Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Ernest Nowell Twopeny (1857–1915)

by John M. Ward

This article was published:

Richard Ernest Nowell Twopeny (1857-1915), journalist and author, was born on 1 August 1857 at Little Casterton rectory, Rutland, England, son of Rev. Thomas Nowell Twopeny (d.1869) and his wife Mathilde, née Lewis. His father migrated to South Australia in 1860 but Twopeny spent part of his childhood in France and was educated at Marlborough College, England, until 1875 and the Ruprecht-Karl-Universität, Heidelberg, Germany. With tact, energy, wide interests and some literary ability, he made journalism his profession. He arrived in Melbourne in the Northumberland on 15 May 1876 and soon moved to Adelaide where he worked on the South Australian Register in 1876-77.

Twopeny's organizing ability, economic interests and gift for publicity won him many special appointments: he was secretary for the South Australian royal commissions for the exhibitions in Paris (1878), Sydney (1879) and Melbourne (1880). He spent nine months in Paris where he met Jules Joubert and in 1879 was created an officer of the French Academy of Paris. In 1881-82 he edited the Telegraph in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Otago Daily Times in 1882-90. Meanwhile with Joubert he managed private-venture exhibitions in Adelaide and Perth in 1881 and Christchurch in 1882. Next year he tried to organize an Australasian exhibition in London and published his proposals in a pamphlet. He was commissioner for New Zealand at the 1888 Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne and executive commissioner for the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, in Dunedin in 1889-90.

Twopeny resigned from the Otago Daily Times in 1890 after a disagreement with the directors. When the Australian pastoralists decided during the 1891 shearers' strike to have their own paper, he was chosen with Captain Albert Pearse to found and edit the Australasian Pastoralists' Review; he was senior proprietor until 1915. In 1896-97 he visited Liverpool and Manchester in England as representative of the Australian Frozen Meat Export Association to study the Argentine meat trade. At his suggestion a meat marketing committee was formed to represent colonial freezing companies in England. He went to Europe in 1907 apparently for relaxation and visited Egypt, Italy, Germany, France and England. On his return to Melbourne in 1910 he wrote four articles for the Pastoralists' Review on his travels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Childless, he died suddenly of heart disease and pneumonia in London on 2 September 1915. He was survived by his wife Mary Josephine, daughter of Rev. A. H. Wretislaw, vicar of Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, Wales, whom he had married on 4 December 1879 at St John's Church of England, Darlinghurst, Sydney. He was attached to two nephews living in South Australia.

Twopeny impressed contemporaries as a man of charm, humour and executive talents. A fluent speaker and writer both of English and French, he had a perennial freshness of approach that matched his clear-eyed, open expression and alert, square-cut face, with trim moustache and goatee beard. Posterity has known him as the author of Town Life in Australia (London, 1883), an excellent, witty and sophisticated guide to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide about 1880. He was one of the first to note the predominance of lower middle-class models in English influence on Australian society, the derivative character of most political thought in Australia and the special characteristics derived from the assimilation of English, Scots and Irish in proportions that existed nowhere else in the world. Originally the book appears to have been written as letters for publication in an English periodical; neither the letters nor their place of publication, if any, has been found. The book, published by Elliot Stock, bears no editor's name and was carried through the press anonymously 'without communication with the writer, who is in New Zealand'. It was reprinted in Sydney in 1973.

Select Bibliography

  • R. E. N. Twopeny, Town Life in Australia, introduction by J. M. Ward (Syd, 1973)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1880, 4 (102), 15
  • G. Davison, ‘R. E. N. Twopeny and town life in Australia’, Historical Studies, no 63, Oct 1974
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Feb 1897, 15 Mar 1907.

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Citation details

John M. Ward, 'Twopeny, Richard Ernest Nowell (1857–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 August, 1857
Little Casterton, Rutland, England


2 September, 1915 (aged 58)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death

heart disease

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