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Charles Tompson (1807 – 1883)

Charles Tompson was born in Sydney on 26 July 1807. His father, also named Charles Tompson, had arrived in New South Wales as a convict in 1804, and in 1806 married Elizabeth Boggis in Sydney. On the expiry of his sentence, Tompsons father established himself as a shopkeeper in Sydney, subsequently purchasing a farm near Windsor. Here, the younger Charles Tompson attended the Reverend Henry Fultons parish school at Castlereagh.

Writing verse from a very young age, Tompsons poems began appearing in Sydney newspapers and periodicals from about 1823. In 1826, a collection of Tompsons poetry was published in Sydney by the government printer Robert Howe, under the title Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel. Published by subscription, the work was the first volume of poetry by an Australian-born poet. Modern critics have pointed out that, far from wild, Tompsons poems were in fact highly crafted, imitating the styles of eighteenth-century poets such as Thomas Gray and James Thomson.

In 1830 Tompson married Hannah Morris at Windsor, and the couple moved to Sydney where Tompson took up a position as clerk in the colonial secretarys office. From this time, Tompson seems to have eschewed writing poetry, concentrating instead on his career as a public servant. From 1855 until his retirement in 1869, Tompson worked in a clerical capacity for the New South Wales parliament. He died at his home in Glebe Point, Sydney, in 1883.

Poetry Collections
  • Wild Notes from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel (Sydney: Robert Howe, 1823)

Suggested Further Reading

  • Tompson, Charles, Australian Dictionary of Biography online
  • Webby, Elizabeth, 'Australian Literature and the Reading Public in the Eighteen-Twenties', Southerly vol. 29, no. 1 1969 pp. 1742
  • Wilkes, G. A. The Colonial Poets (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1974)