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This chapter considers two nineteenth-century fictional representations of Australian–Imperial relations via the 1880 and 1888 Melbourne Exhibitions. It concentrates on two novels by Ada Cambridge, The Three Miss Kings (1891) and A Woman’s Friendship (1889), which trace their heroines’ interaction with the exhibition as a site of European and British culture. This is a negotiation in which the women produce a white Australian settler identity through carefully adapting the offerings of the exhibitions to their own needs. Attempts to argue for ‘international’ Melbourne’s colonial likeness with Britain confront the extent to which the colonial is set up as other to an imperial centre.

Nineteenth-century Australian women’s fiction has often been seen as merely reproducing the ideology of the imperial British centre. If not propounding Englishness or Empire directly, then at least it has been taken as consistently representing upper middle-class Anglo-Australianness. This understanding has arisen because in the twentieth century this genre of Australian women’s writing was increasingly categorised as inferior to the masculine realist tradition (Sheridan 1985). The romance, the use of urban contexts, the concern with gender issues, and even the novel form were seen as second-hand, and associated, rightly and wrongly, with British values taken to be, in common political parlance, ‘unAustralian’.1

This chapter challenges this well-established interpretation through a concentration on fiction in which imperial relations are explicitly foregrounded via the narrative’s direct representation of imperial events – colonial exhibitions. Such events parallel occasions represented in other novels from the period, including the diamond jubilee and the death of Queen Victoria. I work from the assumption that these are moments where the relations of colony to imperial centre, Australia to Britain, are particularly focused and negotiated. They are imperial displays ‘surmounted by stuffed sheep’, as one exhibit was described in the Official Record of the 1888 Exhibition (1890, 215). The sheep indicate that these declarations of likeness with Empire are overarched by signifiers of the distinctiveness and difference of Australian products, agricultural and cultural. They, like the novels, reinforce David Cannadine’s points in Ornamentalism that ‘empire was about collaboration and consensus as well as about conflict and coercion’ and that the British Empire and the British nation were mutually constitutive (Cannadine 2001, xvi).

The most extensive Australian fictional treatments of international exhibitions are the representations of the 1880 and 1888 Melbourne Exhibitions in two of Ada Cambridge’s novels, The Three Miss Kings (1891; serialised 1883), and A Woman’s Friendship (1988; serialised 1889–90). Poetic celebrations of the exhibitions are far more common.2 Cambridge’s fiction is described in the contemporary Australian Dictionary of Biography in terms which represent her as entirely Anglocentric:

[She] wrote about the section of colonial society most closely associated with England and its styles and standards. Within the limits of a conventional romantic plot and the setting of Toorak mansions or pastoral homesteads, the newly-arrived English men or women of her earlier serials met and won their marriage partners, while her heroines escaped the allurements of vulgar wealth to be restored to men who best represented the fashionable ideals of gentle breeding (Roe 2006, 334–335).

Cambridge’s novels are, in fact, mostly not set in Toorak mansions or pastoral homesteads. Her characters get to visit in such places, and their ability to conduct themselves in these kinds of venues is part of her project of asserting the existence of a self-sufficient, genteel Australian female subjectivity. Their ability to appreciate the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the finer elements of the ‘international’ exhibitions might be seen as functioning in a similar way. The two novels which deal with the exhibitions most extensively have characters on the verge of genteel poverty, whose romantic plots are not conventional and whose values do not simply echo English ones.

Peter Hoffenberg (2001) argues that the great exhibitions:

transformed into comprehensible and consumable objects the geographical and political concepts of empire and nation. The power to collect, label, and organize objects and people – and thus create identities and inventories – provided the underlying authority for these imperial experts and their spectacles (64–65).

In both of Cambridge’s fictions the positive representation of the event as an imperial event, and of international products framed and presented in imperial space and eagerly consumed by the Australian populace, initially suggests the propounding of Anglo-Australian identity as an extension or form of British identity. However, to varying degrees in these, as in the novels which deal with other imperial events, this idea is unbalanced by the nature of the representation.

The Three Miss Kings and A Woman’s Friendship feature, respectively, the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and the 1888 Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne. The exhibitions are central to the plots, and to the romantic and national negotiations of the main characters. The 1880 Exhibition also features in a lesser role in Cambridge’s works Missed in the Crowd and A Girl’s Ideal (both serialised in 1881–82). The Centennial Exhibition appears briefly in Not All in Vain (1892; serialised in 1890–91), in which a visit to the exhibition to hear the music is used as a catalyst through which the heroine’s refinement and emotional maturity is highlighted. Related Australian novels which represent British ‘events’ in Australia include works such as Mrs Henry Russell’s 1894 novel, Joyce Martindale, which climaxes with the response of the Sydney elite to the death of General Gordon in Khartoum. Another is Elisabeth Boyd Bayly’s Under the She-oaks (c. 1903) which represents both Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebrations in rural Australia and a set of ceremonials around her death and funeral.

In some ways the representation of such imperial events in fiction can be likened to the physical statues and memorials which commemorated, represented and ‘placed’ the same events.3 Mary Ann Steggles, in a discussion of jubilee and post-1901 statues of Queen Victoria in India, points out the extent to which they were intended, produced and situated as quite specific statements about Empire and the nature of British rule, and treated as such by the local populations (Steggles 2001, 44–49). In his discussion of pre-1900 statuary in Australia, Ken Inglis (2005) comments: ‘In provenance, as well as subject, many of the statues were imperial artefacts. [The statues of] Charles Gordon and Sir John Franklin were actually replicas of statues done for London’ (28).4 The fiction, like imperial statuary and other artefacts, can install imperial icons, and declare or exhort loyalty to Empire, but these examples also negotiate the ‘difference’ of colonial Britishness in Australia, and relocate it.

The spectacle of the Melbourne International Exhibition (October 1880 to May 1881) and the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition (August 1888 to January 1889), like other colonial Exhibitions, produced and confirmed for settler Australians their position as European citizens and as participants in Empire (Burton 2003; Proudfoot 2000, vii–xvii). In The Three Miss Kings the orphaned sisters of the title move to Melbourne as the staging point from which to learn and save for their intended European tour. They are adopted by a patron, Mrs Duff-Scott, who interrupts their modest researches in the Public Library with her exhortation that they ‘come and learn what the world and your fellow-creatures are made of. Make a school of the Exhibition while it lasts’ (Cambridge [1883] 1987, 96).5 The educational aspect of the exhibition was greatly stressed at the time, but what was being learnt could vary considerably (Parris and Shaw 1980, 251).

This novel sets up a series of parallels between the exhibition and the world. On one level the display and marketing of choice objects and rarities in the exhibition is paralleled with the display and marketing of the three young women. Mrs Duff-Scott, who also collects pottery, spends her first day at the exhibition ‘a-hunting in the wildernesses of miscellaneous pottery for such unique and precious “bits” as might be secured, on the early bird principle’ for her collection (102). Soon ‘her card [is] hanging around the necks of all sorts of quaint vessels that she had greedily pounced upon’, in much the same way that she has secured the society of the King sisters, and has proceeded to arrange them to advantage.

In the year of spectacular strolling and scopophilia, 1880, the Melbourne Cup was fortuitously won by a horse called Grand Flaneur. The Cup celebrations are described in The Three Miss Kings and A Girl’s Ideal. This spectacle held during the exhibition, also exhibits Australian and international products – mostly human, or fabric (millinery and dresses) and parallels and opposes the imperial exhibition. In some ways it propounds similarity: both the Cup and the exhibition are crowd-attracting festivals of display, venues for strolling and observation, commercial sites characterised as social/cultural ones. The juxtaposition also denotes difference however, and not just because one is a horse race rather than an exhibition of produce, technology and culture. The portrayals of the Cup suggest that Australia has its own, very different spectacles and runs to its own timetable. In all these novels the ‘international’ spaces of the exhibition are in constant tension with the wealth of specific local detail: the streets and parks and public transport of Melbourne.

In A Girl’s Ideal (Cambridge [1881–82] 1988) the International Exhibition is used by antihero Major Armstrong as a plausible cultural reason for him to travel from India to see his newly wealthy ex-flame, Mary Hamilton. He arranges a private meeting in Cambridge’s favourite venue, the British picture gallery, and then lures Mary into the German court. Mary is shown to have examined the paintings with taste and care, while his disinterest in the pictures is one of the early signs that he is shallow and duplicitous.

Mary says to the Major:

‘Don’t you want to look at some of these pictures while you are here?’… ‘Have you noticed how queerly this one is painted – all thick and ridgy, as if the paint had been put on, like mortar, with a trowel? And yet how beautiful the effect is at a little distance. Stand back here, and you will see how deliciously breezy that Loch Fyne looks, and what a delicate distance ever so far off it has.’

Her awareness of depth and affect shows both a capacity for appreciation – taste, as in The Three Miss Kings – and hints at her ability to see through his surface to his shallow character and similarly to see past the rough surface of her true lover, Don, to his more permanent values. Major Armstrong replies, ‘“… I don’t want to look at pictures. I want to look at you. Come into the German court, won’t you”’ (260). This would be a compliment in other contexts, but here it indicates that she is a commodity to him, as when, a few pages later, he comments on the quality and aesthetics of the house she lives in, and then enquires who owns it (264).

At the exhibition he says similarly inappropriate things to her and she is disenchanted, a feeling denoted rather clumsily by Cambridge through Mary’s line of sight: ‘She turned her face away and looked at a lead Adonis on the opposite wall in silence’ (262).

The exhibition in A Girl’s Ideal is a space with a dangerous gap between surface and depth, whereas the Australian festival, the Cup, reveals the true nature of the Major, and causes Mary to turn away from his sophisticated imperial attractions to recognise her authentic Australian lover (282–283).

In The Three Miss Kings, as in A Girl’s Ideal, at the Cup, as at the exhibition and the Town Hall Ball (137), one of the main commodities in circulation is women. Paul Brion, the undeclared lover of the middle sister, Patty:

secretly … spent hours of the day and night dogging her from place to place, when he ought to have been at work or in his bed, merely that he might get a glimpse of her in a crowd … He haunted the Exhibition with the same disregard for the legitimate attractions of that social head-centre as prevailed with the majority of its visitors, to whom it was a daily trysting place (134).

Such disregard for the aesthetic possibilities of the exhibition is a death knell for the false hero in A Girl’s Ideal but Paul Brion’s authentic love for Patty has been proved in other spaces, so he is allowed this lapse.

The novels make a distinction between the general audience and the discerning Australian ladies. The sisters’ gentility and taste allows them entry into the wider world the exhibition represents, because they are capable of recognising and appreciating it as ‘an enchanted palace of delights … a storehouse of genuine samples of the treasures of that great world which they had never seen’ (102). The superior gentility of the Australian women and the superior worth of the imperial exhibition are mutually constitutive, and mutually contradictory.

Nevertheless the women are not just depicted as prize Australian items for local and international consumption – they are also depicted as spectators, consumers and members of the crowd. This distinction is important in The Three Miss Kings but is taken up with more force in A Woman’s Friendship (Cambridge [1889] 1988), discussed below.

Part of the plotting, and part of the use of the exhibition, is to do with the display of Australian ‘taste’ – the ability to recognise choice rarities. Mrs Duff-Scott is set up approvingly in the narrative as one able to appreciate quality whether in china or genteel females. She guarantees the class status of the girls by her own impeccable credentials, and her recognition and choice of them. For Cambridge, in all her novels, an Australian lady is not just equal to but slightly the superior of an English lady. Both varieties are international ladies – transferable across European and continental boundaries. The superiority of the Australian product is in her adaptability and versatility – she can cook and clean in the outback where necessary, but also grace a ballroom, play perfect Mozart and dance with dukes.

Therefore another way in which the exhibition resonates with the three Misses King is in the assertion of Australian ability to attract, to host and to produce ‘internationalness’ – in industrial, agricultural and artistic products, and in genteel women. This proper female type is able to circulate anywhere; she is a meta-colonial lady. This figure both invites and resists the commodification that is central to the exhibition. The three young women are displayed for the spectator (and the reader) repeatedly with the exhibition as setting, and elsewhere. They must be looked at because some of their qualities can only be perceived by close observation – the ‘smooth brown hair of excessive fineness and brightness (a peculiarity of good blood shared by all the sisters)’, for instance (3). However the subtlety of this form of feminine gentility eludes pure spectatorship – it is not simply open or accessible to the vulgar gaze. As with the exhibits in the exhibition you have to know what you are looking for.

The mobility of the lady type in The Three Miss Kings is evident in the extent to which their respective courtships are negotiated within the space of the exhibition. Here, in her other novels, and in her autobiography Thirty Years in Australia, Cambridge ([1903] 1989) identifies the exhibition as a libidinal space – eroticised by the context of exotic consumption, display and availability, and, paradoxically, by the conjunction of private, trysting space within the open spaces of display. In The Three Miss Kings Elizabeth meets her lover when she is thrust up against him in the street crowd on the opening day. Much of her courtship is conducted in the courts of the exhibition, and her engagement is effected in the German picture gallery: ‘This restful room, with its carpeted floor and velvety settees … its great Meissen vases in the middle, and casts of antique statues all round … looked as pleasant and convenient a place of rendezvous as lovers could desire’ (224). Her very engagement ring is ‘selected from amongst the jewellery of all nations’ (233).

She marries into, and turns out to be descended from, a noble British family, so that as well as a consumer of the exhibition she is an Australian export to Britain arising from the exhibition. She is evidence that superior British product can be manufactured in Australia. She fulfils in her person the stated aims of the Royal Society of Arts in its support of the exhibitions: ‘To show the resources of the colony off … to awaken local interest … to encourage emulation, and … [t]o enhance British trade there’ (Greenhalgh 1988, 55–56). All these features, and her marriage, suggest that the exhibition works to show Australia is equivalent to Britain. However, the three Misses King are not subservient pseudo-British daughters of the imperial heart. Although their pedigree turns out to be impeccably upper class, it is their Australian upbringing that is represented as having made them the unique quality products they are, and while one sister marries into the English peerage via the exhibition, the other two marry Australians by the same means. Although they visit Europe, source of the treasures they admire, they return to Australia.

Cambridge’s representation of the exhibition simultaneously argues for likeness between Britain and Australia and for Australian superiority. Britain needs the Australian export – Elizabeth – more than Australia needs British china. Elizabeth’s husband, Yelverton, exports some of his notions of philanthropy to Australia, but they are less needed because Australia does not have the destitution Britain is shown to hold:

the poor wretches whom nothing will raise … Poor sodden senseless vicious lumps of misery, with the last spark of soul bred out of them – a sort of animated garbage that cumbers the ground and makes the air stink … only wanted out of the way (129).

Britain, in fact, is home to a kind of anti-exhibition – a striking array of rejects and dross who are carefully hidden from display. John Parris and AGL Shaw (1980) suggest that the ‘home-grown’ aspect of the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition was its reflection of the contemporary ‘Utopian belief in establishing a new and glorious society, free from many of the political, economic and social ills of the Old World’ (251). Cambridge’s representations of the International Exhibition in Australia echo this allegedly local Zeitgeist despite their celebration of Britishness. Her considerations of the Centennial Exhibition take this even further.

Parris and Shaw argue that the International Exhibition confirmed for Australians that ‘they were able to take their place with the older countries of the world in the field of industry’ (245). They regard the cultural impact as negligible. Cambridge, however, might be seen as making an argument equivalent to theirs on industry, for Australian taste and culture.

The representation of the Centennial International Exhibition eight years later (from August 1888 to January 1889) in A Woman’s Friendship (Cambridge [1889] 1988), a novel which was serialised in the Melbourne Age from August to October 1889, similarly reinforces and replicates the place of Australia in the Empire and internationally. The experience of the exhibition is recalled by its reiteration in a metropolitan newspaper only seven months after the close of the exhibition in 1889. The narrative also works to reshape these experiences and memories.

A Woman’s Friendship is about the bonding of two rather different women, Patti Kinnaird, a squatter’s wife, and the more cultured Margaret Clive, whose husband is a Melbourne newspaper editor, over their mutual enthusiasm for various cultural and social interests, which crystallise around the Centennial Exhibition. They form an exclusive little club with one additional member, Mr Seaton Macdonald, who ultimately causes strife between them.

The novel is very explicit about elements of the exhibition. The two heroines repeatedly visit the ‘British loan pictures’, and pay special attention to Vicat Cole’s painting Ripening Sunbeams, an image of ripening corn. This painting, which was indeed in the exhibition, is described not just as reminding visitors of England, but as producing a particular England, and a corresponding Englishness in its antipodean viewers:

that glorious landscape … which perhaps, of all the Exhibition pictures, will be the most living and loving memory to those who were never tired of looking at it while they had the chance. Surely the man who painted it – if he could know – would count it the best part of the fame his work had achieved that to thousands of English folk on the other side of the world the thought of their native land, which many of them may never see again, will henceforth be the thought of those beautiful green woods and golden autumn fields – that all the power of British statesmanship has not done so much to weaken the tie between the home country and her colonies as he, by this one bit of canvas, has done to strengthen it (13–14).6

This particular painting was also shown as part of the ‘Great Britain’ exhibit at the Columbia World Fair in 1893 (Bancroft 1893, 723).7 As Elizabeth Morrison (1988, xxxi) points out, the women in A Woman’s Friendship, like Cambridge’s fictional visitors to the earlier International Exhibition, do not bother with the primary produce and industrial sections of the 1888 Exhibition, although these constituted the greater part. There is no description, for instance, of the ‘collective wool exhibition’ described in the Official Record (1890) as ‘… approached through a series of three arches formed of wool bales and surmounted by stuffed sheep’ (215). The exhibition as constructed in the novel still must be seen as underpinned (or overarched) by this aspect, as indeed one of the heroines, Patty, is underwritten by the pastoral industry. At the same time the novel asserts the cultural impacts of the exhibitions over their more publicised agricultural role – the fact that the paintings are ‘surmounted by stuffed sheep’ is not allowed to eclipse the paintings.

The novel traces the interaction with the exhibition as a site of European and British imperial culture, and like the other such encounters in Australian fiction it is not a one-way confrontation but a negotiation in which the women produce a white Australian settler identity through careful sorting – adapting the experience and the offerings to their own needs. In this way it differs from other textual reproductions of the exhibitions and other imperial spectacles, such as newspaper accounts and the catalogues. Although these also produce Empire, as Antoinette Burton (2003) points out, they do so by ‘reproducing in textual detail the various displays in all their grandeur and minutiae’ (n.p.). The fictional representations, by contrast, are highly selective.

The Official Record (1890) description of Cole’s painting, though it also sees it as ‘perhaps the most popular painting in the [British?] collection’ does not overtly make the same connection: ‘the tenderness of its hazy distances, and the glories of its sylvan foliage communicated to the beholder a keen sense of delight’ (219), but not necessarily a keen sense of their own Englishness.

The discussion of Ripening Sunbeams in A Woman’s Friendship is followed by a conversation about whether the ‘Government’ should spend £4000 on a cut-price Turner ‘now a mere faded smudge, a little darker in some places than others’ just because it is a ‘genuine Turner’ or whether the money should be spent on alleviating the misery of ‘gutter children’ (14). The decision is in favour of the gutter children. Patty also rejects Holman Hunt’s The Scapegoat, and although for Margaret, ‘as a young girl in London, Watts and Holman Hunt had been a part of her religion’, she too rejects them in the name of ‘truth’ (15). Although these are ostensibly aesthetic judgments, they are framed in terms of the women’s ongoing negotiation of an Australian classed, gendered and of course raced, identity – one which is buttressed by British and imperial understandings of aesthetics and of female gentility, but attempts to redefine the parameters of that position.8 These aesthetic judgements are also in part a rejection of nostalgia, especially the choice of real Australian children over reproduced English landscapes in the allocation of public money.9

Even for more conservative fictions such as Elisabeth Boyd Bayly’s novel Under the She-oaks [c. 1903], published by the Religious Tract Society, imperial events provide a site for asserting a specifically Australian imperial relationship or identity. Under the She-oaks tells the story of two genteel Christian ‘mates’ who suffer difficult years and separation. In the novel they are reunited in an outback New South Wales town called Knocklofty, where their fortunes improve, their faith is confirmed, and they are each provided with a love interest. Two chapters are devoted to an account of Victoria’s diamond jubilee of 1897, and one to the local response to the Queen’s death and funeral. In both of these events, loyal Australian subjects pay tribute to the Queen by attempting to mimic the British ceremonials on a rural Australian scale. Similarly, the Australian events are timed to occur in sync with the ceremonials taking place in England. This seems to be an attempt to posit a unique Australian national identity that is at the same time continuous with the English head and body of Empire, but this paradox implodes. Although timed to coincide with British observances, and held to honour imperial connections, the particularly parochial Australian forms of celebration and commemoration in Under the She-oaks give the lie to its simultaneous claims of likeness. The picturesque bushmen and rural jubilee parades it depicts are as much a parody of imperial spectacle as tribute or repetition. The townspeople’s parade is like a little exhibition of Australian products. They have a band, bushmen on horseback in bush gear and swan feathers in their hats, schoolchildren, tradesmen ‘in Sunday clothes, but each bearing a tool or some other sign of his craft: the shearer carried his shears, the boundary-rider a bit of fleece on the top of a symbolical shepherd’s crook! … Next came a car laden with Australian products – skins, fleeces and a great sheaf of wheat’ and a ram, then five carriages containing ‘ladies in their best attire’ (109). Here, as in Cambridge’s novels, ladies are simultaneously objects of display, proof of achievement, and spectators. The sheep again features as an unmistakable sign of Australianness. Later events in the jubilee celebration include a hunt involving hopping boys dressed as kangaroos pursued by men in ‘moccasins’ (121).10 These figures of colonial masculinity look as much like camp exposé of the fears for an attenuated imperial masculinity at the centre and the periphery.11

This fiction remains an interesting example which falls between the distinctions outlined by David Cannadine (2001) in Ornamentalism in relation to imperial histories. He argues that there are those which represent the British Empire as the extension of ‘metropolitan impulses’ and are hence accused of neo-Imperialism. Then there are those which see the colonies as practicing ‘emulation and ordered evolution’ in a trajectory from Empire to Commonwealth. These were accused of being over-simplistic and ‘too complacent’. Finally there were those which balanced domination against independence-as-freedom, a model Cannadine argues is too binarised and ‘simplified’ (xvi). Cannadine is talking about contemporary histories with hindsight, rather than novels from the period, cultural representations of the moment and its anxieties. Nevertheless it is worth noting that these fictional representations of the relationship between imperial centre and colony offer another model, if it can be called that. At the opening of this chapter I argued that the novels demonstrate the mutually constitutive nature of imperial holdings and imperial centre, but they are also a model of the mutually disruptive nature of colony and centre, an impossible balancing act of opposing forces.

Both the Empire writing back and the Empire’s right hand, these fictions all end up representing the irreconcilable. In A Woman’s Friendship, A Girl’s Ideal and The Three Miss Kings a more democratic ideal of a female national subject resistant to the economic, class and behavioral constraints of the British system is ultimately founded on theories of ‘taste’ invested in the superior English art and European music of the Great Exhibitions. Separatist and nationalist Margaret’s distance from imperial ideology gains its authority from her basically ‘English’ taste and appearance. She is even described as resembling, in elegant figure, ‘any picture figure in the Exhibition’ (72). Although Cambridge to some extent parodies Margaret’s overly fastidious tastes, the exhibition and the British picture collection retain their superiority. The Three Miss Kings similarly relies on understandings of taste that are alternately depicted as innate to the Australian-born girls and as derived from their British-born mother. Either way, as in A Woman’s Friendship, their Australian difference is argued through their appreciation of British standards as represented by the ‘International’ Exhibition, while their Britishness is belied by their strongly asserted Australian distinctiveness.

Other novels from the same period, like Under the She-oaks, have a similar problem, if perhaps reversed. Its attempts to show the congruence of Australian and British beliefs and practices rest on highlighting Australian incongruence.

In all these representations of imperial moments, positive and negative, the negotiation is ultimately vexed, vacillating and unbalanced because they attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable – either through attempting to use a ‘British’ framework to support a non-British model of national identity, or by thoroughly demonstrating Australian difference while attempting to claim imperial unity. In this the novels echo some of the conflicts of the exhibitions themselves – particularly the ‘International’ Exhibition whose largest exhibit was the Victorian one, with the second largest Great Britain’s. The nineteenth-century exhibitions in Australia demonstrated and rested on an idea of international [Western] progress, while also advertising the distinctiveness and difference of the hosting state and country. Almost inevitably fictions celebrating these events and using these spaces echoed their paradoxes.


1    More recently Tanya Dalziell (2004) has examined the specificity and subtlety of the negotiations with imperial ideology in some of this fiction; See also McKay (2004, 53-4) for the ways in which women writers can be ‘agents of imperialism’.

2    See for instance Foott (1880).

3    See also other textual material from these occasions, such as the Victorian Women’s address to the Queen on her Golden Jubilee 1888.

4    The fictional examples differ in that they were aimed at an Australian as well as a British audience, with the possible exception of novels such as A Woman’s Friendship and A Girl’s Ideal which were originally serialised only in Australian newspapers and which might be seen as exclusively addressed to an Australian audience.

5    This is a different class and world to the related spectacle of the sideshow, which offered a ‘liberal education’, a ‘window on other worlds’, described in Broome (1999, 10).

6    There is further evidence for the popularity of the picture, and its interpretation. It is mentioned, for instance, in the Minute Book of the Sydney Women’s Literary Society, where in 1893 a Mrs. Edwards, amongst others, gave a paper on the topic, ‘Thoughts on pictures in the Art Gallery’, favouring landscapes: ‘Her favourite was “Ripening Sunbeams” with its suggested thoughts of home’ (Edwards 1893).

7    Note that the ‘New South Wales’ art sent to Columbia was not exhibited at the Exhibition as ‘space could not be found in the Art Palace’ (World’s Columbian Exhibition. 1893).

8    See Martin (1999).

9    Kylie Mirmohamadi Personal communication 18 October 2006.

10    See further discussion in Martin (2008).

11    See Lane (1999).



Edwards, Mrs. 1893. ‘Women’s Literary Society – Minute Book, 15 Aug. 1892–Aug. 1893’; ML B693: 176. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Foott, Mary Hannay. 1880. ‘The Melbourne International Exhibition AD 1880’. Australasian, 2 October 1880. Accessed 25 October 2006. Available from:

Victorian Women’s address to the Queen on her Golden Jubilee. 1888. Town Clerk’s Files. Series 2 Ceremonial Women’s Address to the Queen 1888. PROV VPRS 3182/P0000 unit 2. Public Records Office of Victoria.


Bancroft, Hubert Howe. 1893. World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893: The Book of the Fair. Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company. Web Version Scott Hancock. Accessed 14 June 2005. Available from:

Bayly, Elisabeth Boyd. [c. 1903]. Under the She-oaks. 2nd end. London: The Religious Tract Society. NLA has first edition, marked [c. 1903]; second [c. 1908].

Cambridge, Ada. [1881–1882] 1988. A Girl’s Ideal. Serialised Age 10 December–14 January. In The Penguin Anthology of Australian Women’s Writing. Edited by Dale Spender. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin.

Cambridge, Ada. 1892. Not All in Vain. Melbourne, Victoria: Melville, Mullen & Slade.

Cambridge, Ada. [1903] 1989. Thirty Years in Australia. Kensington, NSW: New South Wales University Press.

Cambridge, Ada. [1883] 1987. The Three Miss Kings. Serialised Australasian 23 June–15 December. London: Virago.

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Official Record of the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888–1889. 1890. Melbourne: Sands & McDougall.

Russell, Mrs Henry. 1894. Joyce Martindale. London & Sydney: Remington & Co.

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Broome, Richard. 1999. ‘Windows on other worlds: The rise and fall of Sideshow Alley’. Australian Historical Studies 112: 1–22.

Burton, Antoinette. 2003. ‘The visible Empire and the Empire at home, 1832–1905’. Editorial Essays. Empire On-line. Available at Marlborough, England: Adam Matthew Publications: Datagold, Ltd.

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Dalziell, Tanya. 2004. Settler Romances and the Australian Girl. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Press.

Greenhalgh, Paul. 1988. Ephemeral Vistas: The Exposition Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hoffenberg, Peter H. 2001. An Empire on Display: English, Indian and Australian Exhibitions from the Crystal Palace to the Great War. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Lane, Christopher. 1999. The Ruling Passion: British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire. Durham: Duke University Press.

Martin, Susan K. 1999. ‘Ladies and grocer’s wives: The crisis of middle-class female subjectivity in 1890s Australian women’s fictions’. Westerly (Spring): 1–13.

Martin, Susan K. 2008. ‘“Flashed from wire to wire, through the continents of the old and new world”: Trafficking imperial information and patriotism between Britain and Australia at the end of the Victorian era’. In Victorian Traffic: Identity, Exchange, Performance, edited by Thomas, Sue. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press. Forthcoming 2008.

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Cite this chapter as: Martin, Susan K. 2008. ‘“Surmounted by stuffed sheep”: Exhibitions and Empire in nineteenth-century Australian women’s fiction’. Seize the Day: Exhibitions, Australia and the World, edited by Darian-Smith, Kate; Gillespie, Richard; Jordan, Caroline; and Willis, Elizabeth. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 13.1–13.11.

© Copyright 2008 Susan K Martin
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   by Kate Darian-Smith, Richard Gillespie, Caroline Jordan, Elizabeth Willis