Introduction by Elizabeth Webby
This collection of Australian fiction, poetry, plays and non-fictional works, which has been put together from a number of different sources, ranging from a seventeenth-century Portuguese account of the discovery of Australia to the novels which make up Henry Handel Richardson's trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, first published in the 1910s and 1920s. Because of the need for all the texts to be out of copyright, a few significant literary works from the period through to 1920 are not included, most notably Miles Franklin s My Brilliant Career (1901) and poems by Mary Gilmore. All the other leading Australian literary figures from the nineteenth and early twentieth century are, however, well represented.
The site includes comprehensive collections of the poems of Banjo Paterson, Henry Kendall, Adam Lindsay Gordon. Ada Cambridge, Lesbia Harford and Christopher Brennan. Other poets represented include Barron Field, William Charles Wentworth, Charles Harpur, Henry Parkes, George Gordon McCrae, Henry and Louisa Lawson, C J Dennis, Marie Pitt and Mary Hannay Foott. While the very prolific novelists of this period are mainly represented at present by only one or two texts, most of the novels of Henry Handel Richardson and the stories of Henry Lawson are included. So are such other canonical novels as Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life, Rolf Boldrewood's Robbery Under Arms, and Joseph Furphy s Such is Life. It is possible to teach a course on nineteenth-century Australian Literature entirely from the texts included in the SETIS collection, and this is already being done by Dr Cath Ellis from the University of Wollongong.
Among the non-fictional works are both of Watkin Tench's wonderful accounts of the first years of English settlement at Sydney, the record of the debates at the 1890 Australasian Federation Conference, Raffaello Carboni's highly entertaining contemporary account of the Eureka Stockade, Frederick Sinnett's "The Fiction Fields of Australia", the first major critical piece on Australian novels, and Philip E Muskett's classic The Art of Living in Australia.
A particularly significant feature of this collection is that all the texts are searchable as well as available free on line to anyone who wishes to access them. This therefore makes the SETIS site of prime importance to anyone carrying out any form of research relating to life in Australia during the nineteenth and earlier twentieth century. I recently made good use of it while researching my chapter on reading in Australia from 1788 - 1890 for volume 1 of the forthcoming History of the Book in Australia. We have been using it as well as part of the assessment for the Australian Studies 2001 unit "Australia: Land and Nation" as it provides an excellent way for students to have access to different representations of the Australian landscape and of Indigenous Australians.
Professor of Australian Literature
4th April 2001