May 18, 2001, Newsletter Issue #30: History-general - Aust Literature 19th century

Tip of the Week

The Nineteenth Century
Early attempts at producing literary works were rather gentrified, written in the English style for an English audience. A good example is the work of W. C. Wentworth, author of Australasia, an Ode (1823), which is minor and imitative. During the next few decades Australian writers began to discover at least their subject, if not yet their voice, with the interpretive nature poetry of Charles Harpur (1813–68) and Henry Kendall (1839–82) and with the novels of Henry Kingsley (brother of Charles Kingsley), who wrote about pioneer life. The bush ballad, begun by Adam Lindsay Gordon, flowered in the work of Henry Lawson (1867–1922) and A. B. (“Banjo”) Paterson (1864–1941), whose Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895) includes the famous song “Waltzing Matilda.”
Convict life was depicted in Henry Savery´s Quintus Servinton (1830), but it was not until almost a century after the first prisoners arrived that they received their due, in Marcus Clarke´s classic account of life in a penal colony, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874). Less powerful, but true to life in the bush, were the novels of Rolfe Boldrewood (pseud. of Thomas A. Browne) and James Tucker, whose Ralph Rashleigh (1844) was the first book to focus on Australia´s unique combination of prison life, aborigines, and bushrangers. Other important 19th-century novelists were Miles Franklin (1879–1954), whose My Brilliant Career (1901) is often designated the first authentically Australian novel, and diarist-novelist Tom Collins (pseud. of Joseph Furphy, 1843–1912). Poets of note include Hugh McCrae (1876–1958) and Dame Mary Gilmore (1865–1962).

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