Literary Clubs

The Bothwell Literary Club was founded in 1834, and from then various literary clubs were formed, some formally and others casually among friends, such as the Clarke and Walker families' 'Pollies' in the 1870s, where poetry and literature were discussed. More formal literary clubs developed, and in the 1890s they became especially the province of women. The governor's wife, Lady Hamilton, established the Nil Desperandum Society in 1889 to foster literary interest. The leisured daughters and wives of merchants, professional men and politicians, including two sisters who rowed across from Risdon, met at Government House to give and discuss papers. A schism in 1891 led to twelve resignations. After Lady Hamilton's departure, her group was renamed the Hamilton Literary Society, and in 1894 a new group was formed, the Itinerants, which met in members' homes. Both groups are still in existence. Several other literary societies formed; in 1892 the Australasian Home Reading Union established circles for men and women in Hobart and Launceston, and though there were fewer clubs outside the cities, some did exist, such as the Zeehan Ladies' Shakespeare Society, the Penghana Shakespeare Club and a literary club in Devonport.

Except for the Lady Hamilton and the Itinerants societies, formal literary clubs faded from the 1920s, but there was renewed interest in the 1960s. The Launceston Tatlers, formed in 1962, celebrated its fortieth birthday in 2002, and a similar organisation which flourished from the 1960s was Book Groups Tasmania, a statewide service managed by Adult Education and the State Library. In 2004 there were 142 self-directed groups, which met monthly for discussion.

Further reading: C Alexander, 'The Itinerants', THRAPP 32/4, 1985; P Bolger, Hobart Town, Canberra, 1973; M Fagan & I Isles (eds), The Hamilton Literary Society, [Hobart], 1989.

Wendy Rimon