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y separately published work icon The Australian Journal periodical  
Alternative title: The Australian Journal : A Weekly Record of Literature, Science and the Arts
First known date: 1865 Issue Details: First known date: 1865... 1865 The Australian Journal
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

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)


    • Short fiction, prose sketches and serialised works appearing in the Australian Journal were indexed as part of a research project undertaken by Professor Elizabeth Webby. The brief abstracts appearing on the records of these works were written by researcher Patricia Barton and the initials PB indicate her authorship.
    • Some issues of the Australasian (4 January–18 April 1868) were indexed at greater depth as part of the Colonial Newspapers and Magazines Project.
    • Writing competitions for poetry and prose were conducted by the Australian Journal (see notice September 1875, p. 57.) Competitions were open to entrants from Australia and New Zealand, both professional and new writers. Conditions of entry included that the stories deal mainly or exclusively with Australian incidents or subjects. A notice December 1875, p. 231 advised an extension of competition deadline to February 1876 due to paucity of entries. Final notice of prize-winning stories 11.131 (April 1876) p. 463.
    • The Journal included fiction and short sketches from various non-Australian authors, such as the American columnist known as 'M. Quad', (Charles Bertrand Lewis), whose domestic situation comedy sketch series about 'Mr and Mrs Bowser' and 'Mr Spoopendyke' featured widely in American journals such as the Detroit Free Press. This author also wrote a series called 'The Lime-Kiln Club' representing African-Americans through the fictitious 'Brother Gardner'.
    • A 'Ladies Page' featured in the Journal from April 1871 (6:71) through until the 1880s. It contained mostly short sketches about women and their engagement with work, marriage, fashion, education, servants, raising children and domestic life. Various writers contributed, including Fanny Fern (US), Gail Hamilton, and 'Hesper' (from October 1883 (19:221).
    • 'The Library Table' featured in the Journal between March and December 1871 (6:70 - 7:79) - a column for 'amusing and instructive matter, culled from the works of the most famous authors of all nations', including short fiction and prose. Authors represented included Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, J. Fenimore Cooper, Ben Johnson, Charles Reade, G. Whyte-Melville, Lawrence Sterne, Douglas Jerrold, Thomas Carlyle, Lord Lytton, M. J. Michelet, Charles Kingsley, W. M. Thackeray, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hans Christian Andersen and Oliver Wendell Holmes..
    • 'The Children's Page' appeared in the Journal from January 1884 (19:224) through until the 1890s. It featured fairy tales, allegorical fables and short fiction written for children and included stories by C. J. M. Robertson and others authors.
    • The Journal included prose sketch series, 'Our Whatnot' (September - November, 1870) and 'Notes of a Reader' (June 1870 - February 1871).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1865

Works about this Work

RG Campbell’s ‘The Australian Journal Story Book’ Roger Osborne , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Fryer Folios , November vol. 11 no. 1 2017; (p. 4-7)

'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)

Dairy Farm Philosopher: J.P. McKinney's ‘According to Noonan’ Stories and Ron Campbell's Australian Journal Roger Osborne , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Queensland Review , December vol. 24 no. 2 2017; (p. 293-304)

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.

Strange in the Cold Blue Light : Sensation and Science in the Australian Journal Kylie Mirmohamadi , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 31 October vol. 30 no. 3 2015;

'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.'

Source: Abstract.

A Literary Fortune Megan Brown , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Changing The Victorian Subject 2014; (p. 105-122)
His Natural Life Toni Johnson-Woods , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australasian Journal of Popular Culture , 16 February vol. 1 no. 1 2012; (p. 93-95)
New Books 1868 single work review
— Appears in: The Illustrated Sydney News , 4 September vol. 5 no. 52 1868; (p. 35)

— Review of The Australian Journal 1865 periodical (900 issues); Sydney Punch 1864-1888 periodical (13 issues); Colonial Monthly : An Australian Magazine 1867-1870 periodical (24 issues); The Warden of Galway : A Metrical Tale, in Six Cantos, and Other Poems William Carleton , 1868 selected work poetry

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.

Bohemia and the Dream-Life of the Colonial City Andrew McCann , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 1 no. 2002; (p. 4-18)
Our Annual Gossip 1872 single work prose
— Appears in: The Australian Journal , September vol. 8 no. 88 1872; (p. 54)
Editorial on the Australian Journal, its likely change of ownership, a smattering of its history, and a general discussion of editors. (PB)
Textual Phantasmagoria : Marcus Clarke, Light Literature and the Colonial Uncanny Andrew McCann , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October vol. 21 no. 2 2003; (p. 137-150)
McCann analyses the representations of the colonial unconscious and the Romantic imagination - the intersection of affect and aesthetics - in the writing of Marcus Clarke.
Mary Fortune : The Only Truly Bohemian Lady Writer Who Has Ever Earned a Living by Her Pen in Australia Lucy Sussex , 2006 single work biography
— Appears in: Overland , Winter no. 183 2006; (p. 54-60)
Mary Fortune Lucy Sussex , 2004-2005 single work biography
— Appears in: Mystery Readers Journal , Winter vol. 20 no. 4 2004-2005; (p. 11-12)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

Subtitle varies : A Weekly Record of Literature, Science and the Arts; A Weekly Record of Amusing and Instructive Literature, Science and the Arts; The Popular Fiction Monthly
Originally published weekly (1865 - January 1869); later, published monthly (February 1869 - 1962)
Vol. 1 no. 1 (2 September 1856) - April 1962
From February 1961 lacks numbering
A circulation report from O. R. MacDonald, Public Accountant, Licensed Government Auditor, dated 9 September 1921 reports net circulation as follows: June - 33,541; July - 33,845; August - 34,028; September - 35, 023.
Numbering for volume 58, 1923 begins with issue 682, repeating some issue numbers (682-691 inclusive) used in volume 57, 1922.
Published by Southdown Press from 1st May, 1955. (Australian Journal, 1 May, 1955 p. 4)
Issues from vol. 7 pt. 79 (December 1871) -vol. 8, pt. 90 (November 1872) include nos. 1-12 of Friendly Societies Record.

Has serialised

Pioneer Shack, Dora Birtles , single work children's fiction children's

'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)

Black Waterlily, 'William Hatfield' , single work novel adventure romance
Clyzia the Dwarf : A Romance, Waif Wander , single work novel romance historical fiction
The Golden Plague : A Romance of the Roaring 'Fifties, Wilfred C. Busse , single work novel adventure

"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)

His Natural Life, Marcus Clarke , single work novel

'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)

Last amended 24 Aug 2021 11:25:31
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