Wednesday, 29 January 2003

Swallowdale & Georgiana Molloy

Listening to:

Schubert, Arpeggione sonata, in A minor, D821.

Just read:

Arthur Ransome, Swallowdale.

This is the second Swallows & Amazons book, and a very enjoyable read it is too. Though set around the same lake as the first book, it features a lot less sailing than the first, and Wild Cat Island (the island that was so central to S&A) features even less. In fact, Wild Cat Island doesn’t play much of a part in any of the subsequent books either. Ransome did an extremely good job at varying his stories; I would never accuse him of repetitive plotting. (Unlike, dare I say it, Rowling in the Harry Potter books.) Anyway, the story really is very good, with a number of overland adventures, a final race between the two boats, a neat camp-site, the Swallowdale of the title, and the distant presence of the awe-inspiring and awful Great Aunt. Definitely at least as good as its predecessor.

Alexandra Hasluck, Georgiana Molloy: portrait with background.

This is another of those 19th century biographies. Its subject was one of England’s first migrants to Western Australia, arriving there in 1830. She was newly married to retired Army Captain John Molloy, who had fought in the Peninsular campaigns under the Duke of Wellington. After finding Perth and Fremantle too hot, the couple, and some other families that they’d met on the ship out, decided to move to Augusta on WA’s south coast, where John Molloy became the state’s senior representative. Though she initially disliked the conditions, Georgiana came to appreciate the beauties of the Australian bush, and became a keen gardener. She struck up a correspondence with a UK botanist, James Mangles, and was encouraged to collect examples of WA’s unique plants and flowers and send them to the UK, where they were received avidly.

Even as Hasluck describes this strand of Molloy’s life, and does it very well, she also tells how Molloy and her husband had a number of children, and moved north, to what was to become Busselton, after they decided that conditions were too difficult in Augusta. I found this biography very appealing. It had it all for me, a setting with which I was slightly familiar (I have been to both Augusta and Busselton, I have seen Molloy Island), a bit of scientific history that could only remind me of the appealing Stephen Maturin character in the O’Brian books (who is in turn modelled in many ways on Joseph Banks), and an interesting general history of early settlement.

It’s funny reading Australian and American media in juxtaposition. In the US material, liberal seems to mainly be a term of abuse, levelled at the left-wing by the right-wing. In Australia, the Liberal party is the main right-wing party, and that of the current Prime Minister, John Howard.

I was recently reading a piece in the New York Review of Books about President Bush’s latest tax proposals. It pointed out that a plan that had most benefit for the top 1% of the country wouldn’t necessarily be such a hard sell. In Europe (or Australasia) people would get very indignant about such things. In aspirational America, people are more indulgent about being nice to the rich because that’s where they want to be themselves, and because they might just get there eventually. Indeed, the same article claimed that surveys had established that fully 17% of the population thought they were already in the top 1% of the population.

Comments

Georgiana Molloy sounds like a cool chick! GO U GOOD THING

Posted by: moe at August 2, 2004 11:16 AM