THE LAST TASMANIAN.
This is the title of a book before us recently published in London Mr James Bonwick the author, is well and favourably known to the Australian public, both from his late official position as Inspector of Public Schools in Vic- toria, and also from his intimate connection with the aborigines of the colonies, more espe- cially with those of Tasmania. The volume which is got up both in the letter press and engravings in a very superior manner, is not a common literary catch penny, but a faithful historical account of the discovery by Tasman of this island in 1642 , the state and habits of the natives at that time , the cruelty of the white towards them , the counter barbarity practised by the natives , and the gradual deterioration and extinction of the Tasmanian aboriginal ele- ment. Mr Bonwick, in the short preface to the work, craves the indulgence of the critic for any crudeness or slight inaccuracies, and states that his object in publishing the book was simply to supply that which he conceived to he essen- tially necessary - of placing before the public a truthful and reliable description of a race that has become extinct, and not to gain
any literary celebrity as an author. The indulgence, however, is not needed, for the narrative - for such it is - is given with such graphic descriptive power, and interspersed at times with so many quaint and humorous anecdotes, that the book is not only made read- able, but highly interesting. Mr. Bonwick as before observed, commences with the arrival of Tasman on the island. After giving a succinct account of the voyager's tales of the aborigines and adverting to the principal events occurring in Van Diemen's Land as it gradually became populated by the whites, he enters upon a lengthy description of what is known as the "Black War of 1804." This commencement of hostilities between the whites and blacks, Mr. Bonwick attributes to the effects of a half-drunken spree indulged in by the soldiers of the 102nd Regt. then stationed on the island, and not as a generally supposed, from any warlike propensity on the part of the aborigines. Whilst, however taking up the cudgels in this particular in- stance on behalf of the natives, Mr. Bonwick does not attempt to shield them, when by so doing faithfulness of record would have to be sacrificed. The dark side of the Tas- manian - his treachery and cold-blooded in- humanity - is brought prominently forward ; but as the author asks, " how can this be wondered at, when they were murdered in cold blood; shot in the woods, and hunted down as beasts of prey ; when their women were contaminated and then their throats cut, or shot by British residents who would fain call themselves civilised people!" A full account of the Black War which might be termed a veritable reign of terror - having been given, together with a sketch of the means adopted by the Government and settlers for affording protection against the natives, which savoured strongly of an exter- minating policy, Mr. Bonwick goes largely into the career of Mr. G. A. Robinson, "the Con- ciliator," and the beneficial effects of his labors in connection with the natives. In conclusion, Mr. Bonwick discusses the history of Australia aboriginal civilisation and adverts to the causes which, in his opinion, have led to the almost complete extinction of the race. The cause of this decline he attributes to drink, and the numerous vices that follow in its train. The
affecting story of the beautiful Mathinna, the protegé of Lady Franklin, known so familiarly to many of our old colonists, is told with all the thrilling pathos of romance, and serves as a capital illustration of the theory held by Mr. Bonwick, that by judicious treat- ment the, aborigines were capable of receiv- ing as high a tone of civilisation as the more favorably circumstanced Caucasian race.
Space prevents us giving any extract from this very useful and instructive work. We must refer our readers to the book itself, and in doing so, we have every confidence in saying that this last addition to Mr. Bonwick's list of works on Australia and its natives will be found well worth a perusal.
"The Last Tasmanian," by James Bonwick, F.R.G.S Sampson Low, Son, and Maraton, London ; Walch & Sons, Hobart Town.