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The Vandemonian Trail
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The three pre-eminent early novelists of Australia, Henry Kingsley, Marcus Clarke and Rolf Boldrewood, were intrigued by a mysterious series of bushranging events in Victoria involving the folk heroes Bogong Jack and the Tichborne claimant among others. But these stories had been reshaped by such constant retelling that the form in which we have received them bears only an attenuated relation to the original events themselves. Bogong Jack did not, for example, lead the Bogong Jack gang, and was an accomplice in a series of murders which belie his later romantic image. A considerable social distance existed between early settlers of Victoria, a non-convict colony, and the inhabitants of the adjacent convict colony of Van Diemen's Land. A large Vandemonian contingent, including Bogong Jack and the Tichborne claimant, moved to Victoria during the gold rush decade of the 1850s, introducing a new criminal element which frightened the living daylights out of the more respectable mainlanders. Henry Kingsley wrote at the time of 'a mist of incidents and anecdotes which the younger folks took to be original, but which the older hands recognized as mere replicas of old stories.' This study attempts to recreate the dramatic early events as they happened, and to show how the popular imagination shoehorned them into neat and satisfying patterns.
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