Marcus Clarke


Port Arthur in 1840 (AOT, NS1013/1/100)

Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke (184681), writer, 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. Clarke's enchanted response to the natural beauties of Tasmania, its topography 'like the curious forms assumed by molten lead spilt in water', was in pointed contrast to his railing against the cruelties and injustice of the convict system, notably in the 'natural penitentiary' of Port Arthur. Nonetheless, Clarke's novel romanticised Tasmanian history in ways that it has not yet escaped, especially for that engrossing combination of the sublime and the hideous.

Further reading: ADB 3; M Wilding (ed), Marcus Clarke, Melbourne, 1977.

Peter Pierce