Symbolism and the Antipodes: The Fallen Woman in Caroline Leakey’s Lyra Australis, or Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land

Abstract

This essay considers Caroline Leakey's volume of poetry, Lyra Australis, or Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land (1854), and argues that the more broadly feminist aspects of Leakey’s poetry, particularly its sympathetic portrayal of ‘the fallen woman’, are connected with developments in Anglophone women’s poetry in the first half of the nineteenth century. It reads Leakey's volume as a radical rejection of the increasing restrictions placed on sympathetic narratives about ‘fallen women’ by the mid nineteenth century by contextualising it within broader frameworks of women’s writing on the fallen woman.

Caroline Leakey is best known for her novel, The Broad Arrow, Being Passages from the Life of Maida Gwynnham, A Lifer (1859), which has been viewed as a precursor to Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of his Natural Life (1874).1 Jenna Mead has pointed out that stylistic choices for Leakey were between that of an emergent oppositional identity in colonial Australian writing and a ‘popular English poetic diction that is often archaic, pensive and retrospective’ (250) particularly in her poetry. Leakey had earlier published a volume of poems entitled Lyra Australis, or Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land (1854), although this collection has received little critical attention Lyra Australis was reviewed in Tasmanian newspapers from 1854, Mead and others noting that several of Leakey’s poems were anthologised in Douglas B. Sladen’s Australian Poets 1788–1888 (1888). Leakey also had some individual poems, ‘The Rock of Martin Vaz’ and ‘The Muezzin’s…

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Published 31 October 2015 in Volume 30 No. 3. Subjects: Australian poetry, Feminism, Caroline Leakey.

Cite as: Hansord, Katie. ‘Symbolism and the Antipodes: The Fallen Woman in Caroline Leakey’s Lyra Australis, or Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 2015. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.6ef75079e2.