1788: Text Classics

Text Publishing
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'I do not hesitate to declare that the natives of New South Wales possess a considerable portion of that acumen, or sharpness of intellect, which bespeaks genius.'

In 1788 Watkin Tench stepped ashore at Botany Bay with the First Fleet. This curious young captain of the marines was an effortless storyteller. His account of the infant colony, introduced by Tim Flannery, is the first classic of Australian literature.

On leaving England, Tench was commissioned by the publisher John Debrett of Piccadilly to write a book about his adventures. In fact he wrote two. A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay was published in 1789, and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in 1793. They are both included in full in this edition of 1788.

Watkin Tench was born around 1758 in Chester, England. He joined the marine corps in 1776 and served in the American War of Independence before sailing to Botany Bay with the First Fleet. Tench returned to England in 1792. He stayed with the marine corps before retiring as a lieutenant-general in 1821. Tench died in 1833.

Tim Flannery is a bestselling writer, scientist and explorer. He has published over a dozen books, most recently Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific. In 2011 he was appointed chief commissioner of the Australian Climate Commission.

textclassics.com.au

'Tench will always remain the classic contemporary witness of our beginnings.' Les Murray

'Don't for a minute believe that Australian history is a bore. This is a marvellous read.' Sun Herald

'Tench's work is a stunning time machine: he takes us back to the promise and disaster at the beginning of our nation's story; and we stand at the edge of history, laughing and crying.' Chloe Hooper

'Tench is a most charming man of the Enlightenment, and his journal is similarly by far the most disarming and enthusiastic of the First Fleet journals. Where others damned the place, he showed curiosity.' Thomas Keneally

'I fell in love with Tench, as most of his readers do. He is a Boswell on the page: curious, ardent, gleefully self-mocking. He didn't fit my image of a stiff-lipped British imperialist at all.' Inga Clendinnen

'His record sparkles with precision, each word so apt.' Marcia Langton

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About the author

WATKIN TENCH was born in Chester, England, in 1758. His father was a dance teacher and the master of a boarding school.

In 1776, he entered the marine corps. He served in the American War of Independence, during which he was taken hostage for three months. He was soon promoted to captain lieutenant. In 1786 Tench volunteered for a three-year tour of duty to the convict colony of Botany Bay.

Prior to his departure, Tench was commissioned by the publisher John Debrett of Piccadilly to write a book about his adventures. In fact he wrote two. A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay was published in 1789, and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in 1793. Both were successful, and were translated into a number of languages. ‘Not to have read Watkin Tench,’ wrote Robert Hughes, ‘is not to know early Australia.’

Tench was back in England by 1792. In October of that year he married Anna Maria Sargent. He served in the war against France but was captured. Imprisoned for six months, he wrote an account of French politics and society. After his release he continued to serve until he retired as a major-general in 1816.

Watkin and Anna Maria had no children of their own but adopted four of Anna’s sister’s children who had been orphaned. Tench died in England in 1833.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Text Publishing
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Published on
Apr 26, 2012
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781921921919
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Australia & New Zealand
History / Expeditions & Discoveries
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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 The expedition on which he is engaged has excited much curiosity, and given birth to many speculations, respecting the consequences to arise from it. While men continue to think freely, they will judge variously. Some have been sanguine enough to foresee the most beneficial effects to the Parent State, from the Colony we are endeavouring to establish; and some have not been wanting to pronounce the scheme big with folly, impolicy, and ruin. Which of these predictions will be completed, I leave to the decision of the public. I cannot, however, dismiss the subject without expressing a hope, that the candid and liberal of each opinion, induced by the humane and benevolent intention in which it originated, will unite in waiting the result of a fair trial to an experiment, no less new in its design, than difficult in its execution.

As this publication enters the world with the name of the author, candour will, he trusts, induce its readers to believe, that no consideration could weigh with him in an endeavour to mislead them. Facts are related simply as they happened, and when opinions are hazarded, they are such as, he hopes, patient inquiry, and deliberate decision, will be found to have authorised. For the most part he has spoken from actual observation; and in those places where the relations of others have been unavoidably adopted. He has been careful to search for the truth, and repress that spirit of exaggeration which is almost ever the effect of novelty on ignorance.

The nautical part of the work is comprized in as few pages as possible. By the professional part of my readers this will be deemed judicious; and the rest will not, I believe, be dissatisfied at its brevity. I beg leave, however, to say of the astronomical calculations, that they may be depended on with the greatest degree of security, as they were communicated by an officer, who was furnished with instruments, and commissioned by the Board of Longitude, to make observations during the voyage, and in the southern hemisphere.

An unpractised writer is generally anxious to bespeak public attention, and to solicit public indulgence. Except on professional subjects, military men are, perhaps, too fearful of critical censure. For the present narrative no other apology is attempted, than the intentions of its author, who has endeavoured not only to satisfy present curiosity, but to point out to future adventurers, the favourable, as well as adverse circumstances which will attend their settling here. The candid, it is hoped, will overlook the inaccuracies of this imperfect sketch, drawn amidst the complicated duties of the service in which the Author is engaged, and make due allowance for the want of opportunity of gaining more extensive information.

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