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

Book Five: Maritime Conditions

Charles Dickens and compiled by Margaret Mendelawitz

Regular price $29.95 Sale

Format: paperback
164 pages
ISBN: 9781920899264

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 has stories about the unsafe, damp and cramped living conditions at sea endured by emigrants and sailors alike. The articles highlight the need to improve the desperate conditions and the need for a faster route for ships to travel. There is also a whaling story that paints a vivid picture of a whale chase in the hazardous waters south of Hobart.

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. Sentimental geography
  2. Short cuts across the globe: Panama Canal
  3. Short cuts across the globe: the Isthmus of Suez
  4. The great screw [screw propeller]
  5. Two adventures at sea
  6. Off to the diggings!
  7. Post to Australia
  8. We mariners of England
  9. Sailor’s home afloat
  10. The life of poor Jack [conditions of seamen]
  11. Chip: voices from the deep
  12. Black-skin ahead! [whaling]
  13. Chip: the treasures of the deep

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 × 12 mm
164 pages
9 b&w illustrations
Copyright: © 2011
ISBN: 9781920899264
Publication: 03 May 2011