BURN, David (c. 1800-1875)


BURN, David (c. 1800-1875)
Tasmanian pioneer and dramatist
was born about the end of the eighteenth century and after being in the navy emigrated to Tasmania in 1825. He returned to England in 1828, and in September 1829 his play, The Bushrangers, was acted with success at the Caledonian Theatre, Edinburgh. Early in January 1830 his farce, Manias and Maniacs, afterwards re-named Our First Lieutenant, was played at the same theatre for several successive nights. Burn went to Tasmania again in that year but revisited England in 1838. He remained until 1840; the dedication of his pamphlet Vindication of Van Diemen's Land is dated 18 February 1840, and in 1841 he brought out another pamphlet, The Chivalry of the Mercantile Marine, published at Plymouth. He returned to Tasmania and published his Plays and Fugitive Pieces in Verse in 1842; the dedication to Lady Franklin (q.v.) is dated November 1842. This book, in two well-printed volumes, always found bound in one, was the first volume of plays published in Australia. About this time he probably wrote his An Excursion to Port Arthur in 1842, of which an edition was published at the Examiner office, Launceston, some 60 years later. He was editing the South Britain or Tasmanian Literary Journal in 1843, and afterwards went to Sydney and Auckland, where he lived for many years. He was connected with the New Zealand press, at first on the New Zealander and subsequently as a partner in the New Zealand Herald. He died in prosperous circumstances at Auckland on 14 June 1875. He was married twice and had two children. He was a voluminous writer and many of his manuscripts are preserved at the Mitchell library, Sydney, including his reminiscences and diaries. His plays have a special interest on account of their early date, and though they have been decried as literature, they are not badly constructed and have the merit of being readable. The title-page of his volume states that he was also author of Van Diemen's Land, Moral, Physical and Political, and Strictures on the Navy.
The New Zealand Herald, 15 June 1875; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; Notes to the plays in Plays and Fugitive Pieces in Verse; The Argus, Melbourne, 12 January 1926.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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