Vidal, Mary Theresa (1815–1869 or 1873)

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Vidal, Mary Theresa (1815–1869 or 1873)

British-born Australian writer. Born in 1815 in Devon, England; died in 1869 or 1873; married a minister; children.

A relative of the 18th-century British portraitist Joshua Reynolds, Mary Theresa Vidal was one of the first women to write fiction in Australia. Born in Devon, England, in 1815, she moved with her minister husband in 1840 to Australia, a wild, pioneer land once primarily a penal colony set up to relieve the overcrowding of British jails. While in Australia, Vidal wrote Tales for the Bush, a collection of moralistic short stories that warned servants and other working folk against drink and dereliction. Tales for the Bush was published in Sydney in 1845; despite the book's title, the stories' subject matter had little to do with Australia. That same year, Vidal returned to England. Once home, she did create two works set in Australia, a story called "The Cabramatta Store" (1850) and the novel Bengala: Or, Some Time Ago (1860). These touch mostly on domestic concerns, but also include depictions of colonial and pioneer life. "The Cabramatta Store" uses the drought, fires, and flood of the harsh Australian environment as a backdrop. In addition, Vidal published eight other works of fiction. The date of her death has been variously given as 1869 and 1873.

sources:

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Wilde, William H., Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1985.

James M. Manheim , freelance writer, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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