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Edward Maitland

(1824—1897) author and spiritualist


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(1824–97), born Ipswich, England, was educated at Cambridge and destined for the church, but suffered a crisis of faith and left England for Mexico, California and Australia in 1849. Appointed commissioner of Crown Lands and police magistrate at Wellington, NSW, in 1854, he married a year later the granddaughter of the explorer W.H Hovell, President of the Goulburn School of Arts, which he helped to found, Maitland propounded the casting off of colonial ties and attitudes in his lectures. In 1858 he left for England after delivering a lecture published as The Meaning of the Age (1858). In England he wrote several novels which draw partly on his Australian experience. The Pilgrim and the Shrine (1868) gives vent to his political and spiritual ideas as well as providing pictures of life on the Australian goldfields. One of the novel's characters, Captain Travers, is based on Hovell, and another, Mary, on Mary Woolley, the wife of John Woolley; John Woolley is also mentioned by name. Mary Woolley is also the basis of the heroine of his next novel, Higher Law (1870). His subsequent fiction was more mystical and psychological, anticipating in some respects the views of C.G. Jung. By and By (1873) is particularly speculative, expressive of Maitland's radical ideas on a range of social institutions. Although Maitland acquired a reputation as a writer, mainly for the Spectator and the Examiner, his friendship with the feminist and spiritualist Dr Anna Kingsford, and his own spiritualist ideas aroused suspicion, hostility and ridicule. His reputation was irretrievably damaged by his book England and Islam (1877), a passionate attempt to expose the dangers of materialism in politics and science. In 1896 he published a two-volume work, Anna Kingsford, which was to have an important influence on C.J. Brennan. Other works which were influential among those sympathetic to his views were The Keys of the Creeds (1875), The Soul and How It Found Me (1877) and, with Anna Kingsford, The Perfect Way (1882). Maitland's exploration of spiritualism and psychic phenomena stimulated or coincided with similar explorations in Australia, reflected particularly in the linked interests of such figures as C.J. Brennan, Alfred Deakin, John le Gay Brereton, Dowell O'Reilly and John Woolley.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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