Popular Periodicals -- The "Australian Journal"

Professor Toni Johnson-Woods, English Department, University of Queensland

The Australian Journal (1865-1962) was one of the most successful literary periodicals in English publishing history: few can claim longer continuous existence. It filled it pages with adventures, romances and sensations--it was Australia's first literary weekly publication.

Not only was the Australian Journal the colony's first truly literary periodical (over 70% of its contents was devoted to fiction), but it was the first Australian magazine to promote local writing. It employed "the ablest of colonial pens of the day" in order to "record the phases of colonial literature" including Marcus Clarke, Ada Cambridge, Henry Kendall, Adam Lindsay Gordon. It preferred material set inside the colony, and tended to reject that "which did not consider colonial subjects, or which did not in some way treat colonial life" (AJ 2 Sept 1865). Furthermore, it backed nationalistic posturing with actions: in the period 1865-1890, 50% of its longer (serial) fiction was written by local authors. It sponsored Marcus Clarke's research trip to Tasmania which resulted in one of Australia's best-known novels, For the Term of His Natural Life. This appeared in the journal no less than four times, making it one of the most reprinted serials in publishing history. The AJ continued publishing Australian writers and encouraging local talent for nearly one hundred years. Today though, it is still best remembered for one work, For the Term of His Natural Life, which is unfortunate because nearly all of the great Australian writers practised their skills in its pages.

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