emma_in_dream: (Buffy)
Both Ethel Turner and Louise Mack, another prominent colonial writer, began their publishing careers at Sydney Girls’ High School by establishing their own magazines. Mack edited the school magazine the Gazette, and purportedly rejected several of Turner’s submissions. In response, 17-year-old Turner began her own rival magazine, the Iris, of which she was “editress” with a supporting staff of 10 friends. The magazine included puzzles, riddles, competitions, letters to the editor and notes on tennis matches, as well as Turner’s budding fiction, poetry and essay writing.

Turner claimed that her subsequent lack of success when she attempted to publish her writing with a “real paper” spurred her once again to found her own magazine, but this time with the aid of her sister, Lilian. The Parthenon was first published in January 1889.

The monthly issues ranged from 24 to 32 pages in length. Ethel and Lilian were not only the magazine’s editors, but wrote most of its content under various pseudonyms: Lilian often wrote as “Talking Oak” and Ethel as “Princess Ida”, her name inspired by a Tennyson poem. The magazine sold approximately 1500 copies per month from a print run of 2000, and continued for a little over three years (39 issues), despite the lengthy distraction of a libel case sparked by a children’s word puzzle competition that was launched against Gordon and Gotch.

The healthy subscription numbers and the regular advertising that the Turner sisters
sought out via a canvasser from the likes of National Mutual insurance, Fry’s Cocoa and W.H. Paling’s pianos meant that the magazine was a viable concern from which the editors often drew an income.
emma_in_dream: (steve)
Ethel Turner was promoted as the Louisa May Alcott of the South. This is unsurprising, given the obvious parallels between the Woolcott family and Alcott’s creations. There’s flighty, feminine Meg March and Meg Woolcott who is also on the road to matrimony and motherhood. Jo March is the wild harum scarum child, mirrored by Judy Woolcott. Amy March’s vanity matches Nel Woolcott’s. The main difference is, of course, there is no saintly Beth figure to die in *Seven Little Australians*.
emma_in_dream: (Guardians)
Random fact: The first May Gibbs Gumnut Babies were made on bookmarks that promoted an Ethel Turner novel.
emma_in_dream: (kate bunce)
Here is a letter from one of her in-laws relating the deaths of two of her three boys as ANZACs.

Read more... )
emma_in_dream: (cameron)
Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce were the two big authors in early 20th century Australia, and they came into most direct competition with their respective World War One trilogies.

Unlike Bruce, Turner did not write mostly about one popular family. For the World War One series she wrote a trilogy about Brigid and Cub who meet on a cruise ship returning from Europe at the beginning of the war. Brigid had lived in Brussels with vain sister and her mother who was a grass widow who eked out her money so she could entertain in the best society. Brigid was separated from the others and in the course of the first days of the war found and adopted a five year old girl whose parents and baby sister were murdered before their eyes (shades of the recurrent baby on a bayonette calumny). They escape because they encounter a rare kind Hun, who says Brigid’s eyes remind him of his girl’s.

Once reunited with her family, Brigid is upset that her mother sees young Josie as a burden. They set off on the cruise ship, where their family strikes up a friendship with the Calthorpes. Mrs Calthorpe is a wealthy widow with two teen aged daughters and a graceless son, the Cub, in tow. Back home in Australia she has another son, a paragon who signs up for the first expedition against her will. He is killed and this (somehow) makes her gung ho for the war. I would have thought it would have exactly the opposite effect.

Cub had wanted to improve living conditions for the poor but instead decides that the right thing to do is to sign up. The first book ends with Brigid waving farewell to the troop ship. In the sequels she falls in love with him, they get engaged, Cub’s best friend who is a penniless inventor dies, Brigid’s mother is reformed and sees that fashionable clothes are less important than serving the country, and there are many appeals for Australians to join up. Turner worked very hard on the pro-conscription campaigns of WWI which I am proud to say failed utterly.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like Cub’s genius friend should have been encouraged in his invention of what is described as a proto-mobile phone (each device has its own number and vibrates when it is called – it allows easy communication) and Cub should have worked on affordable housing and improved drains. There would have been better long terms gains from this than from the senselessness of WWI.

However, I will say that I like Cub a lot, a deliberately graceless hero. He is abrasive, rude and does not care for conventions. This means he views Brigid as a partner rather than as an angel to put on a pedestal.
emma_in_dream: (Fights like a girl)
This novel was incredibly popular – it basically made Frances Hodgson Burnett’s fortune. And yet it is so mediocre. I get the attraction of a rags to riches story, in which the little boy in downtown New York turns out to really be the enormously wealthy heir to an earl.

What I find irritating is that Cedric is so resolutely and invariably good. Always plucky and cheery, always obedient and prone to ‘cute’ wise sayings. He just makes me want to whack him on the head. Which is a feeling which must have been widespread among young boys following the popularisation of velvet ‘Fauntleroy’ suits and curling long hairdos for boys after the publication of this novel. Ditto the popularisation of the name Cedric.

Does this kid look happy?

I find it interesting that only a few years later Ethel Turner took *Little Lord Fauntleroy* off in *The Little Larrikin* (1896). There is one scene in particular, where the sweet, curly headed boy coaxes the governess into giving them a treat by saying that such a beautiful lady must also be good and kind. In *Little Lord Fauntleroy*, Cedric would mean it. And the governess would become, if not beautiful, then at least good and kind. In *The Little Larrikin* he says it entirely cynically, in order to get what he wants.

When I consider that Hodgson Burnett also wrote such gems as *The Lost Prince*, *The Little Princess* and *The Secret Garden*, I am amazed that this was her first success. Because it is a stinker.
emma_in_dream: (X Files)
I've got a copy of Isabel Maud Peacocke's *Robin of the Round House* (1918) if anyone wants it.

Peacocke was a contemporary of Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce, though writing for a slightly more mature audience. Una and Sylvia are distressed gentlewomen acting as typists when they come into a small inheritance and move into a little house of their own. They adopt Robin, who turns out to be the son of Sylvia's widowed suitor who she then marries.

The book comes complete with recommendations for other Ward Locke books the reader might like - by Turner and Bruce.
emma_in_dream: (Alice Liddell)
I knew that Ethel Turner was very involved in war work during World War One. I did not know she co-edited *The Australian Soldiers' Gift Book* (1915). Proceeds from the sales went to the Voluntary Workers, an organisation I had never heard of, which apparently bought land and built houses for disabled returned servicemen and their families in New South Wales at a place called French's Forest.

When I googled this organisation I got some hits for scanned in newspaper articles about people moving into houses so apparently it worked at least a few times.

The last paragraph reads: 'Let us realise that a generation will most surely arise which will turn a dull ear to the claims of those who bled and agonised that the Empire might live: let us strive now, when our hearts are filled with gratitude, to place those men to whom we owe so much in a position where penury and neglect will not embitter their later years.'

I don't know if I have a dull ear but I certainly don't understand World War One. No matter how many times I read about the network of alliances which pulled the various parties in one by one, I can never remember why it started or what any of them were trying to achieve. Nor can I fathom why anyone would fight that war. World War Two, yes, but World War One didn't have a selling point, a purpose.

The book contains works by Ethel Turner, Lilian Turner (her sister), Henry Lawson, Mary Gilmore, Dorothea Mackellar, and a whole heap of people I have never heard of. Also, illustrations by Norman Lindsay, May Gibbs, and, likewise, a heap of folks I have never heard of. The May Gibbs illustration is the only thing missing from the book, which is otherwise in good condition, so perhaps it was particularly good and was filched as a wall hanging?

My favourite of the otherwise frankly second rate and overtly jingoistic works is S Elliott Napier's sonnet to the great ally Russia. 'Implacable as are they arctic floes' Russia will not be moved. Except, you know, the way it was two years later with the Revolution.
emma_in_dream: (shelves)
If I had been more organised, I would have reviewed *The Secret of the Sea* in April this year, to coincide with the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The story was inspired by the Titanic, featuring two sets of twins orphaned in the sinking of a ship. They get muddled up and no one knows which are the heirs of duke and which are the children of ‘commoners’.

It’s one of my least favourite books by Turner. This is partly because it is incredibly episodic. It starts with a chapter which is effectively an unattached prologue in a different genre. This could stand as a quite gripping short story on its own.

In summary, at nine o’clock at night a junior officer is flirting with a girl passenger and asking her for a ribbon from her shoe. By ten o’clock she is dead, frozen in the water, and he has shot several men trying to storm one of the remaining life boats.

It is gripping stuff, but I do find the racism seriously grating. I know this is how the Titanic was interpreted at the time. Fine, white officers gallantly defending the right for women and children to evacuate first while steerage Italians and Chinese panic and storm the boats. But the racism, intertwined with classism, does, I guess fit with the larger nature/nurture preoccupation of the novel.

The next chapter is another false start. This time we are in the woods as a grandmotherly duchess picks bluebells and thinks about her son who always picked the flowers with her until he ran off with an actress. She is worried that her daughter-in-law is not up to scratch. Then she hears that her son is dead.

Then the third start when the actress daughter-in-law and twin grandchildren are about to be shipped back to England. The boat sinks and you (finally) get to the confused heir motif.

This is such a hackneyed, Victorian plot. Eventually it is determined which is which. In between there is a lot of angst about being 'ill bred'.

And a minor character is introduced, a village boy unlike the other village boys because he is the descendent of Huguenots. He does not look like them and he devours literature on electricity before running off to make his fortune. Which he manages within three months by saving a daring cross-Channel pilot and helping him set a world record. Turner herself says that this is like a nineteenth-century penny dreadful.

(As a side note, I didn’t check the publication date til after I had finished it, but I was sure it had to be between 1912 and 1914. It definitely post-dates the Titanic sinking but the reference to French, British and German authorities working together on the design of airplanes is out of place once you hit World War One.)

So, all the elements hang together to examine nature/nurture. Even the two false starts fit in with this theme. And Turner was consciously addressing the issue as she wrote that it 'was a chance to try to demonstrate that it is the environment and education of the child that mean so much more than birth'.

However, to my eyes, a century later, it's a bit of a flop. I just don't care which one inherits the title and it would seem more sensible to me that, in the absence of DNA tests, they just flip a coin or choose the child who seems best at estate management.

Also, to heighten the difference, Turner has the poor-but-honest family continue to live in poverty which just makes the Duke and Duchess look like asses.

However, it apparently sold consistently well and when re-released in the 1940s in the midst of paper rationing sold 500 copies in the first week.
emma_in_dream: (simeon solomon)
I have just been reading Clare Bradford's *Reading Race: Aboriginality in Australian Children's Literature* (2001) and I have got a whole lot of helpful recommendations for future reading.

I have also learned some new things about Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce, including... the fact that there are parts of *Seven Little Australians* (1894) which I have apparently never read.

In the 1894 version, as they went out on their picnic Mr Gillett retells a story told to him by Tettawonga, the Aboriginal retainer. The story is excised from 1900 - I have never read it! Possibly it was removed to make space for the additional pages of advertising included in later versions or perhaps the tale was not in line with Turner’s argument that Australian children are living in a land without a history.

Here is how it started:

‘Once upon a time’ (Judy sniffed at the old-fashioned beginning), ‘once upon a time,’ said Mr Gillet, ‘when this young land was still younger, and incomparably more beautiful, when Tettawonga’s ancestors were brave and strong and happy as careless children, when their worst nightmare had never shown them so evil a time as the white man would bring their race, when -’

‘Oh, get on,’ muttered Pip impatiently.

‘Well,’ said Mr Gillet, ‘when, in short, an early Golden Age wrapped the land in its sunshine, a young kukuburra and its mate spread their wings and set off towards the purple mountains beyond the gum trees....’

Now I totally want a copy of the 1894 edition!
emma_in_dream: (Monroe)
I ordered an Ethel Turner that I don't have with my birthday money. Then it got lost. So I ordered a copy again from someone else.

Got it. Read it. Now I see why there were multiple copies available on Ebay.

It's a very odd Ethel Turner novel. She usually writes realist, contemporary fiction aimed at the group just sub-flappers (would now be called teenagers). This is a fantasy novel with an Aboriginal man building a raft on wheels and having various adventures with talking animals in the bush.

Interesting, I guess, as I know Mary Grant Bruce made a similar experiment - *Timothy in Bushland* (1912).
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I've just read a critical article by Susan K Martin - 'Gardening and the Cultivation of Australian National Space: the Writings of Ethel Turner' (Australian Feminist Studies, 18.42 (2003).

She describes *The Ungardeners* as follows: 'Not only is it not a children's book, it is not really a novel. It overlaps several genres. *The Ungardeners* is a blend of nineteenth-century nature-reform rhetoric, domestic diary, fairy tale, allegory, gardening book, plant catalogue, travelogue and quasi-socialist tract.'

A fairly accurate description, I think.
emma_in_dream: (shakespeare)
More of her works are available online (more than last time I checked anyway):

emma_in_dream: (Default)
The Family at Misrule - Ethel Turner (1895)

The sequel to *Seven Little Australians* was originally titled *Growing Up*. Ethel Turner embraced her child characters developing into adulthood. At this point in her career she was hoping to write adult novels as well as the children’s novels she became famous for.

It is a domestic novel - the plot is a succession of melodrama. Bunty is falsely accused of theft at school and runs off; Poppet believes in him and convinces his headmaster to clear his name; Meg gets engaged to Alan Courtney (with whom she flirted in *Seven Little Australians*); Pip gets engaged to an unsuitable, lower class woman; Meg intervenes and stops it; Nellie visits their parvenu neighbours, is embarrassed by their vulgarity, and repents; she brings back scarlet fever which infects Essie; Essie survives with Meg’s nursing; Meg then gets scarlet fever and both Pip and Nellie repent; then, to wind up a loose end, there is a fire which kills off Meg’s old suitor from *Seven Little Australians*.

It sounds ridiculous when I list it like this, but Essie’s illness and the despairing prayers of her siblings made me cry when I reread it. Though, OK, I was reading it five days after having a baby, so there were a lot of hormones floating about.*

The theme I’d like to discuss is class.

Read more... )

* I read the books for this challenge in advance, as soon as I know what they will be. This helps when there is a big one, like *War and Peace*.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
On 26 March we are doing Ethel Turner's *The Family at Misrule* (1895).

May Book

May. 3rd, 2010 07:41 pm
emma_in_dream: (methos)
In May we will be reading Ethel Turner's *Seven Little Australians*.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
This is the first note Ethel Turner sent out as 'Chief Sunbeamer' for the children's page of the *Sunday Sun*.

Read more... )
emma_in_dream: (Dark Angel friendship)
I have just received A.T. Yarwood's *From a Chair in the Sun: The Life of Ethel Turner* (1994).

I am reading it with great excitement, in preparation for the 19th century book club discussion of *Seven Little Australians* in May.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Just thought! Ethel Turner's *Seven Little Australians* was published in 1890. Also Mary Shelley. Possibly EE Nesbit?


emma_in_dream: (Default)

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