King Anne by Ethel Turner was published in 1921 and my great aunt gifted this novel to her sister, my paternal grandmother, at Christmastime in 1922 after she had first read it. Many years passed by and when Grandma thought the time was right she passed King Anne on to me.
Unfortunately at that time I was not the least bit interested.
British-born Australian author Ethel Turner (1870-1958) was a novelist and children’s literature writer. She wrote over 30 books and collections of short stories and verse, mostly centred around girls and for girls. King Anne was Turner’s thirty-sixth published work.
Perhaps because I didn’t quite get into her first novel, the epic family saga Seven Little Australians (1894) of which NSW State Library holds the original hand-written manuscript, I therefore gave pseudo-royal King Anne’s weighty tome (as it seemed to me at the time) a wide detour.
The bookcover faded and King Anne languished for many, many years on the family bookshelves, sandwiched between ancient copies of Kidnapped, Pilgrims Progress and Wind in the Willows, and enduring several moves until by some quirk of fate I reached for it today February 2022 when my great aunt and grandmother would have read it one hundred years ago. (Shivers)
I have no memory of the storyline. Now I WILL have to read it!
First I shall create a pictorial and some background information—
The book has foxing and is not in good condition but you can see the etiquette of the time. Written in brackets underneath ETHEL TURNER is the abbreviation Mrs coupled with her husband’s name thus Mrs H. R. Curlewis. Herbert Raine Curlewis was a judge.
The frontispiece and three illustration plates are beautifully rendered, showing family life at the time. They are miniature works of art in their own right, sometimes removed and framed by the book owner. The far right image was adapted and embossed on the front cover of King Anne.
The artist has not been acknowledged and from online booksellers information you can take your pick. Possibly Harold Copping, and it seems A.J. Johnson‘s small-format illustrations were later replaced by full page works from J. Macfarlane. Each had illustrated books for Ethel Turner.
Inside the back leaves of King Anne (you leaf through a book because the pages are called leaves) under the heading Charming Stories by Isabel M Peacocke – another author of similar genre – there is a rather ambiguous book review of My Friend Phil (1915) from a Queensland Times reviewer which reads “… without doubt the best since Ethel Turner took the reading world by storm with her ‘Seven Little Australians’…” poor Isabel M Peacocke.
The difference between the size and weight of these two books was misleading until held in my hands. Natasha Pulley’s The Kingdoms is a slimmer volume with a lighter bookcover and thinner pages compared to Ethel Turner’s bulky King Anne with its fabric-over-cardboard bookcover, cotton stitching and stiff parchment-like pages. The modern publication is 200g heavier.
Australian author Ethel Turner booklist:
|Seven Little Australians (1894)|
The Family at Misrule (1895)
Story of a Baby (1895)
Little Larrikin (1896)
Miss Bobbie (1897)
Camp at Wandining (1898)
Gum Leaves (1900)
Three Little Maids (1900)
Wonder Child (1901)
Little Mother Meg (1902)
Raft in the Bush (1902)
Betty & Co (1903)
Mothers Little Girl (1904)
White Roofed Tree (1905)
In the Mist of the Mountains (1906)
Walking to School (1907)
Stolen Voyage (1907)
Happy Hearts (1908)
That Girl (1908)
Birthday Book (1909)
Fugitives from Fortune (1909)
Fair Ines (1910)
|An Orge up to Date (1911)|
Apple of Happiness (1911)
Fifteen & Fair (1911)
Ports & Happy Havens (1911)
Tiny House (1911)
Secret of the Sea (1913)
Flower O’ the Pine (1914)
The Cub (1915)
John of Daunt (1916)
Captain Cub (1917)
St Tom & The Dragon (1918)
Brigid & the Cub (1919)
Laughing Water (1920)
**King Anne (1921)
Jennifer, J. (1922)
Sunshine Family (1923)
(with Jean Curlewis her daughter)
Nicola Silva (1924)
Judy & Punch (1928)
Ethel Turner’s literary works have been largely forgotten but she, and a handful of other women writers, paved the way for Australian books for Australian children. My grandparents were educated with, and read, British books, so I admire Ethel Turner’s achievements. The following websites make interesting reading – GBW.
Tea With Ethel Turner by author blogger Rowena (link below) is exceptionally well written and researched. On my own research, so far I have found scant reference to King Anne.
Important Addendum: Australian Women Writers Challenge The Early Years is concentrating on past Australian women writers of all genres who were published then faded away. AWW have restructured their blog to highlight the writing of earlier Australian women; works published 50+ years ago. If you happen to find and read a forgotten gem, AWW would be interested in your book review.
I will be posting my King Anne review in due course. In the meantime, perhaps YOU might find another first edition little-known Ethel Turner on your bookshelf?
Classics deserve to be read again!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward