Tara Calaby

writer, editor & phd candidate

Ashes to Ashes

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My piece “Ashes to Ashes” has just come out as part of the winter edition of Breath and Shadow. “Ashes to Ashes” is quite unusual for me, as it is set firmly in Gippsland, where I lived for many years but which only rarely intrudes on the creative part of my mind.

It’s quite short, and completely free to read, so please check it out and perhaps even let me know what you think!

“Ashes to Ashes” at Breath and Shadow

Supposed Causes of Lunacy: 1890-1899, Ararat Asylum

will eventually have more varied content here, I promise! At the moment, though, I am still neck deep in asylum records and I am always fascinated by the things they list as being the cause of a patient’s mental health problems. This batch is from Ararat Asylum in the 1890s.

The full list of causes can be found under the cut.


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Supposed Causes of Lunacy: 1884-1889, Ararat Asylum

Apologies for such a long break between entries. Due to moving house, we’ve not had home internet for a long time, and it’s hard to squeeze everything in on my days with access to uni wifi or my mother’s internet. I intend to have more varied content here eventually, but in the meantime, here’s another post about supposed causes of insanity.

This group of causes was given on female records at Ararat Asylum between August 1884 and the end of 1889. During this period, causes are often labelled as being “predisposing” or “exciting”.



The full list of supposed causes for this period can be found under the cut.

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Ashes to Ashes

I received the good news earlier this week that my literary fantasy short “Ashes to Ashes” will be published in Breath and Shadow sometime around December this year. It’s the first of my pieces to be strongly set in Gippsland, and I’m very pleased that it’s found a good home.

Supposed Causes of Lunacy: 1900-1910 Yarra Bend

Rounding out my posts about the causes of lunacy listed in the female case books from Yarra Bend Asylum in Melbourne, the following were causes given between the years of 1900 and 1910:



A definite movement from can be seen during the period of 1880 to 1910, from a focus on moral or experiential causes towards a far greater emphasis on physiological ‘reasons’. This reflects the growing medicalisation of insanity that led, in the early 20th century, to Victoria’s asylums being re-titled as Hospitals for the Insane.

The full list of causes can be read under the cut. It is worth noting that some causes, such as ‘alcohol’ or ‘old age’, were cited many times.


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Love. Bite.

My short play Love. Bite. was produced as part of the recent Short Works season at La Trobe university and my director, Amelia Latham, and actors, Susu Najjarin & Erin Miller did a great job with the piece.

Melissa Viola took some great photographs of the play and was kind enough to let me post one here.

Love. Bite. at La Trobe Short Works
Erin Miller as Joanne (left) and Susu Najjarin as Amy
(click on image for the full size photo)

Knee-Deep in Grit

On Monday, I learned that Grimdark Magazine will be putting out a print collection of all the short stories from their first two years of existence, which means that my piece “Ashes” will be included.

The cover looks fantastic, and it’s going to be available in places that most of my publications aren’t (like the Book Depository!) so I’m really looking forward to see the final product.


Supposed Causes of Lunacy: 1890s Yarra Bend

Following on from my post about the causes of lunacy given in the 1880s at Yarra Bend, here is a collection of causes from the 1890s.

1890s lunacy causes

The full list is under the cut.

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Love. Bite.

I have a short play, Love. Bite being produced as part of the La Trobe University Short Works season this year. Performances are nightly at 7.30pm from the 1st to the 5th of August and more information can be found at the La Trobe student union website or the Facebook event for the season.

Supposed Causes of Lunacy: 1880s Yarra Bend

Patient case notes for Victorian lunatic asylums generally contain an initial summary of information about the patient. In many, a ‘supposed cause’ is listed, some of which seem quite peculiar by modern psychiatric standards. The following are all causes to which a patient’s mental illness was attributed at the Melbourne asylum Yarra Bend during the 1880s.

  • Attending Salvation Army
  • Bad Temper
  • Brooding over Pecuniary Losses
  • Cold
  • Conduct of Husband
  • Desertion of a Man She Was Living With
  • Disappointment in Love
  • Excitement
  • Family Trouble
  • Fright from Fire
  • Fright of Mother While Pregnant
  • Habitual Drunkenness & Other Abuses
  • Having Two Illegitimate Children
  • Hysteria
  • Ill-Treatment by Husband Who Is at Present in Gaol for Bigamy
  • Jealousy
  • Love
  • Lunacy in Her Family
  • Marrying a Man Who Had a Living Wife
  • Mother’s Mind Affected When Pregnant with Patient
  • Neglect
  • Over Study
  • Overwork as School Teacher
  • Overwork in Her Husband’s Parish
  • People Using the Expression “You Are Mad”
  • Perhaps Drink
  • Religion
  • Residing in Too Heated a District
  • Scandalous Report About Her Character
  • Self-Abuse
  • Sexual Excitement
  • Softening of Brain
  • Spiritualism
  • Syphilis
  • Trouble
  • Uterine Troubles
  • Want of Company

The rest of the causes can be found under the cut.

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