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Chomley, Charles Henry (1868–1942)

by Paul H. De Serville

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Charles Henry Chomley (1868-1942), writer and newspaper editor, was born on 28 April 1868 at Sale, Victoria, son of Henry Baker Chomley, bank manager, and his wife Eliza, daughter of Thomas Turner à Beckett. Charles was a nephew of Arthur and Hussey Chomley. He was related to that circle of pre-gold Melbourne families which his nephew Martin Boyd later commemorated in his novels.

Chomley graduated B.A. (1888), LL.B. (1889) from Trinity College, University of Melbourne, and was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1891. In that year, on 16 June he married his cousin Ethel Beatrice Ysobel, daughter of William Arthur Callender à Beckett. His mother-in-law took him with her family to England for a year. About 1893 Chomley left the Bar to farm in partnership with a cousin Frank Chomley, and with a group of friends settled in the King River valley in north-east Victoria. His mother, who joined him, recalled it as 'quite an exceptional little community there of a few families of our own class, mostly related to each other, their pretty homes, fine orchards and dairy farms within easy distance'; she found the life both beautiful and difficult. Chomley was an Oxley shire councillor in 1896-99 and president in 1898. After straining his heart he was forced to retire to Melbourne about 1900.

Chomley then took to writing and journalism, and edited the Arena, a gossipy, illustrated weekly, devoted to the arts, politics and fashionable society. Lionel and Norman Lindsay provided cartoons, usually on political subjects. Despite its flippant tone, the Arena supported the suffragette movement and championed free trade. In February 1903 it took over the Sun but ceased publication in 1904. Chomley's first novel, about the vicissitudes of a selector, The Wisdom of Esau, written with a friend and former fellow-farmer Robert Leonard Outhwaite, had already appeared. He also wrote on incidents in Victorian history, and in 1905 published his second novel, Mark Meredith, a fantasy about life in a totalitarian socialist Australia, where political unregenerates were sent to work in the canefields of Queensland.

In 1907 Chomley sailed for England and in April next year became editor (and later proprietor) of the British-Australasian, an established weekly which underwent several changes of name. Catering mainly for Australian expatriates and visitors, it dealt with political, economic and commercial matters affecting Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Every quarter Chomley published a supplement on art and literature, with contributions from his numerous relations, his circle of friends and prominent Australian writers and artists. In 1909 he and Outhwaite produced a tract advocating taxation based on the value of land. Regarded by his relations as an independent thinker and somewhat of a radical, he entered into the monetary debate after World War I, with a pamphlet urging that the system should be based on goods and commodities.

Chomley edited the British-Australasian until his death in London on 21 October 1942. His wife, a woman endowed (according to Martin Boyd) with the à Beckett wit, had predeceased him in 1940, leaving a son and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Boyd, Day of My Delight (Melb, 1965)
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 23 Oct 1942, p 7
  • Mrs H. B. Chomley, My Memoirs (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Paul H. De Serville, 'Chomley, Charles Henry (1868–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chomley-charles-henry-5587/text9537, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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