I find that most Americans are surprised to learn that many famous British and American writers visited—and wrote about—Australia. Mark Twain wrote extensively about Australia in his book Following the Equator. The work includes information about his lecture tour and the people he met, but focuses more on what he saw and learned, both positive and negative. While Twain does not shy away from biting social commentary, the vast majority of his writing about Australia shows admiration for those who built the country and amused astonishment at Australia’s picturesque history. He also describes in often loving detail the beauty of his surroundings, as in this description of his arrival in Adelaide, South Australia.
It was an excursion of an hour or two, and the charm of it could not be overstated, I think. The road wound around gaps and gorges, and offered all varieties of scenery and prospect—mountains, crags, country homes, gardens, forests—color, color, color everywhere, and the air fine and fresh, the skies blue, and not a shred of cloud to mar the downpour of brilliant sunshine. And finally the mountain gateway opened, and the immense plain lay spread out below and stretching away into dim distances on every hand, soft and delicate and dainty and beautiful. On its near edge reposed the city.
British novelist Anthony Trollope loved Australia. On visiting the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, he wrote, “To me it was more enchanting than those waters of either the Rhine or the Mississippi.”
Charles Darwin, for whom Port Darwin, a deep harbor in the Top End, is named (the city of Darwin later took its name from the harbor), also toured much of Australia. While visiting the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, he noted in his Geological Observations, “It is not easy to conceive of a more magnificent spectacle than is presented to a person walking on the summit plains, when without any notice he arrives at the brink of one of the cliffs.”
And D.H. Lawrence wrote a book titled Kangaroo, which is set in Australia, the title character being a politician who is nicknamed “Kangaroo,” who ends up dead by book’s end. However, for much of the book, the only slightly fictionalized Lawrence and his wife wander about the countryside, amazed at its beauty. One of the lines I quote most often from this book is “That is another of the charms of Australia: the birds are not really afraid.” I found this to be true, and offer as evidence the photo below of a crimson rosella in the Queensland rainforest eating seeds out of my skirt, as I sit cross-legged on the ground.