For the Term of His Natural Life
|For the Term of His Natural Life (1874)
|published in the Australian Journal between 1870 and 1872 (as His Natural Life), appearing as a novel in 1874. It is the best known novelisation of life as a convict in early Australian history. Described as a "ripping Shaggy dog story," and at times relying on seemingly implausible coincidences, the story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder which he did not commit. 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, Tasmania.|
SIR CHARLES GAVAN DUFFY
My Dear Sir Charles, I take leave to dedicate this work to you, not merely because your nineteen years of political and literary life in Australia render it very fitting that any work written by a resident in the colonies, and having to do with the history of past colonial days, should bear your name upon its dedicatory page; but because the publication of my book is due to your advice and encouragement.
The convict of fiction has been hitherto shown only at the beginning or at the end of his career. Either his exile has been the mysterious end to his misdeeds, or he has appeared upon the scene to claim interest by reason of an equally unintelligible love of crime acquired during his experience in a penal settlement. Charles Reade has drawn the interior of a house of correction in England, and Victor Hugo has shown how a French convict fares after the fulfilment of his sentence. But no writer--so far as I am aware--has attempted to depict the dismal condition of a felon during his term of transportation.
I have endeavoured in "His Natural Life" to set forth the working and the results of an English system of transportation carefully considered and carried out under official supervision; and to illustrate in the manner best calculated, as I think, to attract general attention, the inexpediency of again allowing offenders against the law to be herded together in places remote from the wholesome influence of public opinion, and to be submitted to a discipline which must necessarily depend for its just administration upon the personal character and temper of their gaolers.
Your critical faculty will doubtless find, in the construction and artistic working of this book, many faults. I do not think, however, that you will discover any exaggerations. Some of the events narrated are doubtless tragic and terrible; but I hold it needful to my purpose to record them, for they are events which have actually occurred, and which, if the blunders which produced them be repeated, must infallibly occur again. It is true that the British Government have ceased to deport the criminals of England, but the method of punishment, of which that deportation was a part, is still in existence. Port Blair is a Port Arthur filled with Indian-men instead of Englishmen; and, within the last year, France has established, at New Caledonia, a penal settlement which will, in the natural course of things, repeat in its annals the history of Macquarie Harbour and of Norfolk Island.
With this brief preface I beg you to accept this work. I would that its merits were equal either to your kindness or to my regard.
My dear Sir Charles,
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY, MELBOURNE
Book I: The Sea. 1827
- Chapter I: The Prison Ship
- Chapter II: Sarah Purfoy
- Chapter III: The Monotony Breaks
- Chapter IV: The Hospital
- Chapter V: The Barracoon
- Chapter VI: The Fate of the "Hydaspes"
- Chapter VII: Typhus Fever
- Chapter VIII: A Dangerous Crisis
- Chapter IX: Woman's Weapons
- Chapter X: Eight Bells
- Chapter XI: Discoveries and Confessions
- Chapter XII: A Newspaper Paragraph
Book II: Macquarie Harbour. 1833.
- Chapter I: The Topography of Van Diemen's Land
- Chapter II: The Solitary of "Hell's Gates"
- Chapter III: A Social Evening
- Chapter IV: The Bolter
- Chapter V: Sylvia
- Chapter VI: A Leap in the Dark
- Chapter VII: The Last of Macquarie Harbour
- Chapter VIII: The Power of the Wilderness
- Chapter IX: The Seizure of the "Osprey"
- Chapter X: John Rex's Revenge
- Chapter XI: Left at "Hell's Gates"
- Chapter XII: "Mr." Dawes
- Chapter XIII: What the Seaweed Suggested
- Chapter XIV: A Wonderful Day's Work
- Chapter XV: The Coracle
- Chapter XVI: The Writing on the Sand
- Chapter XVII: At Sea
Book III: Port Arthur. 1838
- Chapter I: A Labourer in the Vineyard
- Chapter II: Sarah Purfoy's Request
- Chapter III: The Story of Two Birds of Prey
- Chapter IV: "The Notorious Dawes"
- Chapter V: Maurice Frere's Good Angel
- Chapter VI: Mr. Meekin Administers Consolation
- Chapter VII: Rufus Dawes's Idyll
- Chapter VIII: An Escape
- Chapter IX: John Rex's Letter Home
- Chapter X: What Became of the Mutineers of the "Osprey"
- Chapter XI: A Relic of Macquarie Harbour
- Chapter XII: At Port Arthur
- Chapter XIII: The Commandant's Butler
- Chapter XIV: Mr. North's Indisposition
- Chapter XV: One Hundred Lashes
- Chapter XVI: Kicking Against the Pricks
- Chapter XVII: Captain and Mrs. Frere
- Chapter XVIII: In the Hospital
- Chapter XIX: The Consolations of Religion
- Chapter XX: A Natural Penitentiary
- Chapter XXI: A Visit of Inspection
- Chapter XXII: Gathering in the Threads
- Chapter XXIII: Running the Gauntlet
- Chapter XXIV: In the Night
- Chapter XXV: The Flight
- Chapter XXVI: The Work of the Sea
- Chapter XXVII: The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Book IV: Norfolk Island. 1846.
- Chapter I: Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North
- Chapter II: The Lost Heir
- Chapter III: Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North
- Chapter IV: Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North
- Chapter V: Mr. Richard Devine Surprised
- Chapter VI: In Which the Chaplain Is Taken Ill
- Chapter VII: Breaking a Man's Spirit
- Chapter VIII: Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North
- Chapter IX: The Longest Straw
- Chapter X: A Meeting
- Chapter XI: Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North
- Chapter XII: The Strange Behaviour of Mr. North
- Chapter XIII: Mr. North Speaks
- Chapter XIV: Getting Ready for Sea
- Chapter XV: The Discovery
- Chapter XVI: Fifteen Hours
- Chapter XVII: The Redemption
- Chapter XVIII: The Cyclone