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Robbery Under Arms

Rolf Boldrewood


Robbery Under Arms, subtitled A Story of Life and Adventure in the Bush and in the Goldfields of Australia, was published in serial form in the Sydney Mail newspaper between July 1882 and August 1883. It was published under the name of Rolf Boldrewood, a pseudonym for Thomas Alexander Browne, a police magistrate and gold commissioner.

Robbery Under Arms is an entertaining adventure story told from the first person point of view of Richard “Dick” Marston. The story is in the form of a journal written from jail where he’s waiting to be hanged for his crimes. Marston and his brother Jim are led astray as young men by their father, who made money by cattle “duffing,” or stealing. They are introduced to their father’s associate, known only as Captain Starlight, a clever and charming fraudster. After a spell in jail, from which he escapes, Marston, his brother, and father are persuaded by Starlight to operate as bank robbers and bushrangers. They embark on a life continually on the run from the police. Despite this, Dick and Jim also manage to spend a considerable time prospecting for gold, and the gold rush and the fictitious gold town of Turon are described in detail.

The character of Captain Starlight is based largely on the real-life exploits of bushrangers Harry Redford and Thomas Smith, the latter known as “Captain Midnight.”

Regarded as a classic of Australian literature, Robbery Under Arms has never been out of print, and has been the basis of several adaptations in the form of films and television serials.

This Standard Ebooks edition is unabridged, and restores some 30,000 words from the original serialization which were cut out of the 1889 one-volume edition of the novel.

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