Newcastle has a rich literary history, being the site that created the first full length autobiography ever written in Australia, and the first dictionary ever compiled in Australia.
These were the works of the infamous convict James Hardy Vaux and the 5th of July 2012 celebrated the bicentenary of this important milestone in Australia’s literary history. Thanks to Mark Gwynn who reminded us all that on the 5th July 1812 Vaux’s Dictionary of the Flash Language was presented to the then Commandant of Newcastle Thomas Skottowe. See Mark Gwynn’s article “James Hardy Vaux – Pioneer Australian Lexicographer” here.
Newcastle and the Hunter have formed the backdrop of a number of literary works including Sarah Ricardo Porter’s Alfred Dudley; or the Australian Settlers (London: Harvey and Darton, 1830) and James Tucker’s The Adventures of Ralph Rashleigh A Penal Exile in Australia, 1825-1844 (circa 1844-45).
Words for the Heat of Deeds is a creative non-fiction writing project by Mr David Murray PhD Candidate in the University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Science.
It traces the early, convict years of the Newcastle Penal settlement as a series of interconnected story lines. The narrative is a meditation on reclaimed stories, crime, criminality, language, history and class of Australia’s second oldest city.
The following extract is from Book II: ‘Can we give the Universe Meaning’, taken from Words for the Heat of Deeds, a creative non-fiction narrative written as part of a Creative Arts thesis, to be submitted for the Degree of Doctorate of Philosophy.
The extract contains a smattering of slang, which in the completed manuscript has its own glossary, taken primarily from The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang and James Hardy Vaux’s Vocabulary of the Flash Language.