Monday, December 23, 2013

Immorat* (for Immoral*, Immortal*)

Many folks believe that human souls are immortal, regardless of whether they've been good or bad—otherwise known as moral or immoral. Heaven, however, is generally thought to be a better destination spot for eternity than Hell might be. And Australia can apparently feel like a little bit of both. Marie Bjelke Petersen was born on this day in Copenhagen in 1874, but spent most of her life in Tasmania, which later became the setting for many of her novels. Her book The Captive Singer is reputedly based on Sylvia Mills, her intimate partner of thirty years. Although Petersen, a devout Catholic and political conservative, is regarded as something of a gay icon today, she was not necessarily seen as a lesbian back then; female friendships like hers were perceived as more or less benign and certainly not immoral. (In the United States, such relationships were often called Boston marriages.) In addition to being a painter and popular "romance" writer (and in accordance, I suppose, with a certain sexual stereotype), Petersen started out as a "physical culture" (i.e., gym) teacher. Her brothers had founded physical culture institutes that operated throughout the 20th century and Petersen worked in one of them for a while; she was also a massage therapist and the person who introduced "netball" (basketball) to Tasmania. In 1925 a movie was made called Jewelled Nights, based on a story Petersen had written about a girl who disguises herself as a boy. Only twenty minutes of restored footage remain, and this fragment plays daily at the Gaiety Theatre in Zeehan, near where the film was shot. There were eight examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 73 in WorldCat.

(Cover of New York edition of The Immortal Flame, 1919, from A Mortal Flame, Alison Alexander's biography of Marie Bjelke Petersen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

1 comment:

Private Beach said...

I'm not sure why you have netball in quotes. it is not basketball, as you imply in parentheses, but a different (though similar) sport with its own rules.