London: Harvey and Darton, 1830.
First edition: considered the first novel of Australia. This is an exemplary copy of the very scarce first edition, bound with the advertisements in the publisher’s roan-backed marbled boards of the first issue.
In the novel, the affable Dudleys are forced to emigrate, whereupon they purchase several hundred acres on the Hunter River. Here they grow crops and tend their “pet Merinos”, which had travelled with them across from France. Much of the action centres on their interaction with First Australians, and the eponymous Alfred becomes particularly close to a younger boy called “Mickie” from a local community, who saves him from a treacherous fall in the bush, and becomes a sort of voluntary personal valet, assistant, and sidekick. There is illness, and adversity, and a lively description of the dangers of a kangaroo hunt, but on the whole the European settlers are enchanted with New South Wales.
“This tale for juveniles is founded on the circumstances of a gentleman, with his highly-educated son, settling in Australia, and there for a long period cheerfully submitting to all the hardships and privations attendant on such a situation. The author’s knowledge of Australian natural history and ethnology is chiefly drawn from The Present State of Australia, by Robert Dawson, late Chief Agent to the Australian Agricultural Company.” (Ferguson).
At one stage tentatively attributed to William Howitt, in his addenda Ferguson made a firmer attribution to Sarah Porter, on the basis of a trade list of Charles Knight. Ferguson also lists a frontispiece and two plates, for a total of three, rather than the four present here.
Bibliography: Muir, 6077; People, Print & Paper’, 196.
Duodecimo, bound in the original quarter red roan with marbled boards, with an engraved frontispiece and three plates; small ink stain on front endpaper, else a very good copy, mild wear to extremities.
Price (AUD): $6,750.00 other currencies