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Thomas Horton James
The Life of X. Y. Z.

By Peter Symes, 262 pages, with extensive footnotes and several illustrations (Black and White, and Colour).

Confections of Thomas Horton James
Including the X. Y. Z. Letters

Compiled by Peter Symes, 200 pages, with extensive footnotes.

The two books are companion volumes and are being sold as a pair for USD60.00, which includes postage.

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These two books, the first on the life of Thomas Horton James and the second a collection of his writings, were written and compiled by Peter Symes, after years of extensive research. Thomas Horton James (1792-1867) is little known in Australia today, but shortly after he arrived in Sydney in 1824 he became well known and well respected.

Mr. James arrived in New South Wales in 1824 and launched several enterprises, including a merchant’s store, fishing ventures, importing goods, farming an extensive estate in the Hunter Valley and trading as a merchant. He is best known for establishing the first tobacco manufactory in New South Wales and he encouraged the growth of tobacco within the colony. He was well regarded in Sydney, becoming the foreman of the first Grand Jury in the colony and, when a meeting of Sydney’s merchants was held to establish a third bank in the colony, Mr. James was called to chair the meeting ahead of Mr. Gregory Blaxland. After giving up his initial store at 96 George Street in the Rocks, he opened his second store in George Street, just south of Bridge Street.

In 1831 Mr. James bought a ship and sailed to the South Pacific, then to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), before returning to London. There he published a pamphlet on the Sandwich and Bonin Islands, in which he encouraged the British Government to take possession of the islands. As a result of his pamphlet he was invited to an audience with the King. Having sold his ship in the Sandwich Islands, he purchased another vessel and brought a shipload of immigrants to Hobart and Sydney.

Arriving back in the colony in 1833 with his fiancée, he married and recommenced his commercial activities. He sold his building near Bridge Street and built another store on the corner of George Street and Barrack Lane, which was later to become the first store of David Jones and Company. He then bought the auctioneering business of Solomon Levey in a partnership with John Terry Hughes and John Hosking. Mr. James also became a land agent and land developer.

Ultimately his enterprises failed and he escaped his creditors by travelling overland to Port Phillip, then travelling to Adelaide, where he stayed for a period before returning to London. In London he attempted to launch a business trading with the colonies, but this business also failed.

The great legacy of Mr. James is not his business interests, but his writings. As well as the X. Y. Z. Letters, he wrote several accounts of life in the colonies—from his description of his journey to Hobart and Sydney (travelling on the same vessel that brought George Arthur to Van Diemen’s Land as Lieutenant-Governor), his early impressions of Sydney, his travels around the colony (penned under the pseudonyms of Rubio, X. Y. Z. and H.), and his account of Adelaide one year after it was established. This last account was published in London as Six Months in South Australia, with some account of Port Phillip and Portland Bay, in Australia Felix.

He also published in Sydney An Address to the Passengers of the Ann, an address given on his arrival in Hobart with his cargo of immigrants, as well as Rambles in the United States and Canada During the Year 1845, with a short account of Oregon under the authorship of “Rubio”, following a trip to these locations some years after he had left Australia.

Mr. James was also a significant player in the Sydney press. As well as contributing articles on his travels through the colony, he was a regular contributor to The Australian during 1827 and in early 1828 he became co-proprietor of the newspaper with Dr. Wardell. The pair were forced to sell the paper in June 1828 after the paper’s prolonged attacks on Governor Darling.

Mr. James then worked with the Reverend Mr. Mansfield from February 1829, running The Sydney Gazette (after the death of Robert Howe in January 1829). After his return to the colony in 1833, Mr. James helped establish The Sydney Times with Nathaniel Kentish, as well as establishing the Commercial Journal and Advertiser.

That a man so active in the development of New South Wales should be so little known today is largely due to his ignoble departure from Sydney and the failure of his enterprises. The life of Mr. James is now recorded in the biography Thomas Horton James - The Life of X. Y. Z. and a companion volume, Confections of Thomas Horton James, Including the X. Y. Z. Letters, reproduces many of the shorter works of Mr. James.