Louisa Anne Meredith (also known as Louise) was a most remarkable woman. Despite a lack of formal education she became an accomplished writer, artist and botanist at a very early age. Her first book was published whilst still in England when Louisa was just 20, Poems (1835), followed by Romance of nature, or The Flower Seasons Illustrated (1836). Born in England, Louisa Ann Twamley, she kept a diary from an early age, and used these as inspiration for her books. Through her early publications, she was influential in England in popularising a sentimental interest in the language of flowers. Louisa married Charles Meredith from the Murrumbidgee area of New South Wales and in 1939 the couple moved to Oyster Bay, Tasmania, where Louisa it seems, fell in love with Australia. Her paintings display her keen observations of the Australian bush, and her writing shows the passion she had to preserve it.
Louise embraced her life in Australia wholeheartedly and became an active member of the community and quite a prolific writer. She had over twenty books published in different genres on a variety of subjects. Some of my Bush Friends in Tasmania, native flowers, berries and insects drawn from life is considered Australia's first book of verse, though is equally a lesson in nature studies, with detailed paintings of Tasmanian native insects and plants, beautifully presented with botanical detail. Within four years of arriving in Australia she had written Notes and Sketcbes of New South Wales (1844) and My Home in Tasmania (1850).
Not only do her books contain surprising detail of nature, but also of everyday life, giving us a glimpse into another time. Her discussion of special events, such as Christmas and local dances, show what life was like in Colonial Australia in the 18th Century.
"Holly there was none, but the picture frames and sideboards were gaily and gracefully adorned with lovely native shrubs, and a wreathy crown or garland suspended from the drawing room ceiling; whilst plentiful bouquets of garden flowers made the house bright and fragrant... So that, although not the real proper, genuine, original Christmas to me, it was a very bright and pleasant parody upon it." (Louise Ann Meredith - My home in Tasmania, 1852).
In Over the Straits: A Visit to Victoria (1861), Louisa describes a dance, she writes; "The room was filled with men and women of the working class in their everyday dresses; men in fustian coats, blue and red, and serge shirts; the commonest cord or fustian trousers, trade-grimed or mud-bespattered . The women, young and older, in dowdy common gowns, shawls, bonnets, and walking shoes. These people, in the most orderly and correct manner imaginable, were dancing quadrilles, polkas, waltzes, etc., generally with great precision, sobriety, and good manners".
Louisa is considered a State treasure by Tasmanians. The State library contains many of her paintings and sketches. The ship Spirit of Tasmania, operating between the mainland and Tasmania has on offer the Louise Anne Meredith reading room for passengers needing a quiet place on board. There's even an extremely beautiful plant - the Ewartia Meredithae - named in her honour.
List of Works
1835, Poems, Publisher Unknown.
1836, Romance of nature, or The Flower Seasons Illustrated, Publisher Unknown.
1839, Flora's Gems, Publisher Unknown.
1839, Our Wildflowers, Publisher Unknown.
1844, Notes and Sketches of New South Wales, Publisher Unknown.
1850, My Home in Tasmania, during residence of nine years, Publisher Unknown.
1860, Loved and Lost! The True Story of a Short Life, Day and Sons, London, UK.
- Written for her son Owen, about the life of their pet parakeet they found in the bush.
1860, Some of my Bush Friends in Tasmania, native flowers, berries and insects drawn from life, Day and Sons, London, UK.
1867, The Children's Song of Welcome to Prince Alfred, Music by F. A. Packer, Hobart, Tas.
1878, Grandmamma's Verse-Book for Young Australia, Published privately possibly in Hobart, Tas. (Later released as Waratah Rhymes for Young Australia).
1880, Tasmanian Friends and Foes; Feathered, Furred and Finned: A family chronicle of country life, natural history and veritable adventure, Walch, Hobart, Tas. (& Marcus Ward, London, UK.).
1891, Waratah Rhymes for Young Australians, Brooks Day & Son, London, UK.
- Illustrated by A. Andre, the author herself and Emma Minnie Boyd, wife of the famous artist Arthur Boyd, both exceptional artists in their day. This book was a new version of Meredith's previously released Grandmamma's Verse-Book for Young Australia.
1891, Bush Friends in Tasmania; native flowers, fruits and insects drawn from nature, Macmillan, London, UK. Meredith, Louisa Ann (nee Twamley) (1812 - 1895) http://www.meredith-house.com.au/history.htm
Ellis, Vivienne Rae. 1979, Louisa Anne Meredith; A Tigress in Exile, Blubber Head Press, Hobart, Tas.
And for a very interesting comment indeed see a quote from Louisa Meredith observing the Tasmanian Bush at: