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Shadows on the Snow: A Christmas Story

I. Farjeon's Biography

I. Farjeon's Biography

Benjamin L. Farjeon was supposedly born on 12 May 1838 in London, England (Sorrell). He did not come from an affluent family; they were poor and Jewish. His parents, Dinah Levy and Jacob Farjeon, ran a second-hand clothing business for a living. Benjamin L. Farjeon was one of five children, all of whom did not receive much of an education (Sorrell).

Farjeon spent most of his life working in literary jobs. His first job was a "printer's devil," which is more commonly known as a compositor (Sorrell). Farjeon worked this job on the Christian paper the Nonconformist. It has even been said that on his way to work one day to his "printer's devil" job, Farjeon passed a second-hand bookshop and stopped to read an open book - the owner saw him and said that he could visit the bookshop anytime to read. Farjeon spent his first wages from the Nonconformist on a book of German legends from this very bookshop, called Select Tales from Musaeus. (Reed 27) Farjeon’s version of this book is actually part of the Farjeon Collection at the Dunedin Public Library, along with a copy of Shadows on the Snow, more of Farjeon’s works, and the works of his children.

Farjeon had a disagreement with his father – over an unspecified religious matter – causing him to leave England in 1854. He eventually made his way to work on the New Zealand goldfields. He took a steerage passage to Melbourne first on the Ocean Wave., and went to the goldfields in Victoria. He continued with writing during the voyage, producing several copies of a handwritten newspaper that was named the Ocean Record. (Sorrell). While in Australia, Farjeon diverted his work away from writing for a time, spending a month working as an accountant in Melbourne before working at the goldfields. However, it was in the goldfields where he started creating newspapers for each camp, and he used his experience in writing newspapers to advance to the new fields in Otago. In 1861, Farjeon went to the editor of the Melbourne Argus and got a job as the paper’s New Zealand correspondent (Sorrell).

Farjeon’s work with newspapers continued when he arrived in Dunedin, where he started working for their weekly newspaper, The Colonist. After a brief spell, he was transferred to a newer press: the Otago Daily Times. Julius Vogel edited this paper and the joint proprietor was William Cutten (Sorrell). Across his employment, Farjeon became the business manager, sub-editor, contributor, and frequent compositor. In November of 1864, Cutten ended his partnership with Vogel and so Farjeon then became Vogel’s new partner. However, in March of 1866, Farjeon and Vogel sold the Times on the condition that they were kept on as manager and editor.

A newspaper article from Oamaru in 1891 gives contrasting information about Farjeon’s early career in Dunedin. The Oamaru Mail wrote that Farjeon actually started the Otago Daily Times himself as the first daily paper in the colony. The newspaper states that Farjeon not only edited the paper but he also wrote most of it, and sometimes helped to set it up, and deliver it to the subscribers (Oamaru Mail). Fajeon involved himself in the social life of Dunedin, becoming significantly well known and on his way to a successful career as a result. He "donated to the Otago Benevolent Institution, supported the Princess Theatre (Sorrell)", bought some allotments in Walker (now Carroll) Street (Reed 24), and "was a founder, member, and treasurer of the Garrick Club (Sorrell)." Alongside these particular organisations, Farjeon did have a general support for the arts and literature (Reed 24). Farjeon also "joined Vogel in multiple speculative mining ventures in 1865 and 1866 (Sorrell)".

Dunedin is also where Farjeon’s literary career started. Although he was doing very well working for newspapers, "Dunedin made him a well-known nineteenth century New Zealand author (Sorrell)." Farjeon’s children became authors too, and so there is a whole collection dedication to Farjeon, his children, and all their works in the Dunedin Library (Sorrell). Although Farjeon’s sudden move to London could be considered risky – due to his career safety in Dunedin – the move proved successful: Farjeon became established as one of the most popular novelists of his time. London was where he met his wife, Margaret Jefferson. They got married on the 6th June 1877 at the Register Office, Hampstead. The couple had four sons, one of whom died in infancy, and a daughter, Eleanor Farjeon. Their daughter, Eleanor Farjeon, became a children’s author and contributed significantly to English literature and an invaluable Farjeon Collection, which exists in the Dunedin Library (Reed 27). This collection also includes literature from some of Farjeon’s sons. Benjamin Leopold Farjeon died at Hampstead on 23 July 1903 (Sorrell).