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The Black Tulip 2016
Black Tulip 02
The Black Tulip 2016
The Black Tulip 2016

Unhoused exhibition, curated by Emily Bullock, with Linda Fredheim, Julie Gough, Sally Rees and Elissa Ritson
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts Gallery
LINC Tasmania, Hobart

In the Gallery
Table, writing pad, paper, inkwell, pen, framed digital print
Dimensions variable

In the Library
Allport Library desk, book pages, steel, black georgette, thread, sound track
2.2m (h) x 2.5cm (w) x 1.8cm (d)

Reading events
Grimstone in the Allport: reading aloud Australia's second novel
12-8pm, Friday 17 June, 2016
Public reading performances by 32 women, video projection, candles


Reading Hour

Grimstone in the Allport: reading aloud Australia's second novel

2-5pm, Tuesday 16 August, 2016

Grimstone was a prolific writer who published verse as well as several novels. She also had a reputation as an early feminist, writing treatises on the rights of women that echoed the thinking of Mary Wollstonecraft.  In fact, Woman’s Love is post-scripted by an essay about the stultifying effects of marriage, and the need for women to be better educated.

Grimstone travelled to Van Diemen’s Land from England in 1825 after the sudden death of her first husband, accompanying her sister who was married to an official of the VDL company. In the same year, Australia’s first novelist, Henry Savery, arrived in Hobart as a convicted criminal. His book, Quintus Servinton, pipped Grimstone’s at the post, being published in 1830-1. Grimstone returned to England in 1829 where she continued to write, married unhappily for a second time, and spent her final years half-blind and in poverty. She died tragically in 1869 after consuming disinfectant. 

The Black Tulip consists of two works that aim to evoke the ‘haunted’ presence of Grimstone in the Allport collections and to both mourn and celebrate her little known achievements as Australia’s second novelist.  In the Allport Gallery, a black table features an ink well and dipping pen, and small stack of blank pages, as if ready to receive Grimstone’s handwriting, the words that will become Woman’s Love. Above the table hangs a portrait of a black tulip, directly referencing the rarity of Australia’s second novel.

In the library, the ghostly presence of Grimstone is more powerfully suggested. Here, a desk at one end of the room is enshrouded by a structure draped in sheer black fabric that features an appliqued black tulip. On the desk, tied with a black ribbon - almost as if sentenced to death - is a handwritten manuscript. An ethereal sound track fills the space.  

The Black Tulip is a response to an extremely rare novel held in the Crowther collection of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office - Mary Grimstone’s Woman’s Love.  Written in Hobart in the 1820s and published in 1832, it has the distinction of being Australia’s second novel and the first to be written by a woman. Sir William Crowther, who donated his copy to the State Library in the 1950s, called it ‘the black tulip’ of his collection because of its rarity - there is only one other known copy in the world, held in the British Library. It has never been republished.

A public reading event - Grimstone in the Allport – was held on Friday 17 June. Thirty-two women read aloud the first volume of Grimstone’s Woman’s Love, paying tribute to Australia’s first female novelist. 

Downloads & Links

This project was assisted with Hobart City Council Creative Communities Funding.

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