Mrs Milson’s Wordlist: Eliza Hamilton Dunlop and the Intimacy of Linguistic Work
Early colonial linguistic collection reveals the intimate and ongoing negotiations between Indigenous people and their European interlocutors, and provides insight into colonial knowledge production as a shared, cross-cultural process. The poet Eliza Hamilton Dunlop constructed a wordlist from informants in Wollombi, transcribed songs, and published poetry sympathetic to Aboriginal suffering and dispossession from her arrival in New South Wales in 1838. Dunlop’s concerns for Aboriginal people and culture were heightened by her marriage to an agent of the law (David Dunlop was a police magistrate), and the couple were keenly interested in Aboriginal culture, language, and plight on the volatile and violent colonial frontier that surrounded them. The Dunlops had an acquaintance with Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld at the nearby Lake Macquarie Mission, who had shared interests in recording Aboriginal linguistic and cultural knowledge, and in publicising and lamenting colonial violence. This chapter examines Dunlop’s linguistic and other work to reveal the imbrication of language collection, knowledge production, and humanitarian advocacy.