For The Term of His Natural Life (1874) Clarke's book is a both a ripping yarn and a velisation of life as a convict in Australia. The tale follows Rufus Dawes, convicted for a murder that he did t commit. The vel was based on Clarke's research and a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur, Tasmania.
About The Author Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke (1846-1881) was an Australian novelist and poet, best known for his novel 'For the Term of His Natural Life'. Marcus Clarke was born in London and was educated at Highgate School. He was the only son of William Hislop Clarke. He emigrated to Australia, where his uncle, James Langton Clarke, was a county court judge. He was at first a clerk in the Bank of Australasia, but showed no business ability, and soon proceeded to learn farming at a station on the Wimmera River, Victoria. He was already writing stories for the Australian Magazine, when in 1867 he joined the staff of The Argus in Melbourne. He briefly visited Tasmania in 1870 at the request of The Argus to experience first hand the settings of articles he was writing on the convict period. Old Stories Retold began to appear in The Australasian from February. The following month his great novel His Natural Life (later called For the Term of His Natural Life) commenced publication in the Australasian Journal. He also became secretary to the trustees of the Melbourne Athenauem and later Sub (assistant) Librarian. He founded the Yorick Club, which soon numbered among its members the chief Australian men of letters. The most famous of his books is For the Term of his Natural Life (Melbourne, 1874), a powerful tale of an Australian penal settlement. He also wrote The Peripatetic Philosopher (1869), a series of amusing papers reprinted from The Australasian; Long Odds (London, 1870), a novel; and numerous comedies and pantomimes, the best of which was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (Theatre Royal, Melbourne; Christmas, 1873). In 1869 he married the actress Marian Dunn, with whom he had six children. For the Term of His Natural Life is a -ripping yarn-, which at times relies on unrealistic coincidences. The story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a theft that he did not commit, from the victim of a mugging - to whom he was actually rendering assistance. The harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, is clearly conveyed. The conditions experienced by the convicts are graphically described.