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Marcus Clarke

Marcus Clarke in 1866

Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke FRSA (24 April 1846 – 2 August 1881) was an Australian novelist and poet, best known for his novel For the Term of His Natural Life.

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Commemorations 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Biography

Marcus Clarke was born in London on 24 April 1846 and was educated at Highgate School. He was the only child of William Hislop Clarke. William was sent to Northumberland House in 1862 because of a mental breakdown and died there a year later. His mother was named Amelia Elizabeth Mathews. Marcus emigrated to Australia, where his uncle, James Langton Clarke, was a county court judge. He was at first a clerk in the Bank of Australia, but showed no business ability, and soon proceeded to learn farming at a station on the Wimmera River, Victoria.

He was already writing stories for the Australian Magazine, when in 1867 he joined the staff of The Argus in Melbourne through the introduction of Dr. Robert Lewins. He briefly visited Tasmania in 1870 at the request of The Argus to experience at first hand the settings of articles he was writing on the convict period. Old Stories Retold began to appear in The Australasian from February. The following month his great novel His Natural Life (later called For the Term of His Natural Life) commenced serialisation in the Australasian Journal. He also became secretary (1872) to the trustees of the Melbourne Athenauem and later (1876) Sub (assistant) Librarian. He founded in 1868 the Yorick Club, which soon numbered among its members the chief Australian men of letters.

The most famous of his books is For the Term of his Natural Life (Melbourne, 1874), a powerful tale of an Australian penal settlement. He also wrote The Peripatetic Philosopher (1869), a series of amusing papers reprinted from The Australasian; Long Odds (London, 1870), a novel; and numerous comedies and pantomimes, the best of which was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (Theatre Royal, Melbourne; Christmas, 1873). In 1869 he married the actress Marian Dunn, with whom he had six children.

For the Term of His Natural Life is a "ripping yarn", which at times relies on unrealistic coincidences. The story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a theft that he did not commit, from the victim of a mugging - to whom he was actually rendering assistance. The harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, is clearly conveyed. The conditions experienced by the convicts are graphically described. The novel was based on research by the author as well as a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur.

Clarke was an important literary figure in Australia, and was the centre of an important George Gordon McCrae.

In spite of his popular success, Clarke was constantly involved in pecuniary difficulties, which are said to have hastened his death at Melbourne on 2 August 1881 at the age of 35.

Commemorations

Clarke's contribution to Australian literature and heritage is recognised in several places, including a main street in Canberra City that bears his name.

In 1973 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post [1].

Notes

References

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Attribution
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

External links

  •  
  • Works by Marcus Clarke at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Marcus Clarke at Internet Archive
  • Works by Marcus Clarke at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • For the Term of His Natural LifeOnline version of
  • 1 (2002)JASAL His Natural LifeIan Henderson 'There are French Novels and there are French Novels': Charles Reade and the 'Other' Sources of Marcus Clarke's
  • 6 (2007)JASAL His Natural LifeDamien Barlow 'Oh, You're Cutting my Bowels Out!' Sexual Unspeakability in Marcus Clarke's
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