“The feelings, and revealings, and memories of Home!”
First exhibited in 1855, Edward Hopley’s narrative painting of A Primrose from England seemed to offer a documentary account of the events surrounding the successful transportation of a blossoming primrose to Australian shores. Appearing as an engraving in the Illustrated London News in October 1858 alongside a rousing poem by Charles Mackay, the image was reportedly inspired by reports of the sensation the flower caused on its arrival in Melbourne in a Wardian case. As a result, over the years, this painting has become increasingly emblematic of the emigrant experience and is often cited as providing an accurate record of early colonial life. However, this investigation of the history behind the painting and its associated narrative reveals how it belongs to a larger mythic trope, involving the symbolism of the flower, horticultural imperialism, religious beliefs, and the cross-cultural sentiments involved in the topic of emigration – all blending together to form a compelling moral exemplar.