The Vagabond Papers (expanded edition)
Authors: John Stanley James, edited and introduced by Michael Cannon, with new contributions by Robert G Flippen and Willa McDonald
Publisher: Monash University Publishing in association with State Library Victoria
Available to read in the Library
Renowned as a journalist and 'eminently unconventional character', the 19th-century writer and scoundrel John Stanley James (1843–96), aka Julian Thomas and 'The Vagabond', revealed from first-hand experiences the degradation of life in Melbourne's festering slums during the Victorian era.
The Vagabond's articles repeatedly shocked the city's respectable citizens with their lively reporting of scandalous situations – baby farming, harsh conditions in prisons and asylums, savage sporting events, the life of the demi-monde and pathetic pauper funerals.
He also wrote convincingly about the emergence of a well-off middle class in the fast-developing colonies, and led the way to 'immersion journalism' more than a century before the 'gonzo' style of journalism was popularised.
The Vagabond was honoured in 2015 in the Melbourne Press Club's Hall of Fame, which features in the exhibition Media legends hosted at the Library. He is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.
Edited by historian Michael Cannon, this selection of the Vagabond's best work includes Cannon's introduction to the 1969 edition, which attempted to explain the mysteries of the Vagabond's origins and adventures, and why he used pseudonyms after fleeing from the USA to Australia.
This second edition includes a new foreword and new research by Bob Flippen and Willa McDonald that bring to light the Vagabond's time in Virginia and New Caledonia.