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Title: Ten Australian Authors Author: Aidan de Brune * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1700831h.html Language: English Date first posted: Nov 2017 Most recent update: Nov 2017 This eBook was produced by Terry Walker, Colin Choat and Roy Glashan. Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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IN 1933 several Australian newspapers published a series of articles outlining the careers of ten contemporary authors, written by one of them—Aidan de Brune.
With the present volume Roy Glashan's Library and Project Gutenberg Australia offer, for the first time in book form, an illustrated collection of all ten articles drawn from the digital newspaper archives of the National Library of Australia.
The texts of the first nine articles are based on the versions published in the The West Australian from 1 April to 27 May 1933. The text of the article about Ambrose Pratt was taken from the issue of The Grafton Daily Examiner, NSW, for 9 April 1933.
Portrait photographs of the ten authors have been added.
—Roy Glashan, 27 August 2017.
NORMAN LINDSAY, artist, philosopher, and novelist, is an Australian phenomenon. His fame is world-wide. Like Nellie Melba, he has surprised the world with the possession of a rare gift, and shown that genius can be native to this land of empty spaces and a small population.
Norman Lindsay is acknowledged to be the greatest living illustrator in black-and-white, and one of the finest craftsmen with the pen who has ever lived. Even those who dislike the nude in art, which Norman Lindsay lavishly displays, are compelled to acknowledge the incomparable dexterity and technical excellence of his work.
He is many-sided. In his serious work as an artist he has proved himself a master of oil-painting, water-colour, etching, wood-engraving and dry-point. His pen-and-ink illustrations to the sumptuous editions of Greek and Roman classics which have been published in London are sought by collectors of rare books throughout the world.
In the spacious gardens of his home at Springwood, in the Blue Mountains, there are dozens of life-size sculptures which he has modelled. In his studio there are numerous models of sailing-ships in full rig, among them the clipper Thermopylae and an Elizabethan warship, which experts consider to be perfect in every detail. His model of Captain Cook's Endeavour is preserved in the Melbourne Museum.
For twenty years he was principal cartoonist on, the Sydney Bulletin and he still contributes occasional humorous drawings and cartoons to that journal. He is a brilliant conversationalist and charming host. His home at Springwood has been a place of pilgrimage for many celebrated people, such as Anna Pavlova, Fritz Kreisler and Melba, who have been eager to pay their respects to an Australian who has proved his claim to the title of genius.
Norman Lindsay is the author of a number of books. The Magic Pudding, a humorous tale for children, written and illustrated by him, is an Australian "best-seller." It was published by Angus and Robertson, Ltd.
A Curate in Bohemia, published by the N.S.W. Bookstall Co., Ltd. was written many years ago. It deals with the humorous aspect of life amongst the artists in Melbourne, in the 'nineties. More than 50,000 copies have been sold.
Turning to more serious themes, in Creative Effort, published in London in 1924, Norman Lindsay expounded the philosophical basis of artistic endeavour.
A philosophical novel in dialogue, Madame Life's Lovers, published in London, in 1929, gave further expression to the serious side of his thoughts. Leaving the artistic theme, he described in Redheap, published in London and New York in 1930, the humorous aspects of family life in an Australian mining town of forty years ago. Exception was taken to the book by the Australian Customs officials, who ordered the return of 10,000 copies to London.
Redheap has now been turned into a play by Floyd Dell, the celebrated American dramatist, and is to be produced in New York this year. When Redheap was banned, Norman Lindsay left Australia, declaring that a country which consistently neglected its authors or treated them shabbily was not a properly civilised place.
He travelled through America and England, and incidentally arranged for the publication of more of his novels. Two of these, Mr. Gresham on Olympus and The Cautious Amorist, have recently been issued in both London and New York. Although not banned, it is difficult to obtain them in Australia, owing to the curtailment of book-importing by adverse exchange rates and prevailing economic conditions.
In London, Norman Lindsay persuaded Mr. P. R. Stephensen, a Queensland Rhodes Scholar with practical experience in book publishing in England, to undertake the organisation of an Australian Book Publishing Company, to encourage the work of our local authors. On Mr. Stephensen's arrival in Australia four months ago, the Bulletin Newspaper Company agreed to place its organisation and resources at the disposal of the new firm, of which both Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Stephensen are directors.
This new Australian publishing house will begin issuing books next month under the imprint of The Endeavour Press. The press-mark of the firm is a design of Captain Cook's Endeavour in full sail, designed by Norman Lindsay. The first novel issued will be a new book by Norman Lindsay, entitled Saturdee, a humorous story about Australian schoolboy pranks, mischief and fun. Its appearance will be eagerly awaited.
LOUIS STONE, the author of Jonah and Betty Wayside, is one of the most remarkable of Australian authors. His books, published in England, were allowed to go out of print during the War, and are now almost unobtainable. Second-hand copies of Jonah have been sold for as much as £2/10/- each. Competent critics declare that this book is a worthy successor to Robbery Under Arms and For the Term of His Natural Life amongst Australian novels that can properly be called "classic."
"With one book," declared A. G. Stephens, when Jonah was first published, "Mr. Stone has put himself in the front rank of Australian authorship."
Mr. John Galsworthy wrote: "I have lapped up your novel, which I consider extraordinarily actual, vivid, and good."
With such praise it is difficult to understand why Mr. Stone's book was ever allowed to go out of print. Australian authors have certainly had small encouragement from their own countrymen in the past.
The new edition of Jonah, which is to be published this year by The Endeavour Press in Sydney, will make tardy amends to Mr. Stone for twenty years' neglect of his masterpiece.
What is it that makes Jonah a really great book? Norman Lindsay perhaps supplied the answer when he wrote: "Louis Stone's streets and people are instantly vitalised and known at a glance."
Let us take an example of his descriptive power. It is the reader's introduction to Mrs. Yabsley, the mountainous washerwoman-philosopher:—
"Cardigan Street was proud of her. Her eyes twinkled in a big, humorous face; her arm was like a leg of mutton; the floors creaked beneath her as she walked. She laughed as a bull roars; her face turned purple; she fought for air; the veins rose like cords on her forehead. She was pointed out to strangers like a public building as she sat gossiping with her neighbours in a voice that shook the windows. Her sayings were quoted like the newspapers. Draymen laughed at her jokes."
Note with what artistry the novelist has built up a complete picture in simple words. We note the same forceful quality in the description of Jonah himself, the larrikin hunchback, with his "large head, wedged between the shoulders as if a giant's hand had pushed it down, the masterful nose, the keen grey eyes, and the cynical lips."
Jonah is truly an unforgettable character. Born in the squalor and cruelty of slum life, he becomes leader of the "Push," and dictator of its fierce laws. One of the most terrifying passages in all literature is the description of the Push* "dealing out stouch"† to a victim:
[* Push. A Sydney street gang. Known for their
sharp outfits as much as their violence, the Pushes followed a particular
structure. Led by a Captain, the "Larrikins" and their girlfriends, the
"Donahs," worked together to rob drunken visitors to the Rocks.
† To deal out stouch: to thrash, to beat up —R.G.]
"The Push opened out, and the man, sobered by danger, stood for a moment with bewildered eyes. Then, with the instinct of the hunted, he turned for home and ran. The Push gave chase. Again and again the quarry turned, blindly seeking refuge in the darkest lanes. As his pursuers gained on him he gave a hoarse scream—the dolorous cry of a hunted animal. But it was the cat playing with the mouse. The bricklayer ran like a cow, his joints stiffened by years of toil; the larrikins, light on their feet as hares, kept the pace with a nimble trot, silent and dangerous, conscious of nothing but the desire and power to kill."
From this fierce and savage environment Jonah escapes, thanks to Mrs. Yabsley's motherly humorous advice and the influence of his own baby son, by Mrs. Yabsley's daughter, Ada. When Jonah first sees the baby, "flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone:"
"He remembered his deformity, and with a sudden catch in his breath, lifted the child from its cradle and felt its back, a passionate fear in his heart. It was straight as a die...'Sool 'im!' he cried at last, and poked his son in the ribs."
From that moment his regeneration begins. "'E's the only relation I've got in the world; 'e's the only livin' creature that looks at me without seein' my hump," says Jonah to Mrs. Yabsley.
The story of his victory over sordid surroundings, and of how the larrikin and wastrel wins through to self-respect is told throughout with the sureness of touch and gift for observation that only great novelists possess.
Louis Stone, a quiet-speaking and cultivated man, is now living in retirement at Randwick. He was born in Leicester, and came to Australia as a child. He is a graduate of Sydney University, and was a schoolmaster for many years. His favourite authors are Flaubert and Virgil. He has a keen appreciation of classical music, of which he is an accomplished critic.
With these scholarly interests it is all the more remarkable that the theme of his magnum opus should have been the lowest life of Sydney's slum streets, but to the humanist all life is interesting and this perhaps explains why Mr. Stone turned to a subject which most writers would have found unattractive, or too difficult. It is well that he did so. The larrikin pushes of Sydney, have almost entirely disappeared. But in one great book that interesting phase of Australian evolution has been put on record for all time.
BERNARD CRONIN, President of the Society of Australian Authors, is one of those stalwart "professional" writers whose books command a world sale; but unlike some of the other Australian authors of this class, he has not gone abroad to live and work in exile, away from the source of his inspiration. He accepts the challenge which the Australian bush offers to writers of major fiction.
"The writer in the Old Country," he has stated, "finds his scenery, as it were, ready made for him. In this country it is definitely not to be found upon the surface of things. One has to dig deeply to become aware of the very great natural beauties of the Australian landscape. Real treasure is mostly of the buried variety. To my mind there is more character in an old Aussie gum tree than in any other tree I ever heard of. Incidentally, I should say that that much abused genius, D. H. Lawrence, came closer to an understanding of the spirit of the Australian landscape than any other writer, local, or imported, has yet done. He is the first scribe definitely to sight the real genii of the bush."
We may take this to mean that Bernard Cronin is intrigued by Australia as a literary theme, but he does not "sentimentalise" his subject.
"Our trouble is that we lack real breeding, and crudeness is a poor scaffold for the Arts. Further, the indifference of our rulers to the absolute need to develop a national soul has not made matters any better. Hansard will never make this country aware of the sublimities of human destiny. We need to see Australia from her own standpoint, and with her own individuality. The Arts are our only hope of salvation."
By this last phrase our fierce realist is revealed as an idealist, after all. The title of his new book, The Sow's Ear, which will be published this year in Australia, shows that the author is concerned with making something fine from our "crude" material. The story is set in the Tasmanian timber country, in the days before the war. It is a ruthless exposure of the tragic life of young girls enslaved by the system of marrying without love, at the command of domineering parents. The heroine longs for something better, but must accept her fate. In her passionate desire to escape from the bondage of the bush, she works to win for her two little daughters the chance in life which was so bitterly denied to herself.
Bernard Cronin's novels all have this "fierce" quality. He has aimed at exposing what he considers to be wrong, stupid or uneconomic. In this sense he is the strongest of the Australian writers who wish to make us aware of our shortcomings, so that we may eliminate them, and become a truly civilised nation.
He is fully equipped for the literary task which he has set himself. He came to Australia forty years ago, at the age of six years, in charge of the captain of the old Orient steamer Austral. On the way out he nearly killed an able seaman, who was painting the ship's side, holding to the deck with one hand.
Young Cronin jumped with both feet on the sailor's hand, "just to see what would happen." The sailor let go, but was providentially rescued. Perhaps it was this impish spirit of curiosity that eventually led Cronin to become a writer, and to jump, figuratively, upon the fingers of his Australian readers.
"I am not really pugnacious," he says, "but I resent with violence anything that strikes me as being cheap."
He tells us that he began to write as soon as he learned that a pencil may be sharpened by biting it. He decided to become a farmer, and entered the Dookie Agricultural College. In 1901 he was dux of the college and gold medalist.
He then had jackaroo experience on Kewita Station, South Gippsland, and Ulupna Station, in the north-east of Victoria, before taking up cattle-farming on the north-west coast of Tasmania, where he remained for ten years. His experience there has provided him with material for nearly a dozen novels and serials, and innumerable short stories.
He has published the following novels: The Coastlanders, 1918; Timber Wolves, 1920; Bluff Stakes, 1922; Salvage, 1923; Red Dawson, 1927; White Gold, 1927; The Treasure of the Tropics, 1928; Dragonfly, 1928; Toad, 1929; Bracken, 1931; and, in conjunction with Arthur Russell, Bushranging Silhouettes, 1932.
Six of these novels have been issued by London publishers in cheap editions—a sure proof of their popularity.
Now living in Melbourne, Bernard Cronin has revealed the humanitarian impulse which lies below his "fierceness" by his work for the Derelict Society, which he founded in conjunction with Gertrude Hart. He is also the founder of the Society of Australian Authors, and has shown a very great zeal in striving to remove the handicaps under which our writers have to work.
"There is much to discourage the Australian writer," he says. "Nevertheless, he holds steadily to his job. He hopes that the pioneering work which he is doing will prove an invaluable foundation for the generation of writers to come. Give him the support of his own Government and public, and he will win to wider distinction inside a decade. But he'll win through, any way."
When Australian authors have finally won recognition from their own people, the name of Bernard Cronin will stand high in the roll of honour of those who have fought for this objective.
THIRTY years ago literary circles in Australia were astounded by the publication of an extraordinary book, written by a girl of sixteen, Stella Miles Franklin. The title of the book was audacious—My Brilliant Career. The "brilliant career" of a girl of sixteen might have meant any thing—a reading of the book itself shows that it meant a great deal. The story is in the form, partly, of fiction, and partly of autobiography, and it bears on every page the imprint of sheer genius. It throbs with a passionate love of the Australian bush, and particularly of horses, and with an equal passionate hatred of the cruelties of life endured by the people on the land, particularly by the women. It is the first statement, and to this day it remains the greatest statement, of the case for Australian bush womanhood.
In a preface to the book Henry Lawson said:—
"The description of bush life and scenery came startlingly, painfully real to me; and I know that, as far as they are concerned, the book is true to Australia—the truest I ever read. She has lived her book, and I feel proud of it for the sake of the country I came from, where people toil and bake and suffer, and are kind."
The youthful author herself says in her introduction:—
"This is not a romance. I have too often faced the music of life to the tune of hardship to waste time in snivelling and gushing over fancies and dreams... Do not fear encountering such trash as descriptions of beautiful sunsets and whisperings of wind. We (999 out of every 1,000) can see naught in sunsets save as signs and tokens whether we may expect rain on the morrow. There is no plot in the story, because there has been none in my life, or in any other life which has come under my notice."
But the last chapter swells to a magnificent paean of youth's brave challenge to the world:—
"I am proud that I am an Australian, a daughter of the Southern Cross, a child of the mighty bush. I am thankful I am a peasant, a part of the bone and muscle of my nation, and earn my bread by the sweat of my brow, as man was meant to do.
"Ah! my sunburnt brothers—sons of toils and of Australia—I love and respect you well, for you are brave and good and true. I have seen not only those of you with youth and hope strong in your veins, but those with pathetic streaks of grey in your hair, large families to support, and with half a century sitting upon your work-laden shoulders. I have seen you struggle uncomplainingly against flood, fire, disease in stock, pests, drought, trade depression, and sickness, and yet have time to extend your hands and hearts in true sympathy to a brother, in misfortune, and spirits to laugh and joke and be cheerful.
"And for my sisters a great love and pity fills my heart. Daughters of toil, who scrub and wash and mend and cook, who are dressmakers, paper-hangers, milk-maids, gardeners, and candle-makers all in one, and yet have time to be cheerful and tasty in your homes, and make the best of the few cases to be found along the dusty track of your existence. Would that I were more worthy to be one of you—more a typical Australian peasant—cheerful, honest, brave!
"I love you. I love you. Bravely you jog along with the rope of class distinction drawing closer, closer, tighter, tighter around you. A few more generations, and you will be enslaved as were ever the moujiks of Russia. I see it, and know it, but I cannot help you. My ineffective life will be trod out in the same ground of toil. I am only one of yourselves, I am only an unnecessary, little bush commoner. I am only a—woman!
"The great, sun is sinking in the west, grinning, and winking knowingly as he goes, upon the starving stock and drought smitten wastes of land. Nearer he draws to the gum-tree, scrubby horizon, turns the clouds to orange, scarlet, silver, flame, gold! Down, down he goes. The gorgeous, garnish splendour of sunset pageantry flames out; the long shadows eagerly cover all; the kookaburras laugh their merry mocking good-night; the clouds fade to turquoise, green, and grey; the stars peep shyly out; the soft call of the moke-poke arises in the gullies! With much love and good wishes to all—Good-night! Good-bye! Amen!"
The manuscript of My Brilliant Career was taken to England by Earl Beauchamp, then Governor of New South Wales, and it was published by Blackwood, of Edinburgh. Like many another fine Australian books it has been allowed to go out of print, and copies are now quite unobtainable. Perhaps it will be re-issued by one of our Australian publishing houses soon.
Meanwhile, what happened to Miles Franklin? She went abroad, and has been lost to Australia for more than twenty years. She threw herself into organising work for the Feminist Movement in the United States of America, wrote thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, and made speeches in every State of the Union.
When the war broke out she went to Salonika with the Scottish Women's Hospital. After the war she had a most responsible position as secretary of the Housing Committee in London. In all these years of great organising achievement she was definitely lost to Australian life and letters.
Now she has returned to her native land. A year ago a book appeared, Old Blastus of Bandicoot, under her name. The book is modestly described as an "opuscule," but all the old fire and dash is there.
John Dalley, in the Sydney Bulletin, sums up what many other critics have said about this book:
"The characterisation's the thing. Nothing so good has been done in any previous novel about the Australian bush."
This year The Endeavour Press will print and publish in Australia a sprightly detective story by Miles Franklin, entitled Bring the Monkey!—modestly described as a "light novel."
Is that, then, the whole story of Miles Franklin? We shall see. Is it likely, or possible, that a writer of such power and sheer genius as the author of My Brilliant Career should have been silent for more than twenty years? Miles Franklin will not admit it, but whether she likes it or not people are identifying her with the mysterious "Brent of Bin Bin," whose books (published by Blackwood, of Edinburgh, be it noted) are acknowledged to be the finest presentation in fiction of the Australian outback epic which have yet been written.
"Brent of Bin Bin" loves the bush and understands horses, and hates injustice to bush women, as only the author of My Brilliant Career and Old Blastus of Bandicoot could love, and understand, and hate.
The "Brent of Bin Bin" trilogy (Up the Country, Ten Creeks Run, Back to Bool Bool) are already Australian classics. Despite the fact that they are difficult to obtain, as are most Australian books published overseas, they have gone into numerous editions, and are hailed by a multitude of discerning readers as being absolute portents for the future of the Australian novel—a real and true portrait, not a caricature, of outback life.
If Miles Franklin is also "Brent of Bin Bin," then she is the greatest Australian bush novelist alive. And if she is only Miles Franklin of My Brilliant Career and Old Blastus of Bandicoot she takes second place to one writer alone—the tremendously gifted and mysterious author who writes in Miles Franklin's manner under the pseudonym of "Brent."
The story that Aidan de Brune tells in this article about his own life before he came to Australia is fabulatory. For the real story, read the Afterword to this book, which contains a fully-researched description of the author's life and works.
FIFTY-FOUR years is a long way to look back upon, to a little village some few miles outside Montreal where, I am informed, I was born. I have little knowledge of the event, and but little more of the long trek to Zululand, where my father escorted his family when I reached the mature age of four years. More distinctly, I remember my Zulu play-fellows, and the long, long trek to Cape Town, where I was sent to school, at the age of nine.
A family council, when I reached my fourteenth birthday, decided that I would be an ornament to the priesthood, and I departed for London, en route for Maynooth.
At that time England and the United States of America were awakening to the new journalism, under the respective guidances of Harmsworth and Hearst. I was attracted, and a great longing to tread the inky way possessed me. In consequence, I stayed in London, completing a sketchy education at night schools and haunting the newspaper offices or the city by day. To my gratification—and the surprise of many of the major journalists of that period—I developed a flair for the trade, and within a few months found I could earn bread at it, with an occasional flavouring of cheese and jam. Short story writing had long attracted me—my first fiction story had appeared in a Cape Town newspaper before I reached eleven. In London I found corners in magazines and journals open to my efforts, and this editorial encouragement had disastrous effects on my future—I determined to be an author.
I started a "magnum opus'" and—to buy paper and ink— cultivated sensational love-story writing in periodicals of the Family Herald Supplement type. On the outbreak of the Boer War I found I had sufficient money in the bank to pay my fare home—to South. Africa. A fight has always attracted me, and amid the wide-spread battleground of South Africa I found adventure sufficient for an ordinary lifetime.
I returned to London with a 100,000 words novel on the war—but publishers are always unkind, even those of the present century. My arrival in London was only the jumping-off place. The United States of America was an alluring vision on the horizon—and I strode for the foot of the rainbow. I landed in New York with exactly nineteen shillings and three-pence in my pocket; a great belief in my own powers; and a store of imagination that won me past the very lax emigration laws of that period. Followed a period of wandering up and down a country then in the making—and almost as big as Australia. I worked at anything that came to hand—and, when work failed to materialise, characterised as the perfect hobo. Even to-day I remember what particularly hard boot-leather was provided for the train-guards. And all this time I was writing stories and articles—and all the time editors and publishers were filling the U.S. mails with my returns.
By the time I had reached twenty-five I claimed to have the largest and most varied collection of "The editor regrets..." in the known world. Still, I would write. Chance gave me the opportunity to practise journalism, and for a time I walked the streets of big cities, a full-blown reporter.
Again the wide spaces called—I think it was a minor revolution in Panama. Anyway, I went south to see Spanish America. Some hundreds of days of wild adventures—the nights spent in scribbling; and I woke up to the fact that some thousands of dollars had accumulated in New York to my credit. I was a capitalist!
Naturally, my first thought was to see the world—up to then I had only partially surveyed Canada, South Africa, England and the United States. The Orient called, but I had no intention of wasting money on fares. In 'Frisco a friendly master mariner offered to ship me before the mast of a befouled, much-wandered cargo-boat, and I jumped at his offer before he had time to get sober. Then I learned something of the Pacific, as a sailing-pond, and a good deal of the many and varied nationalities it contains.
While at Singapore I said good-bye to the vessel, but forgot to take farewell of the captain. He didn't trouble to find me—I suppose because I had forgotten to collect wages owing me.
Deciding to explore China, by good luck I came into the graces of a high official of the Empire. With him I visited large tracts that country then unknown to white man. Back to the United States, my head filled with facts and fictions, determined to settle down and become a respectable member of society.
By the time I reached New York again I had less than a dollar in my pocket. Two days spent in examining and approving the alterations made in the city during my absence, and I bethought myself of the treasury—and the hotel bill that was steadily mounting. Full of thought, I wandered down to the doors of a well-known publishing house —and hesitated. What had I for sale? It took more than two hours, pacing the block, to frame a satisfactory plot for a serial. Then I chose an editor—and bearded him in his lair. How I put it over, I don't know; but I do know that I came out of that building with a commission to write a fiction serial then only existing in my mind—and, what was more to the point, with half payment for the story in my pocket. That story was written in thirteen days—I'm always fond of unlucky thirteen—and I was up 250 dollars. Then and there, on a busy sidewalk, during the busiest hour of the day. I elected myself serial-writer for the great United States of America—and up to a certain point I made good on I my self-election.
Through all the earlier days of my life I had been fascinated by crooks—although at that time I was not using them as material for stories. Opportunity offering, I obtained a place on a newspaper, developing a flair for crime investigation (of the newspaper kind).
Now followed some years of peace, my days being devoted to journalism and my nights to fiction-writing. Just about the time my banker recognised my entry to his establishment with a welcoming smile, I broke down in health. Eighteen months of neurasthenia; more than half that time helpless on a bed.
American doctors sent me to England. There the fraternity declared me a hopeless case. Perhaps to get me off their hands with the least trouble, they decided that my only hope was a voyage to Australia. Hospital attendants carried me on board ship, but at Port Said I walked ashore to see the sights. By the-time I reached Fremantle I had decided there was still room in this world for me. I looked at that western capital and decided that the country was good; also that doctors were darned bad guessers.
The wander-lust urged again, and for quite a time I travelled most of the southern parts of the continent. Then came the War and I joined, to my ability, in the Great Adventure. Again back to Australia, with an earnest desire to see those parts of it I had previously missed. At that time certain gentlemen were forming the Sydney Daily Mail.
One day I wandered into Mr. Gay's offices and announced that I proposed to walk around Australia—and would he pay for articles on the trip? Mr. Gay was blunt. First he told me exactly how many kinds of fools I was to think of such a trip, then came to an agreement with business-like promptitude. Within a few hours I had gathered together what I thought necessary for an 11,000 miles trip, and had left Sydney.
Two and a half years later I came to Sydney again, having in the meantime visited nearly every port on the extensive coastline. More to the point, I had proved possible a trip quite a number of Sydney wise-heads had declared to be sheer suicide.
My literary work? Well, about fifty to sixty serials, under various nom-de-plumes in London and New York— some dozen of them only appearing in book form. Not until I had completed the walk around Australia and had settled. down in Sydney again did I attempt to make use of my partiality for crooks and their works. My first story on these lines was Dr. Night, published in the World News.
Then followed The Carson Loan Mystery, published by the N.S.W. Bookstall Co. Ltd., of Sydney. A little later the Daily Guardian, Sydney, ran The Dagger and Cord as a serial, and immediately it ended in the newspaper Messrs. Angus & Robertson, Ltd., published it in book form. Then, in the columns of the Daily Guardian followed Fingerprints of Fate (published by Angus & Robertson, Ltd.. under the title of The Shadow Crook) and The Little Grey Woman. Since then I have devoted myself more particularly to serial writing, under my own name and nom-de-plumes, totalling in all fourteen stories. My amusements: Two absorbing ones. Writing mystery stories and barracking Federal politicians to foster a national Australian literature. The first easy; the last apparently very difficult.
IF the Commonwealth Government were to appoint an Australian Poet Laureate there can be no doubt that the first holder of that high office would be Andrew Barton Paterson, known far and wide as "Banjo" Paterson. His name is a household word. More truly than any other of our numerous Australian poets, he has expressed the spirit of this land in verse.
"Banjo" Paterson, now nearing seventy years of age, is the undisputed Dean of Australian poetry. His verses, since they first began to appear in the Bulletin, fifty years ago, have been recited throughout the length and breadth of the land, in shearing sheds, at bush concerts, wherever two or three Australians have gathered around a camp fire. The rollicking rhythm of his ballads, the apt phrases, sometimes slangy, sometimes high poetry, have brought joy to hundreds of thousands of readers and listeners.
While poets of high-falutin' "schools of thought" have piped in their thin and genteel voices to meagre audiences of bored listeners, this robust singer of the wide plains and mountains of the bushland has "bestrode them like a Colossus." The people, with their true instinct to recognise what is sincere in art, have given "Banjo" Paterson the applause which only a major poet can command. Over 100,000 copies of The Man from Snowy River have been sold. Probably there is not a man, woman, or child in Australia who does not know at least some of "Banjo" Paterson's verse by heart.
Australia's Poet Laureate has had an interesting and varied career and a wide experience of both bush and city life. He was born in 1864 at Narrambla, New South Wales, and was educated at the Sydney Grammar School. He practised as a solicitor for fifteen years before deciding to take up journalism, when his verses were beginning to make him famous. The Man from Snowy River was published in book form in 1895, and from that time his position as a national songster was assured.
He was editor of the Evening News for five years, and acted as correspondent of the London Times on sugar-growing, pearl-diving, and Australian subjects generally. When the Boer war broke out, he went to South Africa as Reuter's correspondent. On the outbreak of the Great War, in 1914, he volunteered for active service with the A.I.F. Though over military age, he was given the rank of major, joined the Remount Unit, and saw service in Egypt and Palestine.
He has travelled extensively outback, particularly in Central Australia and the Northern Territory, where be went buffalo shooting. In one of his verses he describes typical buffalo country:—
Out where the grey streams glide,
Sullen and deep and slow,
And the alligators slide
From the mud to the depths below,
Or drift on the stream like a floating death
Where the fever comes on the south wind's breath
There is the buffalo.
In addition to The Man from Snowy River he has published Rio Grande's Last Race, and Saltbush Bill, besides a novel entitled An Outback Marriage, and a humorous book entitled Three Elephant Power. He has also edited a collection of Old Bush Songs.
Now, after a silence of many years, he has ready a new book of poems, which will be published before Easter, by The Endeavour Press, with illustrations by Norman Lindsay. The most popular poet and the greatest illustrator in Australia will thus collaborate for the first time in the pages of a book, though it was Norman Lindsay who designed the original cover for The Man from Snowy River.
The title of the new verses is The Animals Noah Forgot. In a foreword the poet explains that the native bear refused to go in the Ark because Noah did not carry a stock of gum leaves—and the platypus refused because he was afraid of being trodden on by the elephant!
Most of the poems deal in a humorous, but very understanding way, with the Australian bush animals. The wombat, for example:
The strongest creature for his size,
But least equipped for combat,
That dwells beneath Australian skies is
Weary Will the Wombat.
The platypus, who "descended from a family most exclusive:"
He talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he's no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to hornèd owl.
In fact, he's the one and only!
The bandicoot, who "will come to look at a light, and scientists wonder, why:"
If the bush is burning it's time to scoot
Is the notion of Benjamin Bandicoot.
The flying squirrels:
Never a care at all
Bothers their simple brains;
You can see them glide in the moonlight dim
From tree to tree and from limb to limb.
Little grey aeroplanes.
These few quotations show that none of the poet's old brilliance of phrase has been lost.
Besides descriptions of the bush animals, there are poems on shearers, bullock-drivers, cattle-dogs, and a rattling good "Ballad of the Army Mules," which would be a credit to Rudyard Kipling, if that Dean of English Poets had rhymed it.
The multitude of admirers of Australia's national poet will welcome his "return to form." The young poets of the post-war generation might well study this book, and take a lesson from one of the "Old Hands" at the game of versifying. It is only by sheer hard work and a constant observation of men and nature that poetry such as "Banjo" Paterson's, which looks so easy, is written.
DULCIE DEAMER has had an adventurous life. She was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1890, her father being a doctor. She never went to school, her mother being her sole teacher. At the age of eight she was allowed the unrestricted run of her father's fine library, and she read the novels of Lord Lytton and Sir Walter Scott, abhorring—as she confesses—all "children's" books.
Her hobbies were natural history and archaeology, and whatever books she wanted on these subjects were bought for her. From the very beginning, any information she could obtain concerning the Stone Age drew her like a magnet. She disliked dolls, adored animals, and preferred trees and flowers to the society of other children.
At eleven she began to write verses. A year later her family moved to Featherstone, a tiny bush township in the North Island, and here for five years she ran wild, riding unbroken colts, shooting, learning to swim in snow-fed creeks, and going for long, solitary rambles of exploration through the virgin bush.
It was here in the thick scrub, where there was always the risk of encountering wild cattle or a wild boar, that what she describes as "memories of the Stone Age" came to her. And so, when the newly-started Lone Hand magazine startled Australasia by offering a prize of 25 pounds for the best short story submitted to it, Dulcie Deamer, then 16, sent along her first serious prose effort— a story of the savage love of a cave-man. It won—and altered the whole course of her life.
For some years previously her parents had been training her for a stage career. This original idea was not abandoned. At 17 Dulcie Deamer was touring New Zealand with a little company playing melodrama in all the back-block townships. It was thus she met her future husband, Albert Goldie, who was at that time business manager for one of Williamson's companies. A whirlwind courtship ended in a marriage in Perth, Western Australia—the bride being not yet 18. Then came a tour of the Far East, with Hugh Ward's London Comedy Company, which her husband was then managing. Here all manner of adventures befell the young actress-authoress.
A bomb was thrown into her carriage in the streets of Bombay, where anti-British rioting had broken out. Luckily it failed to explode. She was caught in another riot in the Temple of Kali, in Calcutta, and only saved by the intervention of a Brahmin priest. A fat Bengalese millionaire, hung with necklaces of pearls the size of broad-beans, nearly succeeded in trapping her into his harem, and in China she saw execution grounds littered with freshly severed heads.
These excitements provided material for an Indian novel, which was published in New York, which city she visited when she was 21. In the meantime a book of her collected Stone Age stories had been published in Sydney, and three sons had been born to her. In the following years she visited London, Paris, and Rome, and her family had increased to six.
During a second visit to the United States she was involved in strike riots in the vicinity of Chicago, and had to run for her life from a couple of bayonet charges, when the military were called out, the strikers having turned the street cars loose under their own power, and started to wreck the suburb with torn up paving stones.
Previously to this she had been booked to sail on the ill-fated Titanic, but had changed her plans at the last moment, and taken passage on the Olympic, sailing four day sooner. To gain experience on this voyage she travelled steerage with thirteen hundred immigrants from every European country.
She was again in America during the Great War, and witnessed all the frenzies of Yankee excitement on Armistice Day. Immediately after the war three of her novels were published in London and New York—Revelation, The Street of the Gazelle, and The Devil's Saint. Her work is strongly coloured with imagination. Revelation and The Street of the Gazelle deal with Jerusalem in the time of Christ, The Devil's Saint is a mediaeval romance dealing with witchcraft and black magic.
Finally she returned to Sydney, which she had for long regarded as "home." Here she settled down to journalism, but by no means had finished with adventures, one of which was a visit to the famous Homebush abattoirs, disguised as a man, for no woman is allowed to witness the actual killing.
During the last few years a de luxe edition of her short stories (As It Was in the Beginning) was published in Melbourne, with illustrations by Norman Lindsay, and a volume of her poems (Messalina) has recently been brought out in Sydney. She has now turned her attention to play-writing, her first play being produced last year. She hopes to contribute screen stories to the newly-established Australian film industry. She has written a number of serials for Australian papers, and is now engaged in a new long novel, which will be published in Australia by The Endeavour Press towards the end of the year.
WHEN you begin reading any book or magazine story written by Vance Palmer, you may do so with the comfortable feeling that you are going to be well satisfied when you reach the end. There is nothing erratic about his literary work: it is level, flawless, and polished, like a table made from Queensland silky oak by a cabinet-maker who takes pride in his trade.
Vance Palmer is an accomplished journeyman—a craftsman in words who has served his apprenticeship thoroughly, and has mastered his trade, giving you guaranteed good value for money when you buy what he has made with his pen.
"A typical Vance Palmer four-square yarn" means a story well-constructed, written with care, and no loose ends in the plot, and no slovenly phrasing. His name on a book is a trade-mark that you can trust.
Discussion of the major Australian novelists of today invariably begins with the brilliant constellation of women writers who have come to the fore in recent years. Henry Handel Richardson, Brent of Bin Bin, Katherine Prichard, Velia Ercole, Barnet Eldershaw, G. B. Lancaster, Alice Rosman, Helen Simpson—a surprisingly strong list of Australian writers to begin with, all known and respected in England and America—and all women!
The discussion turns to men writers. Invariably someone says, "Well, there is Vance Palmer..." His name comes first to mind. With Dale Collins and Jack McLaren he has presented the Australian theme to English and American readers in a certain virile, straightforward, sincere, and unassuming way that lacks the wild emotional force of the woman writers, but is no less convincing and genuinely Australian for that. Here is the Australian male in literature—modest, but capable and full of a quiet strength, as he is in life.
Like the "Champion Ringers" famed in Western shearing sheds, Vance Palmer comes from Queensland. He was born in Bundaberg, the sugar-town at the mouth of the Burnett River. In his early and impressionable youth he must have seen the picturesque gangs of Kanakas cutting the tall green cane and singing their deep-voiced Island songs as they flashed the broad cane-knives in the sunlight. He would have seen, too, the white labourers, the roughest-mannered but physically the most perfect specimens of masculinity to be found anywhere on the earth, arriving at the cane-fields after shearing-sheds were cut out for a few months' big pay and desperately hard work, "cane-slogging."
Perhaps he saw fights and riots between Kanakas and white labourers, or watched great muscled timber-fellers, striped to the waist, sweating in the sun as they cleared the jungle from the Isis scrublands, revealing the rich red volcanic loam wherein more and more sugarcane was to be planted. Perhaps, too, he went to the "Sand Hills", where the Burnett River flows out to the ocean, and watched the gulls planing over the dunes where another young native of Bundaberg, Bert Hinkler, made and flew box-kites the size of aeroplanes even before the triumphs of Wilbur Wright and Blériot; and no doubt in the Burnett River young Palmer caught ceratodi— the archaic fish that can live out of water, and are found only in that stream.
Colour, strength, romance, during the impressionable age of childhood gave him a background for his writing which he has never lost, for all his later sophistication and urbanity, and world-travelling, and painfully acquired "literariness." Asked recently to express an opinion on Australia as a literary theme, Palmer replied:
"A man can only write about the life he knows. If he is an Australian he will naturally take his themes from his own country. I have written countless magazine stories set in places as far apart as China and Mexico, but I wouldn't attempt any serious work set in those countries—they don't stimulate my deepest interest. Australia can provide all the themes required by any writer who knows his country."
There is a brave and heartening declaration from one who has travelled all the world, and proved himself a master of the literary trade! Vance Palmer has been four times to London on literary business, and once on the business of the A.I.F. He spent a year travelling through Russia and Siberia, in the days before the revolution, incidentally learning much about his job of writing from the works of the great Russian masters, Tolstoy, Gorky, Dostoevsky, Pushkin— all geniuses of narrative style and psychological insight.
He has sojourned in the colourful East and has lived through the uncertainties, terrors, and comedy of a revolution in Mexico. Yet always he has returned to Australia, and in his serious work it is always of Australia that he writes.
His early days in Bundaberg, and at the Ipswich Grammar School (Queenslands "Athens"), the days which he spent as a jackaroo on a Western Queensland cattle station, and what he noticed when living on the edge of the crashing surf at Caloundra, near Brisbane, or during the year which he spent recently on Green Island, near Cairns, on the Barrier Reef— these essentially Australian experiences have given him, and will continue to give him, the inspiration for his best work.
His books, like those of all the best Australian authors, are difficult or impossible to obtain from Australian booksellers, who will offer you, instead, English "throw-out" lines if you ask for decent reading matter.
Something will be done about this, no doubt, when Australian publishing gets firmly established. The best of Vance Palmer's novels, all recently published in England, are The Man Hamilton (1928), Men Are Human (1930), The Passage (1930). and Daybreak. Men Are Human and The Passage were Bulletin prize-winners.
A collection of his short-stories, entitled Separate Lives, was published In 1931; and a book of plays entitled The Black Horse was issued in 1924.
He is one of the foremost of the gallant band who are endeavouring to convince the Australian public that Australia as a country is interesting to read about.
"It will probably take a lot of writing, of the highest class." he says, "'to convince Australians that their life is as interesting as any other."
Vance Palmer's work is of the "highest class," and we are proud of him for that reason.
MANY young Australian writers, desperate at the lack of book-publishing facilities in Australia, have gone abroad, to seek publishers in England or America and, having found publishers they have stayed away from this country—for their own good. Why should an author remain in Australia, to be treated with indifference by his own people, they say, when fame and recognition are to be had in London or New York?
Such an export of talent is a loss to Australia. We can only admire those who have remained here to pioneer Australian Literature as their fathers pioneered the economic resources of this vast and uncultivated continent.
Frank Dalby Davison is one of the young Australians, of a new generation of writers, who is determined to make his literary home amongst his own people. Unable to find a publisher for his first two books, Man-Shy and Forever Morning, he had them printed and published privately, encouraged and assisted by his father, Mr. Fred. Davison, a Sydney estate agent, who is also possessed of strong literary gifts and is a sound critic.
Compared with the finished-looking products of professional publishers, young Davison's books were crudely printed and bound, and looked amateurish in the extreme. One blushed to think that such poor-looking books were representative of Australian literature.
But readers of the books had a pleasant surprise in store. In Frank Dalby Davison's books discerning readers saw the power and fluency and word-control that marks the great writer. A new star had risen in the Australian literary firmament.
The first editions were eagerly bought up. Man-Shy was awarded the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal for the best Australian novel published in 1931. Angus and Robertson, Ltd., of Sydney, republished the books in proper professional style. Frank Dalby Davison had "arrived."
The first two novels both dealt with men and cattle in the Australian bush. Man-Shy tells of the herds of wild cattle ("scrubbers") that ranged in the mountains beyond the boundaries of a cattle-station on the Maranoa, in Queensland. They were like a "phantom herd" that had been in existence for sixty years:
"Theirs was a life for the brute slaves of man to dream of. Their hides had never known the searing whip, or the sting of the branding iron; nor did the shadow of the slaughterhouse fall across their years. Companions of the wilderness creatures—the emu, the dingo, and the kangaroo— their life was the life of dumb brutes as it was on earth in the beginning. They were free as the winds that played about their mountains; free as the rains that swept up the gorges; and as free as the range itself, hoisting its timber-crested palisades into the blue. They lived secure and content in the simple wisdom the Creator has given to dumb things."
In every paragraph of this remarkable Australian story the author builds up in simple, but unforgettable imagery, the life of the wild herd. His similes are drawn directly from nature:
"The narrow paths along which they passed in single file from one feeding ground to another lay in the mountains like the webbed veins in the back of a leaf. The observation of the bushland never errs."
The author has not drawn upon his imagination, but on his knowledge, in writing such passages as, for example, the following description of a fight between two bulls:
"Prelude to battle was observed with due ceremony. Eyeing each other from a distance of about forty yards, each roared his contempt at the other. Each stroked the ground with a challenging forefoot, flinging the dust back along his flanks. They walked a few paces towards each other, and paused. Their battle-cry was a succession of throaty grumbles, each pitched about a tone higher than the preceding one; each followed by a sobbing intake of the breath; and the last one ending in a blast that threatened annihilation. With short, measured steps they again moved towards each other, heads lowering to engage."
A quick eye! That is precisely what Davison himself possesses, and it is the essential qualification for a writer. Things seen and noted, simply and graphically told— such is the material of all great art. Like the painter of pictures in oils, the writer, who is a painter of pictures in words, must trust his eye, and use his eye, before he begins to use his pen. Frank Davison understands this. He has looked closely at Australia before beginning to write about it. He has looked through his own eyes and not through the spectacles kindly provided for our use by English, and other visitors, to this country. That is why the work of Frank Dalby Davison is a portent for the future of the Australian novel. Only one other writer—Miles Franklin—has written so directly and with such surely-observed knowledge of horses and cattle in the Australian scene. This is real Australia, one feels, not the romantic Australia of "bookish" writers.
Frank Davison's future work will be watched with great interest by those who look forward to a powerful Australian literature, strong-rooted in the soil.
"I am Australian by birth and by conviction," he has stated.
It will be interesting to see whether he can write of the Australian bush in a manner interesting to people who live abroad, as Vance Palmer has done in The Passage, and Katherine Pritchard in Working Bullocks.
But he is more likely to succeed if he writes for his own people first. Angus and Robertson have just published a new story of his entitled The Wells of Beersheba, which deals with the Australian Light Horse, in Palestine. This book is not a novel, but a long "short-story" in book form, intended as a Gift Book. Frank Dalby Davison is an Australian writer well worth watching.
AMBROSE PRATT is one of the most prolific and successful of Australian authors. The list of his published works is a surprising revelation of energy in the literary field. More than twenty of his novels have been issued, in England and America, as well as in foreign translations, by firms of such high repute as Hutchinson, Grant Richards, Ward Lock, Dent, and Cassell. Many of these works have reached Australia, in small quantities only, or perhaps not at all—a state of affairs distinctly unsatisfactory to Australian authors, but alas, all too usual in the past.
Great as Ambrose Pratt's reputation in Australia is at the present time, it would be much greater if his numerous books published abroad had been properly distributed by the Australian booksellers, instead of being allowed to go out of print, and become unobtainable.
Besides twenty novels, Ambrose Pratt is the author of two very notable Australian biographies. Three Years with Thunderbolt is a classic story of bnshranging days, vividly written. Published both in England and Australia, it has had a big sale. A more substantial biography is that of David Syme, the celebrated Melbourne journalist-proprietor, described as the father of "Protection in Australia." This book is regarded as one of the best Australian political biographies ever written.
Two books of travel, The Real South Africa and Magical Malaya, and two books on economics, The Elements of Constructive Economies and the The Australian Tariff Handbook, show the wide intellectual range of Ambrose Pratt's mind, and the fine facility of his pen.
Born at Forbes, NSW, Mr. Pratt was educated at the Sydney Grammar School and Sydney University. He then travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa. Returning to Sydney, he practised as a solicitor for ten years, before joining the editorial staff of the Melbourne Age. After ten years in this capacity, he became editor and part proprietor of The Industrial Australian.
At present he is living in Melbourne, engaged in commerce as a company director, interested mainly in tin-dredging and gold-mining. He has always been a keen student of the life and habits of our unique Australian animals. This year he is President of the Royal Zoological Society of Victoria, and he has signalised his tenure of this important position by writing a book which will arouse interest not only throughout Australia but throughout the world.
The Lore of the Lyrebird, to be published shortly by The Endeavour Press, describes very fully the habits and characteristics of one of the most beautiful and rare and certainly the most intelligent of the world's wild creatures—the lyrebird.
Mr. Pratt, with other Victorian naturalists, has made a special study of this glorious creature—a bird so shy that little was known of it previously. The friendship of a wild male lyrebird with a widowed lady named Mrs. Wilkinson, of Sherbrooke Gully, was the "Miracle of the Dandenongs" that enabled these observations to be made. Numerous photographs accompany the gracefully-written text, to which Sir Colin Mackenzie has contributed a foreword. The Lore of the Lyrebird at last clears up the mystery of "Australia's avian aristocrat."
Mr. Ambrose Pratt thus crowns a lifetime of fine literary achievement with a book which will be a wonderful advertisement of one of the most beautiful forms of life in Australia of which the world has hitherto known little, or nothing at all.
Mr. Pratt's new book is a splendid example of the value to this nation of encouraging its own writers. Only the writer can tell the world what a wonderful country Australia really is.
AIDAN DE BRUNE was the pseudonym of Herbert Charles Cull, who was born in London in 1874. He married Ethel Crofts in 1907 and in 1909 a son, Lionel, was born. In 1910 he came to Australia, arriving in Fremantle, Western Australia, in May. His wife and child followed, arriving in Albany, Western Australia, in November 1910. His arrival document gave his occupation as "Printer." In October 1912 his wife and son returned to England. Herbert Cull remained in Australia for the rest of his life. By 1917 he was living in West Perth; a year or so later in the small coastal port of Bunbury, south of Perth.
By then he was using variations of the names Herbert Charles Frank de Broune Culle, and working for the Bunbury Herald newspaper. Here was published his first identifiable serial: The Pursuits of Peter Pell, an episodic novel in 12 parts, set in Perth. The author was 'Frank de Broune'. Another serial by 'Frank de Broune', The Nine Stars Mystery, began in the Herald on 28 May 1920 but was left unfinished, terminating abruptly on 5 November. The style of this unfinished novel is unmistakably Aidan de Brune's.
On 24 November 1920, he set out to walk from Fremantle to Sydney, on the opposite side of the continent, using the name Aidan de Broune. He claimed it was for a wager. Ninety days later he arrived in Sydney, having crossed the waterless and treeless Nullarbor Plain in high summer. He followed the Trans-Australia Railway Line, moving from fettlers' camp to fettlers' camp. The experience gave him meterial for a short story "Just a Woolly" (1922), which may, indirectly, offer an explanation of why he quit Bunbury and his job, and an unfinished serial.
In Sydney his name became fixed as Aidan de Brune, and he made a deal with the newly founded Sydney Mail. He would walk all the way around Australia, more than 10,000 miles, and the Mail would publish his articles on his walk. Thus, instead of becoming one of the many unemployed swagmen of the era, he had the higher status of employed reporter on a professional mission. This amazing walk, the first in Australia's history, took more than two years. It naturally included crossing the Nullarbor a second time, this time along the coastal route of the overland Telegraph Line via Eucla. By the time it was over, he was a celebrity.
Back in Sydney, de Brune embarked on a career as writer of newspaper serials. Such serials had been a staple of Australian newspapers, specially rural newspapers, for many years. First, however, he published a hardback novel, The Carson Loan Mystery, in 1926, which was not a serial. Then the serial flood began; he turned out three full length serial novels a year at his peak. Several of them were also published in New Zealand newspapers. He also used another pen-name, John Morriss, for some of his output.
By 1936 the flood of serials was over, and de Brune evidently retired from his literary career, aged 62. He died in a nursing home in 1946, a few months short of his 72nd birthday.
After his death, the works of Aidan de Brune disappeared into obscurity, although occasionally one of his rare books can still be found for sale.
In 2017 he was rediscovered by Terry Walker, an inveterate trawler of the Australian National Library's on-line newspaper resource TROVE, when he spotted de Brune's "autobiography" in the Australian Authors series. This included a list of his titles up to 1933. Once Gutenberg Australia and Roy Glashan's Library, both publishers of free e-books in the Australian public domain, became interested, the entire fiction output was rescued, sometimes with difficulty, from TROVE and from library sources. This also led to the discovery of De Brune's notebooks from his epic walk around Australia, together with a typed up book of the diary entries, held in the Mitchell Library in N.S.W., to be made available as an e-book with his other works.
The real identity of Aidan de Brune was uncovered when Project Gutenberg Australia's Colin Choat found an item in a 1938 issue of Sydney's Labor Daily, (successor to the Mail). N.S.W. police had received an enquiry forwarded from the Western Australian police. De Brune's wife in England was asking for information about her husband Herbert Charles Cull, last heard of in Perth Western Australia in 1913. The Labor Daily staff identified him promptly as Aidan de Brune, who had recently been seen walking his dog in a Sydney city park. No doubt this was passed to the N.S.W. police who advised the WA police, and a discreet silence then reigned.
The identity was further confirmed when two items in the Bunbury Herald were unearthed. The first was about "de Broune's" walk to Sydney; the second about de Brune as he approached Perth on his Great Walk. They both identified him with the Bunbury name better known to Herald readers as "de Broune" Culle. Research in genealogical resources confirmed all the biographic data given in this short profile. His son Lionel Charles Cull later migrated to Western Australia.
For such a short fiction writing career, de Brune's output was considerable: 19 novel-length works, one published exclusively in book form, seventeen as serials, and one as an unfinished serial; two novelettes published as serials; and 15 known short stories. Included in this output was a trilogy which increasingly evolved into fantasy, featuring Dr. Night, a drab and colourless little man with a central Asian background, using diverse schemes to fund the rebuilding of a long defunct kingdom of which he is the heir: Dr Night (1926), The Green Pearl (1930), and Whispering Death (1931).
Other serials not mentioned above are: The Phantom Launch (1927), The Dagger and Cord (1927), The Shadow Crook (1929), The Little Grey Woman (1929), The League of Five (1930); The Unlawful Adventure (1930), Douchard's Island (novelette, 1931), The Mystery of Madlands (1931), Find This Man (1931), The Grays Manor Mystery (1932), The Three Snails (novelette, 1932), The Kahm Syndicate (1934), The Flirting Fool (1934), Cain (1934; by John Morriss; republished in 1938 as The Framing of Inspector Denvers by Aidan de Brune); The Fortune-Telling House (1935), and Saul and the Spinster (1935).
The Grays Manor Mystery and the aborted Nine Stars Mystery (1920) were set in England. Douchard's Island seems to be set in North Queensland. The Pursuits of Peter Pell is set in Western Australia. The rest were set in and around Sydney.
With the exception of the aborted, incomplete The Nine Stars Mystery, all of his serials have been recovered, along with some fifteen short stories. They are being made available progressively as free e-books by Gutenberg Australia and Roy Glashan's Library.
(Earliest publication date identified, using date of first instalment in case of serials)
Novels but not serials
1926 The Carson Loan Mystery
Novel-length newspaper serials
1920 The Pursuits of Peter Pell
1920 The Nine Stars Mystery (unfinished)
1926 Dr Night
1927 The Phantom Launch
1927 The Dagger and Cord (The Lonely Lady)
1929 The Shadow Crook
1929 The Little Grey Woman
1930 The Green Pearl
1930 The League of Five
1930 The Unlawful Adventure
1931 Whispering Death
1931 The Mystery of Madlands (The Murders at Madlands)
1931 Find This Man
1932 The Grays Manor Mystery
1934 The Kahm Syndicate
1934 The Flirting Fool (also as by John Morriss)
1934 Cain (Macleay Argus, by John Morriss) also as "The Framing of Inspector Denvers" by Aidan de Brune
1935 Saul and the Spinster
1935 The Fortune-Telling House
Novelette newspaper serials
1931 Douchard's Island (30,000 words)
1932 The Three Snails (24,000 words)
1922 Just a Woolly
1927 Who Killed David Condon?
1927 Adelbert Cay
1928 Meet Mary Cronig
1928 Mary Quite Contrary
1928 The Marrickville Murders
1929 The Empty Match Box
1930 Mary's Little Lamb
1931 Voodoo Vengeance*
1931 Five Minute Murder
1932 Silver Bells
1933 Mary's Fleece
1933 The Three Cats (by John Morriss)
* Original title" 'All The Mystery of African Jungles Brought the Vengeance of the Voodoo to Jewel Thief.'(!)
Short Story Collection
2017 Meet Mary Cronig and Other Stories (contains all the short stories above)
1928 Fifty Years of Progress in Australia (Editor) *
1933 Ten Australian Authors
*Available on-line at hathitrust.org. Not written by de Brune. A corporate publication of a mutual provident society celebrating its own 50th year of progress, and written by numerous unidentified authors.
This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia