The Three Miss Kings, Ada Cambridge

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Ada Cambridge (1844-1926) was English-born and came out to Australia as the young wife of a Church of England vicar, George Cross, who went on to serve in a number of parishes around Victoria. She took up writing she says to supplement the family income, and her serials in the newspapers under the initials ‘AC’ soon proved popular. “Overall she wrote more than twenty-five works of fiction, three volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works” (Wiki). In the “hastily suppressed” volume of poetry, Unspoken Thoughts (1887) she apparently expresses “religious anxieties, thoughts on the limitations of sexual love and concern for the under-privileged” (ADB).

As you can see by the cover above, The Three Miss Kings (1883) has been republished by Virago, but the version I read was on my kindle, courtesy of the AWW Challenge, Books by Australian Women page (here) and Project Guthenberg (here) – where I see her autobiography, Thirty Years in Australia is also among the titles available.

The three Miss Kings (shouldn’t that be the three Misses King?) of the title, Elizabeth, Patty and Eleanor, are sisters, young women in their twenties, orphaned following the early death of their mother and the recent death of their father. They live outside a town on the Victorian west coast, a town unnamed but which has both a steamer service and access to a rail service to Melbourne. The Rev Cross’ list of appointments does not include such a town and I’m guessing it is a composite of Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Port Campbell. At one point the action includes a visit to a ‘limestone’ cave. Port Fairy and Warrnambool in particular are in volcano/basalt country but geology daughter assures me that even there it might be possible to find sandstone caves, though not limestone, which takes longer to form.

Although the girls were brought up in relatively impoverished circumstances, their parents, and especially their mother, had been well educated and the girls were home schooled with special attention to their music.

The parents of the three girls had been a mysterious couple, about whose circumstances and antecedents people knew just as much as they liked to conjecture, and no more…. But the greatest mystery in connection with Mr King was Mrs King. He was obviously a gentleman, in the conventional sense of the word, but she was, in every sense, the most beautiful and accomplished lady that ever was seen …

On the death of their father the Misses King decide to sell up, realising a few hundred pounds, and move to Melbourne. This coincides with the opening of the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton in 1880, which forms the background for much of the remainder of the novel.

Assisted by their local solicitor’s son, Paul, they take rooms in a quiet street in East Melbourne from whence they can walk through the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens into the city. They are slowly introduced into society, aided by their poise, their beauty (though Cambridge is at pains to tell us that Elizabeth is classicly-built) and by Patty’s excellent piano playing.

Each finds a man, and is eventually married; it is the setbacks and hurdles to be negotiated which of course are what makes a love story. Elizabeth and Patty are serious young women and concerned to find a man whom they respect sufficiently to accept being dominated by. This is something they discuss, and Patty specifically rejects any claims to independence. Eleanor is a bit empty-headed and is pursued by a young man who is likewise, but sufficiently well-off for her to finally accept him.

The mystery of their parents’ origins and their exile in Australia is explained satisfactorily, though it initially complicates Elizabeth’s plans for marriage. But the biggest hurdle for Elizabeth to overcome is that her lover (in the old sense!) is a pantheist, while she is devoutly orthodox C of E. Cambridge’s discussions, and Elizabeth’s eventual acceptance, of this, allow Cambridge to air concerns she must have had herself. Amusingly, in light of Gaskell’s beliefs in the previous review, Elizabeth on first being told cries, “Oh no, you’re not a Dissenter!”

Elizabeth ends up “rich beyond the dreams of avarice in all that to such a woman is precious and desirable”, her husband-to-be an Englishman using his wealth to provide opportunities for the very poor. Interestingly Cambridge thinks that the wealth should both be enjoyed – there is a magnificent family seat in the country whose parks are eventually, but not immediately, turned into fields – and disbursed wisely. For instance, she discusses the problem of building homes for the very poor where, if the homes were attractive enough, the intended beneficiaries would be forced out by workers a class above them.

Cambridge is not the writer that her fellow chronicler of  C19th Melbourne, Tasma, is. That is, she is not as ‘literary’. But her writing is straightforward, the story itself is enjoyable – I of course love her descriptions of Melbourne, and of the Melbourne International Exhibition – and as with Gaskell, she is concerned to describe the process of finding a husband in both moral and religious terms. And that is something I find surprisingly acceptable, in the nineteenth century at least.

 

Ada Cambridge, The Three Miss Kings, first published 1883

see also:

Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis (review here)
My post, Early Australian Women Writers (1) (here)

Cousin Phillis, Elizabeth Gaskell

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Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was the author of 15 novels, novellas, and story collections, the best known of which were probably North and South (1855) – which I think of rightly or wrongly as Jane Austen with steam engines (Gaskell did cite JA as an influence) – and The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857). Her novel Ruth (1853), the story of an unmarried mother bringing up a son, I have mentioned a number of times, and I and/or Lisa (ANZLL) who is reading it now, will “shortly” produce a review.

Gaskell was brought up Unitarian, by her aunt in Cheshire following the death of her mother, and married a Unitarian minister. Dissenting religion and the plight of the poor, as well as strong women characters, are all important themes in her work.

I came across the novella Cousin Phillis (1864) recently, in a Madrid book stall (I can’t imagine I’ll ever be able to say that again) and coincidentally, read it in conjunction with Ada Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings (1883) which I have with me on kindle. The two have similar themes – innocent and religious young women falling in love – and I plan to compare them in adjacent reviews.

For Cousin Phillis, Gaskell assumes the voice of a young man, Paul Manning, not very successfully IMO, and the story consists entirely of his observations of his (second) cousin Phillis falling in love, and of his own unfortunate interferences.

Manning is from Birmingham where his father is a tradesman and an inventor. His father’s industry and success enable him to raise Paul up one level in class, as apprentice to the relatively young Holdsworth, the experienced engineer/manager of a crew putting in a new railway line in the south of England. In one of his weekly letters home Paul mentions that he is working near a town that his mother recognises as the home of her cousin who is married to a farmer who at the weekends is an Independent clergyman. Paul, who has been diligent in his attendance at Chapel is not keen on having to waste his limited free time on another clergyman, but does as his mother bids and goes out to meet his new relations, the Holmans.

The beautiful and demure Phillis, a couple of years younger than Paul, is their only child. Paul finds that he is both welcome, and enjoys being on the farm, and slowly he and Phillis become friends. Holdsworth is introduced to the farm when he becomes ill and needs somewhere to recuperate.

Long rows of peas stretched at right angles from the main walk, and I saw Phillis stooping down among them, before she saw us. As soon as she heard our cranching steps on the gravel, she stood up, and shading her eyes from the sun, recognized us. She was quite still for a moment, and then came slowly towards us, flushing a little from evident shyness. I had never seen Phillis shy before.

Spoiler alert. Phillis, an innocent, reacts to Holdsworth’s attentions by falling in love, but before anything can happen, or even be said between them, he is offered, accepts, and leaves immediately to take up employment in Canada, telling Paul that he will be back in two years to offer for Phillis. Phillis falls into a decline, Paul revives her by telling her what Holdsworth has said, but before the two years are up a letter arrives from Holdsworth telling of his marriage to a Canadian girl, Phillis collapses and Paul must admit to her father the part he has played.

Phillis collapses with brain fever and is unconscious or in a delirium for weeks – is that even a thing now, or were brain fevers, and for that matter hysteria, purely C19th illnesses.

Religion is present throughout this story without being intrusive, so that Phillis is just as moral as any other middle class young woman of her time. Though, while it looks like Phillis will die, Holman’s fellow dissenting preachers, ride out to argue with him to resume his ministry: “First, God has given you the opportunity of showing forth an example of resignation”; and “Secondly, we would have you listen to the voice of the rod, and ask yourself for what sins this trial has been laid upon you”. Holman, no doubt reflecting Gaskell’s own views about these strict interpretations of the situation, refuses both to give up his bedside vigil, and to accept that his daughter’s illness might be punishment for his pursuing his parallel vocation as a farmer.

In Ada Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings, as we will see, Cambridge, who was married to a Church of England minister, has similar concerns about the strict application of Church dogma, while insisting as does Gaskell, that young women should act both morally and circumspectly.

 

Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis, first pub. 1864, this ed. Penguin, 1995

Jane Austen: Independent Woman

Jane Austen (1775-1817) English novelist remembered for her six great novels Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey. Engraving.

In my dissertation (here) I wrote: “And it is in the choosing of husbands, rather than of careers, that the Independent Woman is initially manifested, most famously of course, in literature, in Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet.”

The last time I ‘studied’ Jane Austen (1775-1817) was in high school, and although I have read all her books and seen all the movies, most recently the Lady Susan story misleadingly titled Love & Friendship, I would not pretend to be able to add to the considerable scholarship which surrounds her. However, the recent post on Northanger Abbey (here) by devoted Austenite Sue at Whispering Gums, and the comments ensuing, has prompted me to discuss those ways in which Austen is (and isn’t) a precursor for the Independent Woman paradigm.

Firstly, Jane was herself independent. After a failed engagement, and likewise for her older sister Cassandra, she and Cassandra were apparently happy to remove themselves from the marriage market and to live in a household consisting of just themselves, their mother and while he was alive, their father. Unlike Miles Franklin, however, or many other early Australian women writers, this is not a solution which Austen advocates for others.

Austen heroines start out ‘independent’ but strangely seem to get less and less so as their author gets older. Austen began writing ‘seriously’ in her early teens, circulating stories within a small circle of family and friends. Her first complete work, Lady Susan is an epistolary novella written around 1794. The eponymous Lady Susan is “the most accomplished coquette in England”, shuffling lovers and potential husbands to maximise the benefits to herself. Lady Susan remained unpublished for eighty years, till 1871. One can imagine it was written to amuse and scandalize her family, and to hone her skills, rather than for public consumption.

Pride and Prejudice, which as First Impressions was the first of her novels to be offered to a publisher, in 1796, abounds with ‘independent women’. This and Elinor and Marianne (Sense and Sensibility), written about the same time, reflect directly on the author’s life – particularly Jane’s relationship with the presumably more serious Cassandra, and the financial insecurity of the women in the event of the death of Mr Austen.

Elizabeth, in P&P, steers herself by the moral compass, and calmness, of her older sister, Jane. Marianne, in S&S, may be a little rasher but she too is ‘brought to harbour’, so to speak, by Elinor’s steadiness. Then, in P&P we have Lady Catherine de Bourgh, not likeable! but certainly independent, and Lydia, though she is not so much independent as wilful, but all provide examples of how and how not to act. Interestingly, the men – except for Uncle Gardiner – are all weak. Mr Bennet provides no direction for his wife and daughters, Mr Collins is ridiculous, Bingley is easily led, Darcy is too proud, Wickham is a cad.

In S&S, in Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, Austen introduces men who are both upright and willing to provide direction to the weaker sex; and I think these men, the earnest young clergyman and the upright, withdrawn, slightly older man of property, appear, one or the other or both, in all her subsequent novels.

From this point on, in Austen’s writing, it is difficult to make a case for the ‘independent woman’. The next-written novel, Susan, not published till many years later as Northanger Abbey, is famously a spoof on ‘Gothic’ melodrama. In it, for the first time, the heroine, Catherine, is shown as needing and accepting direction from a man, Henry Tilney, a young clergyman, though mainly it must be said, on the hazards of depending too much on the tropes of gothic fiction.

Austen’s subsequent novels were Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. In Mansfield Park the one ‘independent’ woman, Mrs Norris is shown throughout in a bad light, acting only  in the interests, as she sees it, of Sir Thomas Bertram. Fanny, the heroine, young and insecure, is entirely dependent on the advice and support of her cousin Edmund Bertram (a clergyman in training).

Emma is certainly independent, but gets set down a number of times by Mr Knightley, for her thoughtlessness, and Austen’s sympathies seem to be with Mr Knightley rather than Emma. When Emma insults Miss Bates (implies she talks too much) at the picnic on Box Hill, Mr Knightley waits till they are on their own then tells Emma:

Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do; a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation? Emma, I had not thought it possible.

Catherine, Fanny and Emma all accept direction about their behaviour from men whom they subsequently choose to marry. Independence within marriage, let alone without it, would seem to be a way off.

Persuasion is not so good for my case, as Anne, the heroine, is older (than her fellows in the earlier novels) and less inclined to immature behaviour, harking back maybe to Elizabeth Bennet, though she (Anne) is not so, what is a good word?, forward maybe.

This is a brief summary of my case, and if nothing else, points up the need for closer reading, which I should one day undertake.

 

see also:
Claire Harman, Jane’s Fame, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2009 (my review)
Whispering Gums’ JA posts here


On Tuesday when my next post is due, I will be in the air, and for the next month, until Anzac day, will be travelling. I will stick to two posts a week, Tuesday and Friday, if I can but no promises. Check out my facebook account from time to time (see the ‘f’ in the sidebar) for photos.

A Sydney Sovereign, Tasma

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‘Lady in Grey’, John Longstaff, 1890

If I were to attempt a PhD my subject would be Daisy Bates in Western Australia. She was here for a number of years at the beginning of the last century and there is lots of material to cover. But, I have to keep working so that’s just a pipe dream. I will however, as soon as I can fit it in, review her collection, The Passing of the Aborigines.

If I just wanted a project, I’d get together Miles Franklin’s bits and pieces, the best of her short stories, journalism and plays, and publish them as a book. The closest we have at the moment is the collection of essays arising from her lectures in WA in 1950, Laughter, Not for a Cage.

This slim volume is a collection of short works by Tasma, a novelist from the generation preceding Franklin, edited and introduced by Michael Ackland. A Sydney Sovereign was originally a novella, published with some short stories under the title A Sydney Sovereign and Other Tales in 1890 to take advantage of the author’s success with her debut novel Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill a year or so earlier. In this edition, Ackland has in fact included just a few pages of the title story, to give an idea of the flavour of the original, while retaining the other short stories, written in the 1870s, plus a couple of new stories from 1890-91. All were published at the time in magazines such as the Australasian and The Australian Ladies Annual. Ackland has not taken the opportunity to include any of her other work, which is a pity as I would very much like to have read examples of her literary criticism.

Jessie Catherine Huybers (1848-1897) was born in England to parents of Dutch and French ancestry who migrated to Hobart in the early 1850s. Her father prospered and Jessie had the run of a fine, and presumably multi-lingual, library. Neither Ackland nor ADB mention her education. She married Charles Fraser in 1867 and they moved to Malmsbury, Vic, taking up a property with the auspicious name, Pemberley. Fraser however was a gambler and womaniser, and eventually a bankrupt, and in 1883 she divorced him. Jessie, who by this time was writing short stories under the pen name Tasma, had for some time been living overseas and had already met her next husband, Belgian journalist and politician, Auguste Couvreur. Her ADB entry says that some of her novels following Uncle Piper were “so obviously autobiographical that Charles Fraser must have been recognized in them from one end of Victoria to the other.”

Tasma is a lovely writer, Jane Austen-ish (dare I say it) in her elegant writing and sly wit. You know I don’t read more short stories than I can help, but she is completely at ease with the form, unlike Vance Palmer (here), say, whose struggles with both getting underway and bringing the thing to a neat conclusion are ill-concealed. I enjoyed every one of these stories, not just because their endings were difficult to anticipate and often amusing, but for their descriptions of lovely Hobart Town, Melbourne’s dirty smelly lanes, crowded Parisian streets, and wide open Australian bush.

In What an Artist Discovered in Tasmania, a young man wishing to discover the ‘perfect’ model of an evil face, leaves his sister behind in London to travel to the end of the world. ‘”Where’s that?” cried Polly’:

Kind Tasmanians – whose blossom-garlanded isle is the original Eden of the Anthropophagi; whose aromatous breezes greet the pallid stranger, and efface from his recollection the haunting odours of Yarra bank noisomeness – do not stigmatise Polly as an imbecile for her ignorance.

In another, The Rubria Ghost, the 80 yo owner of Rubria Station brings home a much younger bride:

I think the most terrible thing connected with [the groom] was the pale reflection of passion that flickered in his dulled eyes every time they rested on his wife…. And, notwithstanding, she appeared to cherish him!

The ‘ghost’ which appears to the bride in the moonlight in the path through the Murray pines (sheoaks?) is her former lover, begging her to run away with him. But this is a tale with an anti-moral. She hesitates. The old man dies. She inherits.

So for anyone who is outraged upon hearing that Emily married the ghost, and that she and he are now in the springtime of their delight, I will offer this pale reflection of a moral: Who can forsee the end? Let us hope he will beat her.

Twenty years ago I was working in a largish fleet and a new driver was employed who quickly earned the sobriquet ‘Life of Brian’. Mr and Mrs Brian had allowed a temporarily homeless mate to stay; Brian of course was often away driving; inevitably, the mate ran away with the wife; and Brian, understandably, couldn’t stop telling us about it. In How a claim was Nearly Jumped in Gum-Tree Gully, a Lawson-esque tale of two mates clearing scrub in rough country – think Castlemaine, Vic – mate two realises before it is too late, that he is falling for mate one’s new wife. It’s a lovingly described story, both of the mates’ relationship and of the bush they are working in, the huge gums along the creek bed of Gum-Tree Gully.

Tasma’s theme is always, it seems, aspects of love, and surprisingly, with little consciousness of class or class differences. If I may be allowed to describe just one more story, the only one with a totally ‘European’ setting, in His Modern Godiva an artist is searching for a model with just the right amount of experience for an illustration of Hester, the heroine of A Scarlet Letter:

True, he could find in the Quartier Latin many grisettes of the type of the heroines in Murger’s Vie de Boheme  … [but] their experiences were too frequent and free to leave upon their faces such a stamp as he could imagine the Puritan maid-mother might have worn.

The artist eventually finds his model and over a series of sittings forms the desire to portray her as Lady Godiva.

It still remained, however, to make Freda hear reason, which is also a phrase that may be variously interpreted. How it came about neither was exactly aware; but before the dress – or undress – rehearsals for the pose were at an end, Edgar’s model had become his betrothed wife.

The picture is a success, but in being so, was also an advertisement for his wife’s charms, and Edgar becomes jealous. How it ends, I advise you to read and see.

 

Tasma, A Sydney Sovereign, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1993

Early Australian Women Writers (1)

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What fiction by early Australian women writers is still in print? None from the C19th probably, and very little up to the 1960s. Publishers continue to put out (a limited selection of) men’s writing from the C19th – Henry Kingsley, The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn (1859), Rolf Boldrewood, Robbery Under Arms (1882) and Marcus Clarke, For the Term of his Natural Life (1874)-  but what of the women -Tasma, Ada Cambridge, Catherine Martin, Rosa Praed, Mary Gaunt, Catherine Helen Spence? They were often more popular than the men but dismissed by the literary establishment as ‘romance writers’.

The Australian Women Writers Challenge have put up an excellent site (here) where they are listing all books by women, available online, sorted by decade, up to the 1930s. I thought I might complement this by beginning a list of C19th books which have been republished in the last 50 or so years, since we began to get ‘modern’ paperbacks, and which you might therefore find in second-hand bookshops.

Dale Spender published some women at Pandora in 1987, Australian Women Writers: The Literary Heritage series; and at Penguin in 1988, Penguin Australian Women’s Library. Seal Australian Fiction publish books out of copyright, but Spence’s Clara Morrison, “published with the assistance of a grant from the Commonwealth Literary Fund” is the only one I’ve found for this list. Then there are Imprint Classics which has republished some  books from the first half of the C20th, Virago which republished Miles Franklin’s Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909), and of course, Text Classics (which however, appears to have no C19th women).

So, here is what I’ve found so far for the first wave of Australian women writers (prior to the Bulletin and ‘bush realism’):

Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910)

Clara Morrison (1854) Seal Books, 1971
Mr Hogarth’s Will (1865), Penguin, 1988
A Week in the Future (1889), Hale & Ironmonger, 1988 (Review)

Ada Cambridge (1844-1926)

The Three Miss Kings (1883), Virago, Modern Classics #244
A Marked Man, Some Episodes in his Life (1891), Pandora, 1987

Tasma (Jessie Couvreur) (1848-1894)

Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (1889), Pandora, 1987
A Sydney Sovereign, short stories, Imprint, 1993

Catherine Martin (1848-1937)

An Australian Girl (1894), Pandora, 1987 (Review)
The Incredible Journey (1923), Pandora, 1987

Rosa Praed (1851-1935)

The Bond of Wedlock (1887), Pandora, 1987 (Review)
Outlaw and Lawmaker (1893), Pandora, 1987
Lady Bridget in the Never-Never Land (1915), Pandora, 1987

Mary Gaunt (1861-1942)

Kirkham’s Find (1897), Penguin, 1988 (Review)

Eleven books from the C19th plus two from the C20th, pathetic isn’t it? Let’s hope we can come up with some more before ‘paper’ publishing dies completely.

I haven’t done too badly, I have eight of these, plus I read one Ada Cambridge when most of these were republished and acquired by my local library in 1988-89. And I’ve been trying to force myself to read/review Praed’s Lady Bridget on my tablet for a year now – it’s an important book both for women’s writing and for its representation of interactions with Aboriginals. I guess Kindle is the way of the future, but how do you feel about the means of reading being owned by one commercial entity?


Show-off Tues (to borrow a heading)

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Enjoying a g&t on Rottnest Island after last weekend’s Rottnest Channel Swim. The stewards pulled me up at 17km mark – 3km to go – when they determined I wouldn’t finish inside the regulation 10 1/2 hours. Time to retire! More on facebook – it was a lovely day for a swim.

A Week in the Future, Catherine Helen Spence

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“Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910) was hailed at the end of her long life as ‘The Grand Old Woman of Australia’, known for her achievements as a social reformer, essayist, journalist, preacher and advocate for electoral reform. Her philanthropic work has been justly praised, while her literary achievement is still overlooked, although her eight novels reflect a most interesting exploration of the nature of fiction.” (Prologue)

A Week in the Future, a novella of about 100 pp, was originally published as a serial in The Centennial Magazine: An Australian Monthly from Dec. 1888 to Jul. 1889 – presumably as part of the celebration of the first 100 years of white settlement in NSW – and was reissued as a handsome (21cm x 27 cm) hardback, with a Prologue by Lesley Durrell Ljungdahl and illustrations from (London) Punch, the Bulletin and The Centennial Magazine, in time for its own centenary and NSW’s bi-centenary. I can’t tell you anything about Ljungdahl except that he/she completed a PhD thesis on Spence at UNSW in 1992.

Spence uses A Week in the Future to advance the ideas of British feminist and reformer Jane Hume Clapperton (1832-1914) who wrote Scientific Meliorism and the Evolution of Happiness (1885). According to Ljungdahl, Spence’s borrowings from Clapperton “are so flagrant that sometimes they amount to plagiarism.” In case you’re wondering, scientific meliorism “is an essentially optimistic faith in society’s potential capacity for improvement” and is opposed to socialism in that socialism advocates forced change whereas scientific meliorism advocates change adopted gradually and voluntarily.

The protagonist, Emily Bethel, is an unmarried, middle class woman in her sixties living in Adelaide, which is to say she is standing in for the author, but is frail (Spence lived to be 85) and with the assistance of her doctor exchanges the two years of failing health left to her for one week of good health, one hundred years in the future, in the city of her choice, London.

So how does Spence in 1888 imagine London in 1988, what are her predictions? She sets them out in seven chapters, one subject area for each day of the week.

Monday, Associated Homes: Spence describes a society built around cooperatives both for employment and housing, following the ideas of socialist mill owner Robert Owen (1771-1858). Emily runs into a woman of her own age, Mrs Carmichael, who turns out to be the granddaughter of the niece she left behind in Adelaide. Mrs Carmichael lives in Robert Owen House, which like the buildings around it, which have replaced traditional row housing, has accommodation for 20 families and substantial gardens for fruit and vegetables. Dining is communal at set times, and individual sitting rooms have been replaced by activity rooms. This is a middle class vision and the 20 families employ a number of servants, but of course the servants lead middle class lives elsewhere. Women, with no domestic work, are “set free to pursue bread-winning avocations”. Population growth is held to zero by restricting families to a maximum 3 children. The most shocking prediction is that “idiot children” are destroyed at birth.

Tuesday, Co-operative Production & Distribution: This chapter starts out on newspapers, which are much thinner than before as universal peace means there is less news, and co-op stores obviate any need for display advertisements:

“Where are Holloway’s Pills, Eno’s Fruit Salt, Pears’ Soap, Hop Bitters, and such like?”

“Not now worth advertising apparently. Sales are made to the stores, which are not induced to buy by plausible advertisements.”

It seems there was a period early in the century when armies were disbanded and soldiers turned to farming and manufacturing. The problem of excess labour was solved by emigration and the turning of unproductive land to agriculture, so that by 1988 the UK and Australia have similar populations – around 30 million. Although there continues to be some trade, each country largely produces what it needs for itself and uses tariffs and immigration controls to prevent “coolies and Chinese coming to destroy all we have struggled for!” Though the populations of India and China too have been stabilized by reducing family size.

Spence does predict decimal currency, the Russian Revolution, the end of the British Empire and the independence of India.

Emily goes out of London on a nationalized (steam) train – unlike Australia, the railways in England in the 1880s were privately owned – and visits a farming collective. Farming is still labour intensive, though more efficient. All workers work 6 hour days, horses are used sparingly and much of the heavy work is done by stationary steam engines.

She visits a cotton factory, staffed mostly by women, who are happy, share in the profits and write music and poetry in their 18 hours per day of leisure; and a ‘great Emporium’ where everything is available, and at reasonable prices, except birthday and Christmas cards.

On returning that evening to Robert Owen House she found that “Wagner’s was not really the music of the future, for no one seemed to have heard of him. Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn were still known and loved.”

Wednesday, Childhood & Education: Children are home schooled till 8 years – in the nursery in the case of associated homes – then attend state schools until 14. There are no exams, no competition, no ‘breaking of wills’. “The prizes at school, like the prizes of life, used to be won from defeated and mortified competitors.” After 14, children go to work, but many make use of their ‘abundant leisure’ to continue their high school educations at Continuation schools, which are taught by volunteers. At London University Emily sees “mixed classes of youths and maidens, or what would have been maidens in our time” (what is she suggesting!)

Thursday, Marriage & the Relations of the Sexes: Emily attends the marriage of her great-grandniece, a religious ceremony conducted by a clergywoman. The religions have persevered though “even the Catholic Church has been made to feel that the interests of humanity as interpreted by common sense and experience are paramount” which means apparently they accede to the general custom of early, childless marriages and easy divorce. Later marriages, with children, involve longer, although still no-fault, divorces.

Friday, Government & Laws: When Emily ventures into the city she finds that London has been greatly diminished by the near-cessation of international trade. Many of the dockland warehouses have been converted into co-operative housing; parks and gardens are everywhere; the Underground has fallen into disuse – “there was plenty of space above to run all the necessary trains. Omnibuses were no more, the tramcars were no longer drawn by horses.” The population of London (and of Paris and New York) has been brought down to about a million.

As for government, there is a president, a senate with representatives for each ‘province’ in England (10), Ireland (4), Scotland (4) and Wales (2), and the House of Commons. Ireland has been ‘pacified’ but Spence does not say how, nor much about the revolution which brought about the removal of the royal family and the House of Lords.

In the hundred years that had elapsed since I had known the world, first had come a cataclysm sweeping away the old foundations and much that had been reared upon them, and from these had gradually emerged a new society… No longer were the prizes of life held by the few through inheritance, or snatched by energy, by business talent, by unscrupulous rapacity, or by subtle craft.

Saturday, Literature & Art; Music; the Drama & Sport: Of course, being British, the Revolution had been polite. In the National Gallery Emily sees in the paintings of that period “there was not such savagery in the expression of the surging crowds who wrought this revolution as we were used to see in the pictures of the French Revolutionary period.” Art, she discovers in this utopia, is amateur and naturalistic. Novels, and the plots of plays and operas, suffer from the lack of drama in everyday lives. Emily attends an ‘Italian’ opera, and professes herself well pleased. Sport, it appears, is played by everyone, on the ‘village green’.

Sunday, Religion & Morality: The leaders of the revolution were Socialists, Communists, Nihilists – secularists all – but were surprised to find that “large numbers of the new generation, rising up, clung to the faith in the unseen and the unknown,” so that churches of various denominations continue, though without their previous wealth – and with no mention of Jews or Muslims. The chapter (and the book) ends with a prayer.

Spence is not Jules Verne or HG Wells and makes no attempt at science fiction, although she has great faith in advances in medicine and birth control. Her aim is to discuss a better way of living, which I think she does successfully. A Week in the Future, though densely argued is quite readable, and I don’t think she should be judged for failing to predict air travel, automobiles, rock’n’roll or short skirts.

 

Catherine Helen Spence, A Week in the Future, Hale & Ironmonger, Sydney, 1987 (first pub. 1889)

The Cocanarup Massacre

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Kukenarup Memorial (photo, Kim Scott)

It is central to Kim Scott’s Benang (1999) that in the early years of white settlement around ‘Gebalup’ (Ravensthorpe, WA) the matriarch Fanny (Benang) and her white husband Sandy Mason witness a massacre of Fanny’s people gathered around the homestead of the ‘Done’ family.

Not far from the homestead Fanny – cautiously peering from the load, peeking over bales – saw a small group of men women children, running and falling before station men on horseback. (1999, p.174)

… [Sandy] could see figures leaping to their feet, helping one another up, running. And there were voices calling, calling. People fell, were shot. Were shot….

Flames and explosions leapt from beyond the outstretched arms of a man beside him. A Winchester, almost the very latest thing. The man bent over the bodies, lunging and hacking, faceless in the grim darkness.

‘They understand this.’ (1999, p.186)

The knowledge of the deaths and the scattered bones creates an ‘exclusion zone’ to which the narrator is taken by Fanny’s grandsons many years later.

Scott wrote Benang, a fictionalised account of his search for his Noongar ancestry, from bits and pieces of stories and official records. In Kayang & Me (2005), which he co-wrote with Noongar elder, Hazel Brown, he recounts how Benang was just about done when he met Aunty Hazel, and how they turned out to be related, both descendants of Fanny Mason’s family. Of the massacre, Aunty Hazel writes:

Most of my grandmother Monkey’s family were massacred some time after 1880 by white people at a place called Cocanarup , a few miles from the Ravensthorpe townsite. (2005, p.10)

Cocanarup was a property taken up by the Dunn brothers in 1872 as a sheep run. In 1880 John Dunn was killed by spearing, by Granny Monkey’s brother, Yandawalla, for his part in raping a 13 yo Noongar girl. Yandawalla (aka Yangalla) was subsequently tried for murder and acquitted. There was trouble over the next couple of years as Noongars raided the property for sheep and the Dunn’s retaliated. It seems they eventually got a permit “to kill the seventeen people that were residents of that place.” However, unknownst to them there was a meeting of Noongars nearby from the surrounding districts of Hopetoun and Jerdacuttup, to discuss initiations and marriages and so “there was over thirty people that were killed down there.” (2005, p.65)

The oral history passed down to Aunty Hazel is backed up by white histories. Scott reports Marion Brockway as writing in The Dunns of Cocaranup, Early Days (1970):

Terrible stories abound, but cannot be verified, of the vengeance exacted by John’s brothers on the Nyungars. One story is that a number of Aborigines were killed and buried in a mass grave near John’s grave, the site being marked by a circle of posts. The rest of the Nyungars in the vicinity were chased eastward, the Dunns poisoning the waterholes on the way back, to prevent them returning. (2005, p.70).

And Cleve Hassell in his 1973 memoir of his own well-known early settler family “mentions that the three remaining Dunn brothers ‘declared war’ and took it in turns to go shooting Noongars while one was left at home with their sister. He writes that a great many natives were shot.” (2005, p.71)

I got in touch with Professor Scott (Kim Scott is Professor of Writing at Curtin Uni.) and he was kind enough to send me some extra material, photos and extracts from newspapers. These included a full account of Yangalla’s trial, but this summary from the South Australian Register of 26 Nov., 1881 will suffice: “The native Yangala, tried recently for the murder of Mr. John Dunn, has been acquitted owing to the unsatisfactory manner in which the evidence of the black witness was interpreted.” I have commented previously that colonial officialdom often had a much more enlightened attitude towards Aborigines than did settlers at the ‘frontier’. In the trial –presumably in the Perth Supreme Court – His Honour (not named) was pretty sharp with the police over the way they took ‘voluntary’ statements and the Attorney General was quick to withdraw the evidence so obtained.

The following year, in the West Australian of 30 May, 1882 their Albany correspondent reports:

Great dissatisfaction is being expressed by the settlers to the Eastward, more especially by the Messrs. Dunn Bros., as to the want of proper police protection. Most of your readers will remember the painful circumstances of Mr. John Dunn’s death, and the acquittal of the supposed murderers. Since that time it has transpired that the natives did not intend to murder Mr. J. Dunn, but another brother… it is now believed that they still intend to murder the other brother when an opportunity arises, which benevolent intention they will probably carry out if some steps are not taken to prevent them.

In the same paper, three years later on 25 Sept., 1885 it is reported that James Dunn had been attacked on the 15th and on the following day Robert Dunn “went out to ascertain the intentions and strength of the natives. He met forty blacks coming towards the station who immediately attacked him.” Dunn fired, killing one, the Noongars retreated pursued by Dunn who “killed one and wounded several.”

There’s an interview with Robert Dunn, many years later, in the (Perth) Sunday Times of 20 May 1928 but it’s mostly ‘nigger’ this and ‘nigger’ that and doesn’t add much to the account.

Finally, the following appeared in the Western Mail of 17 Oct 1935 under the heading The Skull at Carracarrup, ‘eight miles SSW of Ravensthorpe’ by WIPECO of Leonora who ‘was told the story by Mr. Walter Dunn (now deceased)’:

[After John Dunn’s death] The remaining members on the station were then granted licence to shoot the natives for a period of one month, during which time the fullest advantage was taken of the privilege. Natives were shot from the station through Lime Kiln Flat, Manjitup and down to where Ravensthorpe is now situated. In the course of their guerrilla warfare, the whites arrived one day at the Carracarrup Rock Hole, and, knowing it was a watering place for the blacks, they crept quietly over the hill until they could peer down into the hole. There they saw two natives who had just risen from drinking. Two shots broke the stillness of the gorge and two dusky souls were sent home to their Maker. The bodies were left lying at the rock hole where they dropped as a grim reminder to the rest of the tribe of the white man’s retribution.

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Cocanarup from Kukenarup memorial (photo, Graham Barker)

The Kukenarup memorial, on the South Coast Highway 15 km west of Ravensthorpe overlooks to the south the Cocanarup homestead and massacre site. The memorial, representing Noongar totems, Wedge Tailed Eagles and Mallee Fowl, includes the words:

This area of country has a harsh, complex and sometimes contradictory history. Many Noongar people were killed here, and all that death and the apartheid-like 20th century legislation meant many of our families were never able to return and reconcile themselves to what had happened.

The fiction of Terra Nullius has meant that the Cocanarup and similar massacres, not to mention all the deaths of Indigenous people from mistreatment and deprivation of resources, have too often been whitewashed out of official histories. We can only that hope our wilful forgetting is at long last in the process of being reversed, for without knowledge and then acknowledgement, there cannot be Reconciliation.


See also: Bob Howard, Noongar Resistance on the South Coast 1830-1890 (here)

For further information you should search on ‘Cocanarup’, ‘Kukenarup’ and ‘Ravensthorpe Massacre’. Google Map (here).

Kim Scott, Benang, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 1999 (review here)

Kim Scott and Hazel Brown, Kayang & Me, Fremantle Press, Fremantle, 2005 (review here)

Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance, Picador 2010 (review here)

My post on the Pinjarra Massacre of 1834 (here)