The Emigrant Family was first published in three volumes in 1849, with a second edition, titled Martin Beck after its villain and dominant character, appearing in 1852. The appeal of this romantic novel set in New South Wales in the 1830s is no longer limited to literary historians. Vivid scenic descriptions and informed comment on the life and customs of the young colony make it absorbing reading for those interested in social history; while the charming - if often contrived - and sometimes exciting story of the Bracton family and their friends will delight the fireside reader as he relaxes in an age of gentleman pioneers and ladies who, despite vapours and strong emotions, were surprisingly tough. Alexander Harris sailed for Sydney in 1825. He seems to have been employed at different times as a clerk, a tutor, and a timber-getter, travelling particularly in the Hunter Valley, Illawarra, Shoalhaven, and Bathurst areas of New South Wales. His sympathies were always with the emancipist and the native-born colonial rather than the official and military classes, and this attitude, as well as the knowledge he gained of such things as aboriginal pidgin, methods of cattle branding and stealing, stockyard construction, and treatment of convicts, can be seen in his writings. He is also known to be the author of Settlers and Convicts, a settler's account of his experiences in New South Wales, and other semi-autobiographical works.