Miles Franklin's Death Has Left Literary Mystery Unsolved

By A Staff Correspondent

The Sydney Morning Herald

21 September 1954

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 book full 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In 1951 Angus and Robertson began printing a series of Brent books—three that had already been published and three unpublished novels ("Prelude to waking",  "Cockatoos" and "Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang").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.