Few influences have shaped British perceptions of the Antipodes so effectively as Anthony Trollope’s travelogue of 1873, Australia and New Zealand. Trollope chose his moment well. The transportation of convicted felons to the Australian colonies had ceased twenty years earlier, and what had once been a land of Georgian gulags and grim penitentiaries was being transformed in the public mind into a place of prosperity, opportunity, and frontier charm. Trollope’s book set the seal on that process of redefinition. It also singled out one corner of that vast and distant continent for particular praise. If there were any place for which he would be prepared to leave England, Trollope opined, it would be the island of Tasmania, the verdant triangle of land appended elegantly to the southeast of the Australian mainland. And his recommendation carried weight. In the following years, there was a flood of emigrants to Tasmania, as hundreds of hopeful Englishmen sought a new life in this Antipodean ‘Elysium’.
Nicholas Shakespeare is the latest English man of letters to be captivated by Tasmania’s natural beauty – so much so that he has ‘relocated’ and gone to make a new life in European civilisation’s southernmost redoubt.
I can understand part of this response. While an undergraduate, I spent a number of