"What's in a name?" The mystery of Ellerton Gay
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This paper reveals that Ellerton Gay, who in the 1890s published four novels about life in Australia, was the pseudonym of Emma Watts Grimes n饠Allen (1846-1921). Watts Grimes's trajectory from orphaned English migrant, to the wife of successful Toowoomba businessman, and - after her return to England in middle age - to a modestly successful writer demonstrates the transformative possibilities for women of migration to the colonies. She wrote not from economic necessity, but - on the internal evidence of the novels - as a woman whose colonial experience contributed to, rather than detracted from, her sense of herself as cultured, modern and cosmopolitan. The intersection of the pseudonymous and biographical identities is of particular interest because Ellerton Gay draws on the life experiences of her creator to flesh out the conventions of the romance genre in two settings, turn of the century England and nineteenth century Australia. Ellerton Gay's shorter fiction, which offers a humorous commentary on the English marriage market of the 1890s, is rather slight and conventional. Her four novels, however, contribute to the reinterpretation of Australia's colonial past and the imagining of its future by showing that individual empowerment and social cohesion can only be achieved by embracing new moral and social codes. While Ellerton Gay will not displace Rosa Praed as the leading woman writer to emerge from colonial Queensland, the revelation of her identity solves a minor mystery, and thickens the texture of Queensland's cultural history.
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Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)