A literary fortune
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Mary Fortune wrote for the popular literary miscellany the Australian Journal, which began publication in Melbourne in 1865. It was a cheeky copy of the English publication the London Journal and Fortune was its most enduring writer. She wrote urban ethnography, romance, autobiography, Gothic serial fiction, poetry, an occasional recipe and detective fiction. Not only did she contribute (almost without interruption) for over 40 years but her work encompassed a range of genres and explored the burgeoning modern metropolis of Melbourne, the turbulence of the goldfields and the ‘bush’.
Fortune’s work provides an unparalleled literary and historical perspective on a changing colonial landscape because of her longevity as a contributor. Her ability to adapt and change her writing style was extraordinary. It is best illustrated by her contributions published between 1865 and 1885, which coincided with the most tumultuous period of the Australian Journal. Not only did she often change the subject within her stories to soften the impact of her incisive critiques of colonial society, but reading her work also changes our perspective on the subject of colonial women. Fortune’s very candid reflections on the day-to-day problems faced by immigrant women in the colonies changes the subject and the perspective from the more common male version to the female one and provides an alternative version of colonial experience.