Letter by George Robertson to CJD 1916.06.16

16 June 1916

Dear Mr Dennis,

I ran through the proofs of "Ginger Mick" last night - simply couldn't wait for the revise. It is a seller all right, and its first edition will be 20,000 copies. Tomorrow I hope to send you my proof, with some corrections and a few notes. Shenstone's hands are too full to tackle it.

I am writing now of the book as it affects Bill, and to beg you in the revision to which you are subjecting it to soften anything he says in his own proper person. Remember that he is a living being, not an abstraction, to thousands upon thousands who have taken him to their hearts and love him, and that Australia owns him now, not C. J. D. Not for stacks and stacks of "golden quids" would your publishers print a line derogatory of the soliloquist of "The Kid", of the meditant of "The Mooch of Life".

The general impression the proof has made on me is that Bill has coarsened. And, in particular, the third, fourth, and fifth verses of "War" are unjust. It is as if Thackeray had, in a later book, dragged Colonel Newcome through the stews. (By the way, who's so fit as Bill to be bracketed with the Colonel?) If necessary - for the life of me I cannot see why it should be - to account for Bill's non-enlistment, for the Lord Jesus' sake and Uncle Jim's make the impediment something that won't prevent him from "playin' joo-jitsoo" with his horse and plough! Of course you couldn't make a prig of Bill; but surely the influence of Doreen and The Kid and rural felicities will by this time have differentiated him to some degree from the less happily circumstanced Ginger. For anything stated to the contrary, the three verses referred to above make him appear to have returned like a dog to his vomit.

When an old Scotchman - and publisher - feels like this, judge the feelings of thousands of your readers who are human. For a month, at the very least, our printer and binder must devote himself exclusively to making a big stock of Blokes, so you have no need to hurry unduly over revision of "Ginger".

The "Shenstone" referred to in the letter above is Fred Shenstone, who was George Robertson's lieutenant in the publishing business from the late 1890s. In March 1920 George Robertson wrote to an unsuccessful author: "All books published by us must receive the personal attention of Mr Shenstone and myself, and those we are already committed to will provide us with a sixty-hour week for the rest of the year."

CJ Dennis replied to this letter a few days later.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002