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Jessie Catherine Couvreur (1848–1897)

A cable message from London, published in the Mercury of Monday, announced the death of the well-known authoress "Tasma," and another telegram, published yesterday, stated that, at the deceased's request, her remains had been cremated.

It was believed by most people in these colonies that "Tasma" was a native of Tasmania, but the fact appears to be that she was born at Highgate, London, and brought to this colony by her parents in infancy. Her maiden name was Jessie Catherine Huybers, and she was the daughter of Mr. Alfred James Huybers, a Belgian, who removed from Antwerp to London, and, early in the fifties, migrated to Tasmania, and settled at Hobart. Miss Huybers lived in Tasmania till womanhood, and then removed to Melbourne, where she resided for some years. She may be said to owe her introduction to literary life to Mr. Garnet Walch, a Tasmanian long-settled in the Victorian capital, and well-known as a literary man. He was for several years secretary of the Melbourne Atheneum. For some years Mr. Walch brought out a publication called Garnet Walch's Annual, and it was in this periodical for 1877 that Miss Huybers published her first story, which was entitled Barren Love. She evidently had a special affection for this first-born of her pen, for, 14 years afterwards, she republished it in London in a collection of stories called A Sydney Sovereign. During her residence in Melbourne she contributed a good deal in the way of essays, stories, and sketches to the local publications, particularly the Australasian, and the now long defunct Melbourne Review.

In 1879, "Tasma" removed to Europe (to which she had previously paid one visit), and for two or three years, between 1880 and 1882, travelled in France and Belgium, lecturing on Australia in the French language for the Geographical Society of Paris. Miss Huybers wrote equally well in English and French, and during her stay on the continent of Europe she contributed a good deal to the Nouvelle Review, conducted by Madam Adam. At this time "Tasma" was created by the French Government an Officier d'Academie.

Miss Huybers revisited the Australian colonies in 1883, but remained only a year or eighteen months, when she returned to Europe. In 1885 she married Mons. Auguste Couvreur, a Belgian politician, and thenceforth lived with her husband at Brussels, where, probably, she has died. Mons. Convreur is a ''foreign member" of the Cobden Club, the great Freetrade English Club. He was, at one time, an active journalist, and first contributed to, and then edited, the celebrated Independence Belge. For something like a quarter of a century he represented the City of Brussels in the Legislative Chamber of Belgium, of which for four years he was Vice President.

Her residence in Belgium did not prevent Madame Couvreur from writing much for English literature. Her visits to London were frequent. In 1889 she published a novel, illustrative of Australian life and manners, entitled Uncle Piper of Piper's Hill. This was followed, the next year, by another Australian story, In Her Earliest Youth. Almost simultaneously appeared the collection of short tales, already alluded to, called A Sydney Sovereign. She frequently contributed stories to the World, conducted by Mr. Edmund Yates. While living in the northern hemisphere, "Tasma" did not forget the sunny lands of the South, where the years of her childhood and early womanhood were passed. Her contributions were often to be found in the Australasian, and were eagerly looked for and read with delight. In 1890 she wrote a Christmas story for Over the Sea, a collection of stories, by various authors, for English and Australian children; and to Mrs. A. P. Martin's Coo-ee she furnished An Old time Episode in Tasmania.

Madame Couvreur would be about 47 years of age at the time of her death.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Couvreur, Jessie Catherine (1848–1897)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Jessie Couvreur, 1889

Jessie Couvreur, 1889

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an25128196

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Tasma
  • Huybers, Jessie Catherine
  • Fraser, Jessie Catherine

28 October, 1848
London, Middlesex, England


23 October, 1897 (aged 48)
Brussels, Belgium

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.