# 23933

GRIMSTONE, Mary Leman (1796-1869)

Omnibuses. (An essay by Mary Leman Grimstone published in Tait’s Edinburgh Journal, 1836)

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Edinburgh : William Tait, 1836. Four pages small quarto (260 x 160 mm), disbound from Tait’s Edinburgh Journal (pp 335-38), printed initials M.L.G. at the foot of the text; fine.

English writer and feminist Mary Leman Grimstone (1796-1869) wrote what are arguably the first two Australian novels. These were her second and third novels, Louisa Egerton: A Tale of Real Life (London, 1829) and Woman’s Love (London, 1832). Louisa Egerton was written largely on Mary’s voyage out to Van Diemen’s Land in 1825-26, and was completed in Hobart, while Woman’s Love was written entirely in Hobart, prior to her return to England in 1829.

This short essay by Mary Leman Grimstone, Omnibuses, published in 1836 in Tait’s Edinburgh Journal (a liberal literary monthly founded in 1832 by William Tait but under the editorial influence of feminist writer Christian Isobel Johnstone), is a piece of bitingly sharp satire on the different behaviours of the various social classes who ride as passengers in horse-drawn omnibuses – still a new phenomenon in Britain’s urban centres.

From ADB online:

‘Mary Leman Grimstone (1796?-1869), author and feminist, was born either in England or in the German city-state of Hamburg, one of at least five children of Leman Thomas Rede, bibliographer of early Americana. Two of Mary’s brothers—Leman Thomas Tertius Rede (1799-1832) and William Leman Rede (1802-1847)—won esteem on the London stage, and two sisters—Lucy and Louisa—shared some of her literary skill. Mary published verse of fair quality from about 1815 and her first novel, The Beauty of the British Alps, in 1825. By then she had married a man named Grimstone, who probably died soon afterwards. Perhaps this episode heightened the nervous stress that recurrently beset her. Late in 1825 she embarked for Hobart Town, accompanying her sister Lucy and the latter’s husband Stephen Adey, an official with the Van Diemen’s Land Co. It seems likely that during the voyage and immediately after she composed her second novel, Louisa Egerton: A Tale of Real Life (London, 1829). If so, this appears to have been the first such work of Australian provenance.

Mary continued to write—good verse prompted by the local scene, an essay (which gained some local notoriety) bemoaning the colony’s lack of cultural and social amenity and Woman’s Love, traditionally joined with Henry Savery’s Quintus Servinton as the first Australian novels. In 1829 Mary returned to Britain. Woman’s Love was published in 1832, with a postscript which advanced feminist ideas in much the same terms as had Mary Wollstonecraft. Grimstone’s best novels were Character: Or Jew and Gentile (1833), in which a protagonist appears to be modelled on the author in physique and feminist-radical ideology, and Cleone: A Tale of Married Life (1834). Only a few Tasmanian references appear throughout these novels.

About 1836 Mary married William Gillies, a wealthy corn merchant; but this marriage did not flourish. ‘Mrs Gillies’ appeared in Leigh Hunt’s poem ‘Blue-Stocking Revels’ (1837), in terms suggesting that Hunt found her didacticism tedious. Among her associates within London’s radical intelligentsia were Caroline Norton, Robert Owen, W. J. Linton and Elizabeth Gaskell, and Mary may have been the model for Alfred (Lord) Tennyson’s Lady Psyche in The Princess (London, 1847). Her essays and verse continued to appear in various magazines, such as the Unitarian Monthly Repository, whose editor W. J. Fox ranked Mary with Jane Austen.

Mary retained an interest in Australia, her pen sometimes espousing colonial sympathies and loyalties. To some degree she presented colonial experience in terms of nationalist concepts as currently expounded by Mazzini and others. In 1832 her sister Louisa had married Alexander Goldie, then an employee of the Van Diemen’s Land Co., and subsequently spent thirty years in Tasmania, and thirty more in Victoria. Adela Lucy Leman, second daughter of the Adeys, who returned to Britain in 1837, married the eminent physician (Sir) William Jenner. The Jenners retained ties with Mary as she entered an apparently poor and sad older age. Predeceased by her husband, Mary Gillies died, after swallowing disinfectant, on 4 November 1869 at Paddington, London.’