In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali


James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

For Charles Worlock, transported to Australia, 1842C.H. Sisson
Vol. 14 No. 20 · 22 October 1992

For Charles Worlock, transported to Australia, 1842

C.H. Sisson

272 words

Another candidate for recollection
Is Charles Worlock, surely from my mother’s family,
For they farmed in Gloucestershire since who knows when
– Perhaps since Saxon times there on the marches –
And he embarked under the shining arches
Of North Star and Plough, 22, fair, 5 ft 10,
No further away than Bristol, to where he would see
The blaze instead of southern constellations.

He did not sail there for astronomy
But altogether against his better judgment:
The judgment was that of a judge.
The jewels he stole were bacon and potatoes.
His gaol report was bad, but when he put to sea,
Good: whether the waves and sky gave him contentment,
Or merely left him without an immediate grudge
As the hulk rolled and the stars fell and rose.

Once in the Antipodes his conduct was not impeccable.
I will not record the full roll of his crimes:
One was to make ‘five pairs of boots on his own account,
Without permission’. Was he not a shoemaker?
That, certainly, had been his trade in Bristol,
In what he had not then regarded as happy times,
As perhaps they seemed on the purgatorial mount
Where he slipped so often on his way to his Maker.

He married Ann Wilson, an alleged widow
And a fellow felon, who escaped from her wash-tub
And ‘pretended to be free’ – another misdemeanour.
In ‘59 he was insolent at the man-pushed railway,
Perhaps pushing it himself. In ‘67, they say,
Pardoned, he did not reckon that he could rub
His record clean, and maybe thought his behaviour
Would not do in Gloucestershire.
So, free to return whence he came, he did not go.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences