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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Eden, Charles Henry (1839–1900)

by Dorothy Jones

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Charles Henry Eden (1839-1900), public servant and writer, was born on 20 March 1839, the younger son of Robert Eden (1800-1879) and his wife Frances, daughter of Rev. Rowland Egerton Warburton; his great-grandfather was Sir Robert Eden, third baronet of West Auckland, and his uncle was Admiral Henry Eden (1797-1888). After sale of his naval commission Eden arrived at Moreton Bay in the Queen of the Colonies on 6 April 1863. On 11 May at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, he married a fellow passenger, Georgina, daughter of Captain F. W. Hill. According to his My Wife and I in Queensland: An Eight Years' Experience in the Above Colony with Some Account of Polynesian Labour (London, 1872), Eden shepherded at Pilton, obtained a post in the Registrar-General's Office through the influence of George Elphinstone Dalrymple, spent two years at Mount McConnell under Ernest Henry and searched for gold at Calliope and Gympie in 1867. In Brisbane in 1868 for the Duke of Edinburgh's visit he was appointed on 6 May police magistrate and subcollector of customs at Cardwell at a salary of £300. After an inquiry he was dismissed in March 1870 and left in the Clarence in May to return to England. In his book Eden did not mention his appointment at Cardwell; but his claim is evidently untrue that he left Brisbane in 1868 solely to join John Davidson in a sugar venture at Bellenden Plains until carried aboard the Black Prince unconscious from fever in early 1870. In England Eden turned to writing and by his death on 16 February 1900 had published in London some sixteen novels and many works of exploration and travel, including Australia's Heroes (c.1875) and The Fifth Continent, With the Adjacent Islands (c.1877).

Most controversial in the colonies for its disenchanted account of colonial life was My Wife and I in Queensland. A reviewer in the Illustrated London News, 22 June 1872, found Eden's work to be 'both manly and gentlemanly' in spirit but thought it 'enough to warn honest men away from Queensland for some time to come'. In reply the Brisbane Courier accused Eden of 'vilifying the colony that was foolish enough to provide him with an easy and honourable position in its service, a man whose sole recommendation was—that the Duke of Edinburgh was his friend'. One correspondent, 'A Bohemian', added two days later: 'Very few men have had a better opportunity of observing “low life” here and gauging its utmost depths of depravity, and nobody could take a greater pleasure in the task than Eden'.

Eden's elder son Guy Ernest Morton (d.1954) became a distinguished lawyer and also wrote for the London stage; he published two novels and a book of Australian verse, Bush Ballads (London, 1907).

Select Bibliography

  • D. Jones, Cardwell Shire Story (Brisb, 1961)
  • C. T. Wood, ‘The Queensland Sugar Industry as Depicted in the Whish and Davidson Diaries’, Journal (Royal Historical Society of Queensland), vol 7, no 3, 1964-65, pp 563-83
  • Brisbane Courier, 4, 6 Sept 1872
  • Justice Department records (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Dorothy Jones, 'Eden, Charles Henry (1839–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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