State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 83 May 2009



This Issue of the La Trobe Journal focuses on Victorian writers (in the geographic sense) and opens with ‘Sweet Yarra, Run Softly’ by poet and critic, Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Some forty-six years ago, Wallace-Crabbe wrote an oft-quoted essay entitled ‘Melbourne in 1963’ and in ‘Sweet Yarra, Run Softly’ he reaffirms his affection for – and affiliation with – the city he has lived and worked in for more than fifty years.
Wallace-Crabbe's essay is followed by an article on designing a centre for Australian Crime Fiction by Derham Groves. Here he combines his interest in crime fiction with his role as a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Melbourne.
Sidney Courtier and June Wright, two of the writers discussed by Groves, can be classed as neglected Victorian writers. The same could be said for the three writers covered in the article by Gavin De Lacy. Jean Campbell, ‘Georgia Rivers’ and ‘Capel Boake’ are virtually forgotten today but De Lacy makes a strong case for the three being included in any assessment of Australian women's writing of the 1930s.
All three were well known to Nettie Palmer. Palmer was a great supporter of Australian writers. One of the many she mentored – a word she is unlikely to have used – was a young John Barnes. In ‘Remembering the Palmers’, John Barnes, my predecessor as editor of the La Trobe Journal, provides an evocative memoir of his friendship with Nettie Palmer and his meetings with her husband, Vance Palmer.
John's memoir is followed by Robin Lucas’ account of the publication of Nettie Palmer's Fourteen Years, published in 1948 by the Meanjin Press. This was a hybrid publication in that the book was effectively self-published by the Palmers using the infrastructure of the Meanjin Press. It could be argued that Frank Hardy's notorious Melbourne novel, Power without Glory, was also self-published in that Hardy established a company in which he was the sole trader to print and publish the book. But he was also supported by an infrastructure, this one more fluid, being the network of supporters and friends associated with the Communist Party of Australia. In ‘Proof Copy or Clandestine Edition?’ Des Cowley outlines the intriguing story behind what he calls the ‘Fraser’ copy of Power without Glory, donated to the State Library by its namesake in 2005.
Terence O'Neill in ‘Joan Lindsay: a time for everything’, in addition to being the first detailed biographical study of Joan Lindsay, provides important new insights to the background behind Lindsay's mysterious and eerie novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The novel, first published in 1967 and later filmed by Peter Weir, is alleged by one commentator to have been read by more than eleven million people world-wide.
Continuing the theme of neglected Melbourne writers, Graham Willett in ‘Moods of Love and Commitment’ discusses the Melbourne years of Brisbane-born poet and writer, Laurence Collinson. While living and working in Melbourne, Collinson had, like fellow
Brisbane émigré to Victoria, poet and librarian Barret Reid, a long association with the literary magazine Overland.
One of my favourite Melbourne novels, Trap (1966), is by yet another neglected Victorian writer, namely Peter Mathers. Following Mathers’ death in 2004, the State Library acquired a substantial archive of his papers. Peter Pierce uses these as a basis to discuss Mathers’ life and work in ‘Sunshine and Shambles: the Peter Mathers Papers’. Despite the qualities of Trap noted by both Chris Wallace-Crabbe in his opening essay and in Peter Pierce's article, the novel has been out of print for nearly thirty years.
All the articles noted above deal with writers active in twentieth-century Melbourne. The final two articles are short pieces on two important cultural figures in Melbourne in the nineteenth-century: artist and diarist Georgiana McCrae and doctor and theatre critic James Edward Neild.
Angus Trumble introduces an interesting 1854 letter of introduction for Georgiana and her family from her step-mother, Elizabeth, Duchess of Gordon, to Beaumont Hotham, the cousin of the recently appointed Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Hotham, while Mimi Colligan writes about the recent acquisition by the State Library of some ‘lost’ Neild scrapbooks. These scrapbooks, containing both manuscript material and annotated press cuttings, were noted as being either lost or possibly in private hands by Neild's biographer, the late Harold Love. The later summation was correct: they formed part of the extraordinary collection of the Berry Family and came to light when the first part of collection was sold at auction in September 2007. Mimi's article is about the contents and nature of the scrapbooks but also serves as a tribute to Harold Love, a mentor at Monash University to both Mimi and myself.
Finally, this issue of the La Trobe Journal complements the major 2009 exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. ‘The Independent Type’ opened last month and will run through to November. A panel display of the exhibition will also travel to various libraries within the Public Libraries Victoria Network from September through to the middle of 2011. The exhibition (see focuses on the richness and variety of Victorian writers and their books, and also celebrates Melbourne's recently acquired status as a UNESCO City of Literature.
John Arnold