'A Peacock's Plume Among a Pile of Geese Feathers'

Rosa Praed in the United States


  • David Carter University of Queensland




Rosa Praed, Australian writers in America, 1883-1915


Rosa Praed has been claimed as ‘the first Australian-born novelist to achieve a significant international reputation.’ Almost certainly, she was the first Australian-born novelist to be published in the United States, although she was in England by the time her first novel appeared in America in 1883. Of Praed’s forty-seven published works, twenty-five appeared in American editions in the three decades from 1883 to 1915, including twenty-four of her thirty-eight novels in more than forty separate editions. In the years either side of the century’s turn, she was among the best known Australian writers in America, alongside Louis Becke and Rolf Boldrewood.

Author Biography

David Carter, University of Queensland

David Carter is Professor of Australian Literature and Cultural History at the University of Queensland and a Fellow of the Australian Humanities Academy. The article included here is drawn from ongoing work on the history of American editions of Australian books.


Elizabeth Webby, cited in Patricia Clarke, ‘Rosa Praed (Mrs Campbell Praed)’, in Selina Samuels (ed.), Australian Literature, 1788–1914, Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 230 (Detroit: Gale, 2001), p. 312.

Praed was born in 1851 in the colony of New South Wales in an area that later became part of Queensland. She left in 1876 for England, where her first novel was published in 1880. She returned to Australia only once, in 1894–95. See Clarke, ‘Rosa Praed’ and Patricia Clarke, Rosa! Rosa!: A life of Rosa Praed, novelist and spiritualist (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1999).

George Bentley to Rosa Praed, 11 July 1881, Rosa Caroline Praed Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland (9/4/24).

For Munro and Lovell, see John Tebbel, Between covers: The rise and transformation of American book publishing (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 147–51, 162–3.

Nadine, Munro’s Seaside Library, vol. 76, no. 1542; Z´ero, vol. 93, no. 1873. Both references from Chris Tiffin, Rosa Praed (Mrs Campbell Praed) 1851–1935: A bibliography, Victorian Fiction Research Guides XV, Department of English, University of Queensland, 1989.

Tiffin lists the Munro edition of An Australian heroine, but notes that the book has not been sighted.

Advertisement, New York Times, 11 May 1890.

Justin McCarthy was a popular novelist, essayist, and Irish Nationalist member of the British parliament, already published in the United States. Justin McCarthy and Rosa Praed, ‘The Right Honourable’: a romance of society and politics (Chatto & Windus, 1886).

Clarke, Rosa!, p. 93. ‘The Right Honourable’ was successful in London, with a sixth edition ten years after it originally appeared: Clarke, ‘Rosa Praed’, p. 306.

New York Daily Tribune, 13 November 1887. Appleton’s publicity quotes a review from the Independent (New York) praising Praed’s ‘labor in the way of romance and sentiment’. New York Times, 2 July 1892.

Omaha Daily Bee, 19 April 1896.

Clarke, Rosa!, p. 98; US visit, pp. 97–99.

‘The Right Honourable’: 1887, 1888, 1896, 1898; The Ladies’ Gallery: 1889, 1895, 1898, 1912.

Clarke, ‘Rosa Praed’, p. 307.

Chris Tiffin, ‘“Our literary connexion”: Rosa Praed and George Bentley’, Australian Literary Studies 27(3–4) (2012), 120. Tiffin points out that Bentley was also Publisher in Ordinary to the Queen, so could not publish anything overtly controversial.

George Bentley to Rosa Praed, 13 February 1888, Praed Papers (9/4/60).

Tiffin, ‘Our literary connexion’, 120–1.

December roses (Appleton, 1892; Simpkin 1893); Christina Chard (Appleton, 1893; Chatto & Windus, 1894); Mrs Tresgaskiss (Appleton, 1895; Chatto & Windus, 1896).

December roses was no. 96, Christina Chard no. 130, Outlaw and lawmaker no. 146, Mrs Tresgaskiss no. 181, Nulma ` no. 220, and Madame Izan` no. 264.

Atlantic Monthly, Mar. 1894, p. 419. The six other authors were Clo. Graves, B. L. Farjeon, Florence Marryat, G. Manville Fenn, Justin Huntly McCarthy (Justin McCarthy’s son) and Clement Scott.

For an account of this fascinating story, see ‘Karl Sandeze: A literary episode’, ` Lippincott’s Magazine, November 1899, 794–800, see Chris Tiffin, ‘“By Mrs Campbell Praed”: Author and text’, BSANZ Bulletin 22(2) (1998), pp. 77–9.

Based in Bolton, Tillotson & Co. had offices in London, New York and Berlin, and syndicated articles and fiction across Great Britain and the United States. In July 1894, Tillotson wrote to Praed stating that their best offer for a story ‘would be £50 for serial, translation and American rights’ (Praed Papers, 9/1/29).

New York Times, 30 June 1894.

New York Times, 8 November 1895.

New York Sun, 3 July 1897.

Morning Call, 14 June 1891.

New York Times, 17 July 1892.

New York Times, 21 January 1894.

For example, in the Louisiana Populist, the Globe-Republican (Dodge City), the Eddy Current (New Mexico) and the Stark County Democrat(Ohio), February 1896; ‘English women who dress badly’, Evening Star (Washington, DC), 20 June 1896.

‘Two London literary women’, Daily Yellowstone Journal (Montana), 17 March 1889; the article probably appeared widely (it sources the Pittsburgh Chronicle).

Minneapolis Journal, 27 February 1901. In 1900, reporting ‘News of Australia’, the Hawaiian Gazette noted that Australians would be concerned for Praed’s delicate health: Hawaiian Gazette 28 September 1900. Anthony Hope was the author of the best-selling The prisoner of Zenda.

New York Daily Tribune, 22 July 1894.

Outlook, September 1894, 439.

Tiffin, Rosa Praed, p. 10.

From the front matter of Appleton’s editions of Christina Chard, Nulma ` and Madame Izan` .

San Francisco Call, 12 January 1896.

Saint Paul Daily Globe, 26 January 1896.

New York Sun, 24 July 1897.

Houston Daily Post, 18 October 1897.

Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana), 20 December 1897. The list is of books borrowed by adults on a single day, 24 November. The accompanying list includes only three titles, Christina Chard, December roses and Nulma ` , but perhaps there were multiple borrowings.

New York Tribune Illustrated Supplement, 11 June 1899.

Outlook, 8 November 1902, 612.

‘Compared with Stevenson’, Houston Daily Post, 22 February 1903.

‘Mrs Praed’s new story’, New York Times, 22 November 1902.

T. Everett Harry (Marietta, PA), ‘From readers’, New York Times, 29 November 1902.

Tebbel, Between covers, pp. 104–5.

That Praed was writing My Australian girlhood was noted in a number of American papers — for example, the New York Tribune, 2 March 1902 and the New York Times, 20 September 1902.

Bentley to Praed, 22 May 1886. Praed papers (9/4/51).

For an account of Praed’s publishing history in London, see Tiffin, Rosa Praed, pp. 13–14 and ‘“Our literary connexion”’.

Mrs Tregaskiss, Praed Papers (10/1/5); Christina Chard, Praed Papers (10/1/11); December roses, Praed Papers (10/1/12).

Colles to Praed, 14 December 1898. Praed Papers (9/2/32).

Tiffin, Rosa Praed, p. 28.

M. E. W. Sherwood, ‘Heroines’, New York Times, 15 September 1900: ‘I dislike an unhealthy heroine, such as Esther Vassall . . . Clever Mrs Campbell Praed, do not scourge us with such sharp sticks’.

Thring to Praed, 18 December 1903; earlier letter re serial rights 2 January 1903 (9A/11/5).

Tebbel, Between covers, p. 373.

Two editions are listed in the Library of Congress and NY Public Library: New Amsterdam 1903 and R. F. Fenno 1904 respectively. The book was copyrighted by the former in 1903 but published by the latter in 1904. A letter in Praed’s papers from Publishers’ Weekly to an American correspondent talks of the book having been transferred from the former to the latter when the former ‘gave up business’: 16 January 1905, Praed Papers (8/5/13).

Clarke, ‘Rosa Praed’, p. 310. The period was also marked by tragedies in Praed’s personal life, including the death of her son, Humphrey, in a motor car accident in Los Angeles.

Insane root contract dated 29 July 1901; My Australian girlhood contract dated 30 May 1902; Nyria contract dated 27 March 1903. Praed to Unwin, 12 March 1903, Praed papers (9A/1/16; 9A/3/6).

Correspondence between T. Fisher Unwin and Praed, 30 October 1900, 8 October 1904, Praed papers (9A/1/1–9A/3/46).

See James L. W. West III, ‘The Chace Act and Anglo-American literary relations’, Studies in Bibliography 45 (1992), 307: ‘Any of [John Lane’s] titles with potential for both the British and American markets were manufactured in the United States and copyrighted in Washington, while overrun sheets were sent to England, bound there, and copyrighted for the British market’.

Praed to Lane, 10 May 1904; to Unwin, 10 May 1904. Praed Papers 9/3/13 and 9A/3/36.

Tiffin’s bibliography records one edition of ‘Nyria: A drama of the days of domitian’, listed in the catalogue of Brown University (Rhode Island) but no longer traceable. He suggests it may be ‘an outline or section printed for copyright purposes, although it is not held by the Library of Congress’ (30).

Praed to Unwin, 3 April 1904. Praed Papers 9A/3/33.

Stanley Unwin, The truth about publishing, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1926, pp. 69–70.

T. Fisher Unwin to Praed, 8 October 1904, Praed Papers (9A/3/46).

San Francisco Call, 13 September 1904.

San Francisco Call, 7 August 1904. See also 12 August 1904.

San Francisco Call, 13 September 1904.

Cassell retained rights for publishing the novels ‘in all forms and in all countries’. Agreement for By their fruits, 18 June 1907, Praed Papers (10/4/6).

New York Times, 12 September 1908; advertisement New York Sun, 10 October 1908.

Advertisement for the Evening Mail in the New York Times, 11 December 1908; ‘The homecoming of Gwendolen’, LA Herald Sunday Magazine, 20 December 1908; ‘Nurse Bridget’s patient’, LA Herald Sunday Magazine, 12 September 1909.

New York Times, 4 May 1912.

Statement from Cassell, 30 June 1913, Praed papers (10/4/1).

Advertised New York Times 9 October 1915. Pagination the same as the English edition, suggesting it was printed from sheets.

New York Times 16 April 1916. There was one later American edition: in 1976, Arno (New York) republished The brother of the shadow (1886) in a series of supernatural and occult fiction.

‘Oversea Writers Capture England’, Salt Lake Tribune, 16 July 1911.



How to Cite

Carter, D. (2014). ’A Peacock’s Plume Among a Pile of Geese Feathers’: Rosa Praed in the United States. Queensland Review, 21(1), 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1017/qre.2014.5