Rolf Boldrewood’s Robbery Under Arms is the ninth volume to be published by the Academy Editions of Australian Literature project. Edited by Paul Eggert and Elizabeth Webby, the handsome volume is a major addition to this growing library of classics of Australian writing. It will undoubtedly become the definitive critical edition of Robbery Under Arms; the comprehensive scholarship that accompanies this book will illuminate our teaching and thinking about Boldrewood’s classic in the twenty-first century.
Robbery Under Arms is by common consent one of our established classics, and this edition provides us with many new insights, beginning with the restoration of the 29,000 words cut from the original serial text. The new material adds considerably to the sense of the novel’s sprawl. Robbery Under Arms is a big book that covers a lot of country, as the essay on places mentioned in the novel demonstrates. While it mostly represents the high country, it was one of the first east-coast fictions to look northwards and westwards beyond the Divide. This is one of our early national fictions, one of the first novels in which characters travel three colonies, traversing the inland corridor, that great crescent of productive pastoral country and farmland watered by the Murray Darling and stretching from Queensland to South Australia.