Rumours of My Death was a project that matched a forgotten work from Australia’s public domain with a contemporary writer. The writer was charged with creating a literary remix, using the source material to create a new work in a variety of modern formats.
The Tweets of @HenrySavery was written by Christopher Currie and based on Quintus Servinton, an 1830 novel by Henry Savery, generally regarded as Australia’s first.
The piece took place live on Twitter as Henry Savery—twice convicted forger, Australia’s first novelist, and ne’er-do-well about town—took up a digital residency at the 2015 Brisbane Writers Festival.
Via the handle @HenrySavery, the author made the long journey from Tasmania's Isle of the Dead thanks to his trusty horse, Richard Flanagan. Once in Brisbane, he attended events and chatted with authors and attendees, making observations on contemporary writing and publishing culture, and nursing raging hangovers thanks to John Marsden along the way. Admittedly, all of this was quite an achievement for an author who has resided underground since 1842.
We collected some of his finer observations and interactions at Storify.
At an encore performance at QWC’s Whispers salon, Chris also read from Savery's seminal work Quintus Servinton.
Not content to leave Henry in the peace he clearly deserves, we are taking his Twitter account in a new direction in 2016.
Using a small PHP script, we have automated the @HenrySavery feed to mash up text from Savery's novel Quintus Servinton. The script uses a variation of Markov chains to jam short bursts of text together that kind of sort of make sense (not really).
So far, his tweets usually err towards nonsense, though occasionally they're eerily magnificent, like that time he opined on the nature of love on Valentine's Day.
Love's great coadjutor, the tacit expression of the eye after this exordium, then motioned his pupil to take a chair.— Henry Savery (@HenrySavery) February 14, 2016
Over time, we hope to make his tweets more awesome and less nonsensical. Still, it's fun to watch his work in progress.
Christopher Currie is a writer and bookseller from Brisbane, whose fiction has appeared in anthologies and journals internationally. His first book, a novel for adults called The Ottoman Motel, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012. Clancy of the Undertow, his first novel for young adults is available from Text Publishing from December 2015.
Henry Savery (1791 – 1842) was a convict transported to Port Arthur, Tasmania. There he wrote the thinly fictionalised novel Quintus Servinton: A Tale Founded Upon Incidents of Real Occurrence in 1830, making him Australia’s first novelist. It is widely acknowledged that his writing is more important for its historical value than its literary merit.