Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/344

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spending some time on the sites—physically beautiful but morally detestable—once occupied by two of the most infamous of the "convict hells" of Van Diemen's Land, viz., Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour. He thus acquired valuable local knowledge, and assimilated all the local traditions, besides ensuring that topographical accuracy of description which characterises the premier novel of Australia. All who have read "His Natural Life" will have no difficulty in agreeing with the dictum of Lord Rosebery that: "There can indeed be no two opinions as to the horrible fascination of the book. The reader who takes it up and gets beyond the prologue, though he cannot but be harrowed by the long agony of the story and the human anguish of every page, is unable to lay it down: almost in spite of himself, he has to read and to suffer to the bitter end. To me, I confess, it is the most terrible of all novels, more terrible than 'Oliver Twist' or Victor Hugo's most startling effects, for the simple reason that it is more real. It has all the solemn ghastliness of truth." And Mrs. Cashel Hoey, than whom there is no more competent judge, published this high estimate of the deceased young author in her "Lady's Letter from London," which has for years formed one of the most attractive features of a leading weekly journal of Melbourne:[1] "His tales of the early days of the colonies, and his very striking novel, 'His Natural Life,' made a deep impression here. We were always expecting another powerful fiction from his pen. I fear he has not left any finished work, and I regret the fact all the more deeply that I have been allowed the privilege of reading a few chapters of a novel begun by Mr. Marcus Clarke, under the title of

  1. The Australasian.