Van Diemen’s Land Gazette


Assisted with Van Diemen’s Land Gazette 1814

VDL gazette

The first attempt to publish a newspaper in Van Diemen’s Land was made before Bent arrived in the colony. The Derwent Star, and Van Diemen’s Land Intelligencer was edited by G. P. Harris and printed by convict printer George Clarke assisted by Francis Barnes, also still a convict. It appeared for at least nine issues in 1810, then lapsed from lack of support. An attempt to revive it in a ‘new edition’ produced only one number, covering 20 Nov. 1811 to 7 Feb. 1812.

A second attempt was made in May 1814, when Clarke, who had received a conditional pardon earlier in the year, and was now Government Printer, commenced the fortnightly Van Diemen’s Land Gazette, and General Advertiser. The only surviving issues are nos. 2 (21 May/4 June 1814) to 9 (Sep. 10/24 1814) although extracts from an Oct. 1814 issue were made in the Sydney Gazette the following year.

It is pretty certain, based on comments and reminiscences from contemporaries such as John Pascoe Fawkner, Jorgen Jorgenson and Andrew Magill (although some of these are garbled and second-hand) that by 1814 Bent was working as Clarke’s assistant or assigned servant so he would definitely have been helping with the Van Diemen’s Land Gazette. It was further suggested that Clarke may have left much of the management of the newspaper to Bent, and that his lack of vigilance (or fondness for the drink) allowed Bent to take some sort of advantage.  If true, this suggests Bent may have had a substantial degree of responsibility for the production of this newspaper. Bent himself was consistently reluctant to talk about the period before 1815-16 or his relationship with Clarke and there was obvious bad blood between them up until Clarke’s death in 1831.