said, in Scotland. There’s more to it than that but I’m sure you get the gist. A very clever young writer has taken all the tropes of Gothic fiction and made them ridiculous.

Jane Austen’s immediate family consisted of her parents, her older brothers James, George, Edward and Henry, her older sister Cassandra, another brother Francis and a younger brother Charles. George was intellectually impaired and was put into care; Edward at age 12 (when Jane was 5) was adopted by wealthy relatives, the Knights; Francis and Charles each went into the navy also at around 12 and both rose to be admirals.

Her wider family included her cousin Eliza Hancock, 14 years older, who married the French Comte de Feuillide in 1781. The Comte was executed in Paris in 1794, following the French Revolution. Eliza was a frequent visitor to the Austens, a regular correspondent, and provided a window for Jane into the rarefied world of high society. It is to Eliza that Love and Freindship is dedicated. Eliza and Jane became sisters in law when in 1797 Eliza married Jane’s brother Henry.

When Jane was 7, she and Cassandra went away to school, firstly with their cousin Jane Cooper to a Mrs Cawley (the relative of a relative) in Oxford, and then in Southampton, where they became ill (with diptheria?). Mrs Austen and her sister Mrs Cooper came down to rescue the girls and Mrs Cooper caught the infection and died. Nothing daunted, another school was found, the Abbey school at Reading which sounds very pleasant: “provided the girls appeared in the tutor’s study for a few hours each morning, they could spend the rest of the day gossiping in the turrets, lounging in the gardens …” They returned home after a year or so and “never left it”. The next seven years, until Jane was 16, formed her as a writer.

The Rev Austen, who had been up to Oxford on a fellowship, took in pupils to supplement his income. It is not known if Jane sat in on any of his classes, but she had the benefit of his and Mrs Austen’s encouragement and of his considerable library, as well as the circulating library for light reading. All the family read and enjoyed popular fiction, though it is probable, from a modern viewpoint, that they read ironically – or at least so they pretended to themselves. Also, Jane’s juvenilia is in places quite bawdy and it is possible that Eliza de Feuillide introduced her to “scandalous” works such as Laclos’ Les Liasons Dangereuses (1782). But Jane’s considerable natural talents as a writer were reinforced by her more serious reading.

Austen of course read Shakespeare and Milton, but Jenkins writes that modern English writing begins with, and Austen’s writing is built on, Dryden, Addison, Fielding, Sterne and Richardson – at this point it becomes obvious I should read my long ignored copy of Dale Spender’s Mothers of the Novel: 100 good women writers before Jane Austen (1986), but I haven’t and I will – I will round up here by researching and writing a little about each of these men.

John Dryden (1631-1700) Jenkins writes of “his clarity and raciness” and “his inimitable blend of vigour and elegance”. Dryden’s first works were a restrained tribute on the death of Cromwell and a much more enthusiastic panegyric for the Restoration, Astraea Redux. “In this work the interregnum is illustrated as a time of anarchy, and Charles is seen as the restorer of peace and order” (wiki). Not to my taste but maybe to Austen’s. Dryden wrote poetry, literary criticism and plays, but is remembered above all as a satirist.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) An essayist who, with Richard Steele, founded the Spectator,  a daily publication for people who “took literature seriously”, which ran from 1711-1712 and then thrice weekly in 1714. These issues were collected into eight volumes which were read widely well into the nineteenth century. Interestingly, one of the editors’ main objectives was to increase the number of women who were “of a more elevated life and conversation.”

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) was a playwright and political satirist so successful that that they passed a law against it (the Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737). He is best known now for The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), 346,747 words divided into 18 smaller books, and among the first prose works to be classified as a novel.

Laurence Sterne (1713–1768). An Irishman, an Anglican clergyman and the author of The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767). “As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram’s narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make explanatory diversions to add context and colour to his tale, to the extent that Tristram’s own birth is not even reached until Volume III.” (wiki). Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park is referencing Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768) when she says, “I cannot get out, as the starling said.”

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) who Jenkins says was Austen’s favourite, although now the least regarded, wrote three epistolary novels: Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753). Austen mentions Clarissa just the once, in Sanditon, but makes frequent references to Sir Charles Grandison. “The hold the story with its multitudinous figures took on Jane Austen’s imagination was extraordinary. Henry Austen said that she remembered and would speak of any date throughout the year on which any episode of the book was said to have taken place” (Jenkins).

I love that Clarissa is the story of a young woman fighting to preserve her independence as her family attempts to force her into marriage to secure their own prestige, and she is kidnapped and kept in a brothel. But as it is longer even than Tom Jones I probably won’t ever read it. Clarissa, Tristram Shandy and Sir Charles Grandison were apparently written at least partly each in response to its predecessor.

It is also notable from this brief round-up that the late eighteenth century fiction which Austen grew up on had nothing like the moralism of Victorian England 50 or 100 years later.

I have not got as far as I thought I might, and now will postpone to another occasion consideration of Fanny Burney whose Evelina was published in 1778, and of the writing of Austen’s first attempts at longer works, Lady Susan, First Impressions and Elinor and Marianne. Austen’s contemporary, Walter Scott, I will also get to ‘one day’.

 

Jane Austen, Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings, Penguin Classics, London, 2014

Elizabeth Jenkins, Jane Austen, first pub. Gollancz, 1938. This edition Cardinal, London, 1973

Previous Jane Austen posts –
Three Novels, Jane Austen here
Jane Austen: Independent Woman here
Jane’s Fame, Claire Harman here
Sue at Whispering Gums here

Three Novels, Jane Austen

Sue of Whispering Gums, our resident expert on all things JA, recently commented she was insufficiently brave to write a review of Pride and Prejudice. And if she couldn’t then how could I? But luckily my guest reviewer has proved equal to the task, though a little carried away with the ‘state of the novel’. I have cut down what he wrote, but there is a link at the end if you wish to read his piece in full. Thankyou W. Scott.

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(c) BBC. 1995. Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle

The novel in 1815

There are some vices in civilized society so common that they are hardly acknowledged as stains upon the moral character, the propensity to which is nevertheless carefully concealed, even by those who most frequently give way to them; since no man of pleasure would willingly assume the gross epithet of a debauchee or a drunkard. One would almost think that novel-reading fell under this class of frailties, since among the crowds who read little else, it is not common to find an individual of hardihood sufficient to avow his taste for these frivolous studies. A novel, therefore, is frequently “bread eaten in secret”…

The judicious reader will see at once that we have been pleading our own cause while stating the universal practice, and preparing him for a display of more general acquaintance with this fascinating department of literature, than at first sight may seem consistent with the graver studies to which we are compelled by duty: but in truth, when we consider how many hours of languor and anxiety, of deserted age and solitary celibacy, of pain even and poverty, are beguiled by the perusal of these light volumes, we cannot austerely condemn the source from which is drawn the alleviation of such a portion of human misery, or consider the regulation of this department as beneath the sober consideration of the critic.

If such apologies may be admitted in judging the labours of ordinary novelists, it becomes doubly the duty of the critic to treat with kindness as well as candour works which, like this before us, proclaim a knowledge of the human heart, with the power and resolution to bring that knowledge to the service of honour and virtue.

The author [of Emma] is already known to the public by the two novels announced in her title-page, and both, the last especially, attracted, with justice, an attention from the public far superior to what is granted to the ephemeral productions which supply the regular demand of watering-places and circulating libraries. They belong to a class of fictions which has arisen almost in our own times, and which draws the characters and incidents introduced more immediately from the current of ordinary life than was permitted by the former rules of the novel.

In its first appearance, the novel was the legitimate child of the romance; and
though the manners and general turn of the composition were altered so as to suit modern times, the author remained fettered by many peculiarities derived from the original style of romantic fiction. [However] social life, in our civilized days, affords few instances capable of being painted in the strong dark colours which excite surprise and horror; and robbers, smugglers, bailiffs, caverns, dungeons, and mad-houses, have been all introduced until they ceased to interest. And thus in the novel, as in every style of composition which appeals to the public taste, the more rich and easily worked mines being exhausted, the adventurous author must, if he is desirous of success, have recourse to those which were disdained by his predecessors as unproductive, or avoided as only capable of being turned to profit by great skill and labour.

Accordingly a style of novel has arisen, within the last fifteen or twenty years, differing from the former in the points upon which the interest hinges; neither alarming our credulity nor amusing our imagination by wild variety of incident, or by those pictures of romantic affection and sensibility, which were formerly as certain attributes of fictitious characters as they are of rare occurrence among
those who actually live and die. The substitute for these excitements, which had lost much of their poignancy by the repeated and injudicious use of them, was the art of copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him.

But the author of Emma confines herself chiefly to the middling classes of society; her most distinguished characters do not rise greatly above well-bred country
gentlemen and ladies; and those which are sketched with most originality
and precision, belong to a class rather below that standard. The narrative of all her novels is composed of such common occurrences as may have fallen under the observation of most folks; and her dramatis personae conduct themselves upon the motives and principles which the readers may recognize as ruling their own and that of most of their acquaintances.

The kind of moral, also, which these novels inculcate, applies equally to the paths of common life, as will best appear from a short notice of the author’s former works, with a more full abstract of that which we at present have under consideration.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility, the first of these compositions, contains the history of two sisters. The elder, a young lady of prudence and regulated feelings, becomes gradually attached to a man of an excellent heart and limited talents, who happens unfortunately to be fettered by a rash and ill-assorted engagement. In the younger sister, the influence of sensibility and imagination predominates; and she, as was to be expected, also falls in love, but with more unbridled and wilful passion. Her lover, gifted with all the qualities of exterior polish and vivacity, proves faithless, and marries a woman of large fortune. The interest and merit of the piece depend altogether upon the behaviour of the elder sister, while obliged at once to sustain her own disappointment with fortitude, and to support her sister, who abandons
herself, with unsuppressed feelings, to the indulgence of grief. The marriage of the unworthy rival at length relieves her own lover from his imprudent engagement, while her sister, turned wise by precept, example, and experience, transfers her affection to a very respectable and somewhat too serious admirer, who had nourished an unsuccessful passion through the three volumes.

Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice the author presents us with a family of young women, bred up under a foolish and vulgar mother, and a father whose good abilities lay hid under such a load of indolence and insensibility, that he had become contented to make the foibles and follies of his wife and daughters the subject of dry and humorous sarcasm, rather than of admonition, or restraint.

This is one of the portraits from ordinary life which shews our author’s talents in a very strong point of view. A friend of ours, whom the author never saw or heard of, was at once recognized by his own family as the original of Mr. Bennet, and we do
not know if he has yet got rid of the nickname. A Mr. Collins, too, a formal, conceited, yet servile young sprig of divinity, is drawn with the same force and precision.

The story of the piece consists chiefly in the fates of the second sister, to whom a man of high birth, large fortune, but haughty and reserved manners, becomes attached, in spite of the discredit thrown upon the object of his affection by the vulgarity and ill-conduct of her relations. The lady, on the contrary, hurt at the contempt of her connections, which the lover does not even attempt to suppress, and prejudiced against him on other accounts, refuses the hand which he ungraciously offers, and does not perceive that she has done a foolish thing until she accidentally visits a very handsome seat and grounds belonging to her admirer. They chance to meet exactly as her prudence had begun to subdue her prejudice; and after some essential services rendered to her family, the lover becomes encouraged to renew his addresses, and the novel ends happily.

Emma

Emma has even less story than either of the preceding novels. Miss Emma Woodhouse, from whom the book takes its name, is the daughter of a gentleman of wealth and consequence residing at his seat in the immediate vicinage of a country village called Highbury. The father, a good-natured, silly valetudinary, abandons the management of his household to Emma, he himself being only occupied by his summer and winter walk, his apothecary, his gruel, and his whist table. The latter
is supplied from the neighbouring village of Highbury with precisely the sort of persons who occupy the vacant corners of a regular whist table, when a village is in the neighbourhood, and better cannot be found within the family.

[Scott proceeds to enumerate all the principal inhabitants of the village and to give us a detailed, and unneccessary, synopsis of the plot].

The author’s knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting. The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they are finished up to nature, and with a precision which delights the reader…

The [merits of the author] consists much in the force of a narrative conducted with much neatness and point, and a quiet yet comic dialogue, in which the characters of the speakers evolve themselves with dramatic effect. The faults, on the contrary, arise from the minute detail which the author’s plan comprehends. Characters of
folly or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are ridiculous when first presented, but if too often brought forward or too long dwelt upon, their prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction as in real society. Upon the whole, the turn of this author’s novels bears the same relation to that of the sentimental and romantic cast, that cornfields and cottages and meadows bear to the highly adorned grounds of a show mansion, or the rugged sublimities of a mountain landscape. It is neither so captivating as the one, nor so grand as the other, but it affords to those who frequent it a pleasure nearly allied with the experience of their own social habits; and what is of some importance, the youthful wanderer may return from his promenade to the ordinary business of life, without any chance of having his head turned by the recollection of the scene through which he has been wandering…

SIR WALTER SCOTT ON JANE AUSTEN

[From. The Quarterly Review, October, 1815]

Emma; a Novel. By the Author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and
Prejudice
, etc. 3 vols. 12mo. London. 1815


Scott was by 1815 a famous poet but he, like Austen, published his novels anonymously. Waverley (1814) was his first, but apparently his authorship was known to Austen, as she wrote:

Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…

[ Letter 108, 28 September 1814, to Anna Austen (Le Faye)]


My source for the review above was the blog Onlyanovel (here).

[Blogger’s note: This review was extracted in full from the book Famous Reviews, selected and edited by R. Brimley Johnson (London, 1914). An eBook copy of Famous Reviews can be obtained from Project Gutenberg. A free pdf copy is also available from Google Books.]

 

Wardandi Massacre

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John Molloy

The Wardandi are the language group within the Noongars whose home territory in south western Western Australia encompasses the coastal land from Bunbury south to Cape Leeuwin (map). The region was most famously settled (ie. commandeered) by the Bussell family, in 1839, but among the original white settlers were John Molloy and his now well-known wife Georgiana.

Jessica White, who is writing an ecobiography of Georgiana Molloy (here), wrote in her end of year (2017) mailout:

I had an essay published in the Journal for the Association of the Study of Australian Literature on my research on John Molloy’s role in a massacre in 1841. This involved painstakingly piecing together accounts in the archives and newspapers, and attending to the language that was used.

and it is this essay and her account of the massacre and its subsequent denial that I wish to review.

The events leading to the massacre(s) began on 22 Feb, 1841. Some Noongars were employed in threshing wheat on the farm of Molloy’s neighbour George Layman, and some Noongar women were employed in the house. A dispute arose over payment (in damper) and Noongar man Gayware approached Layman. Layman grabbed Gayware by the beard and shook him, Gayware speared him and Layman struggled inside and died.

Molloy, as local magistrate, raised a party of settlers and workers (one account says ‘soldiers’), pursued and surrounded the Noongars, killing seven, and then subsequently pursued a larger body of Noongar north towards Bunbury where many more were killed around ‘Lake Mininup’. (Wonnerup, Layman’s property, is a few kilometres north of present-day Busselton and Minninup another 15 km or so up the coast.)

White has put together her account from newspapers, diaries, official records and Noongar oral histories. She writes:

As I pieced together these documents and attended to their language, I realised that the massacre had been depicted in such a way as to obfuscate John Molloy’s role. I also came to understand that this role had been covered, uncovered and contested over the ensuing years.

The earliest contemporary ‘account’ is the diary of Frances Bussell which records on the evening of 27 Feb, “Captain Molloy drank tea here. 7 natives killed.” Any further information is lost as the pages from 5 to 25 Feb have been torn out.

A newspaper account, in the Inquirer of 10 Mar 1841 (here), of the initial reprisals following the death of Layman states that “five or six natives were shot to death. Unfortunately the actual murderer was not amongst the killed.” And interestingly, “It is certainly to be regretted that any native, not being the actual murderer, should have been slain in the encounter; but supposing all that we hear to be correct, the result is at least excusable if even not justifiable.” This account follows Molloy’s official report that he acted after hearing threats against himself by Gayware while he was observing a Noongar campfire from a position of hiding.

The most graphic account of the second part of the massacre is in Warren Bert Kimberley’s History of Western Australia (1897):

Colonel (sic) Molloy ordered his soldiers to prepare to march, and he took command of them and the chief settlers in the south-western districts. He gave special instructions that no woman or child should be killed, but that no mercy should be offered the men. A strong and final lesson must be taught to the blacks. All were well armed. Into the remote places this party went, bent on killing without mercy…  Isolated natives were killed during the first few days, and, so it is said, some women among them, but the main body had hidden from the terrible white men. A few parties fled from the threatened districts to the southern coast, and escaped. The majority hid in the thick bush around Lake Mininup. Although several natives were killed, the settlers and soldiers were not satisfied… Here and there a native was killed, and the others seeing that their hiding place was discovered fled before the determined force. They rushed to a sand patch beyond Lake Mininup…  The soldiers pushed on, and surrounded the black men on the sand patch. There was now no escape for the fugitives, and their vacuous cries of terror mingled with the reports of the white men’s guns. Native after native was shot, and the survivors, knowing that orders had been given not to shoot the women, crouched on their knees, covered their bodies with their bokas, and cried, ‘Me yokah’ (woman). The white men had no mercy. The black men were killed by dozens, and their corpses lined the route of march of the avengers.

James Battye (after whom our principal library is named) in Western Australia: A History (1924) attempts to excuse all the bones at Lake Mininup:

In 1841 there occurred an incident which, if true, can only be described as an act of atrocious cruelty and savagery on the part of some of the settlers in the south west … An avenging party under Captain Molloy set out and, it is said, ultimately succeeded in surrounding the whole body of natives on an open sand patch …

No records of the encounter exist, and it is more than likely that it has been built up to account for the collection of bones, which in all probability represents an aboriginal burial-ground…

White’s is an excellent account of how Molloy in particular but officialdom in general used weasel words and indirect language to obscure what even the newspapers called “not justifiable” killings. Let us leave the last word to an oral history collected by Whadjuk/Barladong scholar Len Collard in A Nyungar Interpretation of Ellensbrook and Wonnerup Homesteads (1994):

“The first mob was caught, was just the other side of the Capel River (Mollakup). When I was a little boy we found some skulls up there. One of them had a bullet in it, it had gone through the forehead and just sticking out the back. There was quite a few with holes knocked in them in the skulls and the next mob they caught was at Muddy Lake (Mininup) that’s this side of Bunbury and then they chased the other right through Australind somewhere around Australind area they caught up they killed some more there and the rest got away.”

Molloy of course was never brought to account for the murders that occurred under his command, and over time his role was ‘forgotten’, not least by Georgiana Molloy’s biographers. Happy Black Armband Day.

 

Jessica White, ‘Paper Talk’, Testimony and Forgetting in South-West Western Australia, Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 2017/1 here

see also my posts on The Cocanarup Massacre (here) and the ‘Battle’ of Pinjarra (here)

I’m not sure this massacre has an ‘official name, though it appears in at least some (recent) accounts as Wonnerup Massacre. Googling “Wardandi Massacre” brings up a lot of information on this and other massacres.

Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill, Tasma

Australian Women Writers Gen 1 Week 15-21 Jan. 2018

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Sue of Whispering Gums has been blogging since 2009 and is now followed by probably everyone who reads and thinks about Australian books. Tasma’s Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill is an Austen-esque portrait of post-Gold Rush Melbourne society and I’m glad Sue chose it to review.


5196458931233f4484f27c9c6eed10e1.jpg  Whispering Gums

The first thing to say about Tasma’s debut novel Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill is that it’s rather wordy, speaking to a literacy different from that of today’s readers. For this reason, Uncle Piper won’t appeal to readers who like short simple sentences, and a plot which moves along at a good clip with little reflection or commentary. Consider yourself warned, but know also that, according contemporary reports, this novel made Tasma famous in a week.

So, if you enjoy immersing yourself in the writing of different times, and are interested in late 19th century Australia, Uncle Piper has plenty to offer, starting with well-drawn characters who, in modern clothes, would be as real today as they were in 1888.

Take father, the Uncle Piper of the title, and his son George, for example. Uncle Piper is a self-made man. In his case this involved emigrating from England, where he was poor and with few prospects, to Australia where, starting as a lowly butcher, he worked hard to establish himself as the wealthy, successful businessman he is at the novel’s opening. Now, what often happens when parents struggle to establish themselves and create opportunities for their children that they never had? Why, those children take their easy, comfortable lives for granted. That’s what! Not a new story, is it?

Original post here. Thanks Sue!

 

see also: Delicious Descriptions, Tasma’s Country Town, Whispering Gums here

Force and Fraud, Ellen Davitt

 Australian Women Writers Gen 1 Week 15-21 Jan. 2018

That’s a wrap for AWW Gen 1 week. By readership, participation and above all by the number and quality of the reviews and essays that were written especially, at reasonably short notice, it has been a tremendous success. Thank you to everyone who took part. There is a list at the end of this post of everyone who appeared here, or let me know that they had written a review. Keep letting me know and I will keep adding to the AWW Gen 1 page.


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Grattan Street Press Edition

Force and Fraud was the lead serial in the first issue of the Australian Journal: a Weekly Record of Literature, Science and the Arts (2 Sept. 1865). Ellen Davitt must have been a staff writer as over the course of the year she contributed three more stories, though apparently of lesser quality. The Australian Journal was presumably a Melbourne paper, a weekly, with the story serialised at the rate of about 6,000 words or 20 (book) pages per issue, over 12 issues. She must have been busy!

The (paper) edition I read was published in 2017 by Grattan Street Press (an arm of Melbourne Uni) with an Introduction by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver. It was first brought out in book form in 1993, by Mulini Press edited and introduced by Lucy Sussex who also wrote the Introduction to the Clan Destine Press -e-book edition. I was put on to Force and Fraud by Lisa of ANZLitLovers when she wrote about Grattan Street Press in November (here).

Ellen Davitt might have been born in Hull, Yorks, in 1812, in which case she married Arthur Davitt at age 33. However Arthur’s ADB entry says he married Marie Antoinette Hélène Léontine (Ellen) Heseltine, b. 1820, of Dublin. He had been a scholar in Ireland and France and then an Inspector of schools in Dublin. Ellen taught drawing. In 1853 they migrated to Australia to take up the positions of Principal and Superintendent for the new Model and Normal School in East Melbourne, which implies that Ellen was educated. As would the fact that the novelist Anthony Trollope was married to her younger sister, Rose (who was Irish, so I think Dr Sussex and Prof.s Gelder and Weaver are mistaken about Hull).

After a few years the school failed. Ellen made an attempt to start a girls school in Carlton which also failed. Arthur died of TB, and Ellen for some years from 1861, made her living as a public speaker throughout Victoria with lectures on such wide-ranging topics as: The Rise and Progress of the Fine Arts in Spain; The Influence of Art; Colonisation v. Convictism; and The Vixens of Shakespeare. Dr Sussex says that Ellen Davitt was “positioning herself as what we would now term ‘a public intellectual’ an extraordinary undertaking at the time – given her gender, the contemporary bias against women orators, and the frontier society of colonial Australia.”

Which brings us up to 1865 and the writing of Force and Fraud, “Australia’s first murder mystery”.

In the years after her stint at the Australian Journal, Davitt taught for a while at Kangaroo Flat near Bendigo (a gold mining city 130 km north of Melbourne) before retiring to live in poverty in working class Fitzroy, Melbourne where she died of cancer in 1879.

The settings for the novel are the property of irascible Scotsman McAlpin; the unnamed neighbouring village which is about 10 miles away and in particular the Southern Cross Hotel run by the Roberts; and Mrs Garlick’s boarding house on the western side of the city of Melbourne (ie. near Spencer Street). McAlpin’s property is about a day by coach from the nearest railhead and then some hours to Melbourne. In 1865 the possible railheads would have been one of Geelong (completed 1859), Ballarat (1862, via Geelong) and Bendigo (1862). Davitt had made speaking tours to these cities and beyond and describes the country of McAlpin’s property as open plains and dry, heavy bush (forest) so maybe she was thinking of somewhere like Ararat, west of Ballarat (map), especially as travellers often push on to South Australia.

At the centre of the story is Flora McAlpin who turns 21 and so inherits her mother’s fortune and independence in the first few pages. Flora is engaged to Herbert Lindsey, a young well-born Australian artist who has blown his own inheritance on a grand tour of Europe and now makes a precarious living in Australia as a portrait painter. Flora’s mother, who supported the engagement, has died and Flora’s father is violently opposed.

Lindsey, who has been away, has an assignation with Flora and shortly after, McAlpin is found in the bush, murdered, his throat cut. Back at the Southern Cross Lindsey is seen to have blood on his clothes, not to mention an obvious motive, and is arrested. His best friend, Pierce Silverton, who has been McAlpin’s agent (does his buying and selling) is also in love with Flora and it turns out that McAlpin’s will leaves him a great deal, especially if he marries Flora.

Flora is distraught for some time on hearing of her father’s death, but on news of Lindsey’s arrest she becomes resolute, instructs a legal team for his defense and makes her way to Melbourne, to Mrs Garlick’s, to do all she can to have him released. There is much byplay at Mrs Garlick’s as her unlovely daughters do their best to secure Silverton.

It has been said that frankness is a quality never seen in the vulgar, and vulgar the Misses Garlick were, not on account of red faces or extreme coarseness, but as being stamped with that type of the half-educated – affectation.

Ellen Davitt is an acute observer, and a forceful writer, and she has created in Flora McAlpin a fiercely independent heroine. There is no detective-hero as we might now expect, but rather the locals pitch in to gather clues, while the constables stand back to see what eventuates, and Flora’s friends bring what they discover to her or her lawyer, Argueville (yes, many of the names are expressive). As Dr Sussex writes:

that narrative mode [detective as hero] had not gained genre dominance. An alternative model equally existed, splitting the role of detective among various characters: it can be seen in works such as Wilkie Collins’ 1860 The Woman in White, and even as late as Fergus Hume’s 1886 The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the best selling detective novel of the 1800s.

The heart of the story however is Flora and Lindsey’s betrothal and the many ups and downs that takes as Flora alternately proffers and withdraws her hand; not to mention Silverton’s pursuit of Flora in Lindsey’s absence and Bessie Garlick’s pursuit of Silverton. At one stage Silverton faints and Davitt, who really does have a sharp tongue after years as a school marm, writes: “Bessie Garlick, who hoped to take care of him for life, ran screaming about, as if to convince people how unfit she was for such a duty.”

It is only as we make our way through all this, and almost in the background, that pieces of the murder puzzle fall into place until we reach a classic denoument.

Davitt, despite not being born here, is full of praise for the country – “the sweet Australian spring!” and “those rich Australian plains” – though less so for the dusty streets of the less salubrious end of the city; and has written a lively murder mystery (which I guessed wrong) and a perceptive account of small town life.

 

Ellen Davitt, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush, Grattan Street Press, Melbourne, 2017, Introduction by Ken Gelder & Rachael Weaver. Originally published as a serial in Australian Journal, 1865. First pub. in book form 1993. E-book pub. Clan Destine Press, Introduction by Dr Lucy Sussex. here


Posts/Reviews for Australian Women Writers Gen 1 Week

Australia’s First Women Writers, Michelle Scott Tucker

Ada Cambridge, Sisters, Brona’s Books

Ada Cambridge, The Three Miss Kings, Books Around the Corner

Ada Cambridge, A Marked Man, Narelle Ontivero

Annabella Boswell, Annabella Boswell’s Journal, wadh

Catherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will, ANZLitLovers

Ellen Davitt, Force and Fraud, wadh

Georgiana McCrae, Georgiana’s Journal, The Resident Judge of Port Phillip

Rosa Praed, Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land, wadh

Tasma (aka Jessie Couvreur), Whispering Gums

Margaret Seymour in Australia’s First Century, ANZLitLovers

Mary Gaunt in Australia’s First Century, ANZLitLovers

Georgiana Molloy: Collector of Seeds and Words, Jessica White

Tasma, Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill, Whispering Gums