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Date: 1841-1842 Note:

From vol. 1, no. 1 (7 October, 1841) - vol. 1, no. 14 (6 January, 1842), James Noble and Edward Alcock appear on the publication details at the end of each issue as editor, publisher, proprietor and printer with some interchange of roles. From vol. 1, no. 15 (13 January, 1842), the role of editor is dropped from the publication details possibly as a protest. (See column 'Sir George Gipps and the Press', 2 December, 1841). For the rest of the life of the paper the publication details contain various names in various roles except for that of editor (see notes below).

A notice in the issue of vol. 2, no. 71 (26 October, 1842) advertised the disposal of the copyright of the paper 'on reasonable terms to any party or parties desirous of embarking in such an undertaking, with the superior facilities which the Colonial Observer at present affords'. The notice is signed by J. H. Baillie, Observer Office, indicating that Baillie had a role at the paper before his name first appears in the publication details of the vol. 2, no. 97 (25 January, 1843) issue. F. A. Alcock and Robert Barr appear in various roles until the paper was first discontined at the end of September, 1843. Robert Barr and Robert Kitchen appear on the publication details from the paper's re-emergence to its final demise in December, 1844.

Date: 1841
Issue Details: First known date: 1841... 1841 The Colonial Observer
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

The name behind the Colonial Observer, but absent from the publication details, is that of John Dunmore Lang (q.v.) Presbyterian minister, politician, educationist, poet and journalist ' - Gentlemen you are all well aware that the Colonial Observer Newspaper was established by me two years ago ... despite the incongruity of a clergyman's having any connection with the publish press ... I have no hesitation whatever in openly avowing such a connection ...' (John Dunmore Lang, 'Exeunt Omnes : To the Friends and Supporters of the Colonial Observer', The Colonial Observer, 30 September, 1843.) Lang was very aware of the power of the press '... in common with many enlightened ministers of religion of all communions in the Mother-Country, and ... the United States, I am decidedly of opinion, that ... the press is an engine of by far too great influence and moral power for the clergy of any country to leave entirely neglected ...' (ibid.). The Colonial Observer was one of three Sydney papers, including the Colonist (1835 - 1840) and the Press (1851) started by Lang.

Lang's editorial of 30 September, 1843, announced the discontinuation of the paper and the sale of the copyright (first mentioned 26 October, 1842 by J. H. Baillie). A 'continuation' of the Colonial Observer, the Sydney Record, was advertised in preceding issues and in the 30 September, 1843, issue.

However the Sydney Record failed to carry the torch dropped by the Colonial Observer. In an unattributed editorial (possibly written by Lang) the reasons for the Colonial Observer's re-emergence are detailed; 'Nay, no sooner had we laid aside our own pen in connection with the editorial department of the Journal than there arose ... a worthless paper called the Sydney Record ...' ('Ourselves', The Colonial Observer, 4 April, 1844) Recent attacks on Lang by 'Horatius' in the Herald and Australian newspapers also contributed to the revival of the Colonial Observer.

The Colonial Observer continued to the end of 1844 when in the final issue of 26 December, 1844, it reported its own demise: 'Although it is not usual for people who depart this life to record their own dissolution, we beg to inform our readers that the Colonial Observer died this morning at six o'clock ... ' ('The Colonial Observer', The Colonial Observer, 26 December, 1844)

The final issue is typical of the newspaper during its life. It included the editorial (in this final issue advocating the separation of Port Phillip (Victoria) from New South Wales); an anti James Macarthur (q.v.) article on the political representation of Camden, New South Wales; 'A pettion [sic.] to the Queen for the Separation of Port Phillip'; an article on 'Puseyism and Popery', reprinted from the Morning Chronicle, 14 August [1844]; an article from the Times (London) about National education; articles from various overseas papers on the Presbyterian Church; articles on foreign politics; extracts from the Port Phillip papers; a report on the latest sitting of the New South Wales Legislative Council (18 December, 1844); local news items and a satiric column on local politics: 'The Last New Farce. - The second act of the new farce, called Tom in Trouble; or, Who threw the Tumbler?' Also included are current prices of goods in New South Wales and advertisements and notices, including the notice of the cessation of the Observer and an advertisement for a new paper the Sentinel.

Most issues of the Observer printed at least one creative piece. The last issue was no exception and contains The Union Bank Columns, a poem first published in the Port Phillip Gazette. The Observer published poetry by Australian writers such as James Brotherston Laughton (q.v.) and the penultimate issue contains a poem that may have been written by Lang himself, On the Death of a Child. However the majority of works published during the life of the newspaper were poems by Scottish, English, American or Irish writers - predominately Presbyterian - and reprinted (though not always attributed either to author or source) from overseas annuals, magazines, newspapers and hymnals. The poems are about subjects that would interest the Colonial Observer's readers - religious faith, exile and memories of 'home'.

D. W. A. Baker in his biography of Lang writes that Lang used his newspapers, the Colonist, the Colonial Observer and the Press, 'to protect himself and [his] Australian College from newspaper attacks [from the 'convict and emancipist press'] and to improve colonial morality.' (D. W. A. Baker, 'Lang, John Dunmore (1799 - 1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 76-83). But Lang also used the pages of his papers, including the Colonial Observer, to argue for free immigration, the separation of Victoria from New South Wales, responsible and democratic government, land reform and a National education. D. W. Baker comments that 'his was undoubtedly one of the most powerful voices extolling the virtues of liberal and secular values ... His writings, though repetitious and egotistical, are nevertheless always vigorous and informative and often tinged with powerful sarcasm ... ' (ibid.) Lang's voice is certainly present in each issue of the Colonial Observer.

Notes

  • In 1842 the Attorney General charged Edward Alcock, printer and publisher of the Colonial Observer newspaper, with publishing a libel against the administration of justice in the colony. The libel appeared in an article 'The Late Executions for Piracy' published in the Colonial Observer (30 November, 1842): 641.

    The case was first tried in January 1843 and the defendant was found guilty of publishing without malice or seditious intent. A second trial followed and took place in April 1843 where the defendant was again found guilty but without any seditious intention.

    Parts of the charges were whether the defendant (Edward Alcock) was actually the printer and publisher of the Colonial Observer. During the trials, the Observer was careful to keep the name of John Dunmore Lang separate from the ownership or publishing functions of the newspaper.

    The trials were reported in the Sydney newspapers of the time, including the Colonial Observer, in articles and letters.

    Not all columns and correspondence on the two trials are indexed separately in AustLit.

  • In July 1843 John H. Baillie was summonsed in his role as the late proprietor of the Colonial Observer newspaper, accused by William Dunn of libel arising out of an article published in the Observer on the Durham County election for the first New South Wales Legislative Council.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1841
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: James Noble ; Edward Alcock , 1841-1842 .
      Note/s:
      • 'Edited, Printed and Published by James Noble, of Prince-street, and Edward Alcock, of Fort-street, at the Observer Printing Office, College-street, Sydney, New South Wales.' (Thursday, 7 October, 1841)
      • 'Edited and Published by James Noble, of Prince-street, and Printed at the Observer Printing Office, Jamison-street Sydney, New South Wales, by Edward Alcock of Fort-street, who are joint Proprietors.' (Thursday, 21 October, 1841)
      • 'Printed by E. Alcock and Published by J. Noble, at the Observer Printing Office, College-street (commonly called Jamison-street). (Thursday, 13 January 1842)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Edward Alcock , 1842-1843 .
      Note/s:
      • 'Printed by E. Alcock and Published at the Observer Printing Office, College-street (commonly called Jamison-street).' (Thursday, 20 January 1842)
      • 'Printed and published by Edward Alcock at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street).' (Saturday, 23 July 1842)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: John H. Baillie , 1843 .
      Note/s:
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) by and for the proprietor. John H. Baillie. (Wednesday, 25 January 1843)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: F. A. Alcock , 1843 .
      Note/s:
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) by and for the proprietor F. [A] Alcock (Wednesday, 5 July 1843)
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) for the proprietor by F. A. Alcock (Saturday, 12 July, 1843)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Robert Barr , 1843 .
      Note/s:
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) for the Proprietor, by Robert Barr (Wednesday 26 July, 1843)
      • F. A. Alcock, or Robert Alcock, may have continued a role as publisher at this time; 'Mr Alcock, publisher of the Colonial Observer, is authorised to announce to its Subscribers, that that Journal will cease to be published, at least for a time, from and after Saturday next.' Colonial Observer, 27 September, 1843 (1326)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Robert Barr ; Robert Kitchen , 1844 .
      Note/s:
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) by R. Barr & R. Kitchen. Saturday, 4 April 1844
      • Printed and published at the Observer Printing office, College-street, (commonly called Jamison-street) by the proprietors, R. Barr & R. Kitchen. Thursday, 30 May 1844
      • Barr and Kitchen announced the discontinuation of the Colonial Observer in an advertisement to subscribers, 19 June 1844.

Works about this Work

The 'Colonial Observer' 1844 single work column
— Appears in: The Morning Chronicle , 6 April vol. 1 no. 53 1844; (p. 2)
The Colonial Observer, a Sydney, New South Wales, Protestant newspaper of the early 1840s controlled by John Dunmore Lang, suspended publication from 30 September 1843 to 4 April 1844. This Morning Chronicle editorial comments on the resurgence of the Observer and its attacks on the Catholic faith.
The Colonial Observer 1844 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 26 December vol. 3 no. 39 1844; (p. 5)
Ourselves 1844 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 4 April vol. 3 no. 1 1844; (p. 1)
Charge of Libel 1843 single work column
— Appears in: Australasian Chronicle , 27 July vol. 4 no. 581 1843; (p. 2)
Libel - Ex Officio Information 1843 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 8 April vol. 2 no. 118 1843; (p. 943)
Report by the Colonial Observer of the outcome of a second trial for libel over the publication of an article 'The Late Executions for Piracy' which was published in the Observer, 30 November 1842. Both trials, in January and April 1843, were reported in the Sydney newspapers of the time in articles and letters.

Not all columns and correspondence on the two trials either in the Colonial Observer or in other newspapers are indexed separately in AustLit.

Exeunt Omnes : To the Friends and Supporters of the Colonial Observer John Dunmore Lang , 1843 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 30 September vol. 2 no. 170 1843; (p. 1331)
Distressing Calamity 1842 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 6 April vol. 1 no. 27 1842; (p. 212)
Ourselves 1842 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 20 April vol. 1 no. 29 1842; (p. 228)
Untitled 1842 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 4 May vol. 1 no. 31 1842; (p. 244)
The Herald's Libel Case 1842 single work column
— Appears in: The Colonial Observer , 27 August vol. 1 no. 54 1842; (p. 425)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

ISSN: 1327-662X
Subtitle:
or, Weekly Journal of Politics, Commerce, Agriculture, Literature, Science and Religion, for the Colony of New South Wales
Subtitle:
or, Journal of Politics, Commerce, Agriculture, Literature, Science and Religion, for the Colony of New South Wales
Frequency:

Weekly on a Thursday to 20 January, 1842, then every Wednesday.

Twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday from 13 July, 1842.

Weekly on a Thursday from 4 April, 1844.

Range:
Vol. 1, no. 1 (7 October, 1841) - v. 3, no. 39 (26 December, 1844).
Continued by:
The Sentinel
Supplement:
23 December 1841, 19 February 1842, 6 July 1842
Price:

Terms of subscription: Thursday, 23 December 1841: 'Six shillings and sixpence per quarter, in Sydney - and eight shillings in the country...'

Terms of subscription: [Wednesday], 3 August, 1842: '10s. per quarter if paid in advance; if not paid in advance 12s. will be charged.'

Price:

Terms of subcription: Thursday 4 April, 1844: 'Yearly subscription (in advance) 1pound 6 s. Half-yearly, (in advance) 13 s. Quarterly (in advance) 6s. 6 d. Yearly subscription (on credit) 1pound 8 s. Half-yearly (on credit) 14 s. Quarterly (on credit) 7s'

Advertising:
'The terms for Advertisements are for eight lines and under, Two Shillings and Sixpence, and One Penny for every line above eight lines, for each insertion.' (Thursday, 23 December 1841)
Advertising:
Terms for advertisements remained unchanged until 4 April, 1844, when they were changed to: '... two shillings and sixpence for the first eight lines, and one penny a line for all above that number ... each insertion ... continued until countermanded'
Note:
Subtitle varies. Change in subtitle from 20 July, 1842.
Note:
Publisher and frequency varies.
Note:
Publication suspended 30 September, 1843 - 4 April, 1844. ‘Mr Alcock, publisher of the Colonial Observer, is authorised to announce to its Subscribers, that that Journal will cease to be published, at least for a time, from and after Saturday next.’ Colonial Observer, 27 September, 1843 p.1326
Note:
Numbering sequence skips volume 2, nos 140 and 163.
Note:
Ferguson bibliography : no 3177.
Last amended 25 Oct 2019 14:01:28
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