‘The History of the Murder':  Ellen Davitt as a Crime Writer

Kate Watson, Cardiff University

This article will examine the ways in which the nineteenth-century Australian woman writer, Ellen Davitt, significantly both contributed to and challenged the masculine dominated mystery and the nascent crime genre with her pioneering work, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush. The lead serial of Melbourne’s The Australian Journal, starting on September 2nd, 1865, it has been acclaimed by Lucy Sussex as Australia’s first murder mystery novel. [1] Davitt’s work can also be aligned with that of her Australian contemporary, Mary Helena Fortune. These authors were both influential in the development of the crime fiction genre in Australia and of other nations.

melbourne 1870‘The history of the murder’ is a line taken from Ellen Davitt’s Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush. While the history of the murder is precisely the focus of and cause for the literal narrative of Force and Fraud, this quotation can extend to and be read in terms of the historical positioning of Davitt’s work. Davitt and her writing provide the impetus to mine the colonial literary journals for these murder histories which have much to tell us about the times in which they were produced. As the feminist, Angela Carter acknowledged, ‘[w]hat dynamite the real history of Australia is...’ [2] Ellen Davitt was one of the most significant contributors, male or female, to Australian criminography despite writing only for about three years (1865-68). If we can read Davitt in terms of Carter’s dynamite analogy, then what becomes evident are her attempts to ‘blow up’ and transgress the discursive and gendered limits. From another perspective, Davitt’s work provides the impulsion to closer inspect and assemble this criminous Australian literary history. My analysis will both concentrate on and attempt to elucidate the competitive world of colonial literary authorship and Davitt’s positioning within this; women’s location in Australia; Davitt’s personal drive and her feminist qualities, and the visibility of feminist themes in her writing through her different characters. This essay will be divided into two sections accordingly: context, followed by the content of Force and Fraud.

In order to trace Davitt’s own history and understand her writing, a genealogy of Australian colonial literary culture and contexts for reading crime needs to be compiled. Crime fiction was not seen to be a holistic genre until the end of the nineteenth century, with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories usually taken to be the apotheosis of the form. But crime narratives had proliferated in literature for many decades prior to this. In terms of literary critical focus and in comparison to Britain, America or France, Australian crime fiction, while equally important and prolific, is not usually accorded the same status or critical attention as its northern hemisphere cousins. And when Australian crime fiction is discussed as part of the country’s literary heritage, it has more usually been male Australian writers who are extolled as icons of national literary culture. The creation of a masculinist national myth was seen in the contributions of the Bulletin writers in the 1880s and onward and with the valorization and anthologization of authors such as ‘Rolf Boldrewood’ (Thomas Alexander Browne), Hume Nisbet, Basil Farjeon, E[rnest] W[illiam] Hornung, Ernest Favenc, Guy (Newell) Boothby, Francis Adams, Edmund Finn, and Patrick Quinn. Perhaps the most celebrated instance of Australian crime writing is Fergus Hume’s best-selling The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886). This was published in Britain and America as well as Australia, so taking Antipodean criminography to the world. Anne Summers confirms this masculine emphasis, commenting that ‘there has existed throughout Australian history a systematic omission of women from what have been judged the highest achievements in any field.’ [3] But this ‘systematic omission’ does not mean that women were not in actuality producing literature—including crime fiction—and Davitt’s literary presence testifies to this.

A decade and a half prior to the inception of Davitt’s text, the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s and the consequent influx of people raised issues about crime, identity, and a need for control; the goldfields and their social heterogeneity were a site of anarchic and criminal potential. Simultaneously, there was a proliferation of literature about perceived increases in levels of crime and the possible measures that might be taken to manage it. This in turn led to fictional accounts: A. W. Baker has noted that ‘1830-68: [signals] The End of Transportation; [and] The Beginning of Fiction.’ [4] More specifically, this mid-nineteenth century ‘beginning’ also sees the establishment of the genre of crime fiction in Australia, and Davitt and her work plays an important part in this early development. Curiously, there has been, as Stephen Knight writes, ‘[n]o place of any substance […] found for Australian crime fiction in the national literary histories.’ [5] Other countries’ accounts of the genre also ignore Australia. Alma E. Murch’s The Development of the Detective Novel makes no reference to Australia, an oversight that, by extension, implies that the Australian woman crime writer (and so Davitt) is doubly forgotten. [6] Murch, though, is not alone in her exclusion of Australia as a producer of detective fiction. John Sutherland in The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction includes Australian criminography, but focuses on male authors. [7] Both this general Australian omission and later predication on men factors into Davitt’s concealment as an Australian woman crime and mystery writer. By contrast, Knight not only draws attention to the proliferation of crime fiction produced on nineteenth-century Australia, but defines several social and historically inflected sub-genres of Australian crime fiction which came into being in the period. [8] Recent extensive research, mostly by Lucy Sussex, has revealed further details about Davitt’s writing and background and her female contemporaries. It is not until 2010 that Sussex has filled the previously unmarked space with her book which specifically looks at many women, and incorporates those in Australia (including Davitt): Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction: The Mothers of the Mystery Genre.

The systematic oversight of both Davitt and Australian literature as a whole is related to colonial publishing and print culture practices. At mid-century the publishing climate was favourable; Elizabeth Webby comments that ‘[t]he discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria at mid-century led to a renewed interest in Australia from publishers, readers and writers.’ [9] The gold rush inevitably caused crime, and these criminal acts and gold’s lucrative potential aroused public interest; factual reportage emerged as well as fictional accounts of felony. [10] Yet colonial writers were in competition with Britain, as imported and (pre-copyright) fiction by British and American authors could be obtained via international piracy. [11] While this did not devalue Australia’s output, it did somewhat impede the international dissemination of its literature and its external circulation proved problematic. As Tim Dolin elaborates:

the shipment of print products was largely one-way: it made one home – mid-Victorian Britain – more vitally present and real than the other, colonial Australia, which was either absent, hurried over, falsified, exoticised, or distorted. [12]

And this, in turn, is evidence as to why Davitt has remained absent from these (predominantly British-based) histories of print culture and literature.

This material which included crime content was circulated within Australia not only in the periodical press but by libraries. Samuel Mullen (1828-1890) inaugurated his bookshop and Select Library in Melbourne in 1859, based on Mudie’s Circulating Library in London, while George Robertson had set up a bookselling and publishing company in Melbourne in 1852. [13] From the mid-century onwards, there was surge of production of Australian daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals, many of which appeared initially in Victoria, Sydney and Brisbane. Of the many Australian authors writing in the period, James Skipp Borlase was one of the few published in England, but this was not an avenue open to all, and was not to Davitt. Borlase commented on the restricted publishing opportunities and lack of financial reward in Australia in an article for the British Temple Bar in 1870. He called the limitation a literary ‘semi starvation’ and went on to say ‘[f]or ordinary writers there is not the slightest opening in any of the Australian colonies, least of all in Melbourne.’ [14] This ‘semi starvation’ was not new, as another article, this time in the Colonial Monthly in 1869 demonstrates:

As matters stand, we have practically no literary rewards, honours, or hopes of fame to offer colonial youth…The local author in Victoria has been and is systematically kept down. It is appointed by law that he shall not write for popular serials, because the publisher’s profit is so artificially restricted, that he cannot afford to pay for original composition, and he must not raise his price in the face of English competition artificially favoured. [15]

And if this was the case for the Australian male writers, the Australian female criminographer is perhaps doubly distanced from the international publishing arena.

The magazine which published Davitt’s work and that of the majority of her crime contemporaries was the Australian Journal (hereafter Journal), which had a wide audience in Australia. Established in Melbourne in 1865 the Journal ran until 1962. [16] A peer periodical described it to be:

Based on the plan of the English Weeklies, such as the Family Herald, London Journal, Cassell’s Papers & c, [and] takes up ground hitherto unoccupied, there being no magazine in the Colonies devoted to the general reader; or to the entertainment of ladies and youth;- no publication wherein the literature of Australia may find a suitable abiding place. [17]

It was innovative in its concentration on crime writing, which was perhaps because its founding editor, George Arthur Walstab, had a personal interest in crime. He wrote a story, ‘Confessed at Last’ (Journal, 25 April-8 August 1868), and a novel, Looking Back (1864), which recounted his experiences as a cadet in La Trobe’s Victorian Mounted Police (1852-54). [18] Walstab left the Journal and started editing his own magazine, the Australasian Monthly Review, in March 1866. Later in his career, Walstab translated some of the crime fiction of the popular French author, Émile Gaboriau. [19] However, Andrew McCann comments that ‘[t]oday the Australian Journal is itself all but forgotten but for [Marcus] Clarke’s involvement with it and its publication of his masterpiece [For the Term of His Natural Life].’ [20] But the recovery of many of the Journal’s crime stories has been made possible by Victor Crittenden and the numerous reprints published by the Mulini Press under their Australian Books on Demand imprint. This popularity and later elision of the writing featured in the Journal can be extended to Davitt’s writing: while known at the time, both her writing and her presence are, for the most part, unknown today.

In order to consider the fictional figures in Davitt’s text and her personal ‘crime control’ through her writing, historical policing in Australia needs to be mentioned. As far as ‘real’ crime was concerned there was, like in Britain and America, a perceived need for control in the form of policing and detecting figures. G. F. J. Bergmann has called John Harris, the grandfather of John Lang (generally regarded as the first Australian-born writer), the first Australian policeman. [21] Harris functioned in a rudimentary, thief-taker capacity. [22] Mounted police appeared in the 1820s in Victoria, and later, in 1842 Aboriginal men served under white officers, with the Native Police Corps established by Henry E. P. Dana. A detective force was inaugurated, also in Victoria, in 1844, comprising a sergeant and four constables. [23] The contemporary reception of policing figures displays a distinctly Australian shift that is reflected in fiction. ‘William Burrows’, J. S. Borlase and, initially, Mary Helena Fortune, portrayed positive representations of Australian police, yet as the 1854 Eureka Stockade (with its gold miners who dissented against surveillance) indicated, an anti-authoritarian stance emerged and was prevalent post-1860. [24] Davitt wrote Force and Fraud as this figurative change was taking place.

More importantly for this article and the consideration of Davitt and her gendered representations is how women featured within policing configurations. The role of women in Australia, in life and literature, is summed up succinctly by the title of Anne Summers’s well-known book, Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia. Summers argues that prior to the 1840s, women were homogenized as ‘damned whores’ (a label which was derived from the transported women convicts) and then subsequently as ‘god’s police’ from 1840 onwards, with ‘the first wave of Australian nationalism’. [25] But as Australia moved away from a penal colony a shift emerged, with the focus on the wife: the function of ‘God’s Police’ was ideological, for women to act as upholders of moral virtue. This gendered dichotomy provides the bounds in which writers such as Davitt could question through their criminous discourse.

In turning to Davitt’s Australian female contemporaries, as in Britain and America, Australian women writers were, for the most part, writing in many genres. Mary Helena Fortune wrote across a number of genres and was the first Australian woman to specialize in crime. Fortune appeared in periodicals for over forty years and wrote over five hundred stories for the detective serial, ‘The Detective’s Album’ (1867-1908). This was reprinted as a book collection titled The Detective’s Album in 1871, and was the first detective stories book in Australia. In spite of this, Fortune and her work were not discovered by literary commentators until 1980. Other women authors in colonial Australia who addressed crime and crime themes in their writing were Céleste de Chabrillan, Caroline Woolmer Leakey, Eliza Winstanley, and Rosa Praed. de Chabrillan wrote Les Voleurs d’or (The Gold Robbers) (published 1857); [26] Leakey (pseud. Oliné Keese) wrote The Broad Arrow: Being Passages From the History of Maida Gwynnham, A Lifer (1859); [27] Winstanley (1818-82) produced For Her Natural Life: A Tale of the 1830s (novel, 1876), which was a response to Marcus Clarke’s seminal His Natural Life (serial in the Journal from 1870-72; novel, 1874); [28] and Praed later wrote Outlaw and Lawbreaker (1893). As Henry W. Mitchell writes with reference to Mary Fortune:

had she lived in England or America, where literary talent is properly appreciated, she would have, years ago, been regarded as a literary novelist, and have occupied the proud position that merit demands. [29]

I argue that Davitt was equally significant, penning the first Australian murder mystery.

Although she does not figure in the criminographic canon, Davitt’s crime narratives preceded that of some of her more reputable British contemporaries. For instance, Sussex has noted that Force and Fraud predated Wilkie Collins’ 1868 novel The Moonstone by three years. But where Collins’s text appeared in book form as well as in a periodical and so has remained in print, I suggest that despite Davitt’s work being published in a leading colonial journal, the ephemeral nature of such publications has resulted in her being forgotten in Australia and elsewhere. It was not until the 1990s that Davitt’s writing received academic attention, with Force and Fraud released in book form in the Australian Books on Demand series in 1993. Her influence and importance have subsequently been recognized by Sisters in Crime (Australia), who have established ‘the Davitt award’ for Australian women’s crime writing. [30]

Before moving on to a deliberation of Force and Fraud, I will sketch Davitt’s background to illuminate the origins of her personal drive and how these events interconnect with her writing. Born Ellen Heseltine around 1812 in Hull, Yorkshire, Davitt spent her early life in the United Kingdom, where she received an extensive education. This educational background aligns Davitt with the American criminographic writers Harriet Prescott Spofford and Anna Katharine Green, but while they received tertiary education, Davitt’s educational claims have not been validated. Davitt commented that she had ‘[s]tudied under Masters in England, spent some time in fashionable schools in Paris […] have [illegible] honours in History, Modern Languages, Composition, and Elocution.’ [31] She later lived in France and Ireland with her husband, Arthur Davitt, before they emigrated to Victoria to take up positions respectively as principal and superintendent in the Model School in East Melbourne in the 1850s. Both she and her husband had a problematic relationship with the Model School and its administrators, and Sussex details this interaction in her introduction to the Mulini reprint. Davitt lost her position as a consequence of the lack of school funds and went on to set up her own school for governesses in 1859, the ‘Ladies’ Institute of Victoria’. But her business did not prosper and her husband died soon after, in January 1860. Davitt subsequently joined another school at Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, in 1874, from which she was also dismissed. She died of cancer in Melbourne on 6th January 1879.

Davitt’s testing of the limits of gendered and social propriety by writing crime and melodrama has interconnections with another disconcertingly assertive woman and her well-known family in Britain. The information that Davitt was also Anthony Trollope’s sister-in-law is a less-than-publicized fact then and now. Davitt was an elder sister of Rose, who was Trollope’s wife. [32] This information, though, was not broadcast and there is a definite sense of deliberate omission; Davitt is not mentioned in biographies of Anthony Trollope or in his accounts of his two visits to Australia (1871 and 1875). This is in direct contrast to Davitt’s own account of Trollope’s 1875 visit: she related that ‘Mr. Trollope called on me’ at her school for an hour in May. [33] The suggestive (mis)treatment meted out to Davitt by the Trollope family bears some resemblance to that given to another unconventional and literary woman, Frances (Fanny) Trollope (1779-1863), who was Anthony Trollope’s mother. Fanny Trollope has been, like Davitt, largely disregarded in literary history and is little-known today, despite writing over forty books, including Hargrave; or, The Adventures of a Man of Fashion (1843) and other novels which incorporate elements of crime and detection. In Davitt’s own immediate family, her father, Edward Heseltine, equally led an unconventional life. Heseltine was a bank manager in Yorkshire who embezzled around £5,000 over a twenty-year period from 1830-1850; he absconded to France to evade capture and his criminal actions, as Sussex has suggested, could have been part of the impulse behind Davitt’s creation of Force and Fraud. [34]

In conjunction with her teaching career, Davitt was a progressive, proto-feminist figure. She was outspoken and voiced her opinions; she was a writer, an artist, and toured Victoria as a public speaker, offering lectures with titles such as ‘The Vixens of Shakespeare’, ‘Women and her Mission’, ‘Colonisation v. Convictism’, and ‘The Influence of Art’. [35] Speaking of ‘Women and Her Mission’, the Hamilton Spectator commented that:

Mrs. Davitt’s lecture […] is a literary work of great ability, displaying a large acquaintance with history and both English and foreign literature. The style of composition too is both easy and pleasing, and the extracts remarkably well chosen. The lecturer whose delivery is effective and pleasing was repeatedly applauded in the course of the evening and, as far as we could gather, the audience were generally well pleased, both with the subject and the manner in which it was treated. [36]

In April 1861 she gave a public lecture at the Melbourne Mechanics Institute, ‘The Rise and Progress of the Fine Arts in Spain’ and a report in the Examiner stated that it was by ‘a lady whose name will doubtless be familiar to many of our readers’. [37] Davitt was making a name for herself; this lecture was, remarkably for a Victorian woman, followed by a lecture tour of Victoria. But art critic ‘Christopher Sly’ was less enthusiastic, writing about a painting (of Saint Cecilia) that she submitted for the first exhibition of the Victorian Society of Fine Arts in 1857, commenting that it was ‘a tremendous thing for a lady to do, but it had much better have been undone […] please, Mrs. Davitt, don’t do it any more’. [38] Her interest in architecture is apparent in her participation in the remodelling of the school in which she was employed. [39] In short, Davitt refused the role of a conventionally subservient woman, confined to the domestic sphere. Consequently, descriptions of her are often unfavourable: historian J. Alex Allan has branded Davitt as being possessed of ‘a certain harshness, priggishness, and overbearing self-esteem.’ [40] He added that she was ‘the power behind the throne’ and had a ‘faculty of fault-finding.’ [41] As Victor Crittenden of the Mulini Press remarks, ‘Just imagine a woman in the 1850s daring to have a high opinion of herself and her capabilities.’ [42] But it is precisely these opinions and capabilities that enabled Davitt’s writing of Force and Fraud.

The serialization of Force and Fraud began on the first page of the first edition of the Journal in 1865. [43] Later in the same year, the Journal published Davitt’s novel-length serials ‘Black Sheep: A Tale of Australian Life’ (25 November 1865-27 January 1866), and ‘Uncle Vincent; or, Love and Hatred. A Romance of Modern Times’ (5 May-23 June 1866), as well as the novella, ‘Past and Futures: a Tale of the Early Explorers’ (18-24 March 1866). Her first work, ‘Edith Travers’, has not been traced. [44] The Journal featured much crime writing and fiction and included Australian writers such as Mary Helena Fortune and James Skipp Borlase, both prominent and prolific crime writers whose work also appeared in the periodical’s first edition. Sussex, in discussing J. S. Borlase and his contributions to the Australian Journal, compares his output with Davitt: ‘He made at least 25 appearances in various genres; only Ellen (Mrs Arthur) Davitt […] rivalled him, with 22.’ [45] This information encapsulates Davitt’s ability and flexibility, as well as her capability to keep pace with the Journal’s male exponents. Force and Fraud’s length is more like that of a novella—under 70, 000 words, with very short chapters—and, in this sense, Davitt was ahead of her time in eschewing the more traditional Victorian three-decker novel format. The writer again contested Victorian literary conventions by refusing to assign a pseudonym to her criminal works, using instead her own name—‘Mrs. Arthur Davitt’. Her contemporary, Mary Fortune, was more conventional and wrote her crime stories under the pen-name ‘W. W.’ Once established as a writer, after her last serial in 1867, Sussex has observed that Davitt simply signed her work off as ‘by the author of’. [46] After 1869 there is no sign of her literary work and, if she did write later, it has not been traced. While Davitt’s oeuvre was small and published over a short period, she nonetheless made an important contribution to the development of Australian crime fiction.

Force and Fraud is pioneering in its status as the first murder mystery in Australia, and the first ‘whodunit’. It was quickly imitated: Crittenden compares Robert Whitworth’s serialized crime novel, Mary Summers: A Romance of the Australian Bush (which appeared in the second issue of the Journal after Force and Fraud in September 1865), with Davitt’s work. He comments that ‘[i]t is not as successful a murder mystery as Force and Fraud […] as it does not focus on or have dropped into the story in a regular fashion the clues to the murderer’. [47] To précis the events of Force and Fraud, Davitt’s story starts with the murder of a wealthy squatter and station owner, originally from Scotland, named Angus McAlpin. Murdered near his property, the positioning of his dead body and the consequent action of the plot explain the text’s sub-title, ‘A Tale of the Bush’. By contrast to the earlier convict-orientated narratives such as Clarke’s His Natural Life (serial form) where the initial crime occurs in England, the crime, the criminals and the setting are all Australian. McAlpin has an independent and headstrong daughter, Flora McAlpin, who is engaged, against her father’s wishes, to an artist, Herbert Lindsey. McAlpin’s agent, Pierce Silverton, however, is also in (unrequited) love with Flora.

Herbert is painting in the bush one day when he becomes involved in helping a wounded Gaelic bushman (Evan Gillespie); in the process he loses his knife and bloodies his clothes. This is later taken as evidence of his involvement in the murder of McAlpin and results in Herbert’s arrest. In fact, the murder has been arranged by Silverton. The text indicates that it was a common occurrence for McAlpin to bully others, and that he would displace his anger onto Silverton. [48] In the crucial instance which incites murder, Silverton had been beaten by his employer (McAlpin) with a riding whip after they had had a quarrel while out for a ride. Subsequently, Silverton chances to meet ‘Dick’ Thrashem, a criminal, who agrees to assassinate McAlpin for a fee of a hundred pounds, giving Silverton his revenge for his ill-treatment at McAlpin’s hands; he then blackmails Silverton, making him pay for his silence. [49] Meanwhile, Silverton manipulates events in order to secure Flora’s hand in marriage, but before he can achieve his aim, Thrashem kills him in an argument. Thrashem is apprehended and executed and Herbert is cleared. The story conforms to the now familiar generic crime and mystery pattern: it starts with a murder, the body of the narrative is concerned with the solution to the mystery and the true culprits are not detected until the closure of the text. But in its period, the plot structure was innovative. The narrative action shifts between the bush, small townships, Melbourne, and, briefly, Queensland, and there is a tacit acknowledgement of the connections between Australia and Britain when Thrashem sails there.

Davitt’s originality can be seen in the characters within the narrative. The criminals, Silverton and ex-convict ‘Dick’ Thrashem, work together; the title of Davitt’s text refers specifically to their names: ‘Force’ is Thrashem, who is the murderer, and ‘Fraud’ is Silverton, who commissions the killing while giving the appearance of remaining loyal in intention and action. [50] It is towards the end of the narrative, on the day before Silverton is to marry Flora, when the two criminals fall out and the title of the novel reveals its full significance. Thrashem demands a further £100 pounds from Silverton; the result is ‘Force and Fraud, contending with each other! The two crimes which so often unite in the destruction of mankind now striving for the mastery.’ (p. 129) The last line of the text again picks up on the dual elements of the criminal act. While simultaneously offering a conventional closure with the reunion of Flora and Herbert in happy domesticity, the narrative observes ‘they have passed through their ordeal—the power of the man of force having been destroyed – the arts of the man of fraud rendered unavailing.’ (p. 139) In a stylish twist, Davitt’s sententious final words reiterate the significance of the book’s title. [51]

Moreover, what stems from McAlpin’s death is a host of quasi-victims. The most prominent of these is Flora, McAlpin’s daughter. Flora is a secondary victim of the criminal machinations around her. She is also the unknowing catalyst for the murder as her body and the body of land she will inherit are the objects of Silverton’s desire. [52] Flora, however, does not fit into the ‘proper’ feminine role accorded to women in the period. Herbert comments that ‘I little thought that the quiet retiring girl I once met at Baden would ever exhibit such an independent spirit.’ Flora replies: ‘Baden is a very different sort of place to Australia […]; besides people grow very independent in this colony.’ (p. 13) The implication is that, more importantly, women are striving for autonomy in nineteenth-century Australia. Davitt’s text not only makes Flora a strong central character but a decided and independent voice in which to articulate her—and possibly Davitt’s—ideas and emotions. This is in contrast to the women represented in earlier crime-centred fiction, such as those in William Howitt’s Tallangetta: The Squatter’s Home (1857), Henry Kingsley’s The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn (1859), John Lang’s The Forger’s Wife (1855), and Céleste de Chabrillan’s The Gold Robbers (1857). The representation of Flora prefigures and makes possible the stronger women towards the end of the century as seen in Rosa Praed’s Outlaw and Lawmaker (1893) and Ernest William Hornung’s Irralie’s Bushranger (1896). In Force and Fraud’s ‘Chapter XIII: A Storm’ (p. 46) Davitt consciously plays with the connotations of nature and the ‘natural’ behaviour of women. For instance, Flora reacts ‘unnaturally’ to news of Herbert’s arrest, ‘for Miss McAlpin, instead of falling senseless on the ground, stamped her foot, clenched her hand, and exclaimed in an angry tone, “Who dares to attribute such a crime to Mr. Lindsey?”’ (p. 46) She demands that Mr. Argueville discover the real killer, stating ‘I defy the law!’ (p. 74) Flora is, however, partially recuperated into a non-threatening feminine role after Herbert is proved innocent. She is shown to ‘retire into the more natural position of domestic life. The likeness to her stern father now seems to have faded away, and her countenance again resumes the expression of her mother’s gentle face.’ (p. 94) But this is because Flora has achieved her aims. She can and does feign ‘appropriate’ gendered behaviour until she is threatened or challenged. Her representation exposes the masquerade of femininity required in the period and suggests that women—or Australian women—were well aware of the contradictions inherent in the role allocated to them.

Another strong-minded woman and potential proto-feminist presence in the narrative is Miss Bessie Garlick. Bessie is a daughter of Mrs. Garlick, and Pierce lodges in their home when he is in town. Bessie is a comical figure in the text, and she has unreciprocated affections for Pierce. She purloins his snuff-box from his dressing table, for which he chases her. The text relays this incident and Pierce’s attempts at reclamation, although Bessie is victorious: ‘She was a great strong girl, more than a match for Pierce Silverton.’ (p. 29) Silverton supports this when he comments: ‘What strength that girl has! I am quite done up!’ (p. 29) Bessie’s mischievousness, though, is ostensibly excused as the narrator relays that ‘a little wildness was tolerated in consideration of her youth.’ (p. 27) This assertion, however, does not detract from her cheeky challenges which are interspersed throughout the narrative.

There is also the resilient figure of Mrs. Roberts, who tests the limits to a greater extent than Bessie. In ‘Chapter XXII: The Court House’ (p. 86) she is made to attend Herbert’s trial as a witness; she clearly espouses feminist proclivities when says to her friend, Mrs. Busselman: ‘“And if I don’t give them the benefit of my tongue, may I bite it out.”’ (p. 87) Earlier, Mrs. Roberts had found Herbert’s handkerchief near the spot where McAlpin’s body was discovered and, believing his innocence, secreted it. Consequently, when a couple of policemen arrive to arrest her as an accessory to the murder of McAlpin, an altercation transpires due to her possession of this article. She is bailed as a doctor’s certificate pronounces her as an invalid, but—as she proves—she is not crippled in her convictions. She becomes feisty after her miscellaneous “Rubbish Drawer” is confiscated; the narrator describes her as ‘the amazon’ (p. 65), and she indignantly tells the policeman who is ransacking the contents of her drawer (and who hurts his hand on a large carpet needle in the process): ‘“Bad cess to ye for rummaging my things in that way. If I’d known I’d have put a good branch of prickly pear amongst them, and spoilt those fingers of yours, my boy”’. (p. 65) I suggest that Davitt can mediate these feminist qualities and challenges to both men and the disciplinary power of the law through comical guise. Davitt’s work implies that Australian women were aware of the contradiction of the role allocated to them, yet these women advocated a resignification and contestation of female stereotypes.

Unlike later generic crime and detective fiction, there is no holistic detecting sequence or specific detective figure in this mystery novel. This could feed into the negative Australian literary representations of the police, where a more unenthusiastic approach was taking precedence. In a curious inversion, Silverton, in his superficially respectable social persona, feigns a semi-investigative capacity: ‘On arriving in Melbourne, Mr. Silverton found plenty to do. In the first place he had to call on certain detective officers respecting the necessary steps to be taken for the discovery of the murderer; in the second, to seek out Miss McAlpin’s trustees.’ (p. 23) He is charged with these investigative duties by Flora: ‘I hope you will obtain all the information in your power, Mr. Silverton, that may lead to the detection of the real murderer.’ (p. 49) In featuring in the oppositional roles of ‘detective’ and criminal, Silverton confuses preconceived social and generic categories. There are, however, many policemen who sporadically appear at intervals throughout the narrative, but they are not depicted positively and are shown to be inefficient. [53]

In turning to other sporadic appearances, while Force and Fraud seems not to have ‘travelled’ to England for publication, a case can be made for the reverse transportation of Davitt’s novel-length serial ‘Black Sheep: A Tale of Australian Life’. This work may have influenced the British novelist and journalist, Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894). One year after Davitt’s story was serialized in the Journal (25 November 1865-27 January 1866), Yates produced Black Sheep! (serialized in Charles Dickens’ All The Year Round, 25 August 1866-30 March 1867; 1867, 3 vols, Tinsley) The title of his story and the temporal proximity of its publication suggest that this was unlikely to be coincidental. [54] Davitt, as a Journal contributor, may be included in Knight’s contention that ‘both Fortune and [James Skipp] Borlase were known in England. […] Fortune […] perhaps through some copies of her rare omnibus The Detective’s Album of 1871; but both of them were known through the British readership of the Australian Journal.’ [55] It is also possible that Davitt’s Force and Fraud appeared in America, or that her narrative was read by an American writer, Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (pseudonym ‘Seeley Regester’). Victor wrote the first American full-length crime novel, The Dead Letter: An American Romance (serialized in 1866; novel in 1867). The Dead Letter was serialized in America a few months after Force and Fraud was serialized in Australia, and it may be that Victor was influenced by Davitt. The affinities between the texts could simply have resulted from parallel genre developments, but there are many very specific similarities which suggest otherwise.

It is a mystery why Davitt has not been recognized or credited for her pioneering work in the emergent crime genre—both within Australia and internationally. This may have been because Davitt did not have a detective character or due to her writing for only a short time. As this article has shown, there were difficulties facing women writers in the competitive world of colonial literary authorship, perhaps especially so for those women who were not afraid to dispute the confines of gender. As well as fictional representations of crime, women were equally restricted in their positions as detecting figures in reality. Davitt was an independent Australian woman whose personal drive was articulated via many mediums and her originality in writing—expressed through her inaugural Australian murder mystery, Force and Fraud—made a significant contribution to the Australian crime genre and to crime fiction generally.

 

Bibliography

Primary Texts

 Davitt, Ellen, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush (Canberra: Mulini Press, 1993)

Victor, Metta. The Dead Letter: An American Romance (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003) [Beadle’s Monthly: A Magazine of To-Day, January-September 1866]

Secondary Sources

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‘Restrictions upon Colonial Literature’, Colonial Monthly, September 1869, 23-4

‘Weekly Miscellany’, Examiner, 20 April 1861

Allan, J. Alex, The Old Model School: Its History and Romance 1852-1904 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1934)

Askew, M. and B. Hubber, ‘The Colonial Reader Observed: Reading in its Cultural Context’, in The Book in Australia: Essays Towards a Cultural and Social History, ed. D. Borchardt and W. Kirsop, Centre for Bibliographical and Textual Studies (Melbourne: Monash University, 1988)

Baker, A. W., Death Is A Good Solution: The Convict Experience in Early Australia (Queensland, Au.: Queensland University Press, 1984)

Barton, G. B., Literature in New South Wales (Sydney: Thomas Richards, Govt. Printer, 1866)

Bergmann, G. F. J., ‘John Harris, The First Australian Policeman’, Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, Vol. V, part II (December 1959)

Campbell, Ronald G., The First Ninety Years: the Printing House of Massina, Melbourne, 1859 to 1949 (Melbourne: Massina, 1949)

Carter, Angela, quoted in Debra Adelaide, ‘Introduction: A Tradition of Women’, in A Bright and Fiery Troop: Australian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century, ed. Debra Adelaide (Victoria, Au: Penguin, 1988), 1-14

Crittenden, Victor, ‘Introduction’, in Robert Whitworth Mary Summers: A Romance of the Australian Bush (Canberra: Mulini, 1994)

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Dolin, Tim, ‘First Steps Toward a History of the Mid-Victorian Novel in Colonial Australia’, Australian Literary Studies 22 (2006), 273-93

DuBose, Martha Hailey, Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000)

Gelder, Ken, and Rachael Weaver ed., The Anthology of Colonial Australian Crime Fiction (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2008)

Hagen, Ordean A., Who Done It? A Guide to Detective, Mystery, and Suspense Fiction (New York: Bowker, 1969)

Haldane, Robert, The People’s Force: A History of the Victoria Police (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986)

Hamilton Spectator, 2 October 1863

Harris, Alexander, Settlers and Convicts or, Recollections of Sixteen Years’ Labour in the Australian Backwoods, by an Emigrant Mechanic; Foreword by Manning Clark (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969)

Holroyd, J. P., ‘Mullen, Samuel (1828 - 1890)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5 (Melbourne University Press, 1974), 309-310

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Knight, Stephen, ‘A Blood Spot on the Map: Place and Displacement in Australian Crime Fiction’, Australian Cultural History 12 (1993), 145-59

--. ‘Introduction’, in Dead Witness: Best Australian Mystery Stories, ed. Stephen Knight (Victoria, Au. and Middlesex: Penguin, 1989), ix-xxv

--. Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction (Victoria, Au: Melbourne University Press, 1997)

Lahey, John, Damn You, John Christie! The Public Life of Australia’s Sherlock Holmes (Melbourne: State Library of Victoria, 1993)

Lindsay, H. A., ‘The World’s First Policewoman’, Quadrant, March 1959, 75-77

McCann, Andrew, Marcus Clarke’s Bohemia: Literature and Modernity in Colonial Melbourne (Victoria, Au.: Melbourne University Press, 2004)

Mitchell, Henry W., ‘A Well Known Contributor: Waif Wander’, Australian Journal, Vol. 15, March 1880, 487-8

Murch, A. E., The Development of the Detective Novel (London: Peter Owen, 1958)

Neild, James (‘Christopher Sly’), ‘A Peep at the Pictures’, Examiner and Melbourne       Weekly News, 12 December 1857

Register, 28 April 1915

Reynolds, George William MacArthur, The Mysteries of London (2 vols. London: George Vickers, 1846)

Schaffer, Kay, Women and the Bush: Forces of Desire in the Australian Cultural Tradition (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988)

Sisters in Crime, Australia: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~sincoz/welcome.htm

Stein, Aaron Marc, ‘The Mystery Story in Cultural Perspective’, in The Mystery Story, ed. John Ball (Del Mar, CA.: University of California, San Diego/ Publisher’s Inc, 1976), 29-59

Summers, Anne, Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia (Victoria, Au.: Allen Lane, 1975)

Sussex, Lucy, ‘“Bobbing Around”: James Skipp Borlase, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and Surviving in the Literary Market of Australia, 1860s’, Victorian Periodicals Review 37 (2004), 1-18

--. ‘An Early Australian Murder Mystery Novel: Ellen Davitt and Force and Fraud’, Margin 25 (1991), 7-11

--. ‘Introduction’, in Ellen Davitt, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush (Canberra: Mulini Press, 1993), i-ix

--. Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth Century Crime Fiction: The Mothers of the Mystery Genre (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010)

Sutherland, John, The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1989)

Temple Bar, November 1870, 233-4

The Reminiscences of Detective-Inspector Christie (related by J. B. Castieau. Melbourne: Robertson and Co., 1913)

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Victorian Public Record Series 892, Unit 32, Special Case 525

Walch’s Literary Intelligencer, September 1865:1

Webby, Elizabeth, ‘Colonial Writers and Readers’, in The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature, ed. Elizabeth Webby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 50-73

Whitworth, Robert, Mary Summers: A Romance of the Australian Bush (Canberra: Mulini, 1994)

Wilson Dean, and Mark Finnane, ‘From Sleuths to Technicians? Changing Images of the Detective in Victoria’, in Police Detectives in History, 1750-1950, ed. Clive Emsley and Haia Shpayer-Makov (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 135-56

Worthington, Heather, The Rise of the Detective in Early Nineteenth-Century Popular Fiction (Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)



[1] Lucy Sussex, ‘Introduction’, in Ellen Davitt, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush (Canberra: Mulini Press, 1993), pp. i-ix. Stephen Knight (Continent of Mystery Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction (Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1997)), Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver also see it as such (ed. The Anthology of Colonial Australian Crime Fiction (Melbourne University Press, 2008), p. 2).

[2] Angela Carter, quoted in Debra Adelaide, ‘Introduction: A Tradition of Women’, in A Bright and Fiery Troop: Australian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century, ed. Debra Adelaide (Victoria, Au: Penguin, 1988), 1-14 (p. 1).

[3] Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia (Victoria, Au.: Allen Lane, 1975), p. 35.

[4] This is used as the title of a chapter in his work on the convict experience in early Australia. A. W. Baker, Death Is A Good Solution: The Convict Experience in Early Australia (Queensland, Au.: Queensland University Press, 1984), p. 78. The cessation of transportation to NSW was in 1840 and to Western Australia in 1868.

[5] Stephen Knight, ‘A Blood Spot on the Map: Place and Displacement in Australian Crime Fiction’, Australian Cultural History 12 (1993), 145-59 (p. 145). Knight adds that ‘the version authorised by H. M. Green, even in its revised form, has no more than passing and slighting references to the form, and the Penguin New Literary History of Australia avoids discussion of the genre, even though the same volume’s publishers had examples of it on their list.’ (p. 145)

[6] Murch, writing in and looking back from the 1950s, states that: ‘A very considerable proportion of the popular novels and short stories written in England, France and America during the last hundred years are of the type known as Detective Fiction.’ A. E. Murch, The Development of the Detective Novel (London: Peter Owen, 1958), p. 8.

[7] Discussing male authors such as Rolf Boldrewood (Thomas Alexander Browne), Guy Boothby, Marcus Clarke, Fergus Hume, and Francis Adams.

[8] ‘Convict Stories’, ‘The Goldfields Mystery’, ‘Squatter Thrillers’, and ‘The Criminal Saga’. Davitt’s Force and Fraud comes into the penultimate category. For a comprehensive discussion of these sub-genres see Knight, Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction (Victoria, Au.: Melbourne University Press, 1997).

[9] Elizabeth Webby, ‘Colonial Writers and Readers’, in The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature, ed. Elizabeth Webby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 50-73 (p. 53).

[10] Such as the multitude of Police Gazettes.

[11] Toni Johnson-Woods has written that ‘[t]hough many periodicals published colonial writers in their earliest years, after 1870 imported fiction usurped the local material.’ Toni Johnson-Woods, Index to Serials in Australian Periodicals and Newspapers: Nineteenth Century (Canberra: Mulini Press, 2001), p. 6. Woods compiled a table of imported and colonial serials in 1875, stating the imported: colonial ratio as 17:5.

[12] Tim Dolin, ‘First Steps Toward a History of the Mid-Victorian Novel in Colonial Australia’, Australian Literary Studies 22 (2006), 273-93 (p. 277).

[13] For more information see M. Askew and B. Hubber, ‘The Colonial Reader Observed: Reading in its Cultural Context’, in The Book in Australia: Essays Towards a Cultural and Social History, ed. D. Borchardt and W. Kirsop, Centre for Bibliographical and Textual Studies (Melbourne: Monash University, 1988). J. P. Holroyd comments that this venture of Mullen’s was so successful that Mullen moved in 1879 to larger premises at 31 Collins Street East. (J. P. Holroyd, ‘Mullen, Samuel (1828 - 1890)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, Melbourne University Press, 1974, pp. 309-10)

[14] Temple Bar, November 1870, pp. 233-4.

[15] ‘Restrictions upon Colonial Literature’, Colonial Monthly, September 1869, pp. 23-4. The Critic (Sydney) in September 1873 under the sub-heading of ‘Ourselves’ wrote that ‘Little or no effort is now made to encourage the growth of our native literature.’ The Critic: A Weekly Journal Specially Devoted to the Encouragement of Australian Literature, Science, and Art. Sydney, Vol: I-0.I, Sydney, Saturday, September 20, 1873, p. 1.

[16] This was published weekly from 1865-1869 and then monthly. Editors were: GA Walstab (1865-?); Marcus Clarke (1870-71); R P Whitworth (1874-75); E Kidgell (1875); William Smith Mitchell (1878-1909). 

[17] Walch’s Literary Intelligencer, September 1865:1.

[18] This was serialized in the Australian Journal as ‘Harcourt Darrell’.

[19] Ronald G. Campbell, The First Ninety Years: the Printing House of Massina, Melbourne, 1859 to 1949 (Melbourne: Massina, 1949), p. 51. 

[20] Andrew McCann, Marcus Clarke’s Bohemia: Literature and Modernity in Colonial Melbourne, (Victoria, Au.: Melbourne UP, 2004), p. 143. G. B. Barton estimated that in 1866 the Australian Journal averaged 5,500 weekly copies and that 1,750 of these were sold in New South Wales, equalling the English best seller, Good Words. (G. B. Barton, Literature in New South Wales (Sydney: Thomas Richards, Govt. Printer, 1866), p. 8-9. Johnson-Woods has the male: female ratio of Australian Journal writers as 49:51. (Index to Serials, p. 20)

[21] G. F. J. Bergmann, ‘John Harris, The First Australian Policeman’, Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, Vol. V, part II (December 1959). Originally a transported convict, Harris conceived of a Night Watch in Sydney to stop theft (convicts regulating convicts).

[22] As in Britain, such figures were met with suspicion and perceived to be agent provocateurs; a contemporary emigrant to Australia, Alexander Harris, wrote that these early police officers were men ‘who have crept up from their own ranks by cunning and sycophancy, and because they would do any dirty work rather than submit to bodily toil.’ Alexander Harris, Settlers and Convicts or, Recollections of Sixteen Years’ Labour in the Australian Backwoods, by an Emigrant Mechanic; Foreword by Manning Clark (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969)

[23] Robert Haldane, The People’s Force: A History of the Victoria Police (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986), p. 17. This was augmented in 1862 (to 41 detectives) as a consequence of the gold rush and its influx of population.

[24] The Australian change paved the way for the anti-police Australian male of later fiction, typified by Banjo Paterson’s celebrated song, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ (1895). This alteration of perceptions contrasts with the United Kingdom, where the police were unpopular at their inception in 1829-30, popular in fiction by the 1850s, and police anecdotes were still in vogue in the 1860s.

[25] Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police, p. 292.

[26] 1857 Michel Lévy Freres, Paris; translated and published as The Gold Robbers in Australia by Sun Books in 1970.

[27] Reappearing in an abbreviated version in 1886.

[28] Winstanley’s text was reprinted in 2007 as part of the Australian Books on Demand series (No. 5: Canberra, Mulini Press).

[29] Henry W. Mitchell, ‘A Well Known Contributor: Waif Wander’, Australian Journal, Vol. 15, March 1880, 487-8.

[30] Sisters in Crime Australia was inspired by the American organisation of the same name. ‘The Davitt’ is awarded for the best crime novel by an Australian woman published in book form in Australia in the previous year; the award comprises three categories: the best adult novel; the best young fiction book; and the reader’s choice award. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~sincoz/welcome.htm

[31] Victorian Public Record Series 892, Unit 32, Special Case 525, 74/9448.

[32] Kyneton Observer, 9 January, 1864, p. 2.

[33] Victorian Public Record Series 892, Unit 32, Special Case 525, 75/20722.

[34] From a tangential perspective, another Victorian writer had an embezzler in their immediate family: Charles Dickens’ grandfather (on his mother, Elizabeth’s, side) was a senior clerk who worked in the Navy Pay Office and who was, in 1810, exposed as an embezzler. See Sutherland, The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction, p. 183.

[35] Her female lecturing contemporaries both lectured at the Sydney School of Arts: Caroline Harper Dexter (in 1855) and Cora Ann Weekes (in 1859).

[36] Hamilton Spectator, 2 October 1863, p. 2.

[37] ‘Weekly Miscellany’, Examiner, 20 April 1861, p. 7.

[38] ‘Christopher Sly’ (James Neild), ‘A Peep at the Pictures’, Examiner and Melbourne Weekly News (12 December 1857), p. 8.

[39] See Sussex for full details of this.

[40] J. Alex Allan, The Old Model School: Its History and Romance 1852-1904 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1934), p. 21. 

[41] Allan, The Old Model School, p. 64.

[42] Victor Crittenden, Australian Nineteenth Century Literature in Print, Broadsheet 2.

[43] On 2nd September 1865. It ran from 2 September-18 November 1865. This positioning is in contrast to Johnson-Woods’ discussion of the Journal in the following decade: ‘in the 1870s, the lead serial was more often than not an imported one.’ Johnson-Woods, Index to Serials, p. 20.

[44] Lucy Sussex, ‘Introduction’, p.vii. Sussex has written on these titles, as well as discussing Davitt’s last serial, ‘The Wreck of the Atalanta’ (Journal, 6 April-20 July 1867), which, as she writes, incorporated mystery elements. Sussex says these elements are not as foregrounded as those in Force and Fraud. The Journal editor wrote that ‘The Wreck of Atalanta’ was ‘certainly the happiest effort of Mrs. DAVITT’S pen, and we promise our readers a rich treat in its perusal’. (Journal, 23 March 1867, p. 479)

[45] Lucy Sussex, ‘“Bobbing Around”: James Skipp Borlase, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and Surviving in the Literary Market of Australia, 1860s’, Victorian Periodicals Review 37 (2004), 1-18 (p. 7).

[46] For example, her short story ‘The Highlander’s Revenge’ (Journal, 31 August 1867) was attributed to ‘the author of Edith Travers, etc.’

[47] Victor Crittenden, ‘Introduction’, in Robert Whitworth Mary Summers: A Romance of the Australian Bush (Canberra: Mulini, 1994). Whitworth was an editor of the Journal from 1874-75.

[48] The narrator explains that ‘[i]t is evident that the inmates of Mount Alpin did not at all times live in the most perfect harmony, though the young people sympathised with each other whenever their tyrant was more than usually stern. If a letter from Herbert had been intercepted, Silverton pleaded for Flora’s forgiveness; and when the bush fires had been prevalent, or the wool sales not gone off well, and the unreasonable squatter vented his anger on his agent, Flora would say, “Dear papa, it is not his fault.”’ Ellen Davitt, Force and Fraud: A Tale of the Bush (Canberra: Mulini Press, 1993), p. 52. All further references are to this edition and are given parenthetically.

[49] When Thrashem carries out the commission Silverton is shocked and suggests that he did not mean it literally. The fact that this deed is not premeditated and that Silverton is clearly middle-class is, in itself, threatening: the suggestion is that anyone can slip into crime.

[50] Knight has noted that ‘although this overtly a story about landed property, the villain’s name, Pierce Silverton, reminds us that wealth now also lies in mining, piercing the land for gold and silver.’ (Continent of Mystery, p. 42)

 

[51] This phrasing is similar to, and perhaps self-consciously plays on, G.W.M Reynolds’ epilogue at the end of the novel in The Mysteries of London, which states: ‘Tis done: VIRTUE is rewarded-VICE has received its punishment’. George William MacArthur Reynolds, The Mysteries of London (2 vols. London: George Vickers, 1846) II. 424.

[52] The Australian conflation of the woman with the land is encapsulated by Kay Schaffer’s chapter sub-heading of ‘Landscape Representation: Woman as Other’. She writes of the Australian woman that ‘[i]n the relationship of the Australian character to the bush, her presence is registered through metaphors of landscape.’ Kay Schaffer, Women and the Bush: Forces of Desire in the Australian Cultural Tradition (Melbourne, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 22.

[53] This is the same as the policing representations in Caroline Leakey’s The Broad Arrow, Charles de Boos’s Mark Brown’s Wife and John Lang’s The Forger’s Wife, and bears comparison with the initial reception of the police in British crime narratives. For a comprehensive discussion of this reception of the police and literary police see Heather Worthington, The Rise of the Detective in Early Nineteenth-Century Popular Fiction.

[54] It also appeared in the Melbourne Leader 17 November-15 June. Unlike the title the plot, while incorporating crime, does not have close relations with Davitt’s novel. It is also indicative that the Journal was being read in London.

[55] Stephen Knight, ‘Introduction’, in Dead Witness: Best Australian Mystery Stories, ed. Stephen Knight (Ringwood: Penguin, 1989), ix-xxv (p. xiii).