Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/343

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

cease to mourn the early death of that gifted son of genius. Though born in a London suburb, Marcus Clarke was always proud of his Irish lineage, and, at the outset of his literary career, he had the good fortune to secure the friendship and patronage of Sir Redmond Barry and Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who were instrumental in procuring for him a congenial appointment in the Melbourne Public Library.

It was to Sir Charles Gavan Duffy that he dedicated his most powerful and thrilling work of fiction—"His Natural Life"—a book familiar as a household word throughout Australia, and almost as widely known in America, where it was republished by the Harpers. Three editions were issued in London, and the story was also translated into several European languages. It is a tale told with a purpose, and that purpose was to unveil before the eyes of the world the horrors of the English transportation system. Seeing that Marcus Clarke had not been born into the world when these horrors were in full blast, and that he had to search through a multiplicity of old newspapers, prison records, and blue-books, for the facts that formed the groundwork of his story, the realism of the narrative and the enthralling interest it excites in the mind of every reader, are calculated to excite a feeling of wonder at such a brilliant performance on the part of a young man of five-and-twenty, coupled with a feeling of deep sorrow that a life so rich in promise and possibilities, should have been extinguished so soon after the threshold of fame was passed. But, if it was impossible for him to witness the fiendish cruelties, by which the hapless convicts were in bygone days systematically goaded to madness or murder by inhuman military tyrants, he could at least visit the scenes of those dismal tragedies of a terrible past, and this he did by