Sarah Comyn
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Southern doubles
Antipodean life as a comparative exercise

This chapter explores one of the most potent of the European fictions or myths surrounding the south: the Antipodes. The north’s construction of the south as upside down or back-to-front with ‘feet’ facing the ‘wrong’ direction, the Antipodes proved a powerful metaphor through which settlers in Australia could critique both the colonial political establishment and the British metropole. Examining the poetry, fiction, letters, and illustrated articles in a range of newspapers from nineteenth-century Australia, this chapter demonstrates the extent to which the cartographic, corporeal, and metaphoric inversion associated with the Antipodes not only shaped what Paul Giles identifies as a ‘heightened form of comparative consciousness’ in the southern colonies, but was also re-inscribed in newspaper depictions of settler life, moving from the map to the routines and domesticities, as well as the culture and politics, of settlers’ day-to-day experiences. A practice of antipodean reorientation could be used by people living in and writing from the south as a way of writing back to the north, challenging both the cultural hierarchies and hegemonies of the metropolitan north, and the north’s preconception of the south as topsy-turvy and belated.

In the prologue to a series of squibs titled ‘Australian Doubles’ in 1856, Melbourne Punch describes the ‘startling’ discovery ‘that the physical equipoise which exists between the two hemispheres of the world extends to the moral and mental qualities of the inhabitants’ such that ‘every man in the Northern hemisphere has his double in the Southern’.1 Beginning with ‘The History of Victoria’ by a ‘Thomas B. Camawley’ (clearly parodying Thomas Babington Macaulay’s History of England [1848]), the series of ‘Australian Doubles’ articles features satirical accounts of the colony of Victoria’s history that lampoon both the imitative qualities of colonial writers and the works of popular authors and poets such as Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, R. H. Horne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Alfred Tennyson among others.2 Melbourne Punch’s parody of the tendency of colonial Australian authors to model themselves on their northern counterparts enacts what Paul Giles describes in Antipodean America (2013) as ‘a heightened version of comparative consciousness’, one that defines ‘the antipodean imagination’ as a state in which the ‘phenomenological selfhood of any given culture is refracted through alternative perspectives’.3 Invoking both Terra Australis (the southern continent) and its geographic northern antipode through its reference to hemispheric ‘equipoise’, the ‘Australian Doubles’ series imagines antipodean duplicates that simultaneously reproduce and upset, mirror and refract, the ‘original’ northern writer, artist, politician, and/or artefact.4

Melbourne Punch’s ‘comparative consciousness’ forms the starting point of this chapter’s analysis of the implications the ‘antipodean imagination’ and its southern ‘doubles’ had for how the southern hemisphere was imagined, conceived, mocked, and celebrated by the poetry, fiction, parodies, letters, and illustrated articles published by Australian newspapers in the second half of the nineteenth century. While Giles uses the perspective offered by a ‘comparative consciousness’ to frame his analysis of how American literature adopts and adapts an ‘antipodean aspect’ from Australasia, this chapter will instead focus its attention on how this ‘antipodean aspect’ animated discussions concerning the social, political, and economic formations of the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century.5 Examining newspaper representations of settler colonial life in Australia, it reveals the surprising and imaginative ways that settlers both identified with and rejected the antipodean mythologies of the southern hemisphere. With a focus on the three decades following the discovery of gold in Australia (1851), the passing of the Australian Constitutions Act (1850), and the achievement of responsible government (1855–56), the chapter’s analysis of newspaper accounts will also demonstrate how these depictions mobilised the trope of antipodal inversion to portray a growing economic and colonial independence that provided a means of addressing the north and destabilising Eurocentric hierarchies.6

Imagined cartographies and geographies of the Antipodes

The imaginative pull of a ‘south’ in opposition to a European ‘north’ is not unique to the nineteenth century. William Eisler traces the ‘invention of the concept of a southern continent’ to Pythagoras; and numerous medieval maps abound with images of this continent that both await its discovery and reject its existence as a possibility.7 In his examination of the cosmographies, cartographies, and geographies – both ‘real and imagined’ – that defined the ‘search for the southern continent’ by Europeans in the early modern period, Avan Judd Stallard demonstrates the explorative and creative appeal of the imagined south. A place of legend and mythography, the ‘imagined geography’ of this southern region nonetheless contained the reifying power of ‘verisimilitude’: ‘the way these entities appear real; the way an imagined geography is drawn or described to approximate reality, with all the hallmarks of a place that is known or knowable’. The ‘more verisimilitude’, argues Stallard, ‘the more potent its legend’ and ‘the more fervent[ly]’ people ‘promote its existence’.8

Arguably one of the most potent and indeterminate of the European legends surrounding the south is that of the Antipodes, whose mythological inhabitants could have feet that face in the opposite direction. The Antipodes could also be an upturned world with inhabitants walking upside down so that ‘their opposite feet will touch the bottoms of our feet in a bodily and uncanny fashion’, generating, according to Alfred Hiatt, a process of self-reflection.9 Hiatt identifies the ‘ancient antipodal trope of the world turned upside down’ as a stimulus for the philosophising that accompanied imaginings of Terra Australis, such that the Antipodes becomes ‘a place of reflection, isolation and self-discovery, a blank space, and so a mirror for humanity’.10 If the existence of Terra Australis was necessary to ‘balance the weight of land in the northern hemisphere’ – a product, Hiatt argues, ‘not simply of speculation but of calculation’ – the idea of the Antipodes as a world upside down, back to front, or topsy-turvy could provide its own balancing force of inversion.11 This antipodean force of opposition is always, however, suggestively unstable, with the meaning and region of the Antipodes ambiguous, indeterminate, ‘fantastical’, and ‘changeable’.12 A ‘trigger for self-examination’, the topsy-turvyness of the Antipodes and its inversive potential could manifest itself cartographically, corporeally, and/or metaphorically.13 Examining representations of life in the southern hemisphere in colonial Australian newspapers demonstrates how the cartographic inversion of the Antipodes moves from the map and is, in turn, remapped on to the routines and domesticities as well as the culture and politics of settler life, through the portrayal of corporeal (‘touching our feet in a bodily and uncanny fashion’) and metaphorical inversions. Such inversions involve a way of living and forming identities in negatives rather than positives, but these negatives are themselves increasingly transformed into the positives of colonial political assertiveness and increasing economic independence in the wake of the Australian gold rushes.

Antipodean corporeality

Although the region signified by the Antipodes remained necessarily ambiguous throughout the history of the concept, Matthew Boyd Goldie notes that by the eighteenth century ‘the idea of the antipodes comes to designate an area in Oceania’, and by the twentieth century the Antipodes is frequently, though not always, aligned with Australia and New Zealand, sometimes together, occasionally apart.14 This association of Australia with the Antipodes would prove captivating for those portraying Australia in the nineteenth century, both from outside and within the Australian colonies. As Bernard Smith has famously argued, ‘the antipodes are not a place, but a relationship … a spatial and cultural relationship between north and south’, and specifically for the purposes of this chapter, between colonial Australia and Britain.15 Smith’s ‘antipodean point of view’, like Giles’ ‘comparative consciousness’, emphasises the relational nature of the antipodean perspective which calls upon its opposite even as it rejects it as myth.16

In considering what she describes as the ‘embodiments of Australia in world literature’, Vilashini Cooppan lingers on the figure of the ‘antipodean foot’ (which she terms a ‘species of continental fetishism’) best represented in the Osma Beatus map of 1086 (Figure 2.1), where the mythological figure of a Skiapod shields itself from the red-hot southern sun.17 ‘A proxy substitute’ for the southern continent, the antipodean foot evokes a corporeal inversion that promotes ‘displacement and disavowal’: ‘the order of the austral map’ is ‘that it confirms disbelief in the southern continent even as it directs its gaze toward it’.18

Contemplating the corporeality of antipodality, Goldie similarly argues that the concept of the Antipodes can be embodied and performed. Using Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s term ‘beside’, Goldie considers how the encounters between ‘British and Pacific cultures’ in the nineteenth century can perform a ‘wide range of desiring, identifying, representing, repelling, paralleling, differentiating, rivalling, leaning, twisting, mimicking, withdrawing, attracting, aggressing, warping, and other relations’.19 Goldie’s sense of the antipodean ‘beside’ shares an epistemological space with Stallard’s ‘verisimilitude’, alongside what Goldie terms the ‘continuum of disorientation’ created by those in the north who attempt to ‘address the south’.20 This ‘disorientation’ provides an opportunity, however, for the south to instead reorient antipodean inversions, which in turn can be used to discredit the north’s preconceptions of the south as ‘topsy-turvy’. The ‘antipodean figures of Australasia have often involved’, Giles argues, ‘a more playful sense of topsy-turvy as both a ludic and ontological condition’.21

These playful qualities lend themselves to a practice of antipodean reorientation in newspapers, where the potential slippage between the real and imagined antipodean worlds of Australia complicates a perfect inversion and instead suggests a potential correspondence, a collapsible duality, which can playfully raise inversive doubles, only to erase them.22 Like the ‘Australian Doubles’ of Melbourne Punch’s parodic imagination, these southern doubles are both like and unlike their northern peers. In an 1858 engraving titled ‘The Antipodes’ (Figure 2.2), for example, Melbourne Punch draws on the drama and theatrics of the hippodrome to playfully allude to and upset the expectations of corporeal inversion in Australia. While Mrs Wilkins is repelled by the young men surrounding her, having ‘never expected’ to encounter ‘people walking on their heads’ in Australia, these figures in fact perfectly capture the Eurocentric expectations of antipodal habitation. Performing corporeal inversion, Melbourne Punch’s illustration raises European assumptions about the Antipodes only to dispute them through Mrs Wilkins’ disavowal. In doing so, Mrs Wilkins performs and embodies the full range of Goldie’s antipodean ‘beside’ from ‘desiring’ to ‘warping’. Punch’s mention of Mrs Wilkins having gained her knowledge from ‘read[ing] in some book or other’ teasingly reflects the fact that European assumptions about Australia were frequently dependent on unverifiable accounts and descriptions in newspapers and books. This concern with antipodean representations of Australia, and in particular their unwieldy nature (as represented by the figures walking on their hands), is one that would preoccupy colonial newspapers’ engagement with the trope of antipodality.

A poem simply titled ‘The Antipodes’ published by Sydney Punch in 1869 similarly captures Goldie’s sense of the ‘bodily and uncanny’ as it reinscribes and embodies the antipodean feet of cartographic inversion, imagining the people of the north and south walking on top of one another:

Things on the whole don’t look askew:

It’s all serene somehow or other;

And yet ’tis veritably true

That I am treading on my mother.

Oh mother, dear! forgive the act,

Great Nature’s laws my steps control;

Love leaps o’erall. We are in fact,

Now more than ever sole to sole. (lines 9–16)23

With Goldie, we can recognise the appeal of Sedgwick’s ‘beside’ as offering an understanding of the Antipodes that appreciates and complicates inversion as simultaneously ‘withdrawing’ and ‘attracting’, ‘repelling’ and ‘paralleling’. The poem’s speaker and mother are not just opposite one another but connected, touching ‘sole to sole’, and inhabiting a space of ‘beside’.

The north/south comparative exercise was nonetheless frequently used by colonial newspapers and was perhaps most readily deployed in their depictions of Christmas and New Year celebrations in the south as the reverse of the north in climate, mood, and fashion. In a lengthy illustrated account of ‘How We Spend Our Christmas Holidays’, the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers depicts various forms of activity, including fishing, hiking, hunting, and playing cricket.24 Playing cricket at Christmas time, the article declares, is ‘decidedly un-English but thoroughly Australian’.25 Reprinting the illustration from the article, the Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier used the depictions of summer holiday activities to accompany a poem called ‘How We Spend Our New Year’s Holidays’, which celebrates:

Boating on the river,

Cricket in the park,

Blazing at the wild birds

From daylight until dark

Fishing where the shadows

O’er the waters play;

That’s how we contrive to spend

The New Year’s Holiday. (lines 1–8)26

The theme of energetic activity, youthful vigour, and colonial abundance is also emphasised in an illustrated article titled ‘The Birth of the New Year’ from the same issue of Illustrated Sydney News (Figure 2.3), which states: ‘North of the line the New Year is a subject of hearty welcome, but also of affectionate care. South he is a lusty Infant, capable of looking after himself at a very early period of his career.’27 Here the infants’ bodies perform hemispheric difference and corporeal inversion, with the colonial infant’s independence and resilience emphasised in contrast to the swaddled and helpless infant of the north.28

The ‘conceit of inversion’, as Giles argues, ‘works to illuminate areas of conflict or crossover that are implicit within, but repressed by, the power of hegemonic English cultural forms, with the specific geographical consciousness of the antipodes morphing implicitly into a much broader critique of Anglocentric customs’.29 The Antipodes as a concept – and how it is visually and textually represented – has the potential to reorient perspectives, with these antipodean accounts providing a means for the south to address and potentially critique the north.

Metaphorical inversion: ‘The Mirror Upside Down’

As we have seen, the Antipodes was recognised as a powerful metaphor by settlers in Australia and, as such, was frequently employed to criticise the political establishment. A letter to the editor of the Courier in 1857, fittingly titled ‘Topsy Turvy’, uses, for example, the metaphor of the Antipodes to lament the protectionist economic policies in operation in Tasmania, stating that: ‘Tasmania in geographical position is the antipodes of Great Britain. She is also likely to become the antipodes in many other considerations.’ After listing the numerous instances of antipodal thinking and government in the colony of Tasmania, the letter concludes: ‘Thus the antipodes of geographical position – the world upside down – are politically maintained.’30

Depicting Australia as a site of economic and political inversion to that of England was also a trope frequently used by English publications, possibly the most famous illustration of this being John Leech’s frontispiece to Punch’s ‘Pocket Book’ in 1854. ‘Topsy Turvey – or, our Antipodes’ (Figure 2.4) portrays a Regent Street relocated to the canvas town of the goldfields, where ladies and gentlemen now serve the crude and dissolute diggers. The shouted orders of the diggers emphasise the education and thereby the social ‘fall’ and disgrace of their new colonial servants. Mocking and patronising these intellectuals, one card-playing digger instructs: ‘Now, then, you Master of Arts! Look sharp with that Pale Ale’; while another digger shouts from his tent: ‘Hollo There, you Intellectual Being Where the Doose are My Highlows?’. As Anthony Trollope would observe during his tour of Australia in 1871–72, ‘[p]robably the class of miners which as a class does best is that of experienced men who work for wages’, while the ‘class of miners’ who ‘does worst is that composed of young gentlemen who go to the diggings, led away, as the fancy, by a spirit of adventure, but more generally, perhaps, by a dislike of homely work at home’.31 The potential for the gold rush to disturb class distinctions and boundaries is also noted by an emigrant to the gold diggings of Bendigo, John Green, who writes in an 1853 letter to his sister in England: ‘Every one here is met and meets another on an equality, lawyers, doctors, prigs and parsons, magistrates and housebreakers, all fraternise, addressing one another as “mate”.’32 Leech’s etching uses the antipodean trope of inversion to highlight the disruptive social and economic power of the gold rushes and thereby upends British class relations with the working and upper classes inhabiting the same social sphere but with a reversal in status and power.

Published a year earlier, a poem in the Courier titled ‘Topsy-Turvy’ uses both the theme of the goldfields’ wealth and the legacy of convict transportation to imagine a ‘Bill Sykes at the antipodes’ (line 109) alongside a world that rewards criminality and punishes hard work.33 Subtitled ‘Being Verses by a Poor Man Puzzled’, the poem juxtaposes the criminal Sykes with the ‘hard-working, honest Giles Jolter’ (line 45). Sykes gets ‘free’ passage to Australia through transportation:

And then, when arrived in Botany Bay,

With his ticket-of-leave, of grub he lands full–

If he chooses to hire, it’s ten shilling’ a day,

If he chooses to dig, it’s gold in handsfull. (lines 34–7)

Giles Jolter, in contrast, on learning ‘how there were lands / Where on the other side the ocean, / Work was more plentiful than hands’ (lines 78–80) has to apply to the ‘Commissioners of Emigration’ (line 88) only to be told six weeks later that ‘“No more labourers were wanted!”’ (line 106). While the poem is clearly critical of the bureaucracy surrounding emigration, like Leech’s frontispiece, it also strikes an anxious note about the economic, class, and moral topsy-turvyness increasingly associated with Australia following the gold rush. The poem also signals Australia’s potential to surpass Britain’s opportunities for wealth, with Jolter, his ‘wife and little ones pining’ (line 108), while Sykes ‘His pouch with virgin gold is lining’ (line 110).34

Melbourne Punch, in turn, plays with this idea of economic inversion in a startling image titled ‘Punch’s Summary for Europe’ (Figure 2.5), published in 1861.35 Over two pages, the illustration juxtaposes the economic promise of the colony of Victoria with the image of a starving England. The image is inscribed: ‘Showing what a man may suffer in Victoria and in England’ and ‘Respectfully dedicated to the old folks at home’. Shu-Chuan Yan has rightly argued that Melbourne Punch’s ‘diptych promotes the Arcadian myth of the New World that motivates exploration and conquest’, thereby acting as a form of imperial propaganda that encourages colonial expansion with ‘the southern hemisphere offer[ing] the space lacking in a crowded homeland’.36 This myth-making of Australia as a land of boundless space returns us to Hiatt’s notion of the Antipodes as a ‘blank’ and ties the idea of the Antipodes to that of terra nullius.37 Punch’s participation, here, in the legacy of booster literature to the goldfields nonetheless also hints at the potential reversal of pecuniary and political power between colony and metropole, with a sense of the growing colonial economic and political independence following the discovery of gold and the achievement of responsible government by the colony of Victoria in 1855. The ‘comparative consciousness’ that the Antipodes inspires could, therefore, view the ‘topsy-turvy land’ not as backwards or back-to-front, but instead as a place of progress and opportunity.

Recognising the tendency of the British press to misrepresent the facts and realities of the Australian colonies, the Adelaide Times complained in an article titled ‘Holding the Mirror Upside Down’ that ‘[n]ever does an English newspaper come to hand but we tremble to open it, lest, like the savage who possessed a cracked looking-glass, we should be frightened to death at our own disfigurement. Everything is antipodean – facts, figures, and fancies, all upside down.’ The discovery of gold is noted as being the particular cause of misinformation: ‘Does a South Australian find a grain of gold at Stony Creek, forthwith it is transformed into an immense nugget, discovered by a Victorian, at Rocky Gully.’ The association of Australia with criminality is also emphasised as a topic subjected to antipodean fantasies (similar to those animating ‘Bill Sykes at the antipodes’): ‘Does one man pick another’s pocket, it is “a fearful increase of crime in the colony of Adelaide,” and so forth.’38

In contrast to Melbourne Punch’s ‘Summary for Europe’, the Adelaide Times evokes the trope of antipodean inversion to assert control over the narrative and depiction of their colony. This anxiety about antipodean representations of the Australian colonies is also evident in a poem addressed to Anthony Trollope by Sydney Punch. Eagerly anticipating Trollope’s visit to the colonies in 1871, the paper nonetheless hopes for an ‘accurate’ account of the visit:

And only hope you brought across this way

Impartial eyes, and really mean to see with them,

Not like some writers that before to-day

Have turned facts ‘topsy-turvey’ – Satan be with them! (lines 19–24)39

Such accounts demonstrate the imaginative hold the topsy-turvy antipodean trope could exert and the concerns about misrepresentation that shaped many of the responses adopting an antipodean mode. They also reveal the malleability and adaptability of these metaphoric inversions: while Sydney Punch acknowledges that Australia is a ‘strange new-fangled [place]’ and that those ‘used to slippered ease / Prefer old England’s home to the antipodes’, it still insists upon verisimilitude and invokes antipodean mythology to simultaneously demonstrate and erase negative differences.40

As the illustrations and articles above suggest, hemispheric contrasts became a useful trope for imaginative works. The two hemispheres are frequently appealed to as a sign not only of difference but also of distance (the consequence, of course, of emigration), with titles such as ‘Home at Last: A Tale of Both Hemispheres’ (serial fiction by ‘Kelp’ published weekly in the newspaper The Record in 1869), ‘Christmas in the Two Hemispheres’ (a satirical illustration for Melbourne Punch), and ‘The Antipodes: Both Sides’ (a poem) demonstrating the popularity of the theme.41 Published in 1869, ‘The Antipodes: Both Sides’ imagines a ‘Willie in Sydney’ writing and receiving a response from a ‘Jane in England’.42 William writes several stanzas to his beloved, beginning:

Come, dearest, come! I have won you a home.

And my Eden awaits my Eve!

My heart beats ‘Come!’ and my pen writes ‘Come!’

And with joy you may England leave.

We’ll live where the skies are blue all day,

And the summer’s long and bright;

Where the ‘Southern Cross’ and the ‘Milky Way’

Flame out through the azure night! (lines 1–8)

While Jane intends to join her dearest, she is not entirely convinced by the image he paints, responding:

Yes, William, I leave this dear, dear land,

But yet my kindred tell,

That roses have thorns to the gathering-hand

In the bright land where you dwell.

They say that dreadful monsters prowl

Port Jackson’s glorious bay;

And that squalls burst down, and tempests growl,

From the blue of your brightest day.

They say both your shores and seas have sharks,

That your wild birds have no song;

That night has no nightingales, morn no larks,

Your screeching woods among. (lines 41–52)

Mirroring Willie’s account and inhabiting a ‘comparative consciousness’, Jane’s response transforms his descriptions from positive into negative portrayals of her potential new homeland. Like the Adelaide Times (but from the opposite perspective), Jane fears Willie is holding the mirror upside down.

In 1882, Sydney Punch used the theme and title of ‘The Antipodes’ in a poem that parodies both the lies of booster literature and the exoticism and easy abundance associated with emigration to the Antipodes:43

A good old honest country pair,

Who’d made a little money,

And thought that they would like to live

Where all was bright and sunny;

They longed to reach that glorious land

Where cloud and fog are never

And where the gentle breezes fan

And sunshine reigneth ever. (lines 1–8)

The poem proceeds to describe all the quaint and contrasting elements of the Antipodes the couple have been assured they will encounter, including: ‘Where cherries are inside their stones / Or stones outside their cherries’ (lines 15–16). They hope ‘To watch the folk walk on their heads / As in that land they do it’ (lines 17–18), and to ‘see the bright cross in the sky / With some one pointing to it’ (lines 19–20). Unsurprisingly the couple are disappointed when the booster myths of the gold rush (the same the Adelaide Times complained painted the colonies antipodean) prove a ‘falsehood plainly!’: ‘They peered about them vainly / No speck of gold could either see’ (lines 33, 31–2). The couple continue to be disenchanted by antipodean realities when two street urchins enter the scene:

But just in time two little lads,

The one, his whistle playing,

The other standing on his head

Came up, for pennies praying.

‘Oh! look ye, John,’ old Betsy cried,

‘They have not wholly sold us;

The folk are walking on their heads –

There’s one thing true they’ve told us.’ (lines 42–49)

The antipodal figure of the child walking on its hands and begging both confirms and upsets the couple’s antipodean expectations. Playing to the stereotype of the upside-down, topsy-turvy south, the begging child nonetheless unsettles and upturns the view of the gold-rush wealth associated with Australia. Dispelling metropolitan delusions, the poem resituates the Antipodes the right-way-up in a similar fashion to Sydney Punch’s earlier request of Trollope not to ‘turn facts topsy-turvy’. Like Melbourne Punch’s depiction of Mrs Wilkins’ encounter with corporeal inversion outside the hippodrome, this poem both fulfils and displaces northern preconceptions regarding antipodean Australia. The poem raises the binaries of north/south only to complicate and collapse them by satisfying only some but not all the antipodean categories. Performing an antipodes of ‘beside’, the poem demonstrates Goldie’s argument that ‘the ways that the Antipodes have corresponded and failed to correspond with European conceptions of the space and its peoples are more complex and challenging than clear oppositionality’.44

The Antipodes writes back

A short story printed in the Australasian in 1870 again draws on the topsy-turvy theme of contrasts to reorient north/south economic, class, and moral hierarchies. Entitled ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, it begins: ‘It is not long since the world received from one of its greatest fiction-writers a tale of two cities. I now propose to narrate a tale of two hemispheres.’45 With its explicit reference to Charles Dickens’ novel, the story registers itself as a tale of difference and opposites. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) famously begins:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.46

Building on this theme of contrasts, ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’ is set in an ‘upturned’ world that resembles Leech’s goldfields illustration: ‘when Jack and Gill were as good as their quondam master and mistress, and a great deal better; and people who had travelled from one side of the world to the other found that it was really and truly turned upside down’.47

‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’ narrates the story of Frank Hungercash, who is disowned by his ‘self-made’ and wealthy merchant father, Solomon, when he falls in love with the penniless Laura. Assuming an ‘aristocratic title in a spirit of bitter irony at his fallen fortunes’, Frank flees to the Australian colonies as one ‘Algernon Fortescue’ to find his fortune in order to marry Laura. After some false-starts, first in goldmining and then in an attempt to be one of the Australian ‘squatocracy’, Frank finally manages to make enough money as a store owner to secure Laura’s travel to the colonies and their subsequent marriage and settlement in Melbourne.48 Adopting an ‘antipodal orientation’, the story ends with an inversion of the parable of the prodigal son.49 The repentant father, Solomon, goes in search of his son to find that Frank has become a self-made man of the colonies: ‘the fatted calf was killed, not by the father in welcome of his prodigal son, but by the prodigal son in honour of his vagabond parent, and ... the three generations of the Hungercashes are at this moment the happiest people in Her Majesty’s dominions’.50 While the story begins with the rejection of his father’s wealth, Frank nonetheless repeats his father’s economic journey in becoming a wealthy merchant. Relocating this journey to the Australian colonies, however, allows Frank to maintain his moral code and forces his father to abandon his hypocritical ways so that the ‘taciturn mammon worshipper’ is ‘transformed into a kindly and somewhat garrulous sexagenarian’.51 Rather than a place of degeneration that celebrates criminality, the Antipodes instead becomes a place of moral regeneration.

An opposite journey to that of Frank Hungercash can be found in the satire ‘The Metamorphosis of Travel’, published in Melbourne Punch in 1883, which traces the journey of a couple, the Lilleys, as they undertake the grand tour of ‘Yurrup’.52 Having seen the great sights of England and continental Europe, the Lilleys return to the colonies deeply discontented. In a comic inversion of the European grand tour, they now visit the cultural sights of Melbourne only to rate them on a scale from ‘commonplace’ to ‘terribly commonplace’ to ‘dreadfully commonplace’, and finally to ‘exceedingly commonplace’. Performing what Giles identifies as the Eurocentric forms of cultural hegemony often implicit in antipodean representations, the Lilleys are even unimpressed by the Old Masters when they are transposed to the colonies (Figure 2.6).53 Described as ‘jaundiced eyed’, the Lilleys, while unable to ‘dispute their genuineness’, are still happy to ‘disparage’ the ‘merit’ of the Old Masters as the ‘art deteriorated and became commonplace in the vitiating climate of the colonies’.54

Even nature’s wonders are dismissed as ‘commonplace’ and inadequate reproductions of European art. During a viewing of the Aurora Australis (Figure 2.6), described as ‘a beautiful specimen of the Southern Light’, everyone ‘save the Lilleys’ is impressed:

‘Pooh’ said the Lilleys, ‘after walking through a splendid art gallery in company with a noble lord and gazing upon a sunset by Turner, I can assure you the tints of this Aurora are exceedingly commonplace.’55

For the Lilleys, nothing based in the southern hemisphere has any value: ‘In the southern hemisphere, all, all was terribly commonplace.’ Melbourne Punch, however, ultimately undermines this Eurocentric vision of cultural superiority by having the Lilleys roundly rejected by their colonial companions. Having undergone the ‘metamorphosis of travel’ and lost their antipodean footing, the Lilleys live as exiles in their colonial home, their spectral existence tainted by the ‘spectacles of foreign travel’.56

This survey of fictional and parodic representations of the southern hemisphere in colonial Australian newspapers demonstrates the power of the Antipodes as a metaphor of inversion that may encourage a ‘comparative consciousness’ but does not necessarily always paint the southern hemisphere as the negative of the north; rather, the south is just as often the north’s contrasting positive. The south could, as in the case of Frank Hungercash, be imagined as the prodigal son who saves his vagabond father, the north. The Antipodes’ inversive potential is, moreover, frequently used to collapse rather than maintain dualities. By mobilising the trope of antipodality, Australian newspapers could reorient the Australian colonies and allow the south to address the north as it moved steadily from ‘below’ to ‘besides’, anticipating and animating the move from a discourse of colonial self-governance to one of Australian nationhood and federation that began to seriously emerge in the 1880s.57


This research was funded by the Irish Research Council.


1 ‘Australian Doubles’, Melbourne Punch (3 April 1856), p. 65, emphasis in original.
2 Examples of the satirical pieces produced by Melbourne Punch include: ‘Latter-Day Civilization by Thomas Larcyle’ (10 April 1856), p. 73; ‘The Song of Lah Lah Troba by Henry W. Strongfellow’ (22 May 1856), p. 124; and ‘The Dream of Gold. The Squatting Era by Alfred Pennyson’ (29 May 1856), p. 135.
3 Paul Giles, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U. S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 24, 41.
4 For an account of the historical and philosophical relationship between Terra Australis and the Antipodes, and for the significance of hemispheric balance to both concepts, see Alfred Hiatt, ‘Terra Australis and the Idea of the Antipodes’, in Anne M. Scott, Alfred Hiatt, Claire McIlroy, and Christopher Wortham (eds), European Perceptions of Terra Australis (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 9–44.
5 Giles, Antipodean America, p. 25.
6 These are the years covering the conferral of responsible government for the colonies which are the primary focus of this chapter: New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania (previously Van Diemen’s Land). South Australia’s responsible government was conferred in 1856, but its ‘first responsible parliament’ only sat in 1857, while Queensland achieved separation from New South Wales and responsible government in 1859. The passing of the Australian Constitutions Act in 1850 ‘enabled’, according to André Brett, ‘the separation of Victoria from NSW and foreshadowed fully representative legislatures in all the Australian colonies except Western Australia’ (‘a small and marginal settlement, it did not receive the privilege until 1890’). See André Brett, ‘Colonial and Provincial Separation Movements in Australia and New Zealand, 1856–1865’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47:1 (2019), 55, 51.
7 William Eisler, The Furthest Shore: Images of Terra Australis from the Middle Ages to Captain Cook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 9. See also Matthew Boyd Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes: Place, People and Voices (London and New York: Routledge, 2010); Alfred Hiatt, Terra Incognita: Mapping the Antipodes before 1600 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); and Avan Judd Stallard, Antipodes: In Search of the Southern Continent (Melbourne: Monash University Publishing, 2016).
8 Stallard, Antipodes, pp. 6, 188, 47.
9 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 3; Hiatt, ‘Terra Australis and the Idea of the Antipodes’, p. 19.
10 Hiatt, ‘Terra Australis and the Idea of the Antipodes’, p. 14.
11 Hiatt, ‘Terra Australis and the Idea of the Antipodes’, p. 10.
12 Kate Fullagar, ‘Introduction: The Atlantic World in the Antipodes’, in Kate Fullagar (ed.), The Atlantic World in the Antipodes: Effects and Transformations since the Eighteenth Century (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), p. xiv. For the indeterminacy of the antipodean region and the instability of the term, see also Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 3.
13 Hiatt, ‘Terra Australis and the Idea of the Antipodes’, p. 19. For an excellent account of the Antipodes’ association with these three types of inversions, see Giles, Antipodean America, esp. pp. 25–38. The cartographic version of Giles’ ‘comparative consciousness’ is perhaps best represented by Pierre Desceliers’ map of 1550 where the upside-down, back-to-front nature traditionally associated with the antipodean south is shared equally by the northern and southern hemispheres: whether reading from the south or the north of this map, the opposite hemisphere’s titles are upside down.
14 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 165.
15 Bernard Smith, Modernism’s History: A Study in Twentieth-Century Art and Ideas (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1998), p. 7.
16 Smith, Modernism’s History, p. 7.
17 For a history of the Osma Beatus Map, see John Williams, ‘Isidore, Orosius and the Beatus Map’, Imago Mundi, 49 (1997), 7–32.
18 Vilashini Cooppan, ‘The Corpus of a Continent: Embodiments of Australia in World Literature’, JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 15:3 (2015), 7–8.
19 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, pp. 4–5. For Sedgwick’s original account of ‘beside’, see Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 8–9.
20 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 1.
21 Giles, Antipodean America, p. 25.
22 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, pp. 4, 5.
23 Sydney Punch (13 March 1869), p. 129. This poem was also reprinted in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser and Riverine Reporter (17 March 1869), p. 4, and the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (7 December 1883), p. 196. Published over a decade later, the Mount Barker Courier’s reprint included an attribution to the Scottish-born Australian poet, James Brunton Stephens. For the prevalence of reprinting in Australian newspapers and periodicals, and the relationship between metropolitan and provincial publications, see, e.g., Katherine Bode, ‘Fictional Systems: Mass-Digitization, Network Analysis, and Nineteenth-Century Australian Newspapers’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 50:1 (2017), 100–38; and Elizabeth Webby, ‘Australia’, in J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel (eds), Periodicals of Queen Victoria’s Empire: An Exploration (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996), pp. 19–60.
24 ‘How We Spend Our Christmas Holidays’, Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (29 December 1875), p. 209. Reprinted from the Illustrated Adelaide News (20 December 1875), pp. 7–8.
25 ‘How We Spend Our Christmas Holidays’, p. 211.
26 ‘How We Spend Our New Year’s Holiday’, Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (12 January 1876), p. 11.
27 ‘The Birth of the New Year’, Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (12 January 1876), p. 11.
28 For an analysis of the popularity and significance of representing the Australian colonies as youth in newspapers and periodicals, see Richard Scully, ‘Britain in the Melbourne Punch’, Visual Culture in Britain, 20:2 (2019), 158; and Simon Sleight, ‘Wavering between Virtue and Vice: Constructions of Youth in Australian Cartoons of the Late-Victorian Era’, in Richard Scully and Marian Quartly (eds), Drawing the Line: Using Cartoons as Historical Evidence (Clayton: Monash University ePress, 2009), pp. 194–239.
29 Giles, Antipodean America, p. 26.
30 ‘Topsy-Turvy’, Courier (24 January 1857), p. 2.
31 Anthony Trollope, Australia, eds P. D. Edwards and R. B. Joyce (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1967), p. 123.
32 John Green, ‘Letter: Bendigo gold fields, to Eliza Green, England, 1853 July 22’, cited in Lorinda Cramer, ‘Diggers’ Dress and Identity on the Victorian Goldfields, Australia, 1851–1870’, Fashion Theory, 22:1 (2018), 89.
33 ‘Topsy-Turvy’, Courier (29 January 1853), p. 3. This poem was first published in the Courier, a newspaper from Hobart, Tasmania. The colony’s history as a penal colony (Van Diemen’s Land) from 1800–53 may explain the fascination with the convict class and the ticket-of-leave system, but the poem proved popular and was reprinted in at least five other newspapers, including newspapers in the colonies of New South Wales (also a former penal colony until 1850) and Victoria (which had no official transportation policy, but still received and relied upon a convict labour force). For an account of Australia’s early European settler and convict history, see Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia: A History, Vol. 1, The Beginning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
34 ‘Topsy-Turvy’, Courier (29 January 1853), p. 3.
35 ‘Punch’s Summary for Europe’, Melbourne Punch (25 April 1861), pp. 52–3.
36 Shu-Chuan Yan, ‘“Kangaroo Politics, Kangaroo Ideas, and Kangaroo Society”: The Early Years of Melbourne Punch in Colonial Australia’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 52:1 (2019), 90.
37 For a recent summary of the legal and political understandings of terra nullius and its association with Australia, see Thomas H. Ford and Justin Clemens, ‘Barron Field’s Terra Nullius Operation’, Australian Humanities Review, 65 (2019), 1–19.
38 ‘Holding the Mirror Upside Down’, Adelaide Times (4 March 1856), p. 214.
39 ‘A Welcome to Anthony Trollope’, Sydney Punch (7 October 1871), p. 171.
40 ‘A Welcome to Anthony Trollope’, p. 171.
41 The first chapter of ‘Home at Last: Both Sides’ was published in the Record (11 February 1869), p. 7, and the final chapter was published in the Record (6 May 1869), p. 7; ‘Christmas in the Two Hemispheres’, Melbourne Punch (26 December 1861), pp. 322–3; ‘The Antipodes: Both Sides’ was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald (19 June 1869), p. 4, and reprinted in the sister newspaper, Sydney Mail (26 June 1869), p. 11 (both part of the Sydney Morning Herald group), and the Toowoomba Chronicle and Queensland Advertiser (30 June 1869), p. 4. For the popularity and significance of serialised fiction and the frequency of pseudonymous and anonymous publications in Australian newspapers, see Katherine Bode, ‘Thousands of Titles without Authors: Digitized Newspapers, Serial Fiction, and the Challenges of Anonymity’, Book History, 19 (2016), 284–316. For the relationship between the Sydney Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald, see Elizabeth Webby, ‘Australia’, pp. 45–6.
42 Sydney Morning Herald (19 June 1869), p. 4.
43 ‘The Antipodes’, Sydney Punch (8 April 1882), p. 134.
44 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 5.
45 ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, Australasian (9 July 1870), pp. 37–8.
46 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, ed. Richard Maxwell (London: Penguin Books, 2000), p. 5.
47 ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, p. 37.
48 ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, p. 37.
49 Goldie, The Idea of the Antipodes, p. 9.
50 ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, p. 38.
51 ‘A Tale of Two Hemispheres’, p. 38.
52 ‘The Metamorphosis of Travel’, Melbourne Punch (19 July 1883), p. 23.
53 Giles, Antipodean America, p. 26.
54 ‘The Metamorphosis of Travel’, p. 23.
55 ‘The Metamorphosis of Travel’, p. 23.
56 ‘The Metamorphosis of Travel’, p. 23.
57 For a discussion of these debates, see John Hirst, ‘Empire, State, Nation’, in Deryck M. Schreuder and Stuart Ward (eds), Australia’s Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 141–62.
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Worlding the south

Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies


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