Letters of Mary Gilmore
Selected and Edited by W.H. Wilde and T. Inglis Moore
"Mary Gilmore's life spanned almost a century of Australian history. She lived for ninety-seven years and this selection of her letters covers a period of almost seventy years, encompassing the social, political and literary scene of the period when Australia was changing from colony to nation.
"The letters contain perceptive judgements of indigenous literary talent as it was emerging; they contain reflections on the pioneer past as she herself had experienced it and reflections on the contemporary political and social environment. Sometimes they express her anger at injustice and deprivation wherever it occurred - in the treatment of the Aborigines, the returned soldiers, women, children, old people, the sick. As she said, 'There was no hunted one with whom I did not run.' Above all, the letters reflect her immense patriotism and love for her country, her enormous hopes for its future; and they give, often unintentionally, fascinating glimpses of events in which she participated - for example, the New Australia venture in Paraguay - events which are now part of our established history."
First Paragraph from the Foreword
When Hugh McCrae was asked in 1943 who was then the most outstanding personality in Australian literature he had no hesitation in replying: 'The answer is Mary Gilmore, of course (strictly as a personality)'.
First and foremost, then, these letters of Dame Mary have been selected as her own revelation of those personal qualities and wide-ranging interests that made her so outstanding. They form a fascinating record of a remarkable woman, many-sided: a passionate idealist who fought to remedy social injustices and worked indefatigably to better our society; a crusader for many causes, great and small, including the welfare and culture of the Aboriginals; the one of our major poets with the widest international fame through translation of her poems into seven foreign languages; a deep lover of her country and advocate of its traditions - a great Australian. Along with her varied achievements, the letters indicate why the governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales combined to give her a State funeral as a national figure, an Australian legend in her own lifetime.
This selection has been made from hundreds of letters written over sixty-six years, spanning the centuries, from the first one written when she was thirty-one to Henry Lawson from Cosme Colony, Paraguay, in 1896 to the final one sent to Robert D. FitzGerald from her Kings Cross flat in 1962, some five months before her death at the age of ninety-seven.
From the Melbourne University Press hardback edition, 1980.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Mary Gilmore Page.
Last modified: November 7, 2001.