The Australian Journal was one of the more successful magazines to be established in Australia during the nineteenth century. Published in Melbourne by Clarson, Massina and Company, its success lay it seems in its lack of pretension and value for money. Initially commenced as a weekly, priced 3d, its model was not the higher class London monthlies, but the popular Family Herald. So it attempted to appeal to all members of the family, though its forte was fiction, both local as well as imported. Readers were told in the first issue, for 2 September 1865:
The ablest COLONIAL pens of the day will be engaged on our staff. Historical Romances and Legendary Narratives of the old country, will be mingled with Tales of Venture and Daring in the new; Nouvellettes, whose scenes will be laid in every nation, varied occasionally with Fairy Stories for the Young, and Parlour Pastimes for boys and girls.
In keeping with these aims, the first issue featured two serials by local writers, Mrs Arthur Davitt's 'Force and Fraud; A Tale of the Bush' and James Skipp Borlase's 'Galfried of Arlington; A Historical Nouvellette'. After four years as a weekly, increased postage costs led to the Australian Journal becoming a monthly in 1869, now offering 64 pages of closely printed material for 6d. It differed from many other local magazines in that most of its contributions were signed, though often by pen-names, and in having contributors and readers in nearly all the colonies. According to G. B. Barton in his Literature in New South Wales (1866), the Australian Journal was then circulating an average of 5,500 copies weekly, including 1,750 in New South Wales. This was at least equal to the circulation of English magazines of a similar style and cost, indicating that Australian readers were prepared to support local magazines if their contents and prices were competitive with the imported products.
The Australian Journal's policy of printing original fiction with both local and overseas settings continued until 1871 when, under Marcus Clarke's period as editor, this notice announcing a more nationalistic emphasis appeared in the July number:
The Conductor wishes intending contributors to understand that the AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL will publish no 'original' story, the scene of which is laid elsewhere than in the Colonies, or which does not - in some way - treat of Colonial life, or subjects of Colonial interest. Tales of the West of England, the North of Scotland, India, Baden-Baden, Venice, Kamschatcha, and other places favoured by novelists, can be culled from the English magazines and French Feuilletons, in much better condition than as manufactured here. The Conductor is willing to protect native industry in the matter of tale-writing, but the tales must be 'Colonial', and suited for 'Colonial wear', not bad imitations of the French and English imported article.
This change of policy may be one of the reasons why one of the most prolific and long-standing of the Australian Journal's writers, Mary Helena Fortune, concentrated in the later decades on the long detective stories published in each issue under the heading of 'The Detective's Album' and signed 'W. W.'. Earlier, she had contributed a range of material under the longer, and more feminine, pseudonym 'Waif Wander', including some of the peripatetic journalism usually the preserve of male writers like Clarke.
As a typical issue of the Australian Journal, one may take that for September 1870. There were the usual two serials, given one illustration each: an episode from Clarke's His Natural Life and another from The Trapper's Last Trail by Leon Lewis. While Clarke, in the passage quoted above, did not refer to stories set in America, they were a regular feature of the journal. This issue also carried three full-page illustrations, showing a characteristic nineteenth-century blending of the natural and the man-made: 'Waterfall on the Coliban'; 'Australian Railways - Viaduct near Goulburn'; 'Fitzroy Iron Works: Scene on the Tramway between the Works and the Coal Mine'. As well as 'W.W.''s 'The Evidence of the Grave', one of 'Waif Wander's' comic Irish tales, 'Biddy Twohy's Adventures in Australia - Her Caper Sauce', and several other stories by local and overseas authors were included. There were also several poems, including a long one by Henry Kendall, and a number of scientific and other non-fictional pieces.
Regular features included 'The Doctor'; 'The Cook'; 'News of the Month'; 'Gardening for September'; 'Answers to Correspondents'; a page of puzzles of various types; 'Facetiae and Scraps'; and 'Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths in Victoria, during Aug., 1870'. There were seven pages of advertisements, though at least two of those related to the Australian Journal and other publications by its proprietors. Although its price had now increased to one shilling for single issues or ten for a year's subscription, readers were still getting great value for money and increased competition saw the price reduced again to 6d per issue from 1874. The journal managed to survive until after the Second World War, but was increasingly unable to compete with new forms of popular entertainment and ceased publication a few years after the introduction of television to Australia in 1956. (Elizabeth Webby, July 2004)
'The Australian Journal (1865–1957) is wellknown to students of Australian literature as a publisher of Australian fiction, including the first version of Marcus Clarke’s celebrated convict novel, For the term of his natural life. Apart from the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century when it relied heavily on syndicated fiction from overseas, The Australian Journal was consistently a significant publisher of Australian fiction, issuing several thousand stories by some hundreds of Australian writers. Histories of magazines acknowledge the preeminence of the magazine in the 1870s, but then ignore or treat cursorily its next eighty years. However, not only did the journal survive for ninety years, but under the editorship of RG Campbell from 1926 to 1955 it fostered the careers of a range of freelance Australian writers, contributing to their incomes and allowing them to develop their craft.' (Introduction)
While working as a dairy farmer in the Sunshine Coast hinterland during the 1920s, Jack McKinney began contributing short stories to the popular weekly, the Australian Journal. Drawing on his own experience and sense of humour, he developed these stories into a series, ‘According to Noonan’, which the Australian Journal published until 1939 and reprised in the 1950s. This article will examine these stories and consider them in relation to McKinney's later life and writing.
'The first weekly instalment of the Australian Journal, published on 2 September 1865, declared its intention to ‘reflect the Literature, Art, and Science of Australia’. Issued from Melbourne, its inaugural editorial declared that the journal would engage the ‘ablest Colonial pens of the day’, in an ambitious venture that sought to ‘please everybody’. The promise was to ‘record the phases of Colonial literature; to direct attention to the triumphs of art; and to explain the most recent efforts of mechanical genius’ (‘To Our Readers’). Guided by this statement’s fusion of different modes of representation and knowledge, its engagement with technological advancement, and its emphasis on place, my purpose here is to explore how a specifically Australian version of sensation was crafted in the serial fiction and scientific non-fiction published in the early years of the Australian Journal. This essay identifies the Australian Journal as a key player in the multiple and multi-directional migrations of text, images and ideas in the Victorian era. The movement of English literature into other Anglophone places in the nineteenth century created a community of connected, if remote, readers who participated in a global network of print as producers, consumers, and agents of circulation. This migration was of literary form, genre, convention, and technique as much as it was of the printed object. Although the material published was often of colonial origin, the Australian Journal, modelled as it was on the London Journal, engaged in the transportation of British literary platforms, genre, and styles, especially sensation, from the centre of Empire to the colonies.'
A review of bound volumes of the Australian Journal (vol. 3), Sydney Punch (vol. 8) and the Colonial Monthly (vol. 1), and of William Carleton's poetry collection The Warden of Galway.
'When Mr. Graham took ill, his wife decided to move from their home in Singleton, N.S. W. to Newcastle, s that he could be nearer medical treatment, and the family, which consisted of Elsa, sixteen, John, twelve, and young Roslyn, could go to school there. The only place they could find to live was an uncomfortable flat in what had been an old delicenced hotel, the rest of which was occupied by the Poppy family.
Elsa, learning that a block of land which Mr. Graham had inherited from his grandfather many years before was about to be sold on account of unpaid rates, decided to locate it and see if anything could be done with it. She, and John and Roslyn set off into the country nearby, and eventually found the block, with the kindly assistance of old Grandfather O'Neill, who gave them a rabbit to take home...'(Abstract from The Australian Journal, November 1948 p. 780)
"There is a strength in this tale of adventure. The rugged, simple strength of achievement, endeavour, battle, and defeat. This enthralling yarn of the roaring fifties deals with the great gold rushes of that time. It is a faithful picture of the goldfields during the years immediately following the first discoveries, and many of the incidents related are vouched for as truth by the author. Mr Busse's family have dwelt in the district for over seventy years and he has been at pains to verify his facts before weaving them into the fabrication of his novel.
The Golden Plague is a memorable yarn of adventure; gripping in its excitement; vastly interesting in its truth and beautiful in its portrayal of the friendship of one man for another." (Publisher blurb, dust jacket, Hutchinson 1930)
'Scarcely out of print since the early 1870s, For the Term of His Natural Life has provided successive generations with a vivid account of a brutal phase of colonial life. The main focus of this great convict novel is the complex interaction between those in power and those who suffer, made meaningful because of its hero's struggle against his wrongful imprisonment. Elements of romance, incidents of family life and passages of scenic description both relieve and give emphasis to the tragedy that forms its heart.' (Publication summary : Penguin Books 2009)