ACCOUNT OF AN EXPEDITION TO THE INTERIOR OF NEW HOLLAND (1837) – Written by multiple parties, with Lady Mary Fox, Richard Whateley and Lord Holland the likeliest authors. “New Holland” was an old name for Australia. In 1860 the novel was reissued under the title preface The Southlanders.
The story centers around an expedition that travels hundreds of miles into the interior of Australia, where the off-course explorers find a fictional chain of lakes and rivers with a Lost Civilization founded by English Dissenters during the Protestant Reformation.
This Lost Civilization is called Southland by its mixed-race inhabitants. The major language is English as it was in the 1500s when Southland was established, so some words and expressions differ from the English spoken by our expedition members. Otherwise, they can communicate with each other just fine.
Southland boasts a population of roughly four million and is divided into eleven distinct regions which, though under one overall parliamentary government, enjoy a large amount of internal sovereignty. Some regions are republics and others live under a hereditary monarchy. In several of the republics, however, their chief executive figure is still called a king despite being elected.
The citizens are nearly all mixed-race now after three centuries of intermarrying among the white population and the aborigines.
In general, that means there is no racial animosity among the population with the only exception being that in some of the eleven regions of Southland a family must prove at least partial aboriginal lineage in order to hold elected office.
Because the novel is presented as if it’s a “true account” of an actual exploration party, attention is paid to the way that the Southlanders display harmony even among contrasting white-origin families. Marriages between former Brits and former Germans are regarded as noteworthy in this 1837 work.
The original Dissenters who founded Southland brought their own livestock with them on multiple ships and at first lived a pioneer lifestyle in log cabins before eventually advancing to the point where they had a culture a bit ahead of England’s. One major difference is the way that houses in Southland were all built with flat rooftops for gardens.
Muller the Younger, the Lost Civilization’s major founding father, was credited with organizing the new settlement and with using his extraordinary statesmanship to prevent hostilities between the aborigines and the new arrivals. There were rare wars between the groups in the early years, but ultimately peace reigned.
The date commemorating the end of the final war between the Europeans and the aborigines was still marked as a major holiday by all Southlanders to the present day. Muller the Younger was the dominant figure in the civilization’s history for nearly fifty years, with one of his maxims being “It is not the colour of the skin, but the head and heart, that makes a man.” (Hey, he “had a dream” I guess.)
No need to overreact to Muller the Younger using the word “man” in that instance. By 1837 women had the right to vote in Southland and all levels of education were open to both sexes. Civil Service exams and advancement were the model for most governmental positions, even to some degree in the regions under a monarchy.
Muller the Younger even established Southland’s form of federalism by founding a second region or “state” not long after the first region (Mullersfield). The second region he named Eutopia, meaning “fine place” to distinguish it from the word Utopia meaning “no place.”
Muller and his allies established slightly different laws customized to fit the specific geographical and civic needs of this second region, similar in concept to America’s State’s Rights. This pattern was adhered to over the centuries as the number of regions grew to eleven by 1837.
In another similarity to the young United States, Southland had freedom of religion, which meant that none of the splinter faiths that had branched off from Protestantism in the years since held any higher or lower authority over the others. Overall, this looseness in government and religion was summed up by another of the maxims of Muller the Younger – “Men are always most likely to live in friendly agreement on essentials, when they are not obliged to agree in matters intrinsically (non-essential.)”
The people of Southland, no matter their ancestry, have names like Christopher Adamson, Margaret Brucker, Paul Wilkins and Andrew Knox. We meet Smiths and Joneses and the like, too.
Moving to a topic more science-related, by 1837 the Southlanders had solved the potential problem of air pollution by engineering machines which recirculated smoke in such a way as to re-feed its condensed form to the fire from which it originated, thus burning its own smoke.
That’s not a workable concept, of course, but this IS science fiction. The use of these machines eliminated the need for chimneys in residences AND industries.
In contrast to that scientific innovation, Southland had no gas lighting or other forms of lighting for their streets. They adjusted their business and social activities according to the differing amounts of sunlight throughout the year. Candles were used indoors.
A food that was taboo to the Southlanders was mutton. In their society sheep were kept only for their wool and were otherwise treated like pampered pets.
The explorers were permitted to observe the proceedings in the Senate of the Southland “state” called Atroloria. No Senator was allowed to vote on a bill they themselves introduced. They were limited to merely advocating for it, trying to persuade the other Senators that it was legislation worth enacting.
In the state or region called Nether London the members of the expedition observed a parliamentary procedure pertaining to a Fundamental Law as opposed to an Ordinary Law. A Fundamental Law could not be amended and it applied to the entire country, unlike an Ordinary Law, which could vary by region and could be amended with majority votes.
One of the eleven regions of Southland was named Bath in honor of the many warm baths there fed by springs from the extinct volcano called Mount Peril. That name came from the volcano’s former use as Bath’s substitute for the old European custom of dueling.
The mostly dormant volcano still had areas of intense heat, and an “Ordeal Path” had been walked between feuding parties – either male or female – instead of shooting or sword-fighting. Ultimately, Bath outlawed all manner of dueling, even the use of Mount Peril.
Dueling was no longer allowed in any of the other regions, either, since Southlanders held the practice in monumental contempt. Dancing was forbidden to anyone older than twelve and was described as “semi-barbaric.” This distaste for dancing seems to be a relic of the 1500s religious practices of the founding Southlanders. Note how dancing became taboo around the average age of puberty.
Residual religious sentiment also marked the puritanical view toward women’s clothing in Southland. Women dressed in clothing that was nearly identical to men, with a variety of accessories for women being the main distinction. No makeup was used, however, nor were piercings allowed. Wedding rings were worn only by women.
The Southlanders, due to their isolation from the rest of Australia and the world, taught only their own history in any up-to-date sense and taught only a 1500s view of the history of the world at large.
Sports in Southland were played either with men only or women only or with both sexes playing together. Ball games were similar to cricket, tennis, bowling and billiards, while archery was a major co-ed sport way out of proportion to its importance elsewhere in the world. Spear-throwing and spear fishing were also major sports among both sexes.
The economic system of Southland was unrestrained capitalism, without even usury laws limiting the banks.
The account of the explorers ends without covering any potential impact of the discovery of Southland on the outside world. Nor are we told about future excursions to the place after the expedition members return home.
Account of an Expedition to the Interior of New Holland is entertaining and thought-provoking in parts, but most of the book is devoted to very minute details about political, civil and bureaucratic affairs. For modern readers a society in which racial distinctions are a thing of the past might well be the most noteworthy aspect of the novel.
Overly sensitive types might take offense at the way that the customs of the new arrivals are universally acknowledged – even by the aborigines – to be superior to the “old ways” before they arrived.
Some might disagree that this Account qualifies as science fiction, but I categorize it that way because of the Lost Civilization angle, the complete race-mixing and the pollution-free technology.
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/