Writer's Death Has Left Literary Mystery Unsolved - 21 September 1954
By A Staff Correspondent
The death of Miss Miles Franklin has done little to solve the mystery which, for 26 years, has surrounded the identity of Australian author - "Brent of Bin Bin."
True, Angus and Robertson, "Brent of Bin Bin's" publisher, admitted yesterday that Miss Franklin had been associated with the "Brent of Bin Bin" books, which have been described by one critic as "the classic of Australian life." But most "Brent of Bin Bin" readers have long taken this for granted.
A spokesman for Angus and Robertson was unable, or unwilling, to disclose the degree to which Miss Franklin had been associated with the books.
That is the mystery - probably Australia's greatest literary mystery - which has not yet been solved. It will be solved, according to Angus and Robertson, when the remaining two of a series of six books by "Brent" are published.
Most of her friends assumed that Miss Franklin, the author of such works as "My Brilliant Career," and "All That Swagger," was responsible for most of "Brent's" writing.
Throughout her 71 years of life, Miss Franklin maintained secrecy; she always, as she once told a friend, "enjoyed a little mystery."
Miles Franklin was born and brought up on her father's small cattle station near Tumut. At the age of 18 she wrote her first novel, "My Brilliant Career," which was regarded by some as a malicious attack on country life, but hailed by one eminent critic, A. G. Stephens, as a bookfull of sunlight ... a warm embodiment of Australian life.
In 1909, she published a second book, "Some Everyday Folk." From that year until 1931, when "Old Blastus of Bandicoot" appeared, she published nothing under her own name.
During that period, three books by "Brent" were published: "Up the Country" (dealing with the period 1852-69), "Ten Creeks Run" (1888-95), and "Back to Bool Bool" (1928-29).
Meanwhile, Miles Franklin's name began appearing in the publisher's lists again. From 1937 she published "All That Swagger," "Pioneers," and her biography, "Joseph Furphy."
The central figure of "All That Swagger" - Danny Delacy, who is neither squattocrat nor small-holder - could have been created by Miss Franklin or, it seemed, by "Brent of Bin Bin."
In 1951 Angus and Robertson began printing a series of Brent books—three that had already been published and three unpublished novels ("Prelude to Waking," "Cockatoos" and "Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang"). All but two in this series, "Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang" and "Back to Bool Bool," have now been pubpublished.
The series is a monument to the squattocracy of the upper Murrumbidgee and Monaro country from 1850 until 1929. It is, if we are to accept the verdict of A. G. Stephens, "the work of a team of writers."
Miss Franklin was undoubtedly a member, probably a dominant member, of that team. But the mystery of her associates, if she had associates, remains unsolved for the time being.
The Sydney Morning Herald
The crossing at Jounama Creek at the foot of Talbingo Mountain. Miles Franklin, famous Australian author, specified in her will that her ashes be scattered at this crossing. Picture by Ron Roberts, of Northbridge, N.S.W.
The Australian Women's Weekly, Wednesday 16th November 1955
S.H. PRIOR MEMORIAL PRIZE Award to:-
Stella Miles Franklin. SYDNEY, July 21 1936.
The winner of the 1936 competition for the annual S. H. Prior Memorial Prize for Australian literature is the novel, "All That Swagger," by Stella Miles Franklin. There were 240 entries for the prize.
Miss Franklin was born near Tumut, New South Wales, in 1883. Her father was at that time a station owner near Quanbeyan. The family later moved to Bangalore, near Goulburn, where "My Brilliant Career" was written when Miss Franklin was only 18. She sent the manuscript to Henry Lawson, who was on the point of leaving for England, and it was published with an introduction by him in 1901. Afterwards, Miss Franklin worked for a year as a servant girl in Melbourne and Sydney in order to obtain journalistic copy.
Later, she left Australia to practise journalism in England and America and produced a novel proper, "Some Everyday Folk and Dawn," which was published in 1909, and other works. She returned to Australia about three years ago and now resides in Sydney.
The West Australian, Perth, WA - Wednesday 22 July 1936
THE MILES FRANKLIN AWARD "Tirra Lirra By The River"
Writing five hours a day, until she drops or until 3 pm when friends feel it is safe to call, Jessica Anderson stops only for a light lunch of apples or cheese.
As the book takes shape she grows more anxious and keeps going to the refrigerator. By the final draft, some two months later, she has put on about two kilos in weight. "Writing fast and getting fat," as she puts it, extracts its toll - dieting. But it has proved a sound investment. Jessica Anderson is already a successful novelist and her fourth book "Tirra Lirra By The River," published by Macmillan, has won the esteemed Miles Franklin Literary Award. The book is about Nora Porteous, returning to Australia after years in London, examining her life's experiences and her own behaviour (escapes, humiliations, joys and suffering) in the light of old age.
The will of Miles Franklin, whose novel "My Brilliant Career" was written last century when Miles was only 16, provided for an annual prize to the author whose novel is deemed to be of the highest literary merit and "which must necessarily present Australian life in any of its phases." This year, the $2000 prize for 1978 was presented in Tumut, near Miles Franklin's birthplace, Talbingo, in southern NSW. lt was a double celebration because 1979 is the centenary of Miles' birth. The Weekly sponsored the event, organized by the Festival of the Falling Leaf.
Mrs Anderson learnt of her prize when a representative of Permanent Trustee, which looks after the Miles Franklin fund, called her. "I was thrilled," she said. "Like all Australian writers, I think we owe a tremendous debt to our predecessors. "The award does encourage writers. You feel someone out of the past has spoken to you."
Mrs Anderson, retiring by nature, dreads a public appearance, where the attention is on her. She hated marching in an anti-uranium rally but felt she had to, on principle. Born in Queensland (her maiden name was Queale) she was brought up in Brisbane until at 18 she went "as a terrible innocent" to Sydney. There she worked for commercial artist and photographer Heather George. Marrying young interrupted her writing. She had been writing verse, but never tried to have it published. Mrs Anderson was married and divorced twice and has a married daughter, Laura Jones, who is a scriptwriter, and a granddaughter, Olivia, 9.
Before she started to write novels when she was nearly 40, she adapted works by authors such as Charles Dickens and Henry James for broadcasting. That was in the '50s and '60s.
One of the judges of the Miles Franklin Award, Miss Beatrice Davis, one of Australia's most experienced and respected book editors, said of "Tirra Lirra By The River": "It has an unpretentious elegance, an individual quality so different from the realistic documentary that still dominates the field in Australian novels."
According to Jessica Anderson, the book's content annoyed a lot of people, particularly men. "I didn't mean it to be a liberationist gesture," she said. "Men recorded their experiences for hundreds of years and women read them with admiration." The title, vital to the theme, is from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott," based on the legend of a maiden working on a tapestry screen and not allowed to look directly out of the window. Instead, she must view reality as it is reflected in her mirror. When Sir Lancelot comes riding by, bound for Camelot and singing "Tirra lirra'' by the river, the maiden defies the curse upon her, turns and looks. The mirror cracks, she follows Lancelot and dies.
The symbol of what happens when dreaming stops and reality starts has much to do with the story. "Myth has passed into our life and our behaviour a great deal," said Mrs Anderson.
Jessica Anderson's previous novels are "An Ordinary Lunacy," "The Last Man's Head," and "The Commandant". She has just completed another, "The Impersonators." Her special interests outside writing are constitutional reform, human rights, and the preservation of beautiful old buildings for the people.
The Australian Women's Weekly Wednesday 16 May 1979
Report of Death
Miss Stella Maria Miles Lampe Franklin, the well-known Australian authoress who wrote under the name of "Miles Franklin," died yesterday. She was 69.
Miss Franklin, who twice won the J. H. Prior Memorial Prize for the best book of the year by an Australian, was born at Talbingo Station, near Tumut, N.S.W.
She first became known by her novel "My Brilliant Career," written in 1901. She held secretarial and editorial positions in US and London, and served with the Scottish Women's Hospital in 1917-18.
Her Prior Prize books were "All That Swagger," and her biography of Joseph Furphy. Her other well-known works included "Old Blastus of Bandicoot," "Some Everyday Folk," and, with Dymphna Cusack, "Pioneers on Parade."
Miles Franklin, one of Australia's foremost literary figures, died recently at the age of 71. In typical fashion, most of Australia's daily Press ignored the fact of her death or dismissed it summarily in a few curt, unimaginative lines.
And yet for thousands of Australians scattered throughout the far-flung reaches of the continent her death meant the passing of a rare personality whose life and work had enriched our Australian heritage.
From her writings emerge little pictures of a young woman whose circle of friends extended from beyond her immediate personal contacts.
That bond of friendship was created by her books, creations so genuinely Australian that their pages seemed capable of giving off the scents and aromas of gum-studded country.
"My Brilliant Career", "Old Blastus of Bandicoot", "All That Swagger", "Pioneers on Parade", and her biography, "Joseph Furphy", comprise the main ones listed under her name.
Then there is the famous "Brent of Bin Bin" series - six novels, five of which have been published - which, in the judgment of most Australian critics, are indelibly associated with the Franklin style and personality.
Miles Franklin will always remain as the creator of the most lovable, most appealing and, in many respects, most colourful character in Australian literature - to wit, one Danny Delacy, who struts so gloriously through the crowded, glowing pages of "All That Swagger.' '
Miles Franklin had one fault. She could never handle the modern scene very well. Her characters were stilted, cardboard creations. But when she dealt with our pioneering squattocracy she was magnificent.
She was completely at home with the era. Her characters, crowned by the unforgettable Danny, come out of the pages as live, flesh and blood, muscle and bone men and women.
Miles Franklin was born and reared on her father's small cattle station near Tumut. At a precocious eighteen years she produced her first novel, "My Brilliant Career."
It was not until 1937 that "All That Swagger" appeared-rich, mature, heart warming.
Anyone who hasn't already done so should make the acquaintance of Danny Delacy, as soon as possible.
Meet lovable Celtic Danny with his lifelong philosophy summed up in his oft-repeated phrase, "Tis the moinde that matters", and I'll be surprised if you don't experience a warm glow of appreciation and friendship.
Northern Standard, Darwin
Mail:- Tumut History, PO Box 132, Tumut, NSW 2720, Australia
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