Reprint: "A Writer of Books": Sent to Gaol for Vagrancy

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In his memorial poem on Marcus Clarke, the late Henty Kendall sung of --

     "The lot austere
   That ever seems to wait upon
   The man of letters here."

but probably Kendall, pessimistic as he was, would scarcely have dreamt of the fate accorded Gustav Huton at the City Court yesterday. Huton described himself as a "writer of books" in the watchhouse charge sheet, but Plain-clothes Constable Colby accused him of being a vagrant and a maker of fies on the banks of the Yarra.  Huton, it appears, constructed a mia-mia at the foot ot Government-house hill some days ago, and it has been his habit since to build fires and otherwise imperil the public weal. He wore long hair, and a longer overcoat, and Corby informed the Court that these covered a multitude of defects in the way of dirt and tatters.

"I may not look respectable," observed the accused, "but I can write you a good book."  

"What is he?" asked Mr Cook, the chairman of the bench, while Messrs. Lancashire, Andrews, and Cherry, the remaining J.P.'s, regarded prisoner with evidentinterest.

"You do not understand; all of you. You think me a wretch and all this, but I can write you a first-class book. Marie Corelli isn't in it with me; only the department took all my money from me, and, your Worships, allow me to correct one little error. The sergeant here said that I was up last time for vagrancy. That is not true; it was for threatening to commit suicide, about the most stupid charge the police could invent. I think I have pretty clearly explained my position," concluded the accused, but the Bench evidently failed to comprehend the explanation, and sent "the writer of books" to gaol for 12 months. 

First published in The Argus, 22 April 1897

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 13, 2011 3:53 PM.

2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards Winners was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Literary Monuments #31 - Marcus Clarke is the next entry in this blog.

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