"What does it mean when the trappings of history are stripped from the legend,
when all that remains is the flesh, up close and personal.
No uniforms, no status, no narrative to elevate the individual,
just the skin we live in while we live... the limbs we rely on, the intimacy we know."
After writing many stories of Melbourne's history, I have become quite intimate with the figures of Australia's past. I am almost convinced, for example, that Ned Kelly was a virgin. I see little opportunity for him to get much action, let alone fall in love, knowing what I know of his short life: a loyal mother's son, diligent and hardworking eldest child, then off to jail, then on the run... dead at 25. We'll never know.
I also fell in love with Antoine Fauchery, one of the sexiest gold diggers to visit Melbourne, wordly, bohemian, sophisticated. And I imagine that Governor Charles La Trobe enjoyed an eventful private life and full social calendar, with all of Melbourne as his oyster.
And so I speculate on the lives of our forbears, their sexuality and physicality. On Nellie Melba's capacious lungs, William Buckley's white ass, Edna Walling's topiary, Mary Gilbert's pregnant pioneering belly. Take away the crinolines and the uniforms, remove the layers of fame, visage, personality, career, posture and even of environment, and what remains is the place where life took place: in the intimate reality of their bodies.
Stripped bare, the legendary are at last unrecogniseable. Liberated as anonymous flesh, they become less public property and more private, less past and more present, less abstract and more real, less infinite and more human."
- Maree Coote