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William Howitt

(1792—1879) writer


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(1792–1879), born Derbyshire, England, was in Australia 1852–54, accompanied by his sons Alfred and Charlton, exploring the colony and seeking a fortune on the goldfields. The literary results of those experiences were A Boy's Adventures in the Wilds of Australia (1854), Land, Labour and Gold: Or, Two Years in Victoria (1855), Tallangetta, the Squatter's Home (1857), and The History of Discovery in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand (1865). Land, Labour and Gold is one of the most accurate and comprehensive in the popular contemporary travel-book genre. Based on Howitt's diaries and a series of forty letters written by him at various places in his two-year stay, the book possesses the colour and immediacy of fiction. Howitt was not content, however, with highlighting only the more dramatic aspects of colonial life – cities and towns deserted because of gold fever, raging inflation, the eccentricities of colonial flora, fauna and climate, and the excitement and interest of the Bendigo and Ballarat diggings. He saw it as his duty, at a time when the English parliament was attempting to frame constitutions for NSW and Victoria, to give also a candid and honest exposition of the social and political state of the colonies. After his return to England in 1854 (he ultimately made his home in Rome), Howitt continued an active literary life, he and his wife, Mary Botham, being credited with about 180 published works; a biography of them, Laurels & Rosemary (1955), was written by Howitt's great-niece Amice Lee. Of less significance in Australian literature was William's younger brother Richard (1799–1870), who came to Australia in 1840 with a still younger brother, Godfrey, who remained in Australia until his death in 1873, by which time he had become a noted physician, botanist and entomologist. Richard returned to England in 1844 and published, in prose and verse, an account of the colony and his experiences, Impressions of Australia Felix during Four Years' Residence in That Colony (1845).

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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