Irish Protestant Colonialism and Educational Ideology in Australia:** *Hannah Boyd’s *Letters on Education (1848)


The transnational movement between Ireland and Australia of school periodicals, pedagogical ideas and educational theories are writ large in histories of colonial education in Australia; from the Irish National School Readers that circulated in the colonies, to the transference of the Irish National Board’s Model School system from Dublin to Melbourne. Less attention has been paid, however, to the specific brand of Irish Protestant colonial thinking that often colours and motivates this transnational movement, as well as the educational ideologies and literature that were shaped by it in Australia. This essay takes Irish-born Hannah Villiers Boyd’s educational treatise, Letters on Education (1848), as its core focus. Recognised by scholars as one of the earliest educational treatises in Australia, and an important text in the cultural history of women's social reform and education, the text has been analysed for its formal and generic features as a nineteenth-century parenting manual. This essay adds another dimension to this line of thinking. By paying close attention to the text’s engagement with Irish writer and educationist, Maria Edgeworth, as well as other Irish writers and political figures (Carleton, O’Connell), this essay will explore how Boyd's familial and socio-cultural Irish background modulates the text's approach to education, as well as shapes its utopian projections of a future Australian nation. As such, this essay will demonstrate the Irish intersections that potentially shape in significant ways the text's educational ideologies and, more specifically, illustrate how Boyd's didactic perspectives on rural home education for young girls in Australia are both inflected and moulded by Irish Protestant colonial politics and culture.

Irish-born writer and governess, Hannah Villiers Boyd (1807–c. 1865) elicited a somewhat mixed critical reception in the 1840s to the publication of her practical guide to home education for rural Australian mothers, Letters on Education; Addressed to a Friend in the Bush of Australia (1848). Intended by its author as an aid to ‘ladies residing at a distance from Sydney’ in the education of their daughters (H. V. Boyd v), the text adopts an epistolary format which comprises a series of seven letters addressed to a semi-fictionalised mother figure – ‘My Dear Mrs Adam’ (1) – living with her four young children in the rural interior of New South Wales. While duly noting and praising the ‘valuable practical’ advice contained in the letters, as well as the rationalist and faith-based foundation from which the volume’s recognised ‘excellence’ is derived, an anonymous review in the Sydney Morning Herald bemoaned the text’s…

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Published 30 September 2021 in Special Issue: The Uses of Irish-Australian Literature . Subjects: Australian literature - Comparisons with overseas literature, Education, Spiritual & religious beliefs, 19th Century Women Writers, Hannah Villiers Boyd, Irish-Australian Literature, Epistolary writing, Maria Edgeworth, Parenting Treatise.

Cite as: Jamison, Anne. ‘Irish Protestant Colonialism and Educational Ideology in Australia:** *Hannah Boyd’s *Letters on Education (1848).’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, 2021, doi: 10.20314/als.44fc162634.