By Jane Gleeson-White
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Extra resources for Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works
In 1887, an obelisk was erected on the spot in memory of ‘Gordon’s Leap’. But perhaps the story that best illustrates Gordon’s potent combination of restless energy and poetic learning is told by one of his few close friends, the Reverend Julian Woods. Late one night Woods and Gordon were riding from the coast to a station near Mount Gambier when they were caught in a ferocious storm. Unable to see their way, they sheltered under a tree. Here as the weather raged Gordon recited all the storm poetry he knew, concluding with the whole of the tempest scene from King Lear.
Indd 26 24/9/07 2:14:04 PM ‘ T h e S i c k St o c k r i d e r ‘ half a mile out into the bay, regardless of sharks. And Gordon’s escapades on horseback were legendary. He once jumped a horse over a fence onto a slim ledge above Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake, which lay two hundred feet below, and jumped it back again. The leap was considered impossible. No other rider dared attempt it. In 1887, an obelisk was erected on the spot in memory of ‘Gordon’s Leap’. But perhaps the story that best illustrates Gordon’s potent combination of restless energy and poetic learning is told by one of his few close friends, the Reverend Julian Woods.
Most of the novel’s action takes place in secondary detention centres—Macquarie Harbour, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island— which were notoriously and deliberately harsh, intended for those convicts who had committed offences in the colony. Britain’s Saturday Review did not know why Clarke should ‘depict every revolting detail of terror and abomination that belonged to the old convict system’. But Clarke intended His Natural Life as a protest against the possibility that such a penal colony should ever exist again, against ‘allowing offenders against the law to be herded together in places remote from the wholesome influence of public opinion’.
Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works by Jane Gleeson-White