For the Term of his Natural Life by Marcus Clarke. For the Term of His Natural Life, written by Marcus Clarke, was published in the Australian Journal between 1870 and 1872 (as His Natural Life), appearing as a novel in 1874. It is the best known novelisation of life as a convict in early Australian history. At times relying on seemingly implausible coincidences, the story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder that he did not commit. The book clearly conveys the harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, and graphically describes the conditions the convicts experienced. The novel was based on research by the author as well as a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke was born in London on April 24th 1846. His mother died when he was still an infant. His father, William H. Clarke, a barrister and literary man of retired and eccentric habits, took very little interest in his upbringing, with the result that the boy grew up in the uncongenial society of older men who formed the circle of his father's friends - a circle, as he put it later, 'in which virtuous women were conspicuous by their absence.' As was inevitable, this lack of parental guidance and general emotional neglect produced an unstable and disharmonious temperament. Having received a good education (at Chomley School, Highgate), and having been led to expect an economically secure upper-class life, Marcus Clarke found himself on his father's sudden death in 1863, alone in the world and without resources. He emigrated to Australia, where his uncle, James Langton Clarke, a county court judge, secured for him a clerkship at the Bank of Australasia in Melbourne. Being temperamentally quite unfit for an office career, he left after a few months to take up sheep-farming near Glenorchy on the Wimmera river, a hundred miles inland. Here he made the acquaintance of Bush tribes and soon began to send literary sketches to the Australian Magazine under the pen-name of 'Mark Scrivener.' In 1867 a Dr. Lewins