The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

XII. The Literature of Australia and New Zealand

§ 6. Historians

Travel and exploration in Australasia have been the subject of many books, most of which were written by Englishmen; the subject has been admirably summarised by Julian Edmund Tenison Woods, the friend of Adam Lindsay Gordon, in his History of the Discovery and Exploration of Australia, published in 1865. The historians and political writers of Australia have appealed almost entirely in the past to special audience; but the foundations of future work in these fields have been firmly laid. In 1819, W. C. Wentworth published a Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, which fiercely attacked the existing form of government. Among the many writings of John Dunsmore Lang, there is a discursive and confusing Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, first published in 1834 and reissued, with new matter, in 1852 and 1875. Samuel Bennett’s accurate and lucid History of Australian Discovery and Colonization, published in 1867, brings the story down to 1831. William Westgarth began his important series of reports and books on Australian history and politics with a report on the aborigines issued in 1846. They include Australia Felix; an Account of the Settlement of Port Philip (1843); Victoria, late Australia Felix (1853); and Victoria and the Australian Goldmines in 1857 (1857); while his Personal Recollections of Early Melbourne and Victoria (1888) and Half-a-Century of Australian Progress; a personal Retrospect (1889) are full of interest and knowledge. The decade 1850–60 saw the publication of some of William Howitt’s accounts of Australian life and affairs, and of R. H. Horne’s very lively and amusing Australian Facts and Prospects, which was prefaced by the author’s Australian Autobiography, a vivid account of his adventures as gold-escort in the early days of the diggings. James Bonwick’s chief interest in life was the compiling of his invaluable collections of facts bearing upon early colonial history, and his Last of the Tasmanians and Daily Life and Origin of the Tasmanians, both published in 1870, are important contributions to anthropology. Alexander Sutherland’s sumptuous work on Victoria and its Metropolis, published in 1888, is the leading work of its kind in a later period.

Finally, mention should be made of Australian journalism, which has from the first been vigorous and prolific, and has contrived to be independent and vivacious without stooping, in any marked degree, to scurrility or vulgarity. The Australian newspapers have not only recorded and commented upon the interesting and exciting development of the country; they have provided opportunities to poets, occasional essayists and writers of fiction who might otherwise have found no field for their self-expression.