Also writes as: Q. ; John Buncle ; Marci Clerici ; Clarcus Marke ; Mark Scrivener ; Church-Goer ; 'Atticus' ; The Peripatetic Philosopher ; Lower Bohemia
Born: Established: 24 Apr 1846 London,
1. HISTORICAL NOTES AND CORRECTIONS:
1.1. Marcus Clarke's liveliest dramatic writings were pantomimes and comedies, but, as is often the case with 'popular' writers, his originality and humour appear to be temporally bound, appreciated more by the public of his day than future generations. Apart from His Natural Life, Clarke's writing, including his 'colourful' journalism, has never left a lasting impression on future generations. Brian Elliot, writing in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, observes, however, that Clarke's journalism in particular 'still seems extraordinarily alive and vivid, providing a brilliant index to a very vigorous period of colonial literary life' (p.418). Nevertheless, it is his novel that has outlasted not only his other works, but also that of most other nineteenth-century writers. Indeed, For the Term of His Natural Life is arguably the only work of the whole first century of Australian literature to be considered monumental. A memorial was erected over Clarke's grave in 1898 on the seventeenth anniversary of his death. Wybert Reeve, who unveiled the monument, said the tribute 'was the recognition of the fact that a reproach would rest upon the people of these colonies, as lacking intellect and intelligence, if the grave... were left to remain without some memorial' (Age 3 Aug. 1898, p.6).
1.2. The author of numerous short stories, prose, and poetry, Clarke's early works were printed in the Australian Monthly Magazine, Colonial Monthly, and The Australasian, while later stories appeared in published collections. His first novel, Long Odds, was published sometime around 1868-69. His other novels include Chidiock Tichbourne; Or, The Catholic Conspiracy (1874) and 'Twixt Shadow and Shine (1875). In addition to these works, Clarke authored a number of pamphlets (mainly polemical) and a history of Australia 'compiled for the use of schools', and edited such publications as We 5: A Book for the Season (1879, anthology) and the Pictures in the National Gallery Melbourne series (1873-75). Around the same time that he was editor of Colonial Monthly (1868-69), Clarke also edited Humbug: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Satire. Quite a number of articles, poetry, and prose, along with several playlets, appear in the magazine between 1869 and 1870. He is known to have written the lyrics to numerous songs, including 'Victoria's Farewell to Lady Bowen' (1879, music by Alfred Plumpton) and 'We Banish Love' (1881, music by Henry Kowalski). Page proofs of his unfinished novel 'Felix and Felicitas' (1876) are held at the State Library of New South Wales.
1.3. Clarke also produced translations and adaptations of French and English texts for the Australian stage. Manuscripts of his libretti and other theatre writings are held in Mitchell Library, NSW.
1.4. Marcus Clarke is thought to have written under the initials M.C.
1.5. Among the cast members of The Happy Land was a young would-be actor called Thomas Bent. He later gave up acting for politics, eventually becoming Minister for Railways and later Victorian Premier (Brisbane Courier 3 June 1905, p.16).
This entry has been sourced from research undertaken by a) Dr Clay Djubal into Australian-written popular music theatre (ca. 1850-1930) - See also the Australian Variety Theatre Archive - and b) Dr Willa McDonald into Australian Literary Journalism history.
For further information see Clarke's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, as well as:
In 1910 Clarke's widow received a pension of £1 per week from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10835687)
Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism:
Marcus Clarke's first proper job was as a bank clerk, but he soon left to live upcountry at a property where his family had an interest. The reality of Australian agriculture made him appreciate the city life of ‘cigars and chat, champagne, chicken and all that’ ( Hergenban,1972).
He was far better suited to life as a journalist and author. Rather than hard news gathering, Clarke wrote from 1867, “The Peripatetic Philosopher” column for the Argus and its associated paper, the Australasian, often satirising Melbourne society. Columns ranged from witty recreations of royal visits to immersions in Melbourne’s ‘lower bohemia’ that exposed the seedier side of the city and its poverty.
Clarke also wrote for the Herald, the [Melbourne] Daily Telegraph and the Age. He joined a literary consortium to buy the Australian Monthly Magazine, renamed The Colonial Monthly. He then began the comic weekly, Humbug, envisioned as a rival to Punch magazine. He further edited the Australian Journal, then was a trustee and librarian at the Public Library of Victoria, but debts forced him to insolvency, despite the success of his classic novel His Natural Life (1874), later republished as For the Term of His Natural Life. His prolific journalism would be shadowed by the novel which defined his literary career.