Matthew Kneale was born in London in 1960. He was raised in Barnes, and went to school in Hammersmith. Environmental factors would seem to have dictated his choice of career as author, as both his parents were writers – Judith Kerr and Nigel Kneale (of “Quatermass” fame). Matthew Kneale read Modern History at Magdalen College, graduating in 1982. He first showed his wanderlust by teaching English in Japan for a year. He began writing shortly after his return. His first novel to be published was “Whore Banquets” (1987). This led to Matthew Kneale winning the Somerset Maugham Award, 38 years after his father had done the same. “Inside Rose’s Kingdom” followed in 1989. 1992 saw the publication of “Sweet Thames”, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Matthew Kneale’s most famous novel, “English Passengers”, was published in 2000, and went on to win The Whitbread Prize, and was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which it should have won. In 2002, “Whore Banquets” was reissued under the new title of “Mr Foreigner”. 2005 saw the release of “Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance”, a collection of short stories. “When We Were Romans” is the title of Matthew Kneale’s latest novel (2007). He lives in Rome with his wife and family.
My week: Matthew Kneale – the week that Matthew was nominated for The Whitbread Prize in 2000. He was working on a novel about an imaginary Marxist state at the time
Coming Clean – Matthew Kneale writes about Rome’s fascist architecture for The Guardian
Letters: Britain and Mussolini – how Guardian readers reacted to Matthew Kneale’s article
The Chief Clerk’s story – a mysterious, alien object has to be buried in this Matthew Kneale story, possibly influenced by some of his father’s tales
Five Minutes with Matthew Kneale – Emma Yates’ interview for The Guardian contains audio files. Interview dates from 2001
Conversation with Matthew Kneale – Sean McDonald’s interview
The Tourist – Marion McLeod’s recent interview with Matthew for the New Zealand Listener, in which he reveals that the Marxist novel never really took off
Small Crimes in a Shrinking World – Peter Stanford interviews Matthew Kneale for The Independent
English Passengers - Kevin Patrick Mahoney reviews Matthew Kneale's Whitbread winning novel. It should have won the Booker too. Here are some links relating to the novel - find out who was the real Robson, Governor Alder, and Doctor Potter. Discover more about the location and ideas mentioned in the novel:
Methodist Returns from 1851 Religious Census - you'll recognise many of the surnames of Kewley's crew amongst these names, including Mylchreest, Moore, and Clucas. You'll also find mention of the Kneale surname - Matthew Kneale was born on the Isle of Man.
Manx Surnames - this gives a clear guide to the division between Norse and Gaelic surnames on the Sincerity which Potter thought so important.
Manx Publications - these titles give some idea of Manx history
The Four Rivers of Eden - it's this very puzzle which makes the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson make a huge deductive leap of idiocy into thinking that Eden is to be found in Tasmania. It's a debate which still goes on today, as these sites reveal.
Has the Garden of Eden ever been found - also quotes the most important theological faqs, such as: did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?
Has the Garden of Eden been located at last? - The ideas on this site seem to be a little more thought out than those that occur to Wilson.
The 1857 Indian Mutiny - this is the revolt that breaks out during the novel, and disrupts Wilson's plans
whoseland.com - for Tasmanian region
Hobart Town - including a visit by deposed New South Wales Governor Bligh
Tasmania by Track and Road Chapter 12 - includes an account of some convicts and the notorious Black Line
Manx Family History Records - this section deals with the Manx who were transported to Tasmania. Includes a description of Port Arthur which Kewley and his passengers would recognise - "hell on earth"
Port Arthur Historic Site - contains a description of the Separate Prison and its "dumb" cells
Eaglehawk Neck - an account of the dogline which was designed to prevent any means of escape for Port Arthur convicts. It was set up in 1832 by Ensign Darling - could he have been the Commandant Darling who took the Tasmanian Aboriginals to Flinders Island in the novel?
Truganini - a brief account of her life. She was one of the Tasmanian Aboriginals who helped George Augustus Robinson (Robson in English Passengers)
Truganini - another bio
Tasmania by Track and by Road Chapter 16 - perhaps the most shocking extract reveals what happened to Truganini's body and what Emmett thought of the Tasmanian Aborigines. Emmett was writing in the late 1940s - is this really supposed to be a promotion of Tasmanian Tourism?
Authenticity/Hybridity and Pallewah Identities in Castro's 'Drift' – essay no no longer online - discusses the ghoulish display of Truganini's bones as an "emblem of extinction". It also examines Brian Castro's novel 'Drift' - this reveals that Matthew Kneale's not the first novelist to bring the Garden of Eden to Tasmania: "Sperm McGann's notion of a "hybrid" race constructs the Pallawah women's reproductive capabilities in economic terms as "the supply of labour," "our reward," "our harvest," which is juxtaposed with biblical images of Sperm as a new Adam and his favourite Pallawah woman, Wore, as the essential Eve. Even the name of McGann's "hybrid" tribe--The Intercostals--alludes explicitly to that classic tool for constructing the "other," Adam's rib."
Black War: The Destruction of the Tasmanian Aborigines - describes the events, and how Truganini's body was treated after her death - "Don't let them cut me up," she begged the doctor as she lay dying. No doubt she knew how William Lanney's body had been treated.
Caricature featuring Dr William Crowther in St David's Cemetry - should be a familiar scene to readers of English Passengers, and greatly adds to the novel's authenticity. It concerns the attempted stealing of William Lanney's body. Click on the image to see it more clearly - that odd creature must be a Tasmanian Devil, appropriately enough
Tasmania - features history and pictures of the Tasmanian Devil
Extract from the Diary of George Augustus Robinson - interesting to compare this to English Passengers' diaries - we get to see how Robson may have written. Robinson complains about the homicide of the Aboriginals by the settlers
Tasmania - some more details about the history
The Black War - set up by Governor Arthur
The Journal of Syms Covington - this contains an excellent criticism of Darwin by the editor: "Darwin [Darwin 1906: 430; Barlow 1933: 389] quotes Hobart as having 13,826 inhabitants (in 1835), with Tasmania at 36,505. The remaining 140 Aboriginal Tasmanians were expelled to Flinders' Island in Bass Strait between 1831 and 1835, as Darwin explains, by beating them into Tasman's Peninsula, near Hobart, the way tigers were driven towards the hunters "in the great hunting-matches of India" (which failed) and by the remarkable conciliatory efforts of George Augustus Robinson (which did not) [Darwin 1906:431]. What Darwin called necessary was nothing less than genocide. As a race, they are now gone."
The Science of Racism and its Consequences - "Creationists have been very vocal in ascribing the spread, even the very genesis, of racism to evolution (see, for example, Henry Morris's 1974 book, The Troubled Waters of Evolution, as quoted by Richard Trott ). The facts are entirely otherwise. Racism was alive and kicking long, long, before the Darwinian revolution; and almost invariably it was the curse laid on the children of Ham..." Very interesting debate between the Potters and Wilsons, covering the Tasmanian Aborigines
Aboriginals dancing at Brighton, Tasmania 1835 - a picture by John Glover from the estate of George Augustus Robinson's son
Tasmania by Road and Track Chapter 7 - gives an account of the "valiant little bricklayer of Hobart Town, George Augustus Robinson" tracking Aborigines
Genocide site handed back - how slowly the wheels of justice turn
Aboriginal Station Oyster Cove - a picture by Annie Benbow
Tasmanian Aborigines at Oyster Cove - again by Annie Benbow
The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin: Chapter 7 On the Races of Man - mentions the Tasmanian Aborigines and Robert Knox, the vile surgeon Dr. Potter was based upon
And the Lord Said, 'Where is your Brother?' (Aboriginal Reconciliation) - examines the genocide of the Tasmanian Aborigines through the Cain and Abel story (can't seem to escape the Garden of Eden allegory). Useful in that a refers to the catechism Robinson taught on Flinders Island
The Hope and Anchor Tavern - is this where Peevay finds Thomas Perch?
The Daguerrian Process: a Description - how to make Daguerreotypes
Mona Vale: Residence of William Kermode - I'm not sure if this is the same William Kermode who sent George Vandieman to England, but it's a possibility (see Matthew Kneale's epilogue to English Passengers)
Overview of Dr. Robert Knox - on whom Doctor Potter is based. Whilst practising in Edinburgh, he employed a couple of fellows by the name of Burke and Hare....
The Races of Men by Robert Knox - read this extract (if you can stomach it) and compare it with Dr. Potter's journal
"Knox on the Celtic Race" Anthropological Review - " – this essay is no longer online. Although Knox perhaps generalised too much, and allowed his great partiality for epigram and satire, to hurry him beyond the sobriety which appertains to science, into real or apparent inconsistencies, we believe that his views are, on the whole, sound.... " - thus does the Anthropological Review condemn itself
History of Anatomy - discusses nineteenth century attitudes to anatomy. This issue has reappeared with the recent Alder Hey scandal, and the retention of children's organ parts without parents' permission
"Prize Negroes" and the Development of Racial Attitudes in the Cape Colony, South Africa - "Keegan, Colonial South Africa, 24. Saul Dubow concludes that the "landmark" work of scientific racism was not published in England until 1850. The work was Robert Knox's The Races of Men, and it claimed that individual and "national" character "is traceable solely to the nature of that race to which the individual or nation belongs." Quoted in Dubow, Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995),27"
A "Perverse and ill-fated People": English Perceptions of the Irish 1845-52 - featuring Robert Knox - perverse is the right word
God's Image in Ebony - features the following Knox quote: "Knox says, and he has good authority for his assertion, that it is only since their contest with Europeans, that the Kaffirs have become "treacherous, bloody, and thoroughly savage;" before that period, although rude and barbarous; wanting in all the arts of civilization, they were "mild, and to a certain extent trust-worthy." It is humiliating to learn that such an effect should have been produced upon the dark Aboriginal races, by contact with white men--educated men--christian men! But so it is, and so it ever will be while the sword is used to open a way for the Bible. If the warrior and the missionary go hand in hand, the latter preacheth and teacheth for the most part in vain; some good he will do, but how little good, compared with what he might do, if he went forth relying only upon the promises of God, and the sure word of salvation. Those missions have ever been the most successful which have been planted in the desert and the wilderness, wherein no sword or bayonet has ever flashed, no drop of human blood been spilled; those Missionaries the most beloved, and the most influential for good, who have leaned the least upon the arm of earthly power.-- "Their noblest epithet--the men of peace!" "