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Arthur Patchett Martin (1851–1902)

by Suzanne G. Mellor

This article was published:

Arthur Patchett Martin (1851-1902), writer, was born on 18 February 1851 at Woolwich, Kent, England, son of George Martin and his wife Eleanor, née Hill. In December 1852 the family arrived at Melbourne where Martin was educated at St Mark's School, Fitzroy, and matriculated at the University of Melbourne in February 1868. He worked in the post office from November 1865 to 1883, but for most of these years was a casual writer, prominent in giving papers and debating in the Eclectic Society where he succeeded H. K. Rusden as secretary. For six years Martin edited the Melbourne Review, which he and H. G. Turner established in 1876. Martin's lifelong belief was that Australian literature could best develop with an Australian school of criticism beside it; only then would it adjust its perspectives. He published Sweet Girl Graduate (1876), which included short poems and a sentimental novelette. More verses followed: Lays of To-day: Verses in Jest and Earnest (1878), and Fernshawe: Sketches in Prose and Verse (1882), collected from the Melbourne Review and other journals. He was closely associated with the theatre through his brother-in-law, Arthur Garner. A. D. Mickle describes Martin as a 'born Bohemian', and recalls the regular walks his father took with the 'brilliant talkers' Patchett Martin and Alfred Deakin. Walter Murdoch refers to Martin's light mockery, wit and indolence.

In 1883 Martin left Australia under a cloud, as co-respondent in a divorce case, and remained embittered by friends shunning him. However, he soon became established in London journalism, writing regularly for the Pall Mall Gazette. He was the satirist of the 'Australasian Group' who regarded themselves as exiles but retained a keen interest in Australian affairs, particularly literature. He wrote an introduction to the 18th edition of the poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon and was his advocate in many articles. In The Beginnings of an Australian Literature (London, 1898) he hailed the first volumes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson with pride and triumph, avowing that 'the un-English, thorough Australian style and character of these new bush bards' appealed to 'the rising native population'. In 1889 he published Australia and the Empire, a patchwork of essays on Australian affairs and prominent men, and in 1893 True Stories from Australasian History. His major work, Life and Letters of the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke (1893), was a clearly-structured, dignified work and generally accurate, with information from Lowe's friends and relations. He also wrote the entries on Sir Henry Parkes, William Charles Wentworth and Sir William Windeyer in the Dictionary of National Biography.

On 11 January 1886 in London Martin had married a widow, Harriette Anne Bullen, daughter of Dr John Moore Cookesley. Together they wrote verse and arranged the publications of expatriate Australians in various periodicals. The Bulletin, 7 March 1896, described his talent as rather thin, claiming that his verse was 'deficient in wit and poignancy, but with sufficient fluency and sentiment to be readable'. He was a minor poet, at best remembered for his literary criticism and journalism. Though reputedly influential in promoting Australia's broader interests, he was, according to Deakin in May 1889, 'ill-informed on public affairs' and 'did not pretend to follow them' before leaving Australia. His influence in Britain seems illusory despite his activities in Liberal Union politics. His health collapsed and his wife sought help from friends in Britain and Australia. By their aid he went to Tenerife where he died on 15 February 1902.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Murdoch, Alfred Deakin (Lond, 1923)
  • A. D. Mickle, Many a Mickle (Melb, 1953)
  • J. Manifold, Who Wrote the Ballads? (Syd, 1964)
  • Deakin letters, 1540/5483, 7499, 8080.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Suzanne G. Mellor, 'Martin, Arthur Patchett (1851–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 February, 1851
Woolwich, Kent, England


15 February, 1902 (aged 50)
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Cultural Heritage

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