AUSTRALIAN TOWN AND COUNTRY JOURNAL
Launched on 8 January 1870 by Samuel Bennett (1815–78), three years after he started the Evening News, the Sydney-based Australian Town and Country Journal became a leading publisher of Australian journalism and fiction. It was also known as the Town and Country Journal, although ‘Australian’ always appeared above the masthead. The illustrated weekly was Bennett’s response to John Fairfax & Sons’ Sydney Mail (1860–1938), but aimed for a national readership—especially in the bush. Features included news summaries, sports results, sections on agricultural markets and shows, and essays on literature and science. It was the first Australian publication to run a regular ‘Ladies’ Column’.
The journal sold for sixpence, and boasted a ‘circulation three times that of any other weekly journal in Australia’. In 1895, the editor of Cosmos magazine, Annie Bright, wrote that the journal had gained an ‘unprecedented popularity’ throughout Australia and New Zealand: ‘Settlers in the interior where postal communication was infrequent would travel long distances to meet the mailman with his weekly supplies of the journal.’
Like the Bulletin, the journal featured articles by future Australian literary greats. In 1894, Ethel Turner—yet to write Seven Little Australians—took her nom de plume Dame Durden, along with the Children’s Page, from the defunct Illustrated Sydney News to the journal. She edited the page for the next 25 years. Thomas Alexander Browne, under the pen name Rolf Boldrewood, published seven serialised novels in the journal between 1873 and 1880. However, the journal rejected what was to become his most famous work, Robbery Under Arms, which was serialised in the Sydney Mail.
Following Bennett’s death in 1878, his son Alfred took over as editor until 1893. Journalist and novelist Walter James Jeffery (1861–1922) then took the helm until 1906, when he exchanged editorships with Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864–91), then editor of the journal’s sister publication, the Evening News. Paterson resigned in 1908, weary of city life. In 1918, a new company, S. Bennett Ltd, was formed with a capital of £200,000. On 27 April 1919, the company launched the Sunday News. Two months later, the publishers claimed that the new weekly had taken the place of the journal and the extra printing could not be sustained. The last edition of the Australian Town and Country Journal was published on 25 June 1919.
REF: R.B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803–1920 (1976).
MARGARET VAN HEEKEREN