At this year's Brisbane Writers Festival, be sure to give a cheerio to @HenrySavery, a digital incarnation of Australia's first novelist, as he takes in the sights, sounds, and probably smells of a nation that has changed a little since his death in 1842. Henry has saddled up his horse Flanagan and is currently making his way from Port Arthur's Isle of the Dead to Brisbane. Who?
Born in London in 1791, Henry Savery was convicted of forgery in 1825 and initially sentenced to death which was later commuted to transportation. As a convict in Hobart, Savery was assigned to the office of the superintendent of Van Diemen's Land. While working for the colony, he wrote and published sketches of colonial life under a pseudonym, works that later landed him with a libel suit. On his release, Savery wrote and published Quintus Servinton, a thinly fictionalised account of his own life. Filled with justifications for the poor decisions made in his life, the novel is now generously referred to as a work whose historical significance outweighs its artistic merit. Henry did not stay out of trouble for long and after a few years of freedom, found himself back in the slammer at Port Arthur where he met his unfortunate and premature end.
Read more about his life at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
An active account on Twitter operated by an author who for the moment wishes to remain anonymous, @HenrySavery will provide insights, observations and interaction with the public during the 2015 Brisbane Writers Festival. Visitors to the festival and observers from afar are encouraged to follow Henry to access the long-neglected perspective of the not-quite-alive nineteenth century writer on contemporary writing, publishing and culture.
In the week leading up to the festival, he will attempt to figure out how Twitter works, then 4 – 6 September 2015, talk to him, ask him questions, and—if you're so inclined—wonder who might be behind his singular voice.
The tweets of @HenrySavery forms part of an if:book project called Rumours of My Death where three contemporary authors are challenged to create 'remixes' of works from nineteenth century Australia.
The project seeks to raise awareness of the importance of the public domain as a rich and deep source of culture and to highlight the 'remix' as a distinct form of writing that creatively modifies existing work.
The format of Rumours of My Death also raises broader questions around Australian culture and identity. How much have we changed in the near two centuries since Savery published his book? How much has remained the same?
Rumours of My Death is a project from if:book Australia that challenges three writers to remix a forgotten work culled from Australia's Public Domain, to take work from our past and bring it into the present day.