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'Rolf Boldrewood' was born Thomas Alexander Brown (an 'e' was later added to the last name) in London in 1826. He emigrated with his family to Australia in 1831, aboard his father's own ship which had been contracted to transport convicts to Launceston. After his arrival in Sydney, he was educated privately and at Sydney College. The success of his father's whaling and trading business enabled the family to purchase several cattle runs. The young 'Boldrewood' bought his own run on the lower Eumeralla in 1844. In 1858 he sold this property and bought sheep stations, successively, at Swan Hill and Narrandera. He married Margaret Riley in 1861, and after years of drought the young family moved to Sydney in 1869. In 1871 'Boldrewood' was appointed a Police Magistrate and served at several districts throughout New South Wales; he retired to Melbourne in 1895 and became a member of the Melbourne Club where he did much of his later writing. 'Boldrewood' died in Melbourne in 1915.
'Boldrewood' published his first articles and sketches in the Cornhill Magazine in 1865, at the age of forty. In the 1870s he began contributing to the Australian Town and Country Journal which serialised seven of his novels during this period. A series of articles for this journal was republished in 1883 as Shearing in Riverina. In the early 1880s 'Boldrewood' wrote the novel that made him famous: Robbery Under Arms. First serialised in the Sydney Mail in 1882-1883, the novel appeared to great acclaim as a book in London in 1888. Based on his own experiences (he was 'bailed up' near Wagga Wagga in the 1860s), and using the vernacular of the poorly educated narrator, Dick Marston, Robbery Under Arms succeeded in reaching a vast audience in Australia, Britain and America. H. M. Green has described Marston as 'perhaps the first thoroughly Australian character in fiction'. Robbery Under Arms is widely regarded as classic Australian fiction and has been adapted for a number of stage and screen productions during the twentieth century. His other works, while less outstanding in terms of characterisation and tightness of plot, are valuable 'records of phases and movements in Australian history'. His goldfields novels, including The Miner's Right (1890) contain graphic descriptions of the diggings, a sympathetic appreciation of the miners and 'an optimistic view of the future'. (Morris Miller Australian Literature pp.421, 419).
The pseudonym 'Rolf Boldrewood' is derived from a line in the narrative poem Marmion by Sir Walter Scott whom Browne admired.