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Richard Henry Horne

1802 – 1884

Poet Richard Henry Horne (1802–1884) arrived in Melbourne in 1852 hoping to make money on the goldfields but ended up instead in a variety of less remunerative prospects. Initially he was appointed to the command of a private gold escort; in 1853 he became assistant gold commissioner for Heathcote and Waranga but by the end of 1854 had been dismissed. In December that year, in the wake of the Eureka rebellion, he published an article defending miners’ grievances with the licensing system and alleging corruption on the part of some goldfields police, ‘especially in relation with sly-grog tents’. Though not exactly a model of propriety in his own life, Horne saw fit to decry colonial society and ‘social evils’ on a number of other occasions. In Australian Facts and Prospects (1859), for instance, he wrote that ‘with regard to drunkenness and prostitution [Melbourne] is far worse than Sydney, or any other city in the world’, citing the bar at the Theatre Royal as a case in point. ‘Between every act it is the custom of the audience to rush out to the bars for a nobbler of brandy, or other drinks. They all think they need it, whatever the weather may be’. Between 1855 and his return to England, disillusioned, in 1869, Horne stood for election to parliament (unsuccessfully); wrote plays, essays, articles and verse; was a member of the Garrick Club; and helped establish the Tahbilk Winery.

Updated 2018