Born: Established: 1758 ; Died: Ceased: 1833
Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism:
Watkin Tench was a Marine Corps officer with the First Fleet, aboard the ship ‘Charlotte’. Before leaving England, he made arrangements with Debrett’s of London to record his journey and first impressions of the colony for publication. He arrived in Sydney in 1788 and was a successful explorer in various expeditions. He wrote two narrative accounts, one about his journey to the new colony, and the other of his time in Australia.
The first book was immensely popular and several editions were published in 1789 and later years including editions in French, German, Dutch and Swedish.
An extract of his second book was published in the Perth Gazette and Western Australia Journal on September 3, 1836, to show how far the colony had come and inspire those residents who were ‘impatient of returns from small beginnings’. The four-page newspaper devoted two thirds of a page to the extract, explaining to readers the reason they had provided so much of their limited space was ‘as an incentive to exertion and steadiness of purpose, which, coupled with sobriety, is the main requisite to form a successful settler’.
Tench’s books are considered significant for their vivid descriptions and literary style and are sometimes referred to as the first works of ‘Australian literature’. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography: ‘Watkin Tench was the first to mould Australian experience into a work of conscious art.’