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Charles Tompson (1807–1883)

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Charles Tompson (1807-1883), poet and public servant, was born on 26 June 1807 in Sydney, the eldest child of Charles Tompson (1784?-1871), farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Boggis. His father had been convicted at Warwick, England, in March 1802, arrived in Sydney in the Coromandel in May 1804, and for four years was employed in the office of Commissary John Palmer; later he kept a shop at the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets and about 1819 bought a 700-acre (283 ha) farm, Clydesdale, near Windsor.

In July 1814 Rev. Henry Fulton established a parish school at Castlereagh. Young Tompson was a pupil, and in 1818 wrote an 'Ode to Spring', the forerunner of other youthful works in similar style. He celebrated the thirty-sixth anniversary of the foundation of the colony with 'A Song, for January 26, 1824'; of the eight stanzas, one was

Peace lifts her olive sceptre high,
Brown Industry assumes the plough,
Commerce expands her canvas wings,
Wealth points where honour guides the prow;
These, happy Australasia, these
Proclaim thee “Queen of Southern Seas”!

On 26 February Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane promised the young poet 100 acres (40 ha) at Mulwaree Ponds; this grant was gazetted in 1832. Also in 1824 Tompson wrote an elegy on the death of the former governor Lachlan Macquarie:

Deep in the warm recesses of each heart,
His lib'ral virtues held a grateful part.

Two years later Robert Howe published Wild Notes, from the Lyre of a Native Minstrel. By Charles Tompson, Jun., dedicated to Fulton. Before publication 212 subscriptions had been received.

On 12 April 1830 Tompson married Hannah Morris at St Matthew's, Windsor, and by 1831 was living in Kent Street, Sydney, and had become a clerk in the colonial secretary's office, where he remained until 1836 when he returned to his Doon Moor Cottage, Penrith. In July that year he and Fulton were appointed to the Penrith sub-committee of Bishop William Grant Broughton's general committee to resist the introduction of the National school system. In the Sydney Gazette, 17 December 1829, Tompson published Australia. A Translation of the Latin Prize Poem of S. Smith, a Student of Hyde Abbey School, Winchester.

By 1855 he was a clerk assistant to the Legislative Council, and in 1856 became a clerk assistant to the new Legislative Assembly, of which he was clerk from 1 January 1860 to his retirement on 31 January 1869. Hannah Tompson died on 12 January 1874. Tompson died on 5 January 1883 at Teddington, Glebe Point, and was buried in the Waverley cemetery. There were no children.

According to H. M. Green, Tompson's 'notes are very far from wild; on the contrary they are so polished and urbane that their appearance in such a place and time is something of a marvel … his verses are almost perfect in craftsmanship'. However, anthologists have made little effort to revive Tompson's work.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 18
  • J. C. L. Fitzpatrick, Those Were the Days (Syd, 1923)
  • Sydney Gazette, 5 Dec 1832
  • Australian Almanack, 1831-35
  • New South Wales Calendar, 1832-37
  • Society of Australian Genealogists, Sydney, records.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

'Tompson, Charles (1807–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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