Charles Dickens' Australia: Selected Essays from Household Words 1850-1859

Book Four: Mining and Gold

Charles Dickens and compiled by Margaret Mendelawitz

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Format: paperback
270 pages
ISBN: 9781920899257

Publication: 03 May 2011

Publisher: Sydney University Press

Charles Dickens is little celebrated as a journalist, yet his career spanned nearly 40 years. Starting as a court reporter, parliamentary newspaper columnist and theatre critic, he developed an instinct for injustice, humbug and charade. For 20 years he edited his own weekly journal, Household Words, later known as All the Year Round, publishing articles and stories designed to be interesting, entertaining and educational.

Dickens had a keen interest in Australia and fortuitously began publishing the periodical at a transitional moment, just before the heady days of the 1850s gold rush set the world ablaze. The discovery of gold drove a period of mass immigration and expansion into the hinterlands, and caused radical economic and social changes in an emerging nation.

Of the nearly 3,000 articles published in Household Words, some 100 related to Australia and have been collected in this anthology. Dickens saw Australia as offering opportunities for England's poor and downtrodden to make a new start and a brighter future for themselves; this optimism is reflected in many of the articles.

The stories have been grouped into five volumes: Convict Stories, Immigration, Frontier Stories, Mining and Gold and Maritime Conditions.

This volume focuses on mining. The goldfields stories in Household Words present a broad picture of life at the diggings. Occasionally a fabulous find (sometimes spent in a week); but, more often, depictions of optimistic diggers being beaten by the hard life, hard luck or looming failure. There are stories of men and women from all ranks of society, sailors on the run and Chinese immigrants, all hoping to make a fortune.

Charles Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

Margaret Mendelawitz is a graduate in history and anthropology from the University of Western Australia. She currently works as a mediator.


  1. Life in the Burra mines of South Australia
  2. Chip: a visit to the Burra Burra mines
  3. Chip: a golden newspaper
  4. Unfortunate James Daley
  5. Harvest of gold
  6. Australian carriers
  7. Digger’s diary: in occasional chapters – part one
  8. Digger’s diary: in occasional chapters – part two
  9. Digger’s diary: in occasional chapters – part three
  10. Digger’s diary: in occasional chapters – part four
  11. Chip: digging sailors
  12. The ballad of the gold-digger [poem]
  13. Lost and found in the gold fields
  14. Bad luck at Bendigo
  15. The cradle and the grave
  16. Gold hunting in two parts: part one
  17. Gold hunting in two parts: part two
  18. A diggers wedding
  19. Shadows of a golden image

Contributors to Household Words

‘It is a genuinely fascinating piece of Australiana that has been edited and collated by Margaret Mendelawitz. Many pieces demonstrate Dickens’ enduring commitment to social change and moral uplift.’

Sydney Morning Herald, 2–3 July 2011


Format: paperback
Size: 210 × 148 × 20 mm
270 pages
11 b&w illustrations
Copyright: © 2011
ISBN: 9781920899257
Publication: 03 May 2011