"Author of Little Jessie" [pseud. of Sarah Maria FOY]
The Australian babes in the wood : a true story told in rhyme for the young
/ by the author of ‘Little Jessie,’ etc. ; illustrated by Hugh Cameron, J. M’Whirter, G. Hay, J. Lawson, etc., and engraved by R. Paterson. London : Griffith and Farran, 1866. Small octavo, original blind blocked blue cloth boards, upper board with lettering and pictorial device stamped in gilt (boards lightly marked, spine sunned), hinges cracked, front pastedown with ex libris of Melbourne bibliophile Jeff Prentice, front free-endpaper with stamp of the original London bookseller Reynolds of Ladbroke Grove and a gift inscription to a child from her grandmother dated 1873, frontispiece plate with tissue guard intact, pp 47, with 14 steel engraved illustrations in the text; pages 37-38 with closed tear to fore-edge, else internally sound and clean, a good copy. Muir 2649.
A re-telling in verse, based on contemporary reports in the Melbourne Argus, of the story of three children – half-siblings Frank Duff and Isaac and Jane Cooper, aged nine, seven and nearly four – who were lost in the bush in Victoria’s Wimmera in the winter of 1864. The children ventured out from their family’s hut on Spring Hill station, 35 northwest of Horsham, on 12 August 1864, and were lost for 9 days before being discovered alive and rescued by Aboriginal trackers – three Wotjobaluk men led by Dick-a-Dick (Djungadjinganook, Jumgumjenanuke or Jungunjinuke), who would later journey to England in 1868 as a member of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team.
The event was a cause célèbre at the time. Nicholas Chevalier’s illustration depicting the children, Lost in the bush, appeared in the Illustrated Melbourne Post, 22 September 1864, but the story also made a strong impression on the imagination of a succession of Victorian artists and writers over the ensuing decades. (See Kim Torney’s excellent study in The La Trobe Journal, no. 63, Autumn 1999).