Victorian Fiction Research Guides

Rosa Praed

Another novel, written by one Mrs Campbell Praed,
Where wedded and unwedded folks by Passion low are laid.
A loveless wife, a lover dear, a husband worth ‘not much.’
Remorse, Revenge, a few stray shots, with victims in Death’s clutch,
Now dramatised, and Bowdlerised, fit for the English stage,
The story ‘Ariane’ bursts upon this prudish age.
‘Tis naughty and it is not nice. Why does she dream such things?
Why link bad women and bad men with all the wedding rings?
‘Oh! authors always sketch from Life, they never colour!’ No?
What very nasty people Mrs Campbell-Praed must know!

The Dawn 15 May 1888 p.9


Mrs Campbell Praed was born Rosa Caroline Murray-Prior on 27 March 1851 at her father’s cattle run, “Bromelton”, on the Logan River, Queensland.1 Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior was an Irish immigrant who had come north from the Hunter with the explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt, and who had already worked on pastoral leases near Maitland in New South Wales and Rosewood in Queensland.2 Praed’s mother, Matilda, was the niece of the poet, Charles Harpur. In 1853 Murray-Prior bought “Hawkwood” in the Burnett district two hundred miles north-west, where the family lived until the property was sold in 1858. Residences in and near Brisbane followed as Murray-Prior pursued a career as pastoralist, land-speculator and, from 1861, public servant. In 1862 he became Queensland’s first Postmaster-General at a time when only two of the state’s mail runs were conducted by coach, the remainder being covered by rider and packhorse.3 In 1865 he purchased “Marroon” near Boonah which was to provide a recurrent setting for Praed’s novels. The family’s life was divided between “Marroon” and Brisbane, with some summers spent in Tasmania where Matilda took the children to escape the Queensland heat.

In 1859 Queensland had become a separate state, so Praed’s adolescence took place against a background of nascent political forms in which English Governors were set alongside, and sometimes against, local Premiers and Ministers. As the Postmaster-General’s position was for part of the 1860s a ministerial one, politics impinged on her directly, the family fortunes, and even its place of residence, depending upon the poll. As well as specllic events such as the crisis over George Herbert’s Railway Bill of 18634 her novels show an awareness of pervasive tensions between English and Australian values in social and political power.

In 1868 Praed’s mother died, and four years later Murray-Prior married Nora Barton, an aunt of the poet A.B. Paterson. Nora was only a few years older than Praed, and their relationship was sisterly rather than that of mother and daughter. After her marriage Praed and Nora swapped confidences on their pregnancies.5 Stepmothers and/or vulnerable motherless daughters feature in such novels as An Australian Heroine (1880), Policy and Passion (1881), Miss Jacobsen’s Chance, (1886), Christina Chard, (1894), Nùlma (1897) and The Maid of the River (1903).

In 1872, at the age of 21, she married Arthur Campbell Bulkley Praed, a younger son of an English banking and brewing family, who had come to Australia to make his fortune. Immediately after the wedding the Praeds travelled to Curtis Island off Gladstone where Campbell had bought a pastoral lease. Rosa was isolated and miserable on the island and records her privations and unhappiness in two novels. The Romance of a Station (1889) and Sister Sorrow (1916), and in her autobiographical, My Australian Girlhood (1902). The station was not a success, and in 1875 Campbell sold up and returned the following year to England to enter the brewing trade in Northamptonshire.

Encouraged by her mother, Praed had written stories and verse from childhood. The surviving issues of the family’s hand-written “Marroon Magazine”6 show that she was its most prolific and enthusiastic contributor. In later life she came to exaggerate her early Anglophilia and dismissed her juvenile writings as Eurocentric fantasies. “They [were] all about countries I had never seen, about emotions of which I had absolutely no experience.”7 This does not accord with the evidence, however, as there are several early stories and sketches with Queensland or Tasmanian settings, and a tendency to burlesque the ineffectual English newchum. Praed records that she had submitted stories and sketches to a Sydney paper, but it was not until after the move to England that her work started to be accepted. A collection of short stories was submitted to publishers in 1877. Remington agreed to publish it on a share profits basis but wanted the author to pay the publication costs. This she declined. Chapman and Hall also rejected it, finding the background inappropriate to a mesmeric plot, but suggested she try a novel, which she did. Praed had an introduction to Fred Chapman, and meeting him socially succeeded in interesting him in it. After stern but avuncularly encouraging reports from the firm’s principal reader, George Meredith, and careful rewritings, the new version received a favourable report from a second Chapman and Hall reader. On the basis of this. Chapman published An Australian Heroine in March 1880. It appeared under the name R. Murray Prior, and was favourably reviewed for its social realism, the Examiner (10 April 1880, p.474) noting the unusual emphasis on the heroine after rather than before her marriage. Its success at the lending libraries was not sufficient, however, to result in an immediate one-volume edition. The second edition was not issued until 1883 by which time her reputation and readership had been boosted by other novels.

George Bentley published Praed’s second novel, Policy and Passion in 1881, after insisting on a good deal of censorship of the sexual plot. As he told her: “One has to remember that it has your name on the title page, and that you cannot so well say what Mr Praed may.”8 This story of colonial politics and manipulative passion is widely regarded as Praed’s most successful novel. It anatomizes the romantic aspirations of the heroine as a complex of daughter-rebellion, social deprivation and interpellation as colonial. Honoria is dissatisfied with a world which she feels too materialistic and too lacking in ideas. Like all colonials, she has been taught to look to Europe as the locus of ideas and cultural value, and this puts her into conflict with her upwardly mobile father who expects her to share his own distrust of the English, and his own fierce loyalty to the colony. Like many nineteenth-century women she is socially and sexually naive, and as a result prone to accept the roles forced upon her by the caddish English suitor, Barrington, who tells her that her fulfilment as a woman depends upon her falling in love. Honoria becomes fascinated by him, the motifs of mesmerism and possession being used to portray the relationship. Although he has proposed marriage, when Barrington learns that he has succeeded to the family Baronetcy he lowers the offer to a mistressship, and Honoria flees in horror to the safety of one of her other suitors, the loyal, if slightly plodding, Dyson Maddox.

Praed’s third novel, Nadine (1882), marks her growing imaginative independence from Australia in that it is entirely set in Britain. Reflecting the contemporary interest in aestheticism, it concentrates on the psychology of a woman who craves excitement, oscillating between elation and extreme depression. Although courted consistently by a stolid lover, in pursuit of sensation she becomes pregnant to a second man, and eventually marries a third, a corrupt Russian prince living in an exciting but morally brittle world. The novel’s success was increased by the open secret that the heroine was based on Olga Novikoff, the so-called “M.P. for Russia”, who was closely linked with Gladstone in the 1870s and 1880s. It was this novel which established Praed as a successful writer in the British market and which launched her socially.

In August 1882 the Praeds moved to London and commenced a round of social activities which took them into literary, dramatic and artistic circles for the next decade. Praed socialized with Oscar Wilde and his mother, with Lady Gregory, F.C. Burnand (the editor of Punch), Ellen Terry and Conan Doyle, and was a close friend of Eliza Lynn Linton. She was an early member of the Society of Authors when it was founded in 1883. Through her friendship with the Irish politician, Justin McCarthy, Praed had an insider’s view of the Home Rule debate of the 1880s. She collaborated with McCarthy on four books, and published his letters to her with a linking commentary after his death in 1912.

In 1878 the Theosophical Society founded its London branch. Praed had had an interest in spiritualism since childhood and attended and even hosted Theosophical Society meetings.9 She knew and corresponded with H.S. Olcott, Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant. Occult themes began to emerge in her work in the mid-1880s10 and became dominant in the 1900s as she came under the influence of Nancy Harward.

Her involvement with the theatre culminated in the dramatization of her novel. The Bond of Wedlock (1887) as “Ariane”. The play was staged by Mrs Bernard Beere at the Opera Comique in February-June 1888 and despite generally unfavourable reviews at its opening ran for 100 performances. For the latter part of its run a burlesque of the production by F.C. Burnand called “Airey Annie” played in the Strand Theatre just across the street. Several of her other stories and novels were dramatized, either by herself or by other people, and some performed, but none made the commercial stage.11 At the end of her life she was offering the plots of her novels to the new film industry, but apparently without success.

The 1880s were her heyday. Between 1880 and 1890 she wrote fourteen novels and two other books, had a play performed in the West End, and was accepted not only as one of the leading fictional interpreters of Australia, but as a successful analyst of English society showing considerable power and psychological penetration despite a tendency to risqué and morbid themes and situations. The Australian attitude to her at this stage was ambivalent as the verse from The Dawn quoted above shows. On the one hand there was a certain national pride in her fame and success; on the other there was an uneasiness at the sexual explicitness of her work.

Behind this success, though, she faced a range of difficulties which increased during the following decade. She experienced persistent ill-health; a heart condition limited her stamina, while lung complaints meant that even from the beginning of the 1880s she had had to winter outside London, usually on the Riviera, but also in Algeria and Morocco. Her marriage was unsatisfactory, culminating in legal separation in 1899. The Home Rule fight had been lost and so Praed was no longer close to an active and optimistic political cause. Her father, who had visited her in London in 1882 and 1887, died in Brisbane in 1892. Towards the end of the 1890s there were serious family and financial worries. By the end of the decade Praed’s eldest child, Maud, who had been born deaf, began to show signs of insanity. Campbell’s financial affairs were in a mess and his brothers had to come to his rescue. Praed’s youngest son, Geoff, disappeared without explanation from his job at the brewery in 1898 and was only much later traced to South Africa where he had gone to fight in the Transvaal war.

Praed had been away from Australia since 1876, but she revisited it in 1894-1895. Whether, in view of her failing marriage, she had any serious thought of settling back there or whether she was simply visiting family and refreshing her sense of Australia for future fiction is hard to assess. At any rate she travelled extensively to the places connected with her childhood and youth, and returned to England in 1895 never to visit Australia again. The exile was not complete, however. She maintained a steady correspondence with friends and relatives in Australia (parts of whose letters she used in her fiction), and continued to identify herself with the country in interviews and essays.

Towards the end of the 1890s Praed met Nancy Harward, an Anglo-Indian who came to live with her in Elm Park Gardens in 1899. Nancy was a natural medium and a devotee of astrology. Through her Praed’s interest in the occult deepened. The most significant literary effect of this was the succession of mediumistic conversations with Nancy which were recorded and which became the basis of the novel, Nyria (1904). According to Praed’s account, these resulted from the chance discovery that Nancy could be induced to assume the personality of a former incarnation, that of a Roman slave girl in the time of Flavius, approximately 77 to 95 AD. Nancy would describe scenes and narrate events which Praed took down and subsequently worked into a novel. Nancy did not know any Roman history and had not visited Rome. Praed had done some research for an earlier book and continued to do more to “verify” the events and details of the trance communications.

After 1900, Praed’s fiction follows the track of her earlier romances but with an increased focus on the occult. Nancy, who had earlier published stories and sketches under the pseudonym, “Winston Kendrick”, seems to have had a part in the writing of some of Praed’s later books although her contribution is not acknowledged on the title pages.12 While there continue to be novels and stories which use Australian settings, there are also novels with a variety of occult themes: the revivifying powers of the mandrake (The Insane Root, 1902), imaginative creation of the physical (The Body of His Desire, 1912), fortune-telling (The Mystery Woman, 1913), and a historical novel, The Romance of Mademoiselle Aïssé (1910). Praed’s commitment in later life was strongly towards the occult and the numinous. Like William Blake, she believed that the phenomenal world was only a fraction of the reality available to humans and that they had a duty to cultivate a wider percipience. It is an indication both of her humility and her commitment to the quest for expanded consciousness that she chose for her telegraphic address in 1899 the word “Ignoramus”. She made extensive notes of conversations with supraphysical entities and was far more pantheistic than is evident from any of her novels.

By 1910 she had virtually come to the end of her career. Most of her mentors from the 1880s were dead or no longer active, and her own celebrity from that time had fallen away. As an interpreter of Australia she had been superseded by a new generation of writers whose myths were different and far less connected to the colonial world which Praed had depicted.13) Her new concerns were of intense interest only to a minority audience. In 1912 when Justin McCarthy died she reestablished contact with some of her political acquaintances through preparing the memorial volume for him. The First World War did not induce a new direction in her fiction, although following old habits she made notes of soldiers’ letters and conversations for use in future fiction. Nancy Harward’s death in 1927 deprived her of her constant companion but spurred her on to complete a project which had been contemplated over 20 years before, the publishing of a full account of the mediumistic conversations which led to Nyria. This was published as Soul of Nyria in 1931 when Praed was 80. Her final years were very lonely. All her children except Maud (who was in an asylum) predeceased her and all died tragically, one killed in a car accident in California, one gored to death by a rhino in Africa, and one suiciding after developing terminal cancer. She had moved to Torquay in the early 1920s and died there on 11 April 1935. She was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.


Praed was the sort of writer whose imaginative crucible was as much her notebooks as her imagination. She constantly made copious notes of scenery, lists of names, snatches of conversation, social conventions in places she visited. Even from the beginning of her career, she actively requested information, notes, anecdotes, and even descriptions of people and places from family and friends.14 Her fiction often recognizably depicts her contemporaries. There is an element of roman à clef about her novels of the 1880s especially. Lord Randolph Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Olga Novikoff, Madame Blavatsky all appear as well as many lesser lights. Praed’s Australian background, naturally, is heavily used.

Of her Australian scenes, her favourite and most idyllic setting is the Ubi (Logan) district where her father had cattle runs. Well-watered properties are overshadowed by interesting mountains on the other side of which lie New South Wales and the ocean, both with their promise of wider horizons. On the Ubi, life is portrayed as a pleasant round of picnics, balls and races where the unmarried heroine can lounge on the verandah or beside the lagoon reading novels or poetry and waiting for an appropriate (or inappropriate) lover. The environment is occasionally forbidding or destructive, but more generally hospitable and productive, and there is time for leisure and culture or the desire for culture. The Ubi symbolizes the enthusiastic ideals and aspirations of the young heroines. By contrast the environment of the Leura (Burnett)15 district in central Queensland is a harsh one which is capable of prolonged drought and the relentless rejection of attempts at European settlement. Praed usually reserves this setting for her married heroines, the life of the womenfolk there being appropriately post-lapsarian, as they discover the inadequacies of their husbands, and their incompatibility with them. Another environment of physical and emotional trial for the heroine is Curtis Island off Gladstone on the Queensland coast where Praed lived immediately after her marriage. Praed’s Australian environments tend to be realistic, but there is one significant exception. In Fugitive Anne (1903), a Rider Haggard style fantasy novel, Praed depicts a mythic landscape in the north of Queensland inhabited by a race of red-skinned people with a Mayan-like culture.

Other novels are set in London, Northants, the Midlands, suburban Surrey, Monte Carlo, German spas, Switzerland, Algeria and Japan. Praed had a good eye for local colour and both in her journalism and her fiction tried to relate environment to national characteristics. The most extensive treatment of this is her characterisation of “The Australian Girl”. Perhaps in repudiation of her own early Anglophilia she exhorts Australian girls to eschew English manners and to “show themselves more frankly daughters of the soil”.16 Praed saw the Australian character, both male and female, as more naive yet more honest than the English or European. The inarticulate Australian male shows a dogged loyalty which at first seems less attractive to the heroine than the superficial culture of the Englishman, but eventually the moral hollowness of the English cad is revealed and the true worth of the Australian is seen by contrast. Novels like Nùlma (1897), Policy and Passion (1881) and The Maid of the River (1903) exploit this pattern. An interesting variation to this is seen in Madam Izàn (1898) where the hearty outdoors Australian suitor is competing not against an Englishman, but against a cultured Japanese who makes the Australian seem ignorant and brash and who wins the lady.

The young Australian women in Praed’s novels are usually naively Anglophile and only too eager to shake the Australian dust off their heels as quickly as possible in order to head for the cultured lights of London. The older ones are likely to have been brought up in, or to have visited, England, and to be now matched with a rough Australian man whose innate geniality has been strained by adverse circumstances, exposing a coarse and jarring practical materialism. Australian men, while not desiring an English social life themselves, rarely question its reality or worth. They respect the importance of it to the women and try to indulge them if the seasons are good and the wool cheques substantial. They are self-depreciating about their own lack of conformity to the manners, dress and aesthetic interests of the English gentry. Even where the immorality of the Engishman has been exposed, his aesthetic tastes, style and savoir faire are left intact.

Praed sets up these national/geographical binaries to satirize English life. It is most often an opposition between honest Australian and duplicitous Englishman, but it may be generalized to natural (Australian) manners versus artificial (English) class stratification. She saw America as sharing the same “open-air honesty”17 as Australians although she does not often use American characters in this way in the novels. The contrast is partly displaced onto climate. Her Australian characters arriving in England record the by then conventional disappointment with the climate, and in one novel. The Scourge-Stick (1898) the balmier environment of North Africa is used to symbolize an alternative to English values.

In a period when the concept of the gentleman had a great deal of currency, Praed’s idea of “the natural gentleman” acts as a polemic against ruling social values. Robin Gilmour has argued that the idea of the gentleman was propagated by the bourgeois to appropriate the class cachet of the aristocracy and to claim a definite social status.18 In a similar way Praed’s concept of the “natural gentleman” seeks to redefine the markers of class and to declare a moral test of gentility in defiance of the complicated English social networks. As one of her almost-compromised heroines blurts out: “I trusted him to be loyal as you — as Australian men are loyal — it is the English who are false.”19 Just how natural environments perform their morally educative processes is never spelled out by Praed – probably Wordsworth lurks there somewhere20 – but it is clear that her multiple geographical perspective enabled her to exploit the idea as a satirical weapon against “refined” society. On several occasions she wrote approvingly of self-categorising codes of bush hospitality: a casual visitor who gave his name (presumably female visitors did not arrive unannounced) was immediately invited into the homestead, whereas one who did not was relegated to the kitchen or the men’s hut.21 This is not to say, however, that Praed’s fictional patterns dispense with class-based happy endings. Though not as nauseatingly toadyish towards the aristocracy in her fiction as Rolf Boldrewood is in his,22 she still has characters “unmistakably” display superior birth,23 and rewards her lovers with convenient baronetcies.24

Nor was Praed averse to a little upward social fudging on her own account. She wrote under the name Mrs Campbell Praed, “Campbell” being her husband’s second given name, and the one he went by. This use of the husband’s given name was quite normal for the period, of course, other literary examples being Mrs Humphrey Ward and Mrs Henry Wood. But in Praed’s case the “Campbell” and the “Praed” sometimes became hyphenated on her title-pages and elsewhere, making it a double-barreled surname. There is no evidence that she ever protested.

As Michael Sharkey has pointed out,25 virtually all Praed’s novels are romances not only in the sense that some direction of real-life events towards wish-fulfilment is part of the fictional impulse, but also in the sense that a major concern of the novels is love: the importance of choosing the right partner, the results of having chosen the wrong one, the tensions between loyalty to an unpalatable spouse and desire for a compatible and willing lover, a wife’s duty to an obnoxious husband, the responsibility of a mother to her children. Sharkey argues that Praed was able to combine various contemporary concerns to give “coherence to her fictional representation of aspects of Australian life.” (p.56) The coherence, though, is more Sharkey’s than Praed’s. Praed certainly used the “twin-soul” theory extensively throughout her work, but she remains sceptical of the twin-souls ever mating. In fact the major use of the theory in her fiction is to point up the inappropriate pairings in which people find themselves. The irony of Mrs Tregaskiss is not as Sharkey says that Clare remains captive to social legality, but rather that the Fate which provides her with a soul-mate punishes her for deciding to abandon her children to join him.

This note of incipient tragedy underlies Praed’s best fiction. Along with the wish-fulfilment (her heroines suffer far more from too many competing suitors than from acne), there is a significant element of the realistic “problem novel” in her work. Unlike more conventional romances, many of Praed’s novels are not so much a catalogue of minor obstacles to be triumphantly surmounted before the hero and heroine eventually marry, as an analysis of the debilitating choices women are called upon to make in the course of their courtship and marriage. In this sense, they are not so much romances as anti-romances.

There is a variety of standard romance in Praed’s fiction. An adolescent Australian girl is faced with choosing between a suave but morally-flawed suitor (usually English) and a less articulate but more morally salubrious one (usually Australian). She nearly chooses badly, but is saved at the last minute (as in Policy and Passion or Nùlma) ostensibly by the arrival of the hero just as the villain is about to compromise her irrevocably, but really by the reassertion of her own “womanliness”.26 The more recurrent focus, though, is on an older woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Praed goes to some lengths to show the variety of ways in which women can find themselves in an unsatisfactory relationship and be unable to do anything about it. Family pressure and sometimes deception (December Roses, 1893), misguided idealism (An Australian Heroine, 1880), financial need and gratitude (Mrs Tregaskiss, 1895), exhaustion after failure as an artist (The Scourge Stick, 1898), even being tricked into a liaison thinking it a legitimate marriage (The Maid of the River, 1903) all put heroines into situations which rapidly become unsatisfying but in which they are bound.

The idea of bondage is recurrent through Praed’s work, and epitomises her view of conventional relationships. She titled one novel. The Bond of Wedlock, another was dramatised as “Bondage”, whilst a working title for a section of her first novel had been “A Binding Ceremony”. Perhaps the most representative Praed heroine is the one married to a man who, though good-natured and not actively malicious, is coarse-grained and antipathetic in sensibility. Her spiritual martyrdom is exacerbated by encountering another man who is far more congenial, in fact is her soul-mate. There are two possible outcomes of such situations. Either the unsuitable husband dies conveniently leaving the way clear for her to marry the better mate (Fugitive Anne, 1903 ) or the novel ends with the woman’s stern resolution to deny herself the illicit relationship and to reject the lover (Mrs Tregaskiss, 1895). The motive for the latter decision is either a bowing to the fate assigned or a duty to preserve honour for the sake of the children, a motif which strongly suggests the sensibility of East Lynne. These two reasons are not unconnected, for the awesome penalty of disgrace looms over the dissatisfied wife like a nemesis should she abandon the marriage contract. The heroine desiring to escape is usually portrayed as the intellectual and spiritual superior of the male, but he is usually given some redeeming features, and is not an outright villain.

The situations of the trapped women in Praed’s novels are intense to the point of luridness. At the end of The Bond of Wedlock (1887) Ariane Lomax finds herself married to a man who she discovers has engineered the adultery of her first husband so she could secure a divorce from him, and is still having an affair with the woman he paid to seduce her husband. In The Scourge-Stick (1898) Esther Vrintz is married to a wealthy man who has tired of her. A relationship develops between her and her husband’s nephew whom the uncle hates. She bears a child to the nephew which is accepted by her husband as his own. However, he keeps the mother away from it as much as possible and at his death wills custody of the child to someone else and makes Esther’s income dependent on her having no contact with the child. To contest this, Esther would face the certainty of the real parentage of the child becoming known, which would result in disgrace to herself, dispossession to the child and ruin to the nephew-lover who is now in an important diplomatic posting. Her husband has designed a peculiarly malicious punishment for her by making her choose between her natural desire for contact with the child and the attendant detrimental effects to herself and the two people she loves most dearly.

The Scourge-Stick continues the type of study of woman-in-impossible-situation which Praed pioneered in her fourth novel, Moloch: A Story of Sacrifice (1883). There is no doubt that Praed felt deeply the injustices which legal and social constraints exercised upon women in marriage, particularly women with more imaginative reach than their husbands. Her early fiction displays this fatalistically as the inevitable lot of women. Women have a precious gift which is not so much physical virginity as the commitment of a pure love. If this is bestowed upon an unworthy man (which happens frequently since ignorance is an inevitable part of the young woman’s innocence) she must either endure the repulsive union or fade away into premature death. The former outcome is used if Praed is writing “realistically” as in The Bond of Wedlock (1887); the latter if she is trying for a modern Greek tragedy as in Moloch. In Praed’s draft for this novel27 the young woman marries a cad only to discover that he has previously eloped with her mother and had two illegitimate children by her. The heroine’s husband is thus the father of her half-sister. This plot, which would have given the reviewers apoplexy,28 was softened to the extent that the revelation of the cad’s murky past comes before the marriage can take place. Even so it can be seen as Praed’s attempt to render as truly horrific the irrevocable yoking of people who are brought up with quite different ideals and moral (especially sexual) standards.

Later novels show women with more resources to fight back. Christina Chard (1893) has the deserted heroine hardening into a Miss Havisham-plus-Estella figure who embarks on a campaign of breaking men’s hearts. Eventually, as a glittering heiress, she is able to reenchant the man who sixteen years earlier in western Queensland had fascinated, married, impregnated and deserted her. She “remarries” him in London, but abandons him at the registry office door and takes to the stage as an opera singer. The Maid of the River (1903) ends with the heroine, who has been tricked into thinking she was legally married, successfully urging a breach of promise action against the English cad.

Praed’s attitude to maternity is complicated. One senses that she did not particularly like children herself, but in her fiction she subscribes to the view that maternal love is the most potent force in human psychology. Consequently children figure in the novels as a sort of hostage to fortune. They are likely to be spiritualized and precocious and to die early. (Babies seem particularly dispensable in this way.) Their death can contribute the motive of revenge (Policy and Passion), or can bring about a partial reconciliation of the estranged couple (Mrs Tregaskiss), but it more often acts as a threat or agency of retribution, almost always to the woman (By Their Fruits, 1908). It is a further element of the woman’s vulnerability in marriage that her profound maternal feelings make the death of a child the supreme act of a punitive or maliciously impersonal Fate.


Praed’s bibliography offers a good cross-section of the forms of fiction publishing in the late nineteenth century. In 1880 when she started publishing, the three-decker was supreme and she sometimes felt the tyranny of the form. One of her early contracts specifices a price of 50 pounds, “presuming the work to make three volumes”.29 Her work appeared in the 67-reprint, the 3/6 or 2/6 cheaper reprint, the 27-yellowback, the 1/- novella, the 6d two-column paperback. The majority of her novels after the mid-nineties had a colonial edition. Praed’s fiction was serialized in old-style monthlies like Temple Bar and new illustrated magazines like The Queen, in Australian newspapers and Canadian magazines. It was included in the continental libraries and pirated in American penny papers. She had sections set to establish copyright in America, and published a play outline in the UK for the same purpose. Her shorter fiction appeared in newspapers, magazines, Christmas issues, anthologies and benefit books. She was translated, dramatized and burlesqued.

Her attitude to her publishers toughened as she advanced. Early in her career she was the lady novelist with a husband to negotiate her royalties, and was more interested in the celebrity than the cash her books brought her. In 1890 she was quoted as being pleased she was sufficiently well off not to have to write for money.30 Her association with McCarthy would not have helped her to be more businesslike, for he was thoroughly unworldly in his dealings with his publishers.31 But Praed did earn considerable sums from her fiction and they came to be a significant part of her income. Probably the peak of her earning power came in the early 1890s when she was able to sell the volume rights of a novel like Christina Chard to Chatto and Windus for 275 pounds and the serial rights for a further 250 pounds.32 By the 1900s her financial discussions with publishers had become less off-hand. Although the Society of Authors counselled against it,33 Praed continued to prefer to sell her copyrights outright, but she found fewer and fewer publishers ready to do business in this way.34 Nor, when they were, was the result always satisfactory. When in 1907 she tried to repurchase the copyright of Nyria from T. Fisher Unwin in order to allow Rider and Co to bring out a new edition, a protracted and increasingly terse correspondence ensued. She did not succeed in recovering the copyright until 1912.35

Praed’s literary career shows a pattern of more than modest success both for her Australian stories and for her psychological and occult fiction. While many reviewers tended to prefer her Australian stories, her English psychological studies were admired by the less moralistic critics, and her mystic fiction had a steady following. Her occult novella, The Brother of the Shadow, sold 110,000 copies in the ten years after its publication. In a period when the Society of Authors estimated that three quarters of all fiction was published with authorial subsidy,36 she was never without publishers willing to buy her novels outright or to give her generous advances on royalty contracts. Her royalty statements and agreements show that there was a wide range of publishing arrangements in use. Apart from the outright sale which she preferred, she made agreements for single editions, she assigned copyrights for a seven-year term, and she published on the modern royalty system, in one case with a royalty as high as 25%.37 Two striking patterns that the figures reveal are the low standing of short stories at the beginning of this century as compared with novels, and the low return to the author on colonial editions. John Long bought novels from Praed in the 1900s for 265 pounds, 175 pounds, and 200 pounds, but paid only 75 pounds and 20 pounds for volumes of stories.38 Similarly, Heinemann paid 1/- a copy royalty on the English edition of The Scourge-Stick, but only 4d a copy on the colonial edition.

Out of print for many decades, Praed has recently been rediscovered by literary historians and three of her works are again in print with at least two further titles announced. She repays reading especially by feminist and post-colonial critics for her works explore political and social power as it impacted upon colonial women. If the situations of her heroines are sometimes melodramatic, the parameters of their confusion about values and their sense of powerlessness in their gender and social relationships are acutely observed and rendered. Ultimately she looked to a Higher Order for an explanation of the disordered world, but that did not prevent her novels from being acute analyses of the social power structures of the here and now.


This bibliography aims to list each distinguishable impression of Praed’s books, and all her shorter fiction and non-fiction in journals and anthologies. “Distinguishable impression” means that there is printed variance on the title-page or verso between one batch of books and another. The variance may be a different publisher, different date, or some notation like “reprinted 1905″, “second impression”, “Colonial library” or New edition”. Where the title-pages are identical except for a new date, I have used the abbreviation “Reissued 18XX”. I have not included as distinguishable impressions copies which show no such indication in the integral book, but have publisher’s catalogues of different dates bound in.39 Prima facie, the same number of pages in two different items indicates a common typesetting, and a different number a resetting, but only physical inspection can reliably establish the relationship of texts. For example, the 1887 one-volume edition of Miss Jacobsen’s Chance with 297 pages is apparently a new setting since the two-volume edition of 1886 had 317 and 309 pages. However, inspection shows it is the same setting of text as the two-volume edition with the leading reduced.

In most cases the entries in this bibliography are not new editions (i.e. new settings of type), but rather reprintings from stereo plates, or even just later bindings up of sheets already printed. In many cases the same setting of type generated copies issued by several different publishers, as unbound sheets or moulds were sold or licensed by the original publisher. Other title-page information can be deceptive. Late-nineteenth-century publishers were not loath to talk up their wares and to imply that sales were brisker than they perhaps were. Trischler bannered the title-page of The Soul of Countess Adrian with the words “Third Thousand”. The implication, presumably, is that two thousand copies had been sold already, and that a reprint of a thousand had been issued. However, as I have never seen a copy without that phrase, I believe that it may mean rather that the first printing was a run of 3,000.

After the first edition of her first novel Praed published virtually everything she wrote under the name, Mrs Campbell Praed (or occasionally Mrs Campbell-Praed.) Only exceptions to this are noted in the bibliography. Prefaces (and her personal letters) were signed “R.M. Praed”, a curious adaptation of her initials as a child to her married name.

The bibliography has also sought to include all contemporary secondary material, and all substantial recent critical comment. Information about non-canonical writers is often extremely hard to find and therefore once located should be recorded. The disadvantage of this approach is that many of the items listed, particularly the later reviews, are slight, sometimes only a line or two of plot summary, and for many researchers will scarcely repay the chasing up. But it is impossible to predict when a particular item or even a single phrase will be significant for someone, somewhere. Biographical and general critical material appearing in Praed’s lifetime is listed in chronological order to give some sense of her growing popularity; later material is arranged alphabetically by author. There will, of course, be many more items to be located, especially reviews and paragraphs, but probably stories and journalism even. I suspect that most of the stories in Praed’s four collections had previous serial publication, although I have not been able to trace all of them. Two specific items I have been unable to locate but which her correspondence suggests were published are a short story entitled “Red as a Rose” possibly published in 1890, and a story entitled “The World and His Wife” possibly published in 1907. I would be grateful for corrections and addenda from other researchers’ files.

Many people have drawn my attention to Praed items or supplied other information during the compilation of this bibliography. I should like to acknowledge assistance and scholarly courtesies from Claude Arnold, John Barnes, Susan Gardner, Beverley Kingston, Alan Lawson, Russell McDougall, Natalie Prior, the late Alan Queale, the late Walter Stone, Helen Tiffin, Mrs H. Vellacott and Elaine Zinkhan. Elaine Zinkhan also generously made available her own extensive files of comment and criticism on Praed. Much information was contributed by Margaret Versteeg, Sue Thomas and Lyn Baer while acting as research assistants to this or other projects. Chris and Michelle Kohler, and the late Gary de Vere procured elusive copies of Praed’s books for me. The other members of the Victorian Fiction Research Unit have offered consistent if increasingly exasperated support and encouragement.

I should also like to acknowledge the assistance of many libraries whose staff efficiently made available manuscript material and/or editions of Praed’s novels by the trolley-load for checking and verification: the Fryer Library and the John Oxley Library, Brisbane, the Fisher Library, Mitchell Library and State Library of NSW, Sydney, the La Trobe Library and the Baillieu Library, Melbourne, the Australian National Library and the ANU Library, Canberra, the Mortlock Library, Adelaide, the British Library, the Newspaper Library, the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, the City University Library, and The Spectator Office Archive, London, the Borough Library, Richmond, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the University Library, Cambridge, the John Rylands Library, Manchester, the Brotherton Library, Leeds, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, Washington, the University of Kansas City Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Brown University Library, Providence, the UCLA Library and the Huntington Library, Los Angeles, the Massey University Library, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Chris Tiffin, December 1988


ECB English Catalogue of Books

PP Praed Papers, John Oxley Library, OM64-1

  1. Praed’s biography has been written by Colin Roderick (In Mortal Bondage: The Strange Life of Rosa Praed Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1948). The account is fictionalized to the extent of including dialogue from the novels. More reliable (and very useful because it transcribes many items from the Praed papers in the John Oxley Library) is his earlier PhD thesis, “Mrs Campbell Praed: Her Life and Times”, University of Queensland, 194[7?]. []
  2. Murray-Prior Papers, Mitchell Library ML MSS 3117. []
  3. Murray-Prior Papers. []
  4. The character in the novel is based on a later Premier, Arthur Palmer, but the Bill and the resulting crisis are closer to that experienced by Herbert’s Ministry in 1863. []
  5. John Oxley Library, MS OM81-71. []
  6. John Oxley Library, MS OM64-1 3/4/1. []
  7. “My Literary Beginnings”, Brisbane Grammar School Magazine, 2 (1900), 16. []
  8. John Oxley Library, MS OM64-1 9/4/7. []
  9. Henry S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves (Third Series), Second Edition, Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1929 (rptd. 1972), p. 145. []
  10. In 1885 Henry S. Olcott wrote expressing satisfaction that she had “become a Theosophist and redeemed [her] promise to infuse Theosophist ideas in [her] writings.” John Oxley MS OM64-1 8/5/4. []
  11. One play, “Two Friends”, based on her collaborative novel, The Ladies Gallery, was tried at Bristol and Norwich in 1889 for an American tour by Mrs Kendal. However, after attempts to rewrite it, it was abandoned. []
  12. Praed’s The Mystery Woman is a rewrite of a MS novel by Nancy Harward called “The Oracle”. Harward’s diaries in the Praed Papers record “working on” such novels as Nyria, “Van Dreen” (= The Body of His Desire), “The Terror and the Child” (= Opal Fire), but the extent of Harward’s contribution is not clear. []
  13. Praed herself may have been aware of this. On 8 July 1899 The Bulletin advertised Lawson’s While the Billy Boils thus: “Mrs Campbell Praed, the Australian novelist, said this book made her feel that all she had written of bush life was pale and ineffective.” (p.9 []
  14. John Oxley Library MS OM81-71. []
  15. The Leura is actually a more composite environment extending from the Burnett of Praed’s early childhood to the western Queensland where her sister, Elizabeth Jardine, lived subsequently. []
  16. “The Australian Girl: A Daughter of Great Britain”, The Girl’s Realm 1 (1899), 252. []
  17. “Some American Impressions”, Temple Bar 81 (Sept 1887), 62. []
  18. Robin Gilmour, The Idea of the Gentleman in Victorian Fiction (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), p.6. []
  19. Policy and Passion (London: Richard Bentley, 1881), p.356. []
  20. The idea that Australia offered a healthy, outdoors, uncomplicated environment had been propagated by such writers as Henry Kingsley, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and (contemporary with Praed) Rolf Boldrewood. Praed was seen as (and sometimes criticised for) introducing intense psychological studies into this setting. []
  21. For example, Australian Life: Black and White (London: Chapman and Hall, 1885), pp.98-99. []
  22. See my “Nationalism, Class and Landscape”, Ariel, 17,1 (1986), 17-32. []
  23. See for example, Mrs Tregaskiss (London: Chatto and Windus, 1896), p.161 and The Lost Earl of Elian (London: Chatto and Windus, 1905), pp. 2, 63, 303, 307. []
  24. Coming into titles or landed estates forms part of the denouement of such novels as Policy and Passion, The Lost Earl of Elian and Lady Bridget of the Never-Never Land. []
  25. Michael Sharkey, “Rosa Praed’s Colonial Heroines”, ALS 10,1, (May 1981), 48-56. []
  26. “Womanliness” involves both instinctive moral rectitude and total willingness to commit oneself in love. It is a concept much vaunted by “good” male characters like Dyson Maddox in Policy and Passion (London: Bentley, 1881, pp.236-237), or Will Cassils in Moloch (London: Routledge, 1887, p.179). It is possible to read several of the novels as demonstrations of the destructiveness of this concept. []
  27. The draft has not survived, but her father’s diary for August 1882 when he read the novel in MS shows the original outline. Murray-Prior Papers. []
  28. As it was, The Spectator objected strongly to the unseemly plot, and called on the lending libraries to censure the book. Spectator 16 June 1883, p.779. []
  29. John Oxley Library, MS OM64-1 9/4/1. The contract was for “Longleat of Kooralbyn”, published as Policy and Passion. There were also disputes with publishers about the lengths of “The Right Honourable”, The Soul of Countess Adrian and Nyria. []
  30. Mrs G.A. Sala, “Famous People I have Met: Mrs Campbell Praed”, The Gentlewoman, 22 Nov 1890, 712. []
  31. McCarthy was very much an old-world gentleman in money dealings with both Chatto and Windus and with Bentley. Indicative of the way the financial transactions were conducted is George Bentley’s letter to McCarthy about the first McCarthy- Praed collaborative novel: “Did we settle as to the amount of the royalty etc on ‘The Right Honourable’? Kindly let me have a line on the subject at your convenience.” (Chatto & Windus papers, University of Kansas City Library.) In fact in the case of all three of the collaborative novels, Bentley wrote asking to be reminded of their verbal agreement. []
  32. John Oxley Library, MS OM64-1. []
  33. For example in S. Squire Sprigge, The Methods of Publishing (London: Henry Glaisher for the Incorporated Society of Authors, 1890). []
  34. Chatto and Windus was an exception. In a letter dated 16 February 1900 the firm wrote: “We generally prefer to purchase the book rights in a novel outright as we find in most cases this method proves the most satisfactory to both parties.” (Chatto and Windus archive, Reading University). []
  35. John Oxley Library, MS OM64-1 4/4/13. []
  36. The Methods of Publishing, p. 20. []
  37. The novel was Nyria. John Oxley MS OM64-1 4/5/39. []
  38. One factor influencing this disparity may have been that many of the stories had already been published, so the payment would be only for volume rights. []
  39. Instances of this are fairly common and are difficult to interpret. For example, copies of Fugitive Anne exist all having the date, 1902, on the verso of the title page, and yet containing bound-in catalogues dated 1902, 1903 and 1906 respectively. []

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