Corruption and Skullduggery by Alison Alexander

I became aware of this book while visiting Alison Alexander’s website in search of the details of another of her books I had read.  As soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.  I enjoyed reading this book, learned more about the early European settlement of Tasmania and loved the illustrations, the photographs and the presentation.  I’ve not seen the book in any of my local bookshops (and it’s not available on Amazon), but you can buy it from Alison Alexander direct (follow the link below).

For me, this book is definitely a keeper!

Corruption and Skullduggery by Alison Alexander

‘It’s 1805, and Maria Riseley – single, poor and pregnant —finds herself in the gloomy Female Factory, Parramatta.’

Maria Riseley was fortunate.  She caught the eye of Edward Lord, a lieutenant in the marines, who just happened to be looking for a woman to accompany him to Hobart Town.  Thus, incredibly, begins the story of the officer and the convict.  Edward Lord and Maria Riseley (they married in 1808) made a fortune in early Hobart.  Their business acumen and networking skills served them well, until the 1820s.  Then, according to Dr Alexander’s fascinating book, they threw it all away: by extravagance and financial incompetence (Edward) and sexual infidelity (Maria).

The story of Edward and Maria Lord is also an account of early Hobart, of corruption, incompetent governance and scandalous behaviour (lieutenant- governors and others living in adulterous relationships!).  This is not the history of Tasmania as I learned it at school fifty years ago.

Maria Lord comes across as a strong, intelligent woman.  She manages the Lord’s business interests for long periods alone while Edward is absent, and has social connections of her own despite her convict past.  Dr Alexander also includes a few ‘Flights of Fancy’ in which she imagines conversations between the Lords, to augment the facts.  She also, as the last chapter, includes an Afterword which is the story of Louisa Smith (nee Lord), the last remaining great-grandchild of Maria and Edward.

For me, this book is a keeper.  A fantastic account of Tasmania’s early colonial history, accompanied by beautiful photographs and illustrations, all on lovely glossy paper.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in Tasmania’s colonial past.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith