THE FERN SELLER—CHRISTMAS EVE.
This is an original and characteristic sketch, in which perhaps our artist has sacrificed a little fidelity to nature. In this instance the object seems to have been to embody an idea thoroughly and faithfully rather than exhibit skill in the delineation of female beauty. What the holly is to the merry homes of England at this festive period of the year the fern with its graceful feathery fronds is to the adopted homes of the Australian colonists. The utilisation of the fern for this purpose seems like an effort on the part of those who, with the restless spirit of their race, have sought fresh fields and pastures new in far off lands to acclimatise a practice, so to speak, that is associated with the happiest memories of their lives. The fern has been made to some extent typical of the antipodes. It is in its full vigour and beauty at Christmas time, and for purposes of house ornamentation can hardly be surpassed.
On Christmas Eve the fem gatherers do a thriving business, as the proprietors of shops and stalls devoted to supplying the necessaries and luxuries of the inner man somehow think it is the thing to decorate both the exterior and the interior of then premises with greenery, and doubtless their customers approve this delicate appeal to their feelings. The fern gatherers, as here represented, have apparently just arrived in town. The man is engaged arranging his stock-in-trade in the cart which is drawn up close to the kerbstone, while the young girl takes her position on the footpath to secure customers. She seems well adapted to succeed. Beside her is a basket of bouquets, and she stands holding different specimens of plume-like ferns in each hand. She is attired in a homely garb, a light shawl being drawn loosely over her shoulders and folded across the breast, the arms being bared to the elbow. Her hat bears a close approximation to the fashion, being turned up on one side, revealing her youthful face, that has a decidedly rustic expression about it.
Illustrated Adelaide News, 1 January 1880
Image is from the State Library of Victoria. The record says “Wood engraving published in Supplement to The Illustrated Australian news”, 24 December 1879 but the same image accommpanies the Illustrated Adelaide News story above..