An Unconventional Wife: The life of Julia Sorell Arnold
Scribe, $39.99 hb, 320 pp, 9781925713442
The name of Julia Sorell – the granddaughter of an early governor – never quite died in Tasmania. A faint memory survived of a high-spirited young woman who was the belle of Hobart, a woman who broke hearts and engagements, including one with the current governor’s son. (It was also rumoured – with political intent – that she seduced his father, Sir John Eardley-Wilmot.) An element of scandal arose all the more readily because her own mother had deserted her father for a military man, and had run off with him when he returned to his regiment in India.
Indeed, Mrs Sorell had taken Julia and her younger siblings specially to Brussels, where she foisted them on their gubernatorial grandfather. Thrown on her own resources, the girl became self-reliant and extroverted, the life of every party – she knew how to work the room long before the concept existed. Julia returned to Tasmania, and there lived a charmed life, at the peak of colonial society, occupying her mother’s place in her father’s household. She had, as Hoban points out, all the independence and privileges of a married woman; at the same time, young and beautiful and of marriageable age, she also had the attention of every man who entered her circle. She was not disposed to marry, at least not hastily.