Charles Dickens' Australia. Selected essays from Household Words 1850-1859. Book One: Convict Stories
Researched and presented by Margaret Mendelawitz
Sydney University Press
Charles Dickens is little celebrated as a journalist, yet his career spanned nearly 40 years. Starting as a court reporter, parliamentary newspaper columnist and theatre critic, he developed an instinct for injustice, humbug and charade. For 20 years he edited his own weekly journal, Household Words, later known as All the Year Round, publishing articles and stories designed to be interesting, entertaining, and educational.
Dickens had a keen interest in Australia and fortuitously began publishing the periodical at a transitional moment, just before the heady days of the 1850s gold rush set the world ablaze. The discovery of gold drove a period of mass immigration, expansion into the hinterlands, and caused radical economic and social changes in an emerging nation.
Of the nearly 3000 articles published in Household Words, some 100 related to Australia and have been collected in this anthology. Dickens saw Australia offering opportunities for England's poor and downtrodden to make a new start and a brighter future for themselves; optimism reflected in many of the articles.
The stories have been grouped into five volumes: Convict Stories, Immigration, Frontier Stories, Mining and Gold and Maritime Conditions.
Book One: Convict Stories
This volume contains stories on the experiences of convicts. Beginning with court processes and sentencing in Britain, the stories provide an insight into the conditions of prisoners on board ships to Australia and in prisons, and the range of treatments received by convicts until their conditional or final pardon.
About the editor
Margaret Mendelawitz is a graduate in history and anthropology from the University of Western Australia. She has had a lifelong interest in Australian social history stimulated largely through her being a descendant of pioneering families who settled in Western Australia in 1829-30, and Victoria in the 1850s. She currently works as a mediator.
Titles in the seriesBook One: Convict Stories Book Two: Immigration Book Three: Frontier Stories Book Four: Mining and Gold Book Five: Maritime Conditions Five Book Set