Monday, April 28

The Vagabond Papers - John Stanley James

Better known as Julian Thomas, and best known as The Vagabond, James came to Australia from London in 1875 and began writing his impressions of Melbourne and of Sydney, which were published in the local papers. Strongly impassioned about the plight of the poor and less fortunate, and not possessing significant means himself, much of his writing focused on housing, conditions in jail, and the efforts of seeking medical attention.
I heard of James for the first time on a recent moonlight tour of the Melbourne Cemetry, and was pleased to find a 1969 copy of his writings at my local library, with an introduction and condensed biography of the writer by a Melbourne academic. However, despite my intentions and my interest in both Melbourne history and the conditions of the underclass, I had trouble connecting with the writing - in no small part because of the tenor and tone of the writing, which is typical of the nineteenth century. Perhaps I would have done better had I parcelled it out, but after the first few essays I skimmed over the rest, finding it more and more of a chore, and only finishing with great difficulty (and an increasingly quick skim down each page). Clearly historical research is not for me! - Alex

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