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Browne, Thomas Alexander (1826–1915)

from Sydney Morning Herald

Mr. Thomas Alexander Browne ("Rolf Boldrewood"), the famous Australian novelist, and author of Robbery under Arms, died at his residence, Iona, Kensington-road, South Yarra, this morning.

Mr. Browne, who was 88 years of age, had been confined to his bed for the last 14 months, and his death was not unexpected. He leaves a widow and a family of seven—two sons and five daughters.

The name of Rolf Boldrewood, the pen-name which the late Mr. T. A. Browne used, was known far and wide; and his reputation was not confined to Australia. Robbery Under Aims—which was first published in the Sydney Mail—is known throughout the English-speaking world. But Rolf Boldrewood's fame does not rest upon this book alone, though it is generally conceded to be his best. The Miner's Right, The Squatter's Dream, though not so skilfully constructed, and not making the same vivid appeal as the classic story of the bushranging days, are both of them admirable stories. Then there are others—such as A Sydney-side Saxon, A Colonial Reformer, and Nevermore. Another book—not a novel, but a volume of gossipy reminiscences of early Victoria—is entitled Old Melbourne Memories. It is a book that is full of charm.

As a writer of romantic novels, depicting Australian life and scenes, Rolf Boldrewood stands at the head of Australian men of letters. Robbery Under Arms may lack the power and intensity of Marcus Clarke's great novel, For the Term of His Natural Life, and by some Kingsley's Geoffry Hamlyn may be considered a finer book in some respects, but it may safely be said that no Australian writer has given us more realistic pictures of the romantic side of Australian life. In dealing with the bushranging times and with the gold rushes, he writes with the hand of a master.

The nom-de-plume of "Rolf Boldrewood," which was adopted by Mr. Browne very early in his career as a novelist, was suggested to him by reading the following lines in Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion":—

And that Red King, who, while of old,
Through Boldrewood the chase he led,
By his loved huntsman's arrow bled.

Mr. Thomas Alexander Browne was born in London on August 6, 1826. He was thus in his 89th year. His father was the late Captain Sylvester John Browne, of the East India Company's service, and of Enmore, New South Wales, and Hartlands, Victoria. The late Thomas Browne, the novelist, who was the eldest son, arrived in New South Wales with his father in 1830. His early education he received at Mr. T. W. Cape's school in Sydney, and he completed his studies at the Sydney College. When but a boy he expressed a wish to settle on the land. At a time when the Port Fairy district in Victoria had only been partially explored Mr. Browne—then a boy of 17 years—set out with a herd of cattle for that district. As a pioneer squatter in the neighbourhood of Port Fairy he established the station known as Squattlesea Mere. It was in 1844 that he settled in the Port Fairy district, and he remained there until 1856. Two years later he moved from Port Fairy to the Murrabit station, on the river Murray, and in 1864 he purchased the property known us the Bundidjanee Station, on the Murrumbidgee.

Droughts compelled Mr. Browne to abandon pastoral life. His losses were so great in 1866 and the following years that he was compelled to give up squatting in 1869. Shortly after he had relinquished pastoral pursuits Mr. Browne was appointed goldfields commissioner in New South Wales. In his capacity of police magistrate and warden of goldfields, be was entrusted with the administration of justice at Gulgong, Dubbo, Armidale, and Albury. He acted as police magistrate during the period between 1870 and 1895. In the year 1880—at about the time he was transferred from Gulgong to Dubbo—a friend suggested to the novelist that he should write a bushranger novel. The result was Robbery Under Arms.

Years ago Mr. Browne was a keen lover of sport. As far back as 1847 he took part in a steeplechase run at Woodlands, Victoria. For a long time he followed hunting and racing very closely, and he was always fond of a day's shooting. Of late years he had been compelled by advancing age to take a less active interest in sport, and this gave him more time to devote to another favourite pastime—reading. He was a well-known figure at the Melbourne Club, where he lived for many years.

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'Browne, Thomas Alexander (1826–1915)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/browne-thomas-alexander-3085/text25271, accessed 20 August 2017.

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