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Clifton, Louisa (1814 - 1880)

26 September 1814
London, England, United Kingdom
12 October 1880
Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia
Artist and Diarist
Alternative Names
  • Mrs George Eliot (Married)


Louisa Clifton was born in London in 1814 to Marshall Waller Clifton and his wife Elinor (Bell); she was the third of their fifteen children. Her father was descended from an aristocratic Nottingham family, and her mother Elinor was a Quaker. Louisa grew up in London, then Boulogne (France). In 1841 she travelled with her parents and several siblings to help found Australind, a new colony in the south-west corner of Western Australia. Marshall Waller Clifton was part of a company that had been formed in order to buy a tract of land on the West Australian coast, sub-divide it into allotments, and establish a new town, of which he would be the Chief Commissioner.

Louisa Clifton kept a diary (1840-41) in which she described the family's departure from Capecure, France , the voyage on the "Parkfield", and the settlement in Western Australia. As Lucy Frost noted, 'to read the Australian section of the journal is to watch an orderly English gentlewoman learn to live with confusion.' Louisa Clifton also sketched and painted, and the few works of hers that survive are a valuable historical record of the early colonial settlement in Western Australia. Her sisters Mary and Elinor also painted, and their brother William was a photographer.

On 1 June, 1842, Louisa Clifton married George Eliot, who was Government Resident for the district of Bunbury, where the couple then lived at Bury Hill. The Western Australian Company that Louisa's father was so heavily involved in ceased operations in 1843. Its assets were liquidated, and Australind became a ghost town. The Eliots moved to Geraldton in 1870, where George took up a post as Reigistered Magistrate. Louisa died there in 1880.

Sources used to compile this entry: Chapman, Barbara, 'The Colonial Eye: A Topographical and Artistic Record of the Life and Landscape of Western Australia', Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, 1979; Frost, Lucy, 'Louisa Clifton: Fatigue and Battle at Australind', in Frost, Lucy (ed.), No Place for a Nervous Lady: Voices from the Australian Bush, McPhee Gribble, Melbourne, Australia, 1984; Grellier, Jane, 'Awe, Disillusionment and Fear: Attitude to Landscape Among Christian Colonists of Far South-West Australia', MA thesis, University of Western Australia, 1996; Henn, Percy U., 'Diary of Louisa Clifton: Some Unique Impressions', Early days: journal and proceedings, Western Australian Historical Society, New Series, vol. 3, Royal Western Australian Historical Society, Perth, Western Australia, 1941; Russo, George, A Friend Indeed: Louisa Clifton of Australind W.A., Vanguard Press, Perth, Western Australia, 1995.

Archival resources

National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection

  • Diary of Louisa Clifton, 1840-1841 [manuscript], 19 April 1840 - 12 July 1841, MS 2801; Clifton, Louisa (1814 - 1880); National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection. Details

State Library of Western Australia, J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History

Lisa MacKinney

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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