Harmless Australians

A running gag in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series is the travel writer whose painstakingly researched entry for the planet earth was shortened by unscrupulous travel guide sub-editors to the phrase “mostly harmless.”  But the Hitchhiker’s Guide was not the first travel guide to use this sort of description.  We find a similar description of Australians in Favell Lee Mortimer’s Far off, or, Asia and Australia described (1849) :

The natives are not nearly as dangerous as these wicked white men; indeed they are generally very harmless, unless provoked by ill-treatment.

The above information was gleaned from a comment on a forum topic post about the “Ten Oddest Travel guides Ever Written” at ComeBackAlive.com, where Mortimer is nominated for “worst travel writer in the history of traveling” for gems like these:

-Sweden: “the cottages are uncomfortable.”

-Ireland: “The Irish are very kind and good-natured when pleased, but if affronted, are filled with rage.”

-Germany: “They are not fond of reading useful books. When they read, it is novels about people who have never lived”

-China: “it is a common thing to stumble over the bodies of dead babies in the streets.”

-Italy: “the people are ignorant and wicked.”

Apparently Mrs. Mortimer only traveled outside of England twice in her life, one of those times to Scotland, nonetheless, her books were used as textbooks for schoolchildren.  Another reader comments:

-Australian Aborigines: “generally very harmless, unless provoked by ill-treatment”

This must have been written before grog was introduced down under

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