SOUTH OF CAPRICORNIA book cover South of Capricornia
Short Stories 1925-1934
Edited by Russell McDougall

Cover illustration taken from the cover of the September 1931 edition of 'Wide World', by permission of the British Library

Dustjacket synopsis:
"South of Capricornia draws together the early writings of Xavier Herbert, prior to the publication of his classic novel Capricornia in 1938. Until now, these writings have remained one of the major secrets or Australia's modern literary tradition, as many were originally published in now obscure magazines and newspapers, often under one of the author's pseudonyms.

"In his research for a biography of Xavier Herbert, Russell McDougall has been able to trace over twenty stories never before published in book form. He has also pieced together several stories that had never been published, some of which have a fascinating relationship with chapters of Capricornia and with others of Herbert's better known stories.

"The chronological arrangement of these stories provides an absorbing insight into the early development of Herbert's writing. There are genre pieces - adventure, crime and burlesque - all evolving from the romance formulae of magazine fiction towards the realism of his later work. For the first time it is possible to see how central these short stories were - paradoxically - to the monumental novels on which Herbert's literary reputation has been made, and how important his roots in popular traditions were to his overall literary development.

"By providing a brief introduction to every story and a general introduction to the collection, Russell McDougall has framed the stories in terms of an over-arching narrative of the author's life and literary career, up to Capricornia."

Notes on the editor:

Russell McDougall is a Lecturer in English at the University of Adelaide. He was co-editor (with Gillian Whitlock) of Australian/Canadian Literatures in English: Comparative Perspectives (Methuen, 1987), and (with Andrew Taylor) (Un)Common Ground; Essays in the New Literatures (Flinders, 1990). He is currently working on a biography of Xavier Herbert to be published by Oxford University Press, and a critical study of Herbert for UQP.

First Paragraph from the Introduction

Up Swanston Street, beyond Bourke Street and the retail trade, further north past Little Bourke Street 'where slippered and alledegly sinister Chinese padded about in an atmosphere subtly compounded of sandalwood and wholesale fruit', past the hospital where he worked nights in the venereal diseases clinic and past the Public Library, this was Alfred Herbert's way into print: Melbourne, mid-1925. Climbing the stairs of number 350, the inconspicuous three-storey brick home of A.H. Massina and Company, publishers of the 'Australian Journal', he paused with uncharacteristic timidity, preferring to poke his manuscript, 'North of Capricorn', through the letter-box opening of a closed door rather than to enter. The beginnings of the literary career of 'Xavier' Herbert, were not particularly auspicious.

North of Capricorn
The Unforgivable
The Maniac and the Full Moon
The Atheist
The Man in the Moon's Story
The Opportunity Chaser
The Coming of Ezekiel Mort
The Way of a Man
The Sea Vultures
Giants of Iron
The Medicine
The Long Arm
The Other McLean
The Rainmaker
When an Irresistible Force
Faint Heart
The Beauty of Barbara
Living Dangerously
Sounding Brass
Sailor Bring Joy
Tale of a Woman's Love
The Widow McLean
Machinations of a Jinx
When No Man Pursueth
Shotgun Wedding
The Devil of Dollypot Reef

From the UQP hardback edition, 1990.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: October 1, 2001.