Reprint: Australian Authors' Week

THE LONDON EXHIBITION. (From Our Correspondent. ) LONDON. Oct 1. - The Australian Literature Society may congratulate itself upon the success of Australia's Book Week. It was inaugurated by Mr. A. P. Herbert, of "Punch," and Mr. J. C. Squire, and it has already attracted hundreds of booklovers to Australia House. The exhibition hall on the ground floor has been converted into a vast display library, devoted to books of Australian origin. But this is only the beginning of the valuable work. Every publisher, bookseller, and critic in Britain has had his attention directed to the fact that there is a body of Australian literature comparable with the painting and sculpture which have come from Australia. Editors of the literary weeklies and monthlies are tumbling over one another for authoritative articles upon Australian books and authors, and every great daily newspaper has published some account of the opening ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, including an excellent article on Australian literature in "The Times" Literary Supplement from the pen of Mr. A. W. Jose. This alone would have justified the trouble which the London committee and the staff of Australia House have taken to ensure the success of the venture. Two thousand invitations were sent out to booklovers, critics, publishers, and others in the London area, and a representative gathering, numbering many hundreds, filled the cinema hall at Australia House, when the High Commissioner (Sir Granville Ryrie) introduced Mr Herbert and Mr. Squire to the audience. They treated their task of introducing Austialian literature to London with happy frivolity which manifestly delighted their hearers. Nor was a light note out of place, for the Australian Authors' Week makes no claim to place Australian literature on the map of world letters, in any final sense. The 2,500 books which are on show this week are miscellaneous in character, and the lighter forms of poetry, fiction, and belles lettres are dominant.

Nevertheless the Australian Authors' Week afforded evidence of unexpected achievement in the realm of letters -- unexpected because Londoners, at any rate, had not realised how many of the books they treasured were written by men and women of Australian origin. All readers know that Henry Handel Richardson is an Australian, because the subject matter of her novels betrays the fact, but many forget that the high scholarship of Miss F. M. Stawell also belongs by right of birth to Australia, as does the work of Sir Gilbert Murray, Mary Gaunt, A. G. Hales, W. H. Fitchett, who is represented by several very interesting exhibits which first saw the light in "The Argus," W. J. Turner, the poet, and Arthur Lynch are other writers who had been taken into the cosmopolitan stream, until the present display recalled the debt they owed to Australia.

The display of books was interesting and ingenious. The best of the books were in glass cases. The novels were collected on a huge shelf at one end of the exhibition, where the gay covers added a welcome note of colour. One case was devoted to the "Art in Australia" publications and other books relating to Australian painting and architecture. This case showed that a high level of colour reproduction had been reached by Australian printers, particularly in the reproduction of their own brightly lighted landscape art. Mr. A. W. Jose's "Art of George Lambert" and "Australian Landscape Painters of To-day," by MacDonald and Burdett, are examples of books with which Londoners were glad to make acquaintance, not only for their intrinsic worth, but also for the Australian matter which they contained. Charles Barrett's "Aboriginal Art," published by the Government printer, Melbourne, was another book that tempted one to study. The books of the Lindsay family also aroused interest and attracted the attention of Mr. J. C. Squire, who made special mention of them in his address. Ida Rentoul's fairy books, with their deliciously juvenile illustrations, also made a brave display.

The sections devoted to the war naturally attracted attention, and again there was general praise for the production of such volumes as the Official History of Australia in the War, by C. E. W. Bean, H. S. Gullett, F. M. Cutlack, and their colleagues in the records department. It was interesting to compare them with another official record, "The Australian Contingent to the Soudan," which dealt with Australia's first overseas expedition, dating from 1885. Thanks to the Royal Empire Society and Lady Coghlan, there was a good show of early Australian books dealing with the voyagers and explorers. Aboriginal and early settlers' life has also been excellently treated by native authors. Mr. James Bonwick's volumes alone suggested study for months. More substantial and scientific were the volumes of Sir Baldwin Spencer. Indeed the whole section devoted to Australian science and natural history has a manifest value in introducing books to English readers which they might well miss. Not every scientific bibliography will record books upon the platypus or the native bear published in Australia, though bibliographers might well be trusted to search the London catalogues. For this reason the 20-page catalogue of Australian Authors' Week should have permanent value. It sets out the exhibits under the names of their Australian authors, these being under certain general headings, such as Exploration, History, Poetry and Belles Lettres, Fiction, Art, Drama and Music, Agriculture and Industry, Natural History. It is hoped that many of the authors represented will leave their works in the possession of Australia House with a view to future exhibitions, not only in London, but also in such provincial centres as Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, and Hull. Inquiries have already been received regarding the possibility of such exhibitions.

First published in "The Argus", 7 November 1931
[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 21, 2008 9:01 AM.

Long Time Comin' was the previous entry in this blog.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #4 - "New Statesman" is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en