This might have been the first published verse written in Australia if it were what it purports to be: The Telegraph: a consolatory Epistle from Thomas Muir, Esq. of Botany Bay, to the Hon. Henry Erskine, late Dean of Faculty, published in 1796. Those who recognize the time and place will realize Botany Bay in 1796 was not a place for tourists, but rather English prisoners transported to the penal colony in Australia. That was precisely Muir's fate. A radical reformer and promoter of Scottish rights, he was convicted of seditious speech, being too supportive of the French Revolution, and various other offenses an anathema to England's landed interests. Erskine was a fellow reformer who had been relieved of his faculty position. He was not so radical as Muir and the two had disagreements, with Erskine failing to defend Muir at his trial. However, by the time this piece was published, Muir was about to make his escape from Botany Bay, on a long, arduous journey that would take him to Mexico, Cuba, Spain (as a prisoner) and finally France, where he arrived in broken health, but to a hero's welcome. He died there is 1799. This work was evidently written by George Hamilton, a clergyman who would not have been supportive of Muir. Muir could not have known of certain events described in this satirical piece as he would have been gone from Australia before the news reached that colony, not that he would have written these words anyway. As for the message arriving by “telegraph,” obviously this was not Samuel Morse's 1830s wired invention, but a more primitive device that hardly could have relayed information from Australia to England in 1796. Item 6. £750 (US $1,145).
Item 172 is A Sketch from the Landscape, a didactic Poem, by Colonel John Matthews, published in 1794. The contemporary review from the Monthly Review describes this as a “playful little poem,” but saves most of its words to describe vignette on the title page, which obviously was far more interesting to the reviewer. In honor of this review, we present this image at the top of the page (scroll over or right click to enlarge). £2,500 (US $3,818).
Simon Beattie may be reached at +44 (0) 1494 784954 or