Weird Melancholy: the stories of Marcus Clarke


  • Michael Wilding


When Hamilton Mackinnon collected Clarke's stories in The Austral Edition nf the Selected Works nf Marcus Clarke (1890),1 he placed as the first item of the 'Australian Tales and Sketches' section two pages entitled 'Australian Scenery'. This justly famous passage, originally part of the text accompanying reproductions of two paintings, Louis Buvelot's 'Waterpool Near Coleraine' and Nicholas Chevalier's 'The Buffalo Ranges' in Photol?raphs of the Pictures in the National Gallery, Melbourne (1874), had been incorporated into Clarke's preface to Adam Lindsay Gordon's poems in 1876 and frequently reprinted.2 It was certainly not a tale, even if arguably a sketch. But its inclusion set a tone for Clarke's stories that followed, even if it was not the tone that Clarke set. The expected feature of Australian stories by the 1890s was clearly up-country description. Yet when we turn to Clarke's stories, such landscape descriptions are generally marginal. Mackinnon's incorporation of the passage into 'Australian Tales and Sketches' suggests an attempt to supplement the comparative lack of scenic settings in the stories themselves. As the passage demonstrates,