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Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner

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Author and artist Ethel Sibyl Turner (1870-1958) wrote Seven Little Australians at Inglewood in Lindfield (now Woodlands, Killara) in 1893. Her suburban bushland surrounds became a key feature of her stories. On her 21st birthday, Ethel wrote in her diary,

'Seven L. Aust. – sketched it out.' (24 January 1893).

'We have decided to go to Lindfield. It will be like being buried alive to live in a quiet little country place after the bustle and excitement of town life’, wrote Ethel Turner, who was not keen on her family’s move to the North Shore from the city suburb of Paddington in 1891. Although Ethel initially objected to the move,  she soon 'liked the place awfully. It is a pretty square house with a long balcony and verandah, honeysuckle and white roses creeping up' (29 Sept 1891[AW1] ).

Ethel Turner was born in England in 1870. In 1879 she migrated to Australia with her mother and two sisters. The family settled in Sydney where Ethel and her sister Lilian attended Sydney Girls High School. They both edited a schoolgirls' magazine, Iris, and later the Parthenon, a literary magazine which ran for three years. In 1892 Ethel took over the children's page in the Illustrated Sydney News. Turner was prolific during her time in Lindfield, writing three novels as well as newspaper articles and short stories between 1891 and 1894.

Her first novel, Seven Little Australians, was originally titled 'Seven little Pickles’. When it was published in 1894 it became an immediate success and has been in print ever since. It was followed by a sequel, The Family at Misrule, in 1895.  Turner married a lawyer, H.R. Curlewis in 1896 and by the time of her death in 1958 had published 27 novels as well as numerous short stories and poems.

The Library holds Ethel Turner’s original manuscript for Seven Little Australians, hand-written in ink. The story had been translated into many languages, staged for the theatre (1914) and filmed (1939). Its frequent reprinting and an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) television version in 1973 have confirmed its status as one of Australia's few undeniable children's classics.

Seven Little Australians

Transcript: 

 “A nice tea for a fellow to sit down to” no I’ll ask if we can have some jam Pip jam or cake, nothing but stingy bread and butter.” “Well Pip you ate all that tin of raspberry at breakfast, & mother says she really – “Oh dry up Meg, I know all about it, pass us 

Seven little Australians
1893
Ethel Turner
Digital ID: 
2104001
View collection item detail
Transcript: 

"around the same board and the young ones partake of the same dishes & I can have their parts in the conversation right nobly But given a very particular and rather irritable father & 7 children with excellent lungs and tireless tongues, what could you do but give them separate rooms to take their meals in? C.W. had in addition to this devising had thick felt put over the swing door upstairs but the noise used to float down to the dining room in a cheerful unconcerned manner despite of it" 

Seven little Australians
1893
Ethel Turner
Digital ID: 
2104002
View collection item detail
Transcript: 

Seven Pickles Little Australians

Chapter 1

There was the usual Babel going on over tea Captain Woolcot , the father of the seven had certainly had a felt lining put on the swing door upstairs but really nothing on earth would keep in really deaden the fearful babel that prevailed at nursery tea every day. It was a nursery without a nurse Too so that partly accounted for it perhaps for Meg the eldest pickle was only 14 and could not be expected to be much of a disciplinarian. The A slatternly but good natured housemaid girl of 18 was supposed to combine the offices of nursery maid too as at & housemaid but there was so much to do in her second capacity that the first suffered considerably. Even Poor little Gwendoline used to get a nasty polishing up in the morning being only fifteen months old and sometimes She used to lay the nursery meals when none of the little girls could be found to help her & she used to bundle on the clothes of the two youngest in the morning & except for that the seven had to manage for themselves. 

Seven little Australians
1893
Ethel Turner
Digital ID: 
a2104003
View collection item detail