AustLit logo
Issue Details: First known date: 2015... 2015 Self-Made Maids : British Emigration to the Pacific Rim and Self-Help Narratives
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The Victorian discourse of self-help, popularized by Samuel Smiles in the mid-nineteenth century, was integral to the success of mid-Victorian British emigration and colonialism. As Robert Hogg notes in his study of British colonial violence in British Columbia and Queensland, Samuel Smiles's notion of character, which embraced the virtues of hard work, perseverance, self-reliance, and energetic action, helped sanction masculine colonial violence and governance in these regions (23–24). According to Robert Grant in his examination of mid-Victorian emigration to Canada and Australia, one's desire “to better him or herself” was closely entwined with Smiles's self-help philosophy and the rhetoric of colonial promotion permeating British self-help texts “in the projection of the laborer's progress from tenant to smallholder to successful landowner through hard work” (178–79). Francine Tolron similarly observes the pervasiveness of the success narrative in emigrant accounts of New Zealand, noting that this story often constitutes “yet another tale of the British march of Progress” (169) with the yeoman, John Bull, as the hero at its centre, who adopts the imperialist impetus to subdue the wilderness and recreate an ideal England in which a man can earn gentility through hard work and uprightness of character (169–70). She extends accounts by male emigrants to New Zealand to the “collective psyche” of all New Zealanders “whose stuff is made up of earth, so to speak, the inheritors of the old archetypal Englishman who worked on the land before the dawn of the industrial era” (173). These studies contribute significantly to a growing body of scholarship that considers the connections between self-help literature and British emigration and colonialism. Yet, occasionally such analyses apply the meaning of self-help rhetoric universally across British male and female emigrant groups when the rise from tenant to landowner was typically a male, not a female, prerogative. Building on this important body of work, this paper considers how domestic concerns, rather than a sole focus on controlling foreign lands and people, informed versions of success penned by a particular group of mid-Victorian middle-class female emigrants and these women's understanding of their positioning within the colonies.' (Publication abstract)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Victorian Literature and Culture vol. 43 no. 2 June 2015 10702203 2015 periodical issue

    'The Victorians’ driving interest in exploration and expansion is perhaps one of the best-known scholarly truisms about the age and its literature. While the British Empire was rapidly expanding and commercial competition began to stretch across the globe with a newly perceived urgency, Victorians at home throughout this expanding empire were at once fascinated and anxious in reading about the wider world. Armchair explorers might have confined themselves to a vicarious enjoyment of the gold-nuggets that seem to lay scattered throughout the expanding settler world, of adventures in an excitingly exoticised “bush,” and of shipwrecks and dubious impostors who sometimes seemed to return from the middle of nowhere...' (Publication introduction)

    pg. 281-304
Last amended 7 Feb 2017 13:27:16
281-304 Self-Made Maids : British Emigration to the Pacific Rim and Self-Help Narrativessmall AustLit logo Victorian Literature and Culture