In this third installment of Hidden Histories, we travel back in time to 1905 Adelaide, when Scottish-born actress and satirical writer Thistle Anderson first published Arcadian Adelaide to quite a stir in sleepy Adelaide.
Published again in 2020 for a modern audience, this hilarious little volume, intended by its author as ‘a playful skit’, is to be taken with a pinch of salt … or perhaps savoured, stubbornly, with a glass of excellent Adelaide wine.
Post written by Poppy Nwosu
I had been looking forward to this little book since I first heard about it, during a long-ago staff meeting at Wakefield Press. At the time, I was lucky enough to sneak a peek through the pages. I was immediately smitten with the author, Thistle Anderson, upon reading her opening book dedication. I laughed out loud!
Hopefully, so will you.
Here is that same book dedication replicated below, complete with one of the many amusing illustrations peppered throughout the text by our fantastic designer Liz.
As you may have already guessed, Thistle’s little guide to living in Adelaide in 1905 includes some rather spiky barbs. At the time of its initial publication, it seems it was released to both ‘roars of outrage and laughter.’ Personally, I quite enjoy a good piss-take and this one really makes me giggle.
Maybe it is all of those things, but I grew up in a tiny cane-farming community in middle-of-nowhere Queensland, so to me Adelaide feels like a bustling metropolis.
Not so for Thistle Anderson, apparently.
But to add a little bit of context for Thistle and Arcadian Adelaide, here is an excerpt from the foreword by Katie Spain:
Arcadian Adelaide was published just a few years after women’s suffrage in Australia – led by South Australia in 1894. Suddenly, women had the right to vote at federal elections and stand for the federal Parliament. Imagine! It was enough to send tongues flapping. Then along came Thistle. She was bold and outspoken in a way few women were back then. Adelaide was home and she wanted out. Her bite was fierce and left venom in its wake. No one was safe, particularly the ladies of Adelaide (whom she referred to as cats) and the men (the unsightly, unkempt, unfashionable lot of ’em).
These days, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, everyone is a critic but few do it with the pasquinade and flippant bon mot displayed by Thistle.
And now, for your reading pleasure, Thistle’s own author’s note, taken from the beginning of the volume:
And here is a photo of Thistle Anderson:
Thistle comments on all manner of Adelaide places and people within her book, even discussing the weather:
The book is also filled with fascinating insights and photographs of Adelaide, so is good for those who love history (like me!). Here are a few that I spent time poring over, trying to recognise landmarks I know from Adelaide today.
And this is where I will leave this post, before I spoil the whole book!
Oh no, one more … I couldn’t help myself 🙂
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