Academic journal article Hecate

Seduction and Resistance, Baptism and 'Glassy Metaphorics': Beatrice Grimshaw's Journeys on Papua's Great Rivers

Academic journal article Hecate

Seduction and Resistance, Baptism and 'Glassy Metaphorics': Beatrice Grimshaw's Journeys on Papua's Great Rivers

Article excerpt

Beatrice Grimshaw was born at Cloona House, Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast in 1870. Influential in the development of spinning and weaving industries in the north of Ireland the Grimshaws were a prominent family in Belfast throughout much of the nineteenth century. For a young girl growing up at this time Beatrice received an expansive education: private tutors; a period at the Pension Retaillaud, Normandy; secondary education at Victoria College, Belfast; a year at Bedford College, London, followed by another at the Queen's University of Belfast. Grimshaw's parents had hoped that their daughter would become a lecturer in classics at a women's college, but the young Beatrice had other plans. After sending R. J. McCredy, the proprietor of the Dublin based publication, Irish Cyclist, an anonymous letter signed 'Belsize' in 1891 expressing her interest in cycling and journalism, Grimshaw became an occasional contributor to the magazine. She appears to have been made a permanent staff member in 1892, writing at that time under the pseudonym Graphis or, simply, 'G'. Appointed to the post of sub-editor in 1893, her rise through the ranks of this otherwise all-male magazine was rapid. Also in 1893, while continuing to write for the Irish Cyclist, Grimshaw joined the staff on the magazine's sister publication, the Social Review. She was with the paper a relatively short period of time, approximately two years, when she was promoted to editor. After almost a decade spent meeting weekly deadlines, Grimshaw moved to London where she worked as a free-lance journalist and immigration promoter. But she could not settle in there. From her early days in Dublin she had harboured a desire to see the Pacific. (1) And in 1904, on commission from the Times (London) and the Daily Graphic (London), she arrived for the first time in the South Seas. During the forty nine years which followed she would exhaust numerous type-writers in various locations across Oceania as she produced travelogues, travel brochures, political pamphlets, much journalistic copy, plus copious amounts of long and short fiction. With a large readership in the English speaking world Grimshaw was one of the best known writers working in popular fictional genres during the first decades of the twentieth century. Stating that 'new and strange things are the chief happiness of life' (Isles of Adventure, 34), Grimshaw was also a passionate traveller. Both before and during her long residency in what is present-day Papua New Guinea (1907-1934) she spent periods travelling to various island groups in the Pacific. (2) Throughout this time Grimshaw also travelled extensively within Papua itself. (3) In 1936 Grimshaw retired to Kelso, a village on the outskirts of Bathurst, New South Wales, where she continued to write well into her seventies. She died in Bathurst in 1953.

Having found records kept by her London agent, Susan Gardner describes Grimshaw as a 'colossal contemporary influence'. (4) Some indication of the popularity of her writing is evidenced by the numerous editions and translations of her works, (5) and also by the fact that even during the Depression an American magazine was prepared to pay her one thousand dollars for a story. (6) Writing for such publications as the Daily Graphic, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Times, the National Geographic, and the Wide World Magazine, Grimshaw was also a prolific journalist. Frequently interviewed when she went on one of her round-the-world trips, which usually included a visit to her London publisher, she was a celebrity in her day. However, Grimshaw's influence is not restricted to her own period. I have demonstrated elsewhere how she played a major role in the production of tourist space and place in the Pacific. (7) And perhaps this is where her real importance lies for us today. Her oeuvre is not the preserve of solitary researchers; its influence is still reverberating strongly in touristic discourses pertaining to the region. …

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