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  ― vii ―

Introduction.

LESS than a year ago a clever French writer, M. Léo Quesnel, contributed an essay, entitled “Littérature Australienne,” to the Revue Bleue, of Paris. This essay was translated and reprinted in more than one Australian journal, and considerably commented upon at the time by the English press. Its writer, M. Quesnel, is in a sense the innocent and unconscious parent of the present unpretentious collection of stories written by “Australians in London.” As I was one of the small band of Australian writers who received special, and, in my case at least, quite unmerited laudation at the hands of the French critic, it cannot be said that, in pointing out the oversight and defects of his essay, I was in any way actuated by a desire to vindicate my own claims. But when a discussion arose on the subject in the Pall Mall Gazette, I wrote as follows on behalf of those


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authors who are thoroughly Australian by birth and training, but whose literary work has been accomplished in London:—

“What constitutes an Australian author? If it mean one born and bred in the Colonies, then neither Lindsay Gordon, nor Marcus Clarke, nor Brunton Stephens was an Australian author, all three having been born and educated in the Old World. I admit that they wrote and published in the Colonies, and that much of their writings is the outcome of their colonial environment. In that sense, and in that only, are they Australian writers. Henry Kendall was an Australian pure and simple; he was not only born and nurtured under the Southern Cross, but he composed and published his poems in the Colonies, and died there, never, I believe, even seeing the land of his forefathers. There is yet another class of Anglo-Australian littérateurs, of whom Mrs. Campbell Praed is by far the most shining example—those who, although born and educated in the Colonies, have made their name purely by writing and publishing in England. Surely Mrs. Praed, Mr. Farjeon, and Mr. Haddon Chambers have as


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much right to the title of Australian author as those cited by the French or English critic.”

Mr. Farjeon was, I understand, born and educated in England, and merely resided for a few years in Australia and New Zealand; but the claim of the other two writers I have named to be classified as Australian authors can hardly be disputed. That they and others were completely ignored by M. Quesnel was undoubtedly an oversight and a defect in his otherwise comprehensive, though far too laudatory, “Littérature Australienne.”

It has been suggested by my publisher that a few personal particulars concerning my contributors would not here be out of place. Mrs. Campbell Praed, so well known to what Mr. Sladen would call “the English of three Continents,” by her remarkable series of stories of Anglo-Australian life, is the daughter of the Honourable Murray Prior, formerly Postmaster General, and always a prominent politician and leading colonist of Queensland. Rose Murray Prior was born at Bromelton, Logan River, in that colony. She is on both sides of good Anglo-Irish family,


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hailing from what Mr. Froude would call the gentry of the Pale. Her grandfather, Colonel Murray Prior, was in the 11th Hussars, and fought at Waterloo, and his father was a member of the last Irish parliament—a parliament, be it remembered, purely composed of the Protestant gentry, or, as the phrase now goes, of the English garrison in Ireland. Miss Rose Murray Prior married in 1872 an English gentleman, Mr. Campbell Praed, a son of Bulkeley Praed, banker of Fleet Street, and a relative, of course, of the most accomplished and brilliant of our minor poets, Winthrop Mackworth Praed. After her marriage Mrs. Campbell Praed lived on Curtis Island, Gladstone, which her husband had bought. Those of her admirers who are familiar with the graphic and beautiful descriptions of Australian scenery in many of her books will not fail to realise that the future novelist was storing up material while residing, during her early married life, on this far-away Antipodean island. Mr. Praed, having sold this property, came to England with his wife in 1876. In 1880 Mrs. Campbell Praed began her career as a novelist by publishing An Australian Heroine. This was followed in quick succession by a number of other


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works of fiction, none of which failed to excite the attention and interest of the public. Many of these were entirely Australian in character and incidents —such as Policy and Passion; Moloch; The Head Station; Australian Life, Black and White; and a bright and most entertaining Queensland story, called Miss Jacobsen's Chance. In conjunction with Mr. Justin M`Carthy, Mrs. Campbell Praed has written a novel, entitled The Right Honourable, which contains several Australian scenes and characters. I am not attempting to give any thing like a complete catalogue of the long series of fictions which she has published in these brief eight years; but those I have named are, I think, quite sufficient to justify her claim to be the leading novelist of Australia. In fact, with the exception of the late Marcus Clarke, author of that powerful but painful story, His Natural Life, there is no other Australian novelist, in any sense of the word, who can for a moment be compared with her. Marcus Clarke's romance is sui generis; it is a record of the early convict period of Van Diemen's Land, and has little or no bearing on the social life of the Australian Colonies of to-day. But such a story as Miss Jacobsen's Chance, or The Head


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Station, reveal to us the varying phases and conditions of existence in a free, vigorous, self-governing English Colony at the present time. As such they surpass anything in current English literature, and for this reason I place Mrs. Campbell Praed as the first of Australian novelists.

The short original story, “Miss Pallavant—An Episode,” which Mrs. Praed has been kind enough to contribute to my book, is an English one. But to me, at least, even her English stories have a kind of Australian flavour, which is, perhaps, due to the fact that I in fancy see her at work in her exquisite room, warmed to almost Queensland temperature, and with her favourite wattle-plant beside her desk.

Mr. Charles Haddon Chambers was born at Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, in 1859. He traces his descent from a very old West of Scotland family which had migrated to the north of Ireland and been incorporated in the famous “Ulster plantation.” His maternal grandfather, John Ritchie, was the first shipbuilder in Ireland. In the middle of the last century this enterprising North Briton


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went over from the Clyde and founded the yards where now are built the big Atlantic liners—White Star. Mr. Haddon Chambers's father, John Ritchie Chambers, was an old colonist of New South Wales, and for many years an official in the Lands Department of that colony. He himself was educated, or as he wisely prefers to say, “schooled,” at Marrickville and Fort Street public schools, and in 1875 passed the necessary examinations and entered the local Civil Service. The young New South Welshman was hardly the stuff out of which Charles Dickens's ideal public official could be manufactured—the mild and gentlemanly being with a silk umbrella and a grievance. In a year or two, relieved from the cares of office, which he had relinquished we find him in the “back blocks” with a squatter friend, enjoying what he calls “stirring Bush experience.” But even the vast domain of New South Wales was all too narrow for his aspiring soul, and in 1880 Mr. Chambers, then in his twenty-first year, took it into his head to cross the wide waste of waters, and pay a nine months' visit to his North Irish cousins and these three little kingdoms. Returning to Australia, he renewed his pastoral acquaintances, and


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it was then that he felt his first inclination to put his varied experiences into literary form. Two years afterwards the youthful wanderer reappeared in London. His literary fever was now rising. In February 1883 Mr. Chambers met by chance, on the top of a Bayswater omnibus, a gentleman now well known as an author, who, after listening to one or two moving experiences, advised him to turn his attention to the writing of short stories. The result of this advice was a tale called “Outwitted,” which appeared in the original Society. The story must have had some merit, for it was promptly reproduced in the Melbourne Leader. Encouraged by success, Mr. Chambers wrote a sheaf of small stories, which have appeared in Truth, The Argosy, Belgravia, Court and Society, Sunday Times, Cassell's Saturday Journal, and other periodicals. A story of a murder, entitled “In Cold Blood,” treated in a pseudo-scientific and realistic manner, drew a leading article from the Daily News. The young Australian next turned his attention to the stage. Feeling his way cautiously at first, he produced a two-act farce at Margate in 1886. Next year a little domestic drama of his, entitled “The Open Gate,” was played with


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success at the Comedy Theatre, London. He then dramatised, in conjunction with Mr. Stanley Little, Rider Haggard's novel, Dawn. This play, which was called “Devil Caresfoot,” was an artistic rather than a financial success. Mr. Chambers's next dramatic venture was a four-act original drama, which Mr. Beerbohm Tree so highly approved on hearing it read that he undertook to test it at a matinée at the Haymarket Theatre, with himself, his wife, and Lady Monckton in the cast. This play, “Captain Swift,” proved on that occasion a great success, and is about to be produced both in England and America.

The sketch entitled “In the Back Blocks” is by Mr. Edmund Stansfeld Rawson, one of the most popular squatters in Queensland, who certainly does not commit the common fault of writing on a subject of which he has no personal experience. Mr. Rawson was born at Wastdale, in Cumberland, educated at Durham, and went out to Queensland in 1864 to join his brother Charles, then the lord and master of Teningering Station, in the Burnett district, where they had four thousand head of cattle. The brothers Rawson pushed out north in


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1866, and took up some country on the Pioneer River, which they stocked with cattle, and where one or other of them has resided ever since. They and their homestead, “The Hollow,” near Mackay, are household words in Queensland. I would refer the English reader who may be curious as to the mode of life of an Australian squatter to the description of this place and its owners in the Honourable Harold Finch—Hatton's Advance Australia! To complete the fraternal picture of these two typical Australian pioneers, I should add that they married two sisters, daughters of an English clergyman, and that they alternately reside in London, England, and “The Hollow,” Queensland. Mr. Edmund Rawson is far too vigorous a type of the Australian squatter to waste much of his time as an amateur author. But his sketch is at least graphic and taken from the life, and the story running through it has the merit of being perfectly true from beginning to end.

With regard to Mr. Douglas Sladen, who has favoured me with a story of the Great Australian Carnival, “The Melbourne Cup,” I have no need to add anything to the biographical sketch appended


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to Australian Ballads and Rhymes. But I would say that in producing that work, and the larger volume, A Century of Australian Song (Walter Scott), Mr. Sladen has made all lovers of Australian literature his debtors. The same work also contains a short sketch of the present editor.

In introducing Mr. Philip Mennell's “New Chums,” I have thought it well to present a life-like sketch of a painful, but too common, “colonial experience” undergone by countless middle-class English youths who are shipped out to Australia with the parental blessing and the conventional five-pound note. Parents and guardians commonly forget that Australia is only in journalistic parlance, “a young country,” and has to provide for her own sons and daughters, who are increasing at a rate to alarm prudent Malthusians, and all of whom are compulsorily “educated” beyond the usual English standard. What chance, then, has your average English youth who arrives in Melbourne or Sydney with a pocket-full of letters of introduction, and a rooted aversion to drudgery or manual labour? But I must leave my contributor to tell the story. Mr. Mennell was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne,


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emigrated to Victoria, and passed some years in the “Bush,” whence he emerged to light in Melbourne, and filled a responsible position on the Age, the journal which he now ably represents in London.

Of my somewhat eccentric contributor, Mr. Oldmixon, I know little beyond the descriptive phrase appended to his signature. Accompanying his sketch, “Mr. Barcoo at Kensington Gore,” I received by the Scotch mail a bundle of somewhat disorderly looking manuscript, which, however, I have not as yet had time to peruse.

   A.P.M.

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