The voices of fortune: a Victorian Victorian
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Mary Fortune was one of Australia's more colourful colonial characters and certainly did not live up to the Victorian Ideal of Womanhood. She was one of the most prolific and enduring writers in Victorian Victoria's periodicals, publishing her work mainly in the miscellany entitled the Australian Journal. She was also, to use Lucy Sussex's term, a "Woman of Mystery:. Mary Fortune only ever wrote under a pseudonym or initials, and the reading public never discovered her "true" identity in her own lifetime. Sussex, the scholar who has done most to encourage interest in Fortune's life and writing, suggests that the author was probably a bigamist, gave birth to an illegitimate child, and ended up an alcoholic. Mary Fortune was born Mary Helena Wilson in Belfast, Ireland in 1833. It appears that her mother died when she was quite young, after which Mary and her father emigrated to Canada. In 1851 she married a Quebec surveyor named Joseph Fortune. They had one son, Joseph George. Mary Fortune's father left Canada and came to the Australian goldfields. Mary and her son Joseph followed him a few years later, stopping briefly in Britain on the way, leaving Mary's husband in Canada where he died in 1861. Mary and her son arrived in Melbourne on 3 October 1855, and they were reunited with Fortune's father in the Victorian goldfields where he ran a 'canvas' general store.
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