Adelaide Ironside (1831-1867) was a Sydney girl, considered to be a child genius. She was taken under the wing of the Reverend John Dunmore Lang; clergyman, educator and politician.
Adelaide Ironside became the first Australian born woman to study art abroad. In her case this was to be in Italy. However, before she devoted her life to the paint brush she wrote reams of patriotic poetry. Unfortunately, her efforts were not always appreciated in her home town.
The satirical Bell’s Life in Sydney were merciless, publishing the following on April 2 1853;
ANOTHER FRIENDLY WARNING – Acting in the purest spirit of kind-heartedness we recommended a lady, Adelaide E. Scott Ironside, a dweller on the North Shore, to attend to domestic affairs and abjure rhyme. Our advice, it seems, was not taken in good part , as the fair jingler-ess has since tried her pen in the People’s Advocate. upon two somethings or nothings, which she is pleased to term, ‘Dirge on Leichhardt’ and ‘Dirge of the Duke of Wellington’. Mysticism and abstruseness – hard words and obsoleteness, are undoubtedly her ideas of poetry. For her sake we make a quotation or two from the emanative. She commences the Leichhardt dirge thus; ‘Oh ye three noddies awake!‘ Now we have heard of Tom Noddy, but are not in a position to state whether or not he had any relations, we have heard of a Noddy or two besides Tom, and therefore conclude that A.E.S.I has got all the family into ‘a line’ .
The wretched Bells’s journalist had deliberately corrupted the word ‘threnodies’. I must admit I had no idea what it meant until I Googled it;
Adelaide’s lugubrious lines on the death of the Duke of Wellington received similar treatment. Here is the first verse;
Her treatment of those flowing tears was cruelly mocked;
‘If it were unreasonable to expect that tears, however large, would create much noise; how much more unreasonable to hope for an oratorial address from them’.
Bells commented that the final lines of the poem were the best, but only because they were the last! Oh good grief, was that jibe really necessary? 😨
The writer concluded with;
‘You are doubtless the charm of a domestic hearth; the delight of a family circle; the admired of many friends, but really and truly you are only a cobbler of verse…..put an extinguisher on thy jack-o-lantern of jingle and all may yet be well.’
It was not long after these blows to her confidence that the young woman did indeed turn out the light on her poetry. Instead, she turned her attention to painting. In 1855 she went off to study in Europe, but that’s another story.
FOOTNOTE – After a two year battle with tuberculosis Adelaide died in Rome on April 15 1867. In a hint regarding her measure of success there, she was remembered not as a poet but an artist. She was buried in West Norwood Cemetery, London.
One of the most popular posts on this website is about another poet who suffered similar criticism. He was actually far worse than Adelaide, but he simply carried on regardless. His name was Mr. F.C. Meyers, from Katoomba. To read the piece, CLICK HERE.