State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 60 Spring 1997

40

‘Ad Wed Is Father Cubbig Obe?’: Furnley Maurice, The Father of The Bay And Padie Book

My most successful book was The Bay and Padie Book, written for two little boys who are now neither little nor boys. This book earned me, in some low quarters, the name of ‘The Australian Milne’; very absurd, because I have done a great amount of un-Milney work and The Bay and Padie Book was published seven years before When We Were Very Young.1
Despite being Furnley Maurice's most successful publication, The Bay and Padie Book has suffered a fate similar to a number of classics of Australian literature; a lack of acknowledgment and a forgetting. The book's history is one of a great marketing opportunity lost and thus a consequent loss to the canon of Australian children's writing. While the books and illustrations of Maurice's contemporary, May Gibbs, have gained a justly deserved place in the past and contemporary world of publishing for children, The Bay and Padie Book today is a virtually unknown treasure of Australian children's poetry. Had its potential been recognised and exploited The Bay and Padie Book may well have gained a place such as Snugglepot and Cuddlepie's in the oeuvre of Australian children's publishing. We have now moved on too far in our moral and socio-political realities for it to ever become the classic it could have been. References in the poem ‘Missing’ to Jimmy, the suspect in the loss of the pet cat, “Jimmy's black, and black's for wicked” along with the occasional representation of women as passive are rightly unacceptable in contemporary society. Despite these shortcomings however, (and they are minor in context when considering other children's literature of the period) rather than learning to recite ‘Half-past bunny-time, ‘Possums by the moon; Tea and bread-and-honey time, Sleep-time soon’2 generations of Australian children have grown up much more likely attempting to fit into the vastly different world of A.A, Milne's Christopher Robin. And while there is no doubting that Christopher Robin's world is a wonderful place to visit, it is a shame that Australian children of recent decades have not also been exposed to the world of Bay and Padie.
Notwithstanding Maurice's rejection of a comparison between his and Milne's writing, one is made inevitable by the excellent characterisation of individual children with identifiable personalities and delightful stories to tell about growing up in Edwardian Australia and England respectively. That the success of Maurice's and
41
Milne's children's poetry came after the horrors of World War I is, I believe, of great significance. The innocent children who are portrayed in the poems were reminders of a state of being untouched by the horrific experiences of the war. For Maurice, who had written the powerful twelve-part anti-war poem ‘To God: From the Weary Nations’3 during the same period as he wrote the Bay and Padie poems, the contrast was indeed a potent one.
Frank Wilmot, who wrote as ‘Furnley Maurice', was born in 1881 in Richmond,4 Victoria. His parents were Australian born and his father, an ironmonger, was an active socialist. Wilmot left school at thirteen to join E.W. Cole's Book Arcade, a book-selling and publishing enterprise famed for its democratising of book availability. Thus began a lifelong association with the industry which ended with his role as the first manager of Melbourne University Press.5 In addition, he ran private printing presses from 1901 until the end of his life in 1942. In 1901 Wilmot began producing a small literary journal, The Microbe. It continued for eight issues. For the next thirty years Wilmot printed and published books and journals which may well have not got into print otherwise. He was an Australianist with an enormous dedication to the advancement of the arts in this country. With Sydney John Endacott (1877-1967) he established the Galleon Press around 1912, which they operated part-time during the years they worked together at Cole's Book Arcade.6 Wilmot worked with a hand press, later moving up to a steam press, while Endacott managed the business aspect of the publishing house. Together they produced about 20 titles by emerging authors, including Vance Palmer, Louis Lavater, Sumner Locke, Frederick Macartney and, of course, Wilmot himself. The books they produced together bear the imprint of Sydney J. Endacott, publisher, printed by the Galleon Press.
The Bay and Padie Book was first published in 1917 by Endacott and the Galleon Press and was reprinted in 1918 in hardcover. A second edition was issued in 1926 with an additional eleven poems and a new format. In 1937 Melbourne University Press gained the copyright and reissued the 1926 edition. Two reprints followed in 1943 and 1944, the last two being posthumous editions with print runs of 1,000 and 5,000 respectively. (Information on the print runs of the earlier editions is
42

Figure 3: The Bay and Padie Book 1st ed. Cover design by Vera Hamilton and Cyril Dobbs (Galleon Press, 1917)

43
unavailable.) All but the last reprint were printed by Galleon Press. The fact that these reissues were a viable commercial option, however, speaks volumes for the quality of the poetry and the popularity of Maurice's Bay and Padie. How much more popular would the book have been had it been more appropriately marketed?
Despite this more than respectable print history, The Bay and Padie Book has not retained its place in the history of Australian children's publishing. So why did this brilliant little book disappear almost without trace? Many books sell primarily because of their appearance and children's books are hugely dependent on their appeal to the eye of the child. In the case of The Bay and Padie Book the remarkably dull format of the post 1918 editions and the scarceness of the attractive early editions must have worked against its popularity and thus its longevity as a favourite of Australian children. If the book had continued to be issued in the style that Wilmot himself began in 1917 or had been continually issued with the child reader in mind rather than in a bland, almost textbook style, it would certainly have had a more successful history. The book contains the type of poetry which, even now, retains its freshness and appeal, and so it should have continued to enjoy its already considerable success. The mystery surrounding the anti-child format of the post 1918 editions, however, is partly explained by the fact that Wilmot himself was in control of the production of the book as printer and publisher. That Wilmot was notorious for belittling his own contribution to the poetic arts while encouraging other artists with whom he mixed, perhaps explains why such neglect occurred. But why he changed the format in 1926 after producing the first edition in such an appropriate manner is a question which remains unanswered.
In the 1917 edition, when Wilmot and Endacott's own press produced the first run of this delightful book, the hand of a thoughtful designer is evident in its layout. (Figure 3) It displays a consciousness of its market and of what would appeal to both children and their parents. The simple, albeit amateurish, illustrations by Vera Hamilton and Cyril Dobbs: rotund, big-headed naked children or fairy figures along with a scattering of kites, trains and other toys express the mood and topic of each poem. A good addition to the book's design is the poem called ‘A Whisper Song’ which runs along the bottom of each page; one stanza to each leaf. This poem, produced on a single page inside, offers a new way to delve again into the book once the reader has finished reading it in the conventional way.
The first edition was bound in grey-green paper wrappers with an illustrated cover and was loop sewn with red thread. It has a casual, friendly and childish appearance and is a good size for childish hands (240 × 180mm); obviously a book to be thumbed through again and again. One can imagine it being carted around in a trolley along with the other treasured items of a six- or eight-year-old in the early decades of this century. It attempted to capture the eye of the child and lure him or her inside to explore the rhythms and sounds of the words. The 1918 reissue in
44
hardback appeared with the same format. That the book did not retain this visual allure in later editions is, I believe, the major reason for its all too speedy disappearance from the bookshelves of Australian children.
In 1926 a second edition was issued by Endacott and Galleon Press. It contained eleven additional poems, and the sub-title of ‘Kiddie Songs’ was changed to ‘Child Poems’ — an altogether more serious representation of the content. A smaller book (190 × 120mm) than the original, bound in cream paper boards with a grey jacket quoting some of the press responses to the first edition, it has lost its child-friendly appearance and looks more like a school text or a memorial than a book designed to capture the imagination of children. This edition dispensed with all illustrations and each poem is printed in a bland font without any elaboration at all. The following editions in 1937,1943 and 1944 followed the same format although the 1944 edition has a rather boringly illustrated two-colour cover by Mavis Walker.
The poems in The Bay and Padie Book depict the happy suburban home life of an Edwardian Melbourne family. It is a household where father daily goes out to work and mother stays at home with the two small, much loved, boys. Yet, despite this (not-so) dated representation of family life, much of the poetry has the timeless quality which invokes both the innocence and quirkiness of early childhood and explores the ever-expanding horizons of small people in a big world. The nursery, the garden, pets, family outings and the rituals of daily life, along with the pain of small hurts and illnesses provide the subjects of the poems, while the theme of the book is the happy cocoon of family and home. Interspersed throughout are poems which relate more directly to the parental experience and this lends the book a completeness which would otherwise be missing. The timeless appeal of the poems written from the point of view of the children rests in Maurice's ability to capture the diction, mispronunciations and preoccupations of young children. The poem ‘Invalid’ exemplifies this. The sound of a complaining child, Padie in this instance, confined to bed with a head cold captivates modern-day children, just as it did in the 1920s. When reciting ‘Invalid’ to the children I know, almost without exception they are filled with mirth at the sound and subject of this poem.

Invalid

Raid, raid, go away,
Dote cub back udtil I say,
That wote be for beddy a day.
Ad wot's the good of sudlight, dow?
When I ab kept id bed,
Ad rubbed ad poulticed for to cure
The cold that's id be head?
45
I've beed out od the kitched lawd,
With dothig od be feet,
Ad subthig's coffig id be deck
Ad all be head's a heat.
Tell Bay to dot bake such a doise;
Dote rud the cart so hard!
For tissudt fair, just wud of us
To rud arowd the yard.
Ad wed I try to say a tale,
Or sig a little sog,
The coffig cubs idtoo be deck
Ad tickles dredful strog.
Ad wed is father cubbig obe?
He'd dot be log he said —
If this is jist a cold it bust
Be awful to be dead!
Oh wot a log, log day it is!
Ibe tired of blocks ad books;
I've cowted all the ceilig lides,
I've thought of sheep ad chooks.
I've drawd a bad's face with a bo,
I've drawed a pipe to sboke,
Just wed I thought I was asleep
I wedt ad thought I woke!
Wot's the good of sudlight dow,
Ad wot's the good of raid?
Ad wot's the good of eddythig
Wed all your head's a paid?
Raid, raid go away,
Ad dote cub back udtil I say.
Ad that wote be for beddy a day.
The poems about parents reflect the duality of the lives of a mother and father. The responsibility of parenthood, with its joys and worries are counterpointed delightfully with poems that hint at a loving personal relationship which exists apart from the daily experience of parenting.

Motherhood

It would appear that no great pleasures can be
Without their merit of trial and urgency:
For I do know a lady whose rare joys
Wake when she has tucked in two little boys.
46
The joy of rearing loved children is counterbalanced by the sacrifice of parenthood. The father in ‘Barter’ totes up the things to which he must stretch his pay and says without a hint of disappointment, ‘And for this we pay (it seems We may not serve visions, too) With our high neglected dreams, With great things we meant to do.’ Numerous times in the book the delight a parent feels when witnessing their children comprehending a new experience or attempting to articulate their view of the world is eloquently expressed:

The Sky in the Pool

Down by the glassy pool
Sand and water meet,
There's a little wooden stool,
Marks of little feet.
When the broth was in the bowl,
Mother called to-day:
Mother called and no one came,
Someone was away.
Then there came a little boy,
Whose broth was very cool,
Stuttering in wonderment,
“The sky is in the pool!“
And Mother wept, because the clear
Depths of all pool-skies,
The soul's wonder, the heart's fear,
Were gathered in his eyes.
While the poems still hold a charm and appeal to contemporary audiences The Bay and Padie Book is also a vignette of family life at a particular point in Australian, history. In addition, it is an exposé of a period in Frank Wilmot's life and fits perfectly into his poetic oeuvre. As an expressionistic poet who used the art-form to respond to the world as he experienced it, often allowing his work to be published without any editing or revision, The Bay and Padie Book depicts, in form and content, a single point in Wilmot's life. And while its history is a lesson in how not to sell a children's book, it is possible to comprehend how such an opportunity was lost. In the end, Wilmot, the reputedly self-effacing and shy man, must take final responsibility for the lost opportunities, but he was simply not an opportunist. He was, rather, a man keenly aware of life's shortcomings and yet nevertheless was unperturbed by it. His statement: “I belong to that group of writers who, wise in their generation, and expecting nothing, are not disappointed”7 is an illuminating
47
insight into the equanimity with which he approached the business of being a writer. Wilmot did not particularly aspire to being a children's writer, wishing only to release his work into the world to take the place fate, and others, would assign it, and so he did not fight for his art as another more determined writer might have.

Postscript

The absence of this lovely book from the canon of Australian children's literature is without doubt a cause for concern, but with recent changes in attitude towards Australian literature there is scope for a new illustrated edition marketed appropriately to the children of today. Proposals are before publishers presently and it is to be hoped that present and future generations of Australian children will yet be able to laugh at Padie's blocked nose or wonder at the Blue-Nosed Butterman's wife.

1

Vance Palmer. Frank Wilmot (Furnley Maurice). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1955, Introduction, p. 2.

2

From ‘Sleep Song'.

3

Published separately in 1917 by Australasian Authors’ Agency and then in the collection Eyes of Vigilance: Divine and Moral Songs (Melbourne: Endacott, 1920) with the variant title ‘To God: From the Waning Nations'.

4

Most references (ADB, Miller and Macartney, etc) state that Wilmot's birthplace was Collingwood, but Wilmot wrote in a biographical note to an unidentified inquirer that he was born in Richmond. Letter held at Baillieu Special Collections, Melbourne University Library (BaSpC/McL fL/A-P MAUR/PAPE).

5

1997 marks the 75th anniversary of Melbourne University Press. In commemoration of Wilmot's inaugural editorship of the Press a selected edition of his writing, prepared by Philip Mead, is due for release.

6

Endacott was also initially involved with The Microbe.

7

Quoted in Palmer, op.cit. p 28.