A politico-philosophical romance set in an ideal society, and which according to Everett Bleiler, contains some slight science-fiction elements. In his outline of the narrative, Bleiler writes:
The narrator and his friends decide to visit a thriving English-speaking state in the wilds of New Holland. After travelling inland across mountain ranges for several hundred miles they come to Southland [a loose federation of eleven states, which] is a prosperous land colonised by English dissenters during the Reformation, about three hundred years earlier. The travellers become acquainted with informed citizens, including several titled persons, and are instructed about the new land. The population is now of mixed origin, European and aborigine, and there is no racial prejudice. Indeed, in some parts of Southland, one must prove partial aboriginal ancestry before qualifying for public office (p.262).
The book essentially serves to propose another possible society, and in this respect the authors consider the political structure of Southland in some detail.
John Alexander Ferguson writes in the Bibliography of Australia, Volume 4, that the authorship of this book has been variously attributed to Lord Holland, to Richard Whately and Lady Mary Fox, who as the editor also 'conducted the negotiations for its publication' (p.279). In Volume 2, however, he makes no mention of the others, writing only: 'An imaginary composition, said to have been written by the Rev. Richard Whately' (p.314). Although Ferguson does not cite his sources for either reference it is possible that he derived some information from W. J. Fitzpatrick's Anecdotal Memoirs of Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin (London, 1864).
Everett Blieler also records that Whately wrote part of the book, 'but it is not known how extensive his contribution was' (Science Fiction: The Early Years, p.262). While he does not clearly identify Mary Fox as co-author, the novel's entry in Science Fiction is arranged under her name, with Richard Whately inserted in brackets. Blieler also suggests that she had some considerable input into the naarrative, writing: 'Lady Mary would seem to have an obsession about duelling, for a large part of the book is devoted to pro and con argument about the social utility if the duello' (p.262).
Further confusion over authorship occurs through a statement published under the title 'Advertisement to the Third Edition' (1860). This reads:
The First Edition of this little Work appeared several years ago. It was compiled by more than one person; all of whom are not now living. In the present Edition (which has been carefully revised) there has been inserted [into page 215] a humourous poem relating to Australia, "The Land of Contrarieties," which appeared some years since in several newspapers and other periodicals. All the descriptions there given, paradoxical as they are, may be verified by reference to the various publications concerning that extraordinary county (p. v).
The issue here is that Whately was still alive when the third edition was published in 1860 (he died in 1863). There is currently no explantaion for this discrepancy.