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The Colonial Mortuary Bard; "'Reo," The Fisherman; and The Black Bream Of Australia 1901   By: (1855-1913)

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Louis Becke's collection of short stories, including "The Colonial Mortuary Bard," "'Reo," The Fisherman; and The Black Bream Of Australia 1901," offers readers a captivating glimpse into the rugged and untamed landscapes of Australia in the early 20th century. With an unreserved and immersive writing style, Becke transports us to this era, where adventure and resilience define the characters that populate his tales.

"The Colonial Mortuary Bard" serves as a haunting introduction to the collection, featuring a character who finds solace and purpose in writing poems for the dearly departed. Becke skillfully injects an eerie atmosphere and explores the themes of loss and mortality. With vivid descriptions and emotionally charged scenes, the narrative resonates deeply with readers, showcasing Becke's talent for storytelling.

In "'Reo," The Fisherman," Becke presents a character-driven tale that delves into the life of a fisherman named 'Reo.' This story delves into the complexities of human relationships, as Becke explores the interplay between trust, betrayal, and the ultimate search for redemption. Through his well-crafted dialogue and sympathetic characterization, Becke crafts a story that leaves an indelible mark on the reader, urging reflection on the human condition.

The collection culminates with "The Black Bream Of Australia 1901," a story that encapsulates the harsh realities of the Australian bush and the individuals who call it home. Becke's portrayal of the struggle for survival against both natural forces and the callousness of fate firmly establishes itself as a memorable piece within the anthology. He paints a vivid picture of Australia's rugged beauty and captures the resilience of its inhabitants, offering a glimpse into a world often overlooked in favor of more urban-centric narratives.

One of the strengths of Becke's collection is his ability to blend historical accuracy with engaging storytelling. The stories are filled with cultural references and local dialects, transporting readers to the heart of Australia's past. Through his descriptive prose, Becke ensures that each landscape becomes a character in its own right, drawing readers in with its raw beauty and danger.

However, the collection is not without its flaws. Some of the narratives can feel disjointed, with sudden shifts in tone or pacing. Additionally, the occasional outdated language and cultural representation may present challenges for modern readers. While these aspects may limit the collection's broader appeal, they also provide valuable historical and cultural insights for those willing to engage with the material.

Overall, Becke's collection of short stories presents an evocative and immersive exploration of Australia's distinctive landscapes and the intricacies of human existence within them. "The Colonial Mortuary Bard," "'Reo," The Fisherman; and The Black Bream Of Australia 1901" offers a compelling blend of adventure, emotion, and historical context, making it a worthy addition to any reader's collection, particularly those interested in Australian literature and its rich history.

First Page:


By Louis Becke

T. Fisher Unwin, 1901


A writer in the Sydney Evening News last year gave that journal some amusing extracts from the visitors' book at Longwood, St. Helena. If the extracts are authentic copies of the original entries, they deserve to be placed on the same high plane as the following, which appeared in a Melbourne newspaper some years ago:

"Our Emily was so fair That the angels envied her, And whispered in her ear, 'We will take you away on Tuesday night!'"

I once considered this to be the noblest bit of mortuary verse ever written; but since reading the article in the Sydney paper I have changed my opinion, and now think it poor. Bonaparte, however, was a great subject, and even the most unintelligent mortuary verse maker could not fail to achieve distinction when the Longwood visitors' book was given up unto him. Frenchmen, especially, figure largely. Here, for instance:

"Malidiction. O grand homme! O grand Napoleon! Mais la France et toi aont venge Hudson Lowe est mort!"

The last line is so truly heroic French heroic. It instantly recalled to me a tale told by an English journalist who, on a cycling tour in France just after the Fashoda crisis, left his "bike" under the care of the proprietor of an hotel in Normandy... Continue reading book >>

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