Louisa Anne Meredith

Louisa Anne Meredith, 'Ruby fish, Tortoiseshell fish', 1880 (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

Louisa Anne Meredith (née Twamley, 181295), writer and artist, was born in Birmingham and educated mainly by her mother. She left a promising literary and artistic career when she married her cousin Charles in 1839 and sailed to Sydney, moving to Oyster Bay the following year. Despite pioneering hardships failed ventures, deaths of children, isolation, convict servants she wrote and sketched colonial life and bush flora and fauna. Notes and sketches of New South Wales, published in London in 1844, drew an angry response in Sydney, but was widely read. A companion account, My home in Tasmania, was completed in 1850. She also wrote poetry, newspaper articles and fiction, and was a keen botanist whose wildflower drawings won medals in national and overseas exhibitions. In recognition of her 'distinguished literary and artistic services' to the colony, the Tasmanian government granted her a pension in 1884 the first such acknowledgement for an Australian writer.

Meredith's books reflect her love of native animals. She was joint founder of the first Tasmanian branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and instrumental, through her parliamentarian husband Charles, in gaining protection for Tasmanian wildlife. Her last years were productive, although marred by sciatica, partial blindness and loss of income through the bank failures of the early 1890s. The vivid descriptions of domestic conditions and the natural environment in her nineteen major books remain a valuable contemporary source for social historians.

Further reading: ADB 5; V Rae-Ellis, Louisa Anne Meredith, Hobart, 1979.

Wendy Rimon