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William Charles Wentworth (1790 – 1872)

William Charles Wentworth was born on 13 August 1790 on board a ship anchored in Cascade Bay, Norfolk Island, the son of a surgeon, D'Arcy Wentworth, and a convict, Catherine Crowley. Wentworth spent his early years on Norfolk Island and at Parramatta, New South Wales. In 1802, he was sent to England to be educated, attending schools in Buckinghamshire and Greenwich.

Wentworth returned to Sydney in 1810, where he was a prominent figure in colonial life, spending time exploring the Blue Mountains and assisting with his father's business activities. Returning to England to study law in 1816, Wentworth wrote a book on the colony, A Statistical, Historical, and Political Description of the Colony of New South Wales, published in London in 1819, a work that argued for political reform and liberalisation, and which was influential in encouraging emigration to the colony.

After returning to New South Wales in 1824, Wentworth became an increasingly important figure in colonial politics. He initially identified himself with the cause of emancipists and native-born Australians, and established the first non-government newspaper, The Australian, to agitate for their rights. Entering the New South Wales parliament in 1843, Wentworth was a leading figure in the political reforms that led to the colony of New South Wales attaining responsible government in 1853. Wentworth subsequently retired to England, where he died in 1872.

A dominant figure in early Australian history thanks to his contributions to politics, law, and journalism, Wentworth's legacy as a poet rests mainly on his epic poem Australasia, written for a competition while Wentworth was studying at Cambridge in 1822 and awarded second prize.

Poetry Collections
  • Australasia Sydney Whittaker 1923
Suggested Further Reading
  • Michael Ackland That Shining Band: A Study of Australian Colonial Verse Tradition St Lucia, Qld. University of Queensland Press 1994
  • Robert Dixon The Rising Glory of Australia: Literary Nationalism and the Epic Poem The Course of Empire: Neo-Classical Culture in New South Wales, 1788-1860 Melbourne Oxford University Press 1986 pp. 120-53
  • John D Ritchie The Wentworths: Father and Son Melbourne Miegunyah Press 1997
  • Elizabeth Webby Pipes and Odes: Literature and Music The Age of Macquarie Joy N. Hughes and James Broadbent Melbourne Melbourne University Press and Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales 1992 pp. 88-100.