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Introductory Note

IN placing before the English public a novel dealing exclusively with Australian life, a few prefatory remarks may not be inapplicable.

That the mother country should be comparatively unacquainted with the features and characteristics, the innerworkings, the social interests, and great and petty political aspirations of this most promising of her offspring, is a fact principally to be attributed to the onesidedness of the intellectual intercourse which at present connects Great Britain with the Antipodes.

By means of books, more especially contemporary fiction, the Australian of the second generation may render himself familiar with most phases of British society. On the other hand, the Englishman desirous of penetrating to the hidden sources of thought and action which govern the lives of his colonial brethren, though he has to acknowledge deep obligations to several influential English writers and to a smaller number of Antipodean authors, must deplore the limited medium of communion offered to his imagination by the literature emanating directly from Australia.

It can be no matter for conjecture that when in the course of years Australia shall have appropriated to herself an independent position among those occupied by more ancient nations, and shall have formulated a social and political system adapted to the conditions of her development and

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growth, she will possess a literature of her own as powerful and original as might be prognosticated, from the influences of nature and civilisation brought to bear upon the formation of a distinct national type.

But the time for this is hardly yet ripe.

Yet, the fluttering heart-beats and spasmodic efforts; the struggles after a dimly recognised good, and the many failures of achievement; the conflict of personal and patriotic ambition; the imperfect assimilation of traditional ideas with unconventional circumstances; the contrast between human passion unsoftened by the veil of refinement with which civilisation drapes that which is foul, and of rudely-expressed yearnings after the nobler motives of existence—all these contending elements which go far towards making up the sum of young life in the individual or the race, appeal with pathos and peculiar interest to the parent nature which has given them birth.

It has been my wish to depict in these pages certain phases of Australian life, in which the main interests and dominant passions of the personages concerned are identical with those which might readily present themselves upon an European stage, but which, directly and indirectly, are influenced by striking natural surroundings, and by the conditions of being inseparable from the youth of a vigorous and impulsive nation.

The scenery described here is drawn directly from nature; and the name of Leichardt's Land—a tribute to the memory of a daring but ill-fated explorer—is but a transparent mask covering features that will be familiar to many of my Australian readers.

But it is to the British public that I, an Australian, address myself, with the hope that I may in some slight degree aid in bridging over the gulf which divides the Old World from the Young.

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