State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 83 May 2009

26

Gavin De Lacy
Three Neglected Women Writers of the 1930s:
Jean Campbell,‘Capel Boake’, and ‘Georgia Rivers’

Jean Campbell in her early thirties. Portrait (photographer unknown) taken in a Brisbane radio studio, c. 1935. MS 1366, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

27

I

In Her introduction to the Virago Press's 1986 reprint of Doris Kerr's Painted Clay (1917), published under the pen-name ‘Capel Boake’, Christine Downer wrote: ‘Boake is one of those women writers forgotten by the compilers of Australian literary histories’.1 Two other Melbourne writers of the 1930s, Marjorie Clark, who wrote as ‘Georgia Rivers’, and Jean Campbell, have also been mostly overlooked in the standard literary reference works, and even very good books on Australian women writers. Only Campbell is discussed in H. M. Green's A History of Australian Literature (1961), although the omission of Kerr is odd because she is included in his preliminary work, An Outline of Australian Literature (1930), in which he described Painted Clay as one of the ‘best single’ contemporary novels,2 and none of the three are discussed at all in Drusilla Modjeska's important book about Australian women writers between the wars, Exiles at Home (1981).
Jean Campbell, Marjorie Clark, and Doris Kerr were all prominent figures in the Melbourne literary scene of the 1930s, and its networks, and were variously involved with the Australian Literature Society (ALS), the Society of Australian Authors, the Melbourne Writers’ Club, and the Victorian sections of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) and the P.E.N. Club.3 All had biographies included in Who's Who in Australia, Clark from the 1933–34 edition, Kerr from 1938, and Campbell from 1941. Clark still had an entry in the 1988 edition, the year before her death, and by then a long forgotten writer.

II

Jean Campbell was the Melbourne literary personality of the ’30s. She was always being written about in newspapers and magazines4 and was the subject of Lina Bryans’ now well-known portrait,‘The Babe is Wise’, painted in 1940.5 She was noted in literary circles for her ‘quick and slightly acidulous wit’,6 and was a regular and popular figure at literary and theatrical parties during the decade.7
Campbell was born in Melbourne on 20 May 1901.8 She was educated at Presbyterian Ladies’ College, then in East Melbourne, and lived in the E.S.&A. Bank building on the north-east corner of Bourke and Exhibition streets, where her father was the manager. In 1920 Campbell enrolled at the University of Melbourne, not undertaking a degree but obtaining a teaching diploma from the London College of Music, and a licentiate of Trinity College of Music (London), by correspondence.9
Her first novel, ‘Plato the Impossible’, written while still a student, was entered in the
28
1920 novel competition run by the Melbourne publisher C. J. de Garis.10 Campbell started writing for the theatre and had her early plays performed by the ALS. Her first novel, Brass and Cymbals (1933), was, as ‘Strength of Stone’, also intended for the stage, and she was a regular in productions of the Melbourne Little Theatre.11
In biographical information supplied to the accountant and bibliophile J. K. Moir in 1937, Campbell wrote that in the 1920s ‘circumstances which I do not propose to set down here lured me frequently into the bush, and there I was urged by a kindly slavedriver to begin a book’.12 The slavedriver was John Gorton, father of John Grey Gorton, prime minister of Australia, 1968–1971. Campbell met Gorton, an orchardist, in 1921, soon became his mistress and lived with him intermittently until his death in 1936.13 Brass and Cymbals was written on his orange grove at Kangaroo Lake near Swan Hill. Campbell started the novel in 1929, completing it in the following year and dedicating it to Gorton. John Grey Gorton acted as her literary agent, taking the manuscript with him when he went to study at Oxford in 1932. It was read by the novelist John Buchan, on whose recommendation the novel was accepted by the English publishing house Hutchinson & Co., a major supplier to circulating libraries during the ’30s.14
Brass and Cymbals was the third title issued by Hutchinson in its ‘first novel library’ series. Campbell launched the novel with her theatrical friends, including Leila Pirani, at Mario's continental restaurant in Exhibition Street.15 The novel was well-reviewed in England and quickly ran to three impressions. A short review of Brass and Cymbals in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) pointed out that ‘[t]here is a curious disparity between the way this novel is written and the author's moments of perception’.16 In the Melbourne Herald ‘Touchstone’ (Frank Campbell) wrote that ‘[i]t has its faults – it is too long, too crowded with characters, who make only a spasmodic appearance, and it ends too abruptly’.17 An earlier review in the Age stated that
it seems difficult to believe that the writer is not of Jewish birth (and Miss Campbell is not, but is of pure Scottish ancestry), for so well does she interpret the sometimes obscure, but nethertheless fine qualities of the orthodox Jew.18
But in Melbourne's Jewish Weekly News, its literary reviewer wrote:
It is a tale, allegedly, of Jewish life in Australia. Anything farther from the truth would be difficult to imagine. …The reader (particularly the Jewish reader) will be irritated at the inaccuracies of the book and will be annoyed even by its many grotesque characterisations. I am sceptical as to whether Miss Campbell knows any Australian Jews.
Responding to its ‘scathing criticism’ of the novel, a correspondent wrote that
[t]he inaccuracies referred to are minor ones, noticeable only to the Jewish reader….
In my opinion Miss Campbell's handling of her theme shows a quite sufficiently exhaustive study for her purpose—that of a novel to amuse, and not a guide-book to Judaism.19
Under the headline ‘Gentile Novel of Jewish Life Causes Resentment’, Smith's Weekly
29
reported that one reader wrote to Campbell stating that he had enjoyed Brass and Cymbals until Reuben Levi, an orthodox Jew, burns a photograph of his daughter Ruth – estranged from him for marrying Jack Troubridge, a gentile: ‘No orthodox Jew would do that on the Sabbath’, he complained.20 In All About Books Nettie Palmer wrote that
[t]his novel, which is smoothly woven on a wide frame, gives, in fact, almost nothing, except in externals of scene, that seems to be the writer's own impression. Most of the characters form a collection of stock figures – the heavy father, the misunderstood mother, the frightened son. …It is remarkable for a first novel to be so firmly handled: it remains to be seen whether the writer has something more her own to say or not.21
In early 1935 Campbell published her second novel Lest We Lose Our Edens, issued by John Long rather than Hutchinson, but she never regarded the book highly, describing it variously as ‘the black sheep’ and ‘a sort of skeleton in the closet’, and was surprised when the publisher issued a cheap edition in 1937.22 The Herald stated that the novel was ‘too long’ and ‘departs too often into descriptions that contribute nothing to the action’.23 On 15 March 1935 Hutchinson's Australian representative, George Sutton, and several Melbourne booksellers hosted a dinner for Campbell at the Wentworth in Collins Street to launch the novel in the Australian market and to promote her forthcoming book Greek Key Pattern (1935).24 In this novel Yianni Andonius, a Greek immigrant living in Melbourne, becomes a successful restaurateur in the city after some misadventures with his savings and business partners. While Campbell often complained about ‘identification fiends’, Andonius is clearly modelled on the Melbourne restaurateur Tony Lucas (Antonios Lekatsas), and she stated that a character in Lest We Lose Our Edens was also ‘based on an elderly Melbourne Man’, and used real names like Leila Pirani in Brass and Cymbals, for fictional characters in her novels.25 The Age described Greek Key Pattern as ‘light-hearted’ and ‘melodramatic’ but stated that ‘there have been few books of Australian town life that surpass it’.26
Campbell published two more novels with Hutchinson, The Red Sweet Wine in 1937, and, returning to the subject of Jewish life in Melbourne, The Babe is Wise in October 1939. The Babe is Wise, as Campbell put it, dealt with her familiar theme of ‘racial and religious admixtures’.27 The novel is more interesting for its fictional portraits of the poet Boyra Trainin, and Aaron Asch, editor of the Jewish Monthly Review, the latter probably inspired by the Yiddish writer and newspaper editor Pinchas Goldhar.28 Campbell certainly had connections in the local Jewish cultural community, writing an article on Australian literature (printed in Yiddish) for the 1937 Australian Jewish Almanac, to which Goldhar also contributed. In the novel Trainin learns Yiddish so that his poetry can be read by
Thousands of Jews … throughout the world. Jews in this very Melbourne here. In the Whitechapel of … London. In America. In Poland. In Palestine. They will be able to read my message. They for whom I shall write it. My People!29
The Babe is Wise was Campbell's last published book-length novel.
Campbell, though, could turn out a story, writing a series of anonymous pulp titles
30
for the New Century Press (Sydney) between 1943 and 1945. These romance novelettes, or ‘fourpennies’ as Campbell called them, are rare birds. In his Australian Literature (1956) Frederick Macartney listed 14 titles but even the assiduous collector J. K. Moir had only five in his collection (Beauty at Bay, Bitter Honeymoon, Her Fate in the Stars, Passion From Peking, and Sailor's Sweetheart, now held in the State Library of Victoria). Campbell later regretted that she didn't write more including ‘Sex on the Steamer’ and ‘The Cad in the Caravan’.30
In 1938 Campbell and Leila Pirani collaborated on a libretto entitled ‘Women, Wine and Puritans’.31 Campbell and Pirani also co-wrote a novel, ‘Passport to Paradise’, originally scheduled for publication by L. L. Woolacott's Currawong Publishing Company (Sydney) in December 1941, and certainly printed by 1943 but almost certainly never issued. In the same year Woolacott contemplated re-issuing her novels in hardback bindings to supply local circulating libraries.32
In 1946 Campbell started writing another novel entitled ‘Runt’, set in Melbourne between the wars. It was written partly with the support of a Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship awarded in the following year.33 Campbell was disinclined, despite an extant contract, to offer the manuscript to Hutchinson, and expected that the novel would be published in America, but was ‘stunned’ when it was rejected by her New York agent. Despite the encouragement of Miles Franklin and the persistence of her new literary agent, Florence James, then an editor with Constable in London, the novel was not published.34
The main criticism of Campbell's novels is her writing style. Green rightly argued that the prose in Brass and Cymbals and Greek Key Pattern ‘is journalistic and sprinkled with clichés and carelessness’.35 During a discussion with Moir about the progress of ‘Runt’, Campbell argued that ‘there are so many alterations, re-writings, deletions, insertions, & so on, that one has to do, before a work is anywhere near one's own satisfaction’, but this novel, too, is marred by the same flaws, although the hackneyed phrases and colloquials, usually in italics or inverted commas, are mostly scored-out in the typescript.36
While The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (first published in 1985), described Campbell as ‘a prolific writer of light novels’, and her novels were published during the height of the circulating library market,37 Brass and Cymbals and Greek Key Pattern are better than this, and are interesting for her impressions of Melbourne from the early twentieth century to World War II, the period she lived and worked in the city.
Campbell remained a prominent literary figure in Melbourne. She was a member of the Lyceum Club,38 and at one point in the early 1950s was president of both the P.E.N. Club and FAW, telling Franklin that ‘[t]his really is humorous, because the majority of P.E.N. members are very right, and the majority of the Fellowship, as you know, very LEFT.’39 And in 1955 Campbell helped to start Moomba Book Week.40
In 1958 Campbell contested in the Victorian Supreme Court ownership of 8255 shares in Lake Kangaroo Estates Pty Ltd, allegedly left to her by John Gorton. The claim was
31
successfully defended by John Grey Gorton, then a senator.41 As a result of the publicity surrounding the case, Campbell was excluded from Who's Who in Australia from the 1959 edition, but an outline of her interesting literary life has been included in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB).42 Campbell also acted in several films including the main role in Paul Cox's ‘We Are All Alone My Dear’ (1975). She died on 10 December 1984.

III

No Melbourne literary figure of the 1930s has faded more than Marjorie Clark (‘Georgia Rivers’). Clark published four novels, and numerous short stories and serials in newspapers and magazines, but does not get an entry in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Even Clark's long-term relationship with the writer Bernard Cronin (she is the dedicatee of his 1933 novel The Sow's Ear) is not mentioned in his ADB entry.43 In 1930 her friend Nettie Palmer noted that Clark was a ‘writer with a definite talent inside a small range’, and as a critic always wrote careful and sympathetic reviews of her novels.44 The small range was romantic fiction set in a middle-class Melbourne milieu, depicting, as noted in a contemporary article, ‘its familiar beaches, gardens, churches, wide and clean-swept streets; and … Melbourne people’.45
Marjorie Clark was born in Melbourne on 3 February 1897, living in East Camberwell or nearby suburbs for most of her life. She was educated at Milverton College and planned to study medicine but left school early to work in a business office in the city after her father died.46 Clark published her first stories when she was seventeen, and in 1923 had two stories accepted by Romance: The Australian Fiction Magazine in its January and March issues, but only pursued writing ‘seriously’ from 1925, adopting the pen-name ‘Georgia Rivers’.47 During this period she contributed stories and verse to the Triad, Listener In, and the Australian Woman's Mirror, among other journals.
Her first novel, Jacqueline (1927), was written in the office ‘keeping one eye on the clock and the other on the boss’.48 It was originally serialised as ‘Jacqueline: A Melbourne Girl’ in Table Talk during 1926,49 before it was published in London by Hodder & Stoughton. Her second novel Tantalego was also accepted by Hodder & Stoughton50 but was issued by another English publisher, Skeffington, an imprint of Hutchinson, in 1928. A short review in the TLS described the novel as ‘a good piece of writing by an author of attractive perceptions’.51 A biographical sketch of Clark in All About Books reported that she wanted to write more novels like Tantalego, stating that ‘[s]he feels much more at ease in longer, slower drama than when dealing with romantic adventure’.52
Clark's next novel, The Difficult Art, was serialised in the Australian Woman's Mirror before it was published by Skeffington in 1930. Nettie Palmer had a ‘long talk’ about the novel with Clark at the Wattle Tea Rooms in Little Collins Street when copies arrived in Melbourne, noting in her diary that Clark had ‘long plans’ and was ‘quietly ambitious’.53 Reviewing the novel in All About Books, Palmer wrote that ‘[a]fter this Georgia Rivers may
32

Marjorie Clark aged about 20. Scan of photograph reproduced in John Arnold, ed., The Imagined City: Melbourne in the mind of its writers, (1983), p. 68.
Location of original now unknown.

write books that are broader and deeper, but she will not find much, within the limitations of this book, that she would wish she had done otherwise.’54 And writing about The Difficult Art in a survey of 1930 novels in the same journal, Palmer argued that
[w]e are always hearing of novels about women, and of the feminine outlook, but here is a book genuinely reflecting the lives of women – middle-aged women, young women, young girls – and suggesting their own problems. Sprightly and refreshing in its comments and portrayal, this novel succeeds in what it sets out to do, which is to show how a shy, self-deprecating girl, with a charm of her own, masters the difficult art of growing up, chiefly in Melbourne suburbia.55
In late 1932 Hutchinson rejected Clark's ‘Loop-Hole’, a novel set in Melbourne during the second half of the nineteenth century. After discussing the manuscript with the Palmers, Nettie wrote in her diary that Clark ‘[s]eemed a little too respectfully interested in the probable reasons for its rejection by Hutchinsons who have published her less ambitious books.’56 Skeffington, however, did publish one more novel, She Dresses for Dinner, in 1933. A short note in the TLS stated that the novel was ‘especially interesting for its low-toned
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statement and its avoidance of all sentimentality and sensationalism’.57 Reviewing the novel in the Bulletin, Mervyn Skipper wrote that ‘[t]he story is told in the nervous style which distinguished Miss Rivers's earlier books, and has all her talent for sensitive description’, but argued that the novel's plot belonged ‘in the realm of romantic fiction’, adding that Clark ‘has the technical equipment for doing something more realistic’.58 And discussing the novel at a meeting of the ALS, Frank Wilmot argued that ‘the book contained much more than the “daintiness and charm” by which the publishers had advertised it’.59
Clark regarded She Dresses for Dinner as her best work,60 and it was also her last published novel, although a cheap edition was issued in the following year. Clark continued to write (the State Library of Victoria holds seven unpublished novels)61 and was working on a new novel in 1934, and by 1939 had started a ‘murder story’. And in 1940 she received a Commonwealth Literature Fund fellowship to write a novel with a contemporary Melbourne setting, finishing the manuscript in July 1941.62
In his Australian Literature (1940), E. Morris Miller praised Clark's novels as interesting psychological studies of adolescence, concluding that ‘her almost passionate belief in the people, about whom she writes, gives to the theme a significance beyond the bounds of the plot’.63 In his revised edition of Miller's bibliography, Macartney noted that Clark ‘is able to combine a light and frequently amusing touch with genuine feeling’, and in the ’30s included a lecture on her novels in the Australian literature course he taught at the Workers’ Educational Association.64
During the ’30s Clark worked as a journalist on the staff of the Listener In,65 and from May 1935 on the Australian Journal, contributing to its women's pages. During the 1940s and 1950s she was a literary contributor to, among other journals and magazines, the Australian Journal, the Australian Women's Weekly, and the Sun News-Pictorial, using various pseudonyms including ‘Noel Mordaunt’, ‘Carolyn Odgen’, and ‘Jill Curtin’. She died at Camberwell on 15 August 1989.66

IV

Despite the republication of her forgotten novel, Painted Clay, Doris Kerr's literary life as ‘Capel Boake’ is still not as well-known as it should be. Doris Boake Kerr was born in Sydney on 29 August 1889, but lived in Melbourne with her family from 1893. Her grandfather, Barcroft Capel Boake, had verse printed in the Bulletin, and her uncle was the poet Barcroft Boake, whose only collection, Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, was published posthumously in 1897. Kerr attended Prahran State School, but in her entry in Who's Who in Australia stated that she was ‘self-educated at Prahran Public Library’. On leaving school Kerr worked as a shop assistant, and later as a typist in an office.67
Kerr's first novel Painted Clay was published in Melbourne by H. H. Champion's Australasian Authors’ Agency in 1917, under her pen-name ‘Capel Boake’. In a review of the novel, the Argus stated:
34

Doris Kerr aged about 30. Scan of photograph reproduced in John Arnold, ed., The Imagined City: Melbourne in the mind of its writers, (1983), p. 60. Original [?] in the Bread and Cheese Club album of author portraits, State Library of Victoria collection.

She is one of those who seeks for the meaning and purpose in life, and her work contrasts strikingly with the cheerful superficiality and shallowness of the potboilers of some highly popular Australian authoresses.68
Another novel ‘The Flying Shade’, set in Melbourne and depicting art student life in studios and cafés in the city, was finished by early 1921, but was never published.69 In 1922 Kerr and Bernard Cronin collaborated as ‘Stephen Grey’ on the children's booklet Kangaroo Rhymes. Her next novel, The Romany Mark (1923), described by Kerr as ‘only a thriller’ and by Green as ‘a sensational novelette’, was written as a serial and published by the N.S.W. Bookstall Co.70
In 1936 Hutchinson published Kerr's novel The Dark Thread. The title refers to Stephen and Rachel Burton's Jewish lineage, described by their mother as ‘a dark thread, stretching out’, adding that ‘one day it may be strong enough to draw them back’.71 The theme of Zionism in the novel was suggested by the ‘aspirations’ of a Jewish hawker Kerr met in the Australian countryside.72 In the novel Stephen and Rachel's grandmother (née
35
Kolonsky) uses her savings, like Samuel Levi in Brass and Cymbals, to establish a Zionist colony in Palestine. After his experiences in World War I, Stephen implores Rachel to immigrate with him to Palestine, ‘our country’. He continues:
Our name is known there—the Kolonsky name. …It's a town now with vineyards and orange groves surrounding it. Built with our money, Rachel. The Kolonsky settlement! Doesn't that move you, Rachel? Doesn't that mean anything to you?73
Writing in All About Books Macartney ‘regret[ed]’ that Kerr had ‘let so many years elapse between her first novel and this one; for its shortcomings are the kind that constant practice in the novelist's art might have been expected to overcome’, but he ‘praise[d]’ the novel ‘for its presentation of life in a humble household in Melbourne before and through the period of the war’.74 In an article on Australian literature published in the Age during 1937, Frank Wilmot, writing as ‘Furnley Maurice’, compared The Dark Thread with Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1925).75 In her diary Nettie Palmer noted:
[R]ead Capel Boake's ‘The Dark Thread’: a firm study of a Jewish family in Port Melbourne. No, it's not quite a D[reiser], as Furnley suggested in an article in yesterday's Age, but it's very respectable.’76
More recently Susan Sheridan has argued that the novel ‘provides a salutary corrective to the bourgeois family sagas of the period.’77 While Macartney anticipated that Kerr ‘will now go on and give us more’,78 it was her last book published during her lifetime.
During the ’30s Kerr worked as a librarian, and from the end of the decade until her sudden death on 5 June 1944, was employed as J. K. Moir's secretary at Payne's Bon Marché.79 In 1939 Kerr was awarded a Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship. In early 1940 she wrote that ‘[d]uring the last two years I have been endeavoring to write a book about contemporary [Melbourne] life showing the reactions of international events on the lives of various characters. But history moves too swiftly, and I could never keep up with it. The Literary Fellowship … has solved my problem’.80 But Kerr abandoned the manuscript and started writing an historical novel, The Twig is Bent, accepted by Angus & Robertson in 1941, but published posthumously in 1946. Kerr was planning to write another Melbourne novel from the start of 1941, supported by money saved from the grant.81 A collection of her poetry was privately printed, with an introduction by Myra Morris, as The Selected Poems of Capel Boake in 1949.

V

Before World War II, Kerr, like Campbell, still had a contract with Hutchinson, and the publisher was still promoting ‘Georgia Rivers’ among its Australian authors in 1939.82 While Hutchinson issued cheap editions of Brass and Cymbals in April 1940 and The Babe is Wise as late as December 1940, the war was a major disruption to the English book trade. On 29–30 December 1940 Hutchinson's records were destroyed in the Paternoster Row fire.83 In 1941 Kerr noted that ‘with the chaos existing in the book trade’ her London agent, A. P. Watt
36
and Son, ‘seemed doubtful as to whether he would be successful in placing’ novels and she assumed that her contract for two more novels had ‘lapsed’.84 Campbell, too, wrote to Hutchinson in 1943 to clarify her own position.85
Kerr, Campbell, and Clark have not been resuscitated as forgotten authors despite the recent interest in Australian women writers. Most of the novels discussed here are long out-of-print and virtually unprocurable in second-hand bookshops, especially the novels published by Hutchinson and its various imprints, including Skeffington and John Long, in the ’30s. These were mostly issued in editions of 1000 copies, and many of these were probably pulped in England during the war. While these novels were well-read in circulating libraries, it was ‘an ephemeral existence’ as a reviewer of Lest We Lose Our Edens put it.86
The books were also poorly distributed in Australia. Even the determined Nettie Palmer struggled to buy a copy of The Difficult Art in Melbourne in 1930.87 In 1933 Hutchinson's Australian representative, George Sutton, told the Brisbane bookseller and lending librarian J. Thomson that only 50 copies of the first edition of Brass and Cymbals were being sent to Australia.88 These novels were not even well-known by contemporary women writers. In 1939 Flora Eldershaw, then on the Commonwealth Literary Fund advisory board, was asked to read Jacqueline, Tantalego, The Difficult Art, and She Dresses For Dinner after Clark applied for a fellowship.89 Campbell had to borrow a copy of The Dark Thread from Moir in 1945.90 And in a letter to Miles Franklin in the early 1950s, Jean Devanny wrote: ‘You spoke of Jean Campbell. Is she a good writer? I have seen nothing of hers, but have seen a review or two, which were good’.91 Franklin, herself, wrote to Campbell in 1954 asking to borrow a copy of Greek Key Pattern.92 By the 1980s Campbell's literary reputation was so ‘precarious’, Deborah Jordan reported, that even Campbell didn't have a set of her own novels.93
The ’30s has now been remembered as a radical literary and political decade. The novels of Kerr, Campbell, and Clark don't fit nicely within the prevailing orthodoxy and literary preoccupations and myths of the ’30s. In Exiles at Home Drusilla Modjeska has shown the contribution to the Australian novel made by women writers during the ’30s, pointing out that ‘[a]lmost half the novels written between 1928 and 1939 were by women.’ The decade, Modjeska wrote,
was the heyday of Miles Franklin, Katharine Prichard, Marjorie Barnard, Flora Eldershaw, Christina Stead and Eleanor Dark. Henry Handel Richardson was in her prime. Kylie Tennant and Dymphna Cusack's careers were beginning.94
These writers were mostly Sydney based (Richardson and Stead lived abroad, and Prichard lived in Western Australia), and were associated with the New South Wales section of the FAW.
Kerr, Campbell, and Clark belong to the same period in Australia literary history, but were Melbourne authors, setting their novels in that city. They were among the earliest prewar Australian writers to fictionalise an urban environment, ignoring the bush as a theme,
37
and preceding most of their better known contemporaries in writing about the city. None of the Hutchinson novels discussed here have been republished although Campbell's Brass and Cymbals and Kerr's The Dark Thread are probably good enough. The literary lives of Kerr, Campbell, and Clark have been under appreciated, but, as this article has demonstrated, a reading of their novels and the milieu they worked in, provides a broader and richer history of women writers in Australia during the 1930s.

1

Christine Downer, introduction to the 1986 Virago reprint of Painted Clay, p. vii.

2

H. M. Green, An Outline of Australian Literature, Sydney: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1930, p. 238.

3

For a fuller account see Gavin De Lacy, ‘Literary Life in Melbourne in the 1930s’ (PhD thesis, Monash University, 2007).

4

See Campbell's scrapbook, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

5

The portrait features on the cover and also gives the name for a collection of short stories by Australian women writers edited by Lyn Harwood, et. al., (Melbourne: Pascoe Publishing, 1987).

6

Smith's Weekly, 30 Dec. 1933, p. 5.

7

Leader, 20 Nov. 1937, p. 42.

8

In her Who's Who in Australia entries Campbell gives her year of birth as 1905.

9

Student records, University of Melbourne Archives; Australasian, 4 March 1939, p. 39; Age, 6 Sep. 1947, p. 6; Who's Who in Australia, 1941; see also Campbell's entry in the ADB, vol. 17. Also available at http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A170178b.htm.

10

Bulletin, 22 Nov. 1933, p. 37; Smith's Weekly, 30 Dec. 1933, p. 5.

11

Leila Pirani to Jean Campbell, Sep. 1933, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia; Age, 7 Nov. 1933, p. 7; Australasian, 4 March 1939, p. 39. A copy of the typescript of ‘Strength of Stone’ is held in the National Archives of Australia: A1336, 21484.

12

Jean Campbell to J. K. Moir, 7 Dec. 1937, Jean Campbell biographical file, Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

13

Ian Hancock, John Gorton, Sydney: Hodder Headline, 2002, p. 11.

14

Australasian, 4 March 1939, p. 39; Age, 6 Sep. 1947, p. 6; Alan Trengove, John Grey Gorton, Melbourne: Cassell, 1969, p. 133; Hancock, pp. 21, 77.

15

Clipping from Fashion and Society, dated Dec. 1933, pasted in Jean Campbell's scrapbook, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

16

Times Literary Supplement, 26 Oct. 1933, p. 733.

17

Herald, 18 Nov. 1933, p. 32.

18

Age, 7 Nov. 1933, p. 7.

19

Jewish Weekly News, 1 Dec. 1933, p. 6, 22 Dec. 1933, p. 6.

20

Smith's Weekly, 30 Dec. 1933, p. 5.

21

All About Books, 15 Jan. 1934, p. 8.

22

Jean Campbell to J. K. Moir, 7 Dec. 1937, Jean Campbell biographical file, Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria; undated [1955] Argus clipping in Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

23

Herald, 28 March 1935, p. 29.

24

Souvenir card in Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2109, National Library of Australia; Bulletin, 24 April 1935, p. 43.

25

Age, 26 July 1937, p. 10; Argus, 23 March 1939, p. 6; clipping from Woman, Jan. 1935, in Campbell's scrapbook, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

26

Age, 15 Oct. 1935, p. 9.

27

Australasian, 4 March 1939, p. 39.

28

For more on Goldhar see John Arnold, The Imagined City: melbourne in the mind of its writers, Sydney: George Allen & Unwin, 1983, p. 88.

29

The Babe is Wise, p. 242.

30

Jean Campbell to J. K. Moir, 2 Jan. 1949, 3 Jan. 1950, Jean Campbell biographical file, Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria; Argus [1955] clipping in the Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

31

Australasian, 4 March 1939, p. 39. A copy of the typescript is held in the National Archives of Australia: A1336, 31684.

32

L. L. Woolacott to Jean Campbell, 30 July 1943, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia; Listener In, 22–28 Nov. 1941, p. 19.

33

Age, 6 Sep. 1947, p. 6; Helping Literature in Australia: the work of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, 1908–1966, Canberra: A. J. Arthur, 1967, p. 28.

34

Jean Campbell to Miles Franklin, 13 Nov. 1953, and undated letter [6 May 1954], MS 364, vol. 44, Miles Franklin Papers, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales; Florence James to Jean Campbell, 14 Sep. 1954, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

35

H. M. Green, A History of Australian Literature, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1961, p. 1087.

36

Jean Campbell to J. K. Moir, 1 Sep. 1948, Jean Campbell biographical file, Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria. A typescript of ‘Runt’ with Campbell's manuscript corrections and marked-up in blue pencil is held (MS 1366) in the Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

37

See John Arnold, ‘“Choose Your Author as You Would Choose a Friend”: Circulating Libraries in Melbourne, 1930–1960’, La Trobe Library Journal, vol. 10 no. 40 (1987), pp. 77–96.

38

See Campbell's entries in Who's Who in Australia.

39

Jean Campbell to Miles Franklin, 7 Dec. 1953, MS 364, vol. 44, Miles Franklin Papers, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

40

See Campbell's entry in the ADB, vol. 17.

41

Age, 23 Sep. 1958, p. 5, 25 Oct. 1958, p. 5; Herald, 24 Sep. 1958, p. 3, 24 Oct. 1958, p. 7; Hancock, pp. 77–80; Trengove, pp. 132–37.

42

ADB, vol. 17.

43

Cronin and Clark lived at ‘Iona’, 27 Moorehouse Street, East Camberwell. See various entries in Who's Who in Australia.

44

All About Books, 5 Dec. 1930, p. 308.

45

Woman's Budget, 12 Oct. 1934, p. 30.

46

See Marjorie Clark's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6186. National Archives of Australia; Who's Who in Australia, 1935; The Imagined City, p. 68.

47

Australasian, 1 April 1939, p. 52.

48

‘Bernice May’ [Zora Cross], ‘Georgia Rivers’, Australian Woman's Mirror, 2 Oct. 1928, p. 3.

49

The weekly instalments ran from 13 May 1926 to 29 June 1926.

50

Undated [1928] newspaper clipping in Marjorie Clark Papers, MS 11839, Box 2381/1(b), Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

51

Times Literary Supplement, 1 Nov. 1928, p. 808.

52

All About Books, 14 Dec. 1928, p. 3.

53

Nettie Palmer, diary entry, 21 Feb. 1930, MS 1174/16/13, Palmer Papers, National Library of Australia.

54

All About Books, 17 March 1930, p. 64.

55

All About Books, 5 Dec. 1930, p. 308.

56

Nettie Palmer, diary entry, 29 Dec. 1932, MS 1174/16/15, Palmer Papers, National Library of Australia. The typescript of ‘Loop-Hole’ is held in the Marjorie Clark Papers, MS 11839, Box 2382/1, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

57

Times Literary Supplement, 25 May 1933, p. 366.

58

Bulletin, 16 Aug. 1933, p. 5.

59

All About Books, 15 Jan. 1934, p. 19.

60

The Imagined City, p. 68.

61

MS 11839, Boxes 2381, 2382, Marjorie Clark Papers, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

62

See Clark's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6186, National Archives of Australia; Australasian, 1 April 1939, p. 52; Woman's Budget, 12 Oct. 1934, p. 30; Woman, 18 March 1940, newspaper clipping in Marjorie Clark Papers, MS 11839, Box 2381/1(b), Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

63

E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature …, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1940, p. 580.

64

All About Books, 14 March 1934, p. 67; E. Morris Miller and Frederick Macartney, Australian Literature…, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1956, p. 109.

65

Woman's Budget, 12 Oct. 1934, p. 30.

66

See death notices in the Age, 18 Aug. 1989, p. 22, and Sun (Melbourne), 18 Aug. 1989, p. 61.

67

Who's Who in Australia, 1938, 1941; Miller, p. 553; see also Kerr's entry in the ADB, vol. 15. Also available at http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150013b.htm

68

Argus, 15 June 1917, p. 5.

69

The galley proofs of ‘The Flying Shade’, with Kerr's manuscript emendations, are held at the National Archives of Australia: A1336, 11582.

70

Australasian, 27 May 1939, p. 44; An Outline of Australian Literature, p. 238; Kerr quoted in Downer's introduction to the 1986 reprint of Painted Clay, p.xii.

71

The Dark Thread, p. 87.

72

Australasian, 27 May 1939, p. 44.

73

The Dark Thread, pp. 314–15.

74

All About Books, 12 Aug. 1936, p. 117.

75

Age, 2 Oct. 1937, p. 8.

76

Nettie Palmer, diary entry, 3 Oct. 1937, MS 1174/16/19, Palmer Papers, National Library of Australia.

77

Susan Sheridan, Along the Faultlines, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1995, p. 162.

78

All About Books, 12 Aug. 1936, p. 118.

79

See Kerr's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6316, National Archives of Australia; John Arnold, ‘An Extraordinary Man: John Kinmot Moir’, La Trobe Library Journal, vol. 12, nos 47 & 48 (1991), p. 102; see also Kerr's entry in ADB, vol. 15; and obituary in the Herald, 5 June 1944, p. 5.

80

Bohemia, Dec. 1939, p. 9; Kerr quoted in the Listener In, 17–23 Feb. 1940, p. 9.

81

See Doris Kerr to H. S. Temby, 2 Jan. 1941, 12 Aug. [1941], in Kerr's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6316, National Archives of Australia; Listener In, 9–15 Aug. 1941, p. 19.

82

Doris Kerr to H. S. Temby, 12 Aug. [1941], in Kerr's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6316, National Archives of Australia; Bohemia, April 1939, p. 5.

83

Ian Norrie, Mumby's Publishing and Bookselling in the Twentieth Century, London: Bell & Hyman, 1982, sixth edition, pp. 87–88.

84

Doris Kerr to H. S. Temby, 12 Aug. [1941], in Kerr's Commonwealth Literary Fund file, A463, 1957/6316, National Archives of Australia.

85

See L. L. Woolacott to Jean Campbell, 30 July 1943, MS 2897, Jean Campbell Papers, National Library of Australia.

86

All About Books, 12 July 1935, p. 119.

87

Nettie Palmer, diary entry, 9 Aug. 1930, MS 1174/16/13, Palmer Papers, National Library of Australia.

88

George Sutton to J. Thomson, 23 Oct. 1933, Jean Campbell Papers, MS 2897, National Library of Australia.

89

Commonwealth Literary Fund minutes, 3 Nov. 1939, A3753, 1972/2766, National Archives of Australia.

90

Jean Campbell to J. K. Moir, 25 June 1945, Jean Campbell biographical file, Moir Collection, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

91

Jean Devanny to Miles Franklin, 12 Oct. 1953, in Carole Ferrier (ed.), As Good As a Yarn With You, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 344.

92

Jean Campbell to Miles Franklin, 24 Feb. 1954, MS 364, vol. 44, Miles Franklin Papers, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

93

Carole Ferrier (ed.), Gender, Politics and Fiction, Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1985, p. 60.

94

Drusilla Modjeska, Exiles at Home: Australian women writers 1925–1945, Sydney: Sirius, 1991, p. 5.