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Observer miscellany
Title : Observer miscellany Observer miscellany
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Serial stories
Poetry
Historical articles
Other contributors
Fairy tales
'The riddler'
Closure

The Observer miscellany was a free literary supplement published with the Adelaide observer from 1875. The small 16 page magazine lasted for five years. Its content consisted of stories, articles, poems, puzzles, riddles and a chess section. Although the amount of material contributed by local writers varied, this was often as much as half of the content, while the rest consisted of poems and serials copied from English and American magazines. (All the items in the 'Riddler' section were contributed by local readers.) Some well-known South Australians of the time, including Catherine Helen Spence, Catherine Martin, George Wilkinson and Nathaniel Hailes, were contributors to the Miscellany.

 Serial stories The main content of the magazine consisted of serial stories, usually by English writers, but varied occasionally by the inclusion of serials written locally. Advertisments for the new magazine proclaimed that the opening serial would be 'Unknown to himself' by South Australian D.M. (Dan) Magill. This was a story set in upper class England. In 1877 the Miscellany published another Magill serial, 'The rebel's escape,' set in 18th century Ireland. (17 November 1877, p. 746) Magill worked for Adelaide Punch, and Punch's editor/owner, J.C.F. Johnson, also wrote for the Miscellany - mostly poems such as 'Old mates.' (3 November 1877, p. 716) Later Johnson's story, 'A fine fortune,' was serialised in the Miscellany. (4 October 1879, p. 628) This described a series of Australian country characters met by a hawker named Jack Jepster as he travelled the countryside. Prolific local newspaper contributor, George Loyau, contributed the serial 'Affection's test.' (10 October 1878, p. 651) Heron Swan (Henry Morgan Hawkes) contributed 'Twixt cup and lip or the betrothal of Bergues, an historical romance of the Middle Ages.' (18 December 1875, p. 831) The popular South Australian writer, Catherine Martin, contributed a short story of colonial society, 'Breaking the law.' (27 December 1879, p. 849)

 Poetry The Miscellany contains the work of many lesser known South Australian poets, particularly in its earlier issues. These include Robert Bruce ('R.B.'), Spencer Skipper, Harriet Miller Davidson, John Howell, Eliza Strawbridge, and Frank Atha Westbury. Lesser known contributors included W.C. Sanders of Hindmarsh, the prolific 'T.B.' of Port Lincoln, 'Trevor,' H.H. Blackham and 'E.L.' of Marrabel. However, by its last year of publication, the majority of poems were copied from overseas journals. The poems were often memorials to local people or other forms of lament, such as Robert Bruce's long poem about the burning of the emigrant ship Cospatrick. (22 January 1876, p. 65)

 Historical articles Interesting historical articles and reminiscences were occasionally included, usually anonymously or under pseudonyms. 'Leaves from a log-book by an Ancient Mariner,' describes trips by sea from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1854 and 1874, as well as giving detailed technical information about shipping. (2 January 1875, p. 9) This was the first of a series. An interesting story based on fact is 'Wandilta' which describes how a Port Lincoln Aborigine helps a lost boy, while walking from Adelaide to Port Lincoln following his wrongful jailing for sheep stealing. (18 December 1875, p. 801) Nathaniel Hailes' memories of the early days of South Australia, 'Personal recollections of a septuagenarian' were reprinted from the Register over a period from January 1877. 'A.E.M.' contributed 'The Torrens of old and the Torrens of the present day.' (30 March 1878, p. 193) 'On the Coorong with the blacks,' is an anonymously written article of 1878. (28 December 1878, p. 842) The journalist Allerdale Grainger wrote, 'The land of fog: a Christmas day at the North Pole.' (23 December 1876, p. 853) From the Naracoorte herald, the Miscellany re-printed John Bambrick's description of his memories of the charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. (1 April 1876, p. 235)

 Other contributors In November 1878, Catherine Helen Spence contributed a series of articles about 'Social aspects of colonial life' - past, present and future - writing under the pen name of 'A Colonist of 1839.' These had previously appeared in the Register. She also contributed complex riddles to the Riddler page from mid 1879, and essays such as 'What should youth live for?' (16 August 1879, p. 513), 'Snobs and mothers-in-law,' (13 September 1879, p. 577) and 'General culture and individual genius.' (5 April 1879, p. 217) In December 1878 John Robertson of 'Golden Grove' described 'A trip to Heidelberg.' (7 December 1878, p. 769) 'Maurice' wrote about 'Living in the country,' (11 October 1879, p.651) and 'Travelled snobs.' (29 November 1879. p. 753) 'A day in the hills and what it cost' by 'Artisan,' described a trip into the Adelaide Hills. (22 November 1879, p. 737)

 Fairy tales A series of strongly moralistic fairy stories for children were contributed by E.E. in 1876. These describe the various temptings of a little girl named Flora by fairies with such names as Vanity, Modesty, Queen Hate, and King Truthful. Interestingly, there are Aboriginal characters who help Flora. Frank 'Atha' Westbury wrote fairy stories for various Australian newspapers including the Observer. He contributed a poem for adult readers of the Miscellany, 'Elfland,' in 1879. (20 December 1879, p. 823)

 'The riddler' This was an important section of the Miscellany, containing three to four pages of chess notes, mathematical puzzles, riddles and complex word puzzles. It was stipulated that all contributions must be original. Mostly the contributors are identified only by initials. 'C.H.S.' has been identified as Catherine Helen Spence, who from mid 1879 contributed elaborate word puzzles. (5 July 1879, p. 430) The amateur poet, T.B. of Port Lincoln, was a regular contributor to this section. Eliza Strawbridge ('E.S.') was another contributor to the column.

 Closure The Miscellany ceased at the end of 1879 as part of the complete re-vamping of its parent Adelaide observer, from January 1880. The new look Saturday newspaper included an extensive literary section, with many of the Miscellany regulars, including Atha, Maurice, G.B.W. (George Wilkinson) and Robert Bruce continuing as contributors.

Subjects
Place : Adelaide (S. Aust.)
Further reading :

Depasquale, Paul. A critical history of South Australian literature, 1836-1900 with subjectively annotated bibliographies, Warradale, S. Aust.: Pioneer Books, 1978

Miller, E. Morris. Australian literature from its beginnings to 1935: a descriptive and bibliographical survey of books by Australian authors in poetry, drama, fiction, criticism and anthology with subsidiary entries to 1938, facsim. ed., Sydney: Sydney University, 1973.

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