Charles Edward Augustus de Boos, 1819-1900: His Life, Work, and Writing

Peter Crabb


Charles de Boos was one of a number of mid-nineteenth century writers who helped to lay the foundations of Australian literature.  His early life experiences of Huguenot ancestry and participation in the Carlist wars in Spain, followed by his initial years in Australia, made essential contributions to the person he was.  So did his extremely varied working life, particularly as a reporter for the 'Argus and the 'Sydney Morning Herald', and later as a mining warden and police magistrate in New South Wales.  His reporting on the goldfields in Victoria and especially New South Wales, added to his experiences of significant social and legal issues, and his concerns for the 'under-dogs', women, children, the diggers, the Chinese, and the Aborigines.  It was his knowledge of the goldfields and gold mining that led to his appointment as a mining warden and other official roles in a number of locations over a period of fifteen years, work to which his social view contributed much and for whch he was highly respected, in marked contrast to what some have written.

His life experiencess, work and travels provided the basis for his many and varied writings, to which the second half of the essay is devoted.  From his parliamentary reporting came his satirical writing.  From this and his travels came his social commentary.  His first two novels were set in early nineteenth century rural New South Wales, 'Fifty Years Ago' being his most well-known work, "one of the best books written in the infancy of Australian literature".  His subsequent fiction, notably 'Mark Brown's Wife', was set in the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria.

He made an as yet unacknowledged contribution to the foundations of Australian literature.  He was a man who was ahead of his times in so many ways, one who gave voice to a different way in colonial New South Wales.


Charles de Boos; goldfields; colonial fiction; Temora

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