Sunday, February 2, 2014

make a home for her up here among the mountains

Ends of the Earth by Mary Gaunt (1916)
Dave's Sweetheart by Mary Gaunt (1894)

Mary Eliza Bakewell Gaunt (1861 - 1942) "was one of the first women to sign the matriculation roll of the University of Melbourne," states the Australian Dictionary of Biography, but she never finished her degree and travelled around the world instead, visiting West Africa, China, Jamaica, Siberia and other locales, writing as she went, setting every story in Ends of the Earth in a different place, I think, starting with the Australian bushland, then going off to somewhere snowy, and ending on a Pacific island where a woman is being abandoned by her lover.

Every one of her stories has a romantic relationship in it somewhere, many of them only happening in a character's head, some of them very tiny and perhaps only a line but the infallible presence of this theme gets surreal after a while with all these different settings, one character in danger of burning to death, another character in danger of freezing to death, and yet both of them finding time to think sentimentally about the beloved one, so (message): no matter where you go and no matter what happens to you, you will find yourself contemplating a significant other, "his little sweetheart waiting for him so patiently till he could make a home for her up here among the mountains," as if a god of monogamy is hovering in the sky over the entire world, touching the earth with a finger sometimes and at other times with a felty thumb.

Then you have Dave's Sweetheart, which was the first book she published, and the romantic theme is there too as you can tell from the title even if you haven't read it, but romance, in both books, is divided into two types, the one that takes place in the imagination and the one that takes place in person.

A Gaunt romance works out best for the character when it is inside their head and they can call it up when they need it then forget it when the moment is over, but in the flesh, when the person is standing in front of them and behaving independently, there will be trouble, one person will be in love and the other will not, or the job of being in love will get boring, and there will be no coinciding between them.

This misunderstanding is usually not resolved or healed and in some cases it is fatal. "'I'll send down four men with a stretcher for the body,' said the Commissioner."


  1. Why has this genre of romance not caught on? There are so many variations, there must be room for this one.

    1. We could call it Gauntism. On the evidence of these two books I don't think she was aware she was doing it.