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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Abbott, Edward (1801–1869)

by Colin Bannerman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Edward Abbott (1801-1869), politician and 'aristologist', was born on 25 February 1801 in Sydney, eldest son of Edward Abbott, a Canadian-born army officer, and his wife Louisa. Arriving in Hobart Town in February 1815, when Edward senior took up the post of deputy-judge-advocate, in 1818 young Edward became clerk to his father. He continued to work in the Lieutenant Governor's Court until 1824, then became a pastoralist, having received land grants of 1100 acres (445 ha) on the Derwent River in 1823. In 1828 he was made a justice of the peace. 

In 1839 Abbott founded the Hobart Town Advertiser and was its editor and publisher until 1842. He was appointed a police magistrate in 1848 at Kangaroo Point. At his residence there, on 25 April 1853, he married Ann Johnson; the minister of the Independent Chapel officiated. On 15 September 1856 Abbott was elected to the first House of Assembly as member for Clarence, retaining the seat until 27 January 1864, when he was elected unopposed to the Legislative Council for Cambridge. In 1867 he retired to become usher of the Black Rod. He was warden of Clarence municipality from its inauguration in 1860 until 1868.

Rarely speaking at length on the substance of legislation, Abbott was renowned for his knowledge of procedure and readiness to take issue on points of order. From about 1839 he took over his family's relentless pursuit of a claim against the government over the ownership of 210 acres (85 ha) of land known as the Launceston swamp. After virtually exhausting his financial resources he succeeded in 1860 in obtaining substantial compensation, though less than he had sought. His landmark publication, The English and Australian Cookery Book. Cookery for the Many, as Well as for the “Upper Ten Thousand” (London, 1864), was probably an attempt to recover his fortunes.

Although published pseudonymously, by 'an Australian Aristologist', the book was known to be Abbott's work. It was a gastronomic miscellany of 'the modern cookery of the mother country and the colonies', and of Continental and Hebrew cookery. Recipes included 'Roast Beef of Old England', 'kangaroo steamer' and 'slippery bob'—a dish of battered kangaroo brains fried in emu fat. In scope and style the book was somewhat idiosyncratic, as in its use of the arcane expression 'aristology' (coined by Thomas Walker in London in 1835 to describe the art of dining) and its extensive selection of 'appropriate quotations and racy extracts'.

Abbott was noted for his hospitality and his excellent cuisine. Friends praised his integrity in official duties, while acknowledging his eccentricities. Said to be 'the first to counsel the settling of disputes in legal matters, and to prevent litigation', he hardly demonstrated such qualities in pursuit of his own claims. To his successors at the Advertiser he was 'a thoroughly high principled, and truthful politician'. The Mercury saw him as 'but a very moderately educated man, a violent partisan with nothing of experience, but that which the limited circle of his colonial intercourse has given him'. He occasionally gave way to violent passion, as when he assaulted the attorney-general (Sir) Francis (Villeneuve) Smith, for which he was fined £5 and bound over to keep the peace, or was unruly and abusive during a parliamentary debate and ordered to leave the House.

Survived by his wife and two sons, Abbott died of prostate disease on 4 April 1869 at Bellerive and was buried in old St Mark's Anglican chapel where an impressive monument was erected. As author of possibly the first substantial cookery manual by an Australian, he made an important contribution to Australian culinary literature.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, vol 3, part iv, pp 158 & 556, part vii, p 442
  • E. Morris Miller, Pressmen and Governors (Syd, 1952)
  • T. Walker, Aristology, or, The Art of Dining (Cambridge, UK, 1965)
  • Tasmanian Ancestry, 20, no 3, Dec 1999, p 151
  • Hobart Town Advertiser, 11 Jan 1864
  • Examiner (London), 20 Aug 1864, p 538
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5 May 1856, p 2, 4 Feb 1858, p 2, 31 July 1858, p 1, 2 Aug 1858, p 2, 2 Sept 1858, p 3, 21 Dec 1868, p 2, 5 April 1869, p 1
  • Tasmanian Times, 5 Apr 1869
  • C. Bannerman, Print Media and the Development of an Australian Culture of Food and Eating c.1850 to c.1920 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Canberra, 2001).

Citation details

Colin Bannerman, 'Abbott, Edward (1801–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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