Mary Theresa Vidal

(1815—1873) novelist

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(1815–73), born Devon, England, came to Australia with her husband in 1840 but returned to England in 1845. Her popular book Tales for the Bush, first published in Sydney in 1845, has little to do with Australia. It is a series of brief, morally edifying stories intended to instil a proper sense of Christian duty into servants and other members of the lower social classes. She also wrote Cabramatta, and Woodleigh Farm (1850), only the first part of which, the story ‘The Cabramatta Store’, is concerned with Australia. It is set in the Nepean district of NSW and deals mainly with the minutiae of domestic life of the day, although it features some of the stock ingredients of pioneer life such as bushrangers, droughts, floods and bushfires. Her only other Australian-centred work, the novel Bengala: Or, Some Time Ago (1860), is set in a fictitious township, probably Penrith, NSW, where her husband ministered. Bengala uses the domestic and community concerns of a small colonial rural society to frame a melodramatic and romantic tale. One of the earliest women fiction-writers in Australia, Mary Theresa Vidal is linked by her grandmother to the famous English portrait artist Joshua Reynolds. Her granddaughter was the novelist Faith Compton Mackenzie, in whose autobiography, As Much As I Dare (1935), Vidal briefly figures. Bengala was republished in 1990 in UNSW Colonial Texts series, edited by Susan McKernan, now Lever.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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