Reprint: Good Stories of Artists and Authors

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"I Recall: Collections and Recollections," by R.H. Croll. (Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne).

This bright book by a Victorian strongly resembles another, one of the best of its kind, lately produced in London by the popular Sir Edward Marsh, a valued official who yet found time to know everybody of note in the artistic or literary world. A more complete panorama of Melbourne life, in those aspects, during the past half century, than that presented by "I Recall." can hardly be imagined.

Mr. Croll, a youth from Stawell, was early into the Public Library of Melbourne. But the public positions that he has filled take up half a page of the book. As a sample, he was president of the Anthropological Society and of the Field Naturalists' Club, Registrar of the Council of Public Education, and secretary of the Australian Academy of Art, while the list of journals for which he has at some time written runs into about six dozen!

The author seems to know little of Adelaide; but he has been really friendly with men that we know well. In fact, one of his quaintest stories was located by C. J. Dennis in this city. A new reporter with picturesque ideas, was sent to deal with atragedy, and his narrative began thus- "Mind the blood and brains," said the courteous constable, as he opened the door to our representative.

But perhaps the best literary story is of the incredible verse which appeared in Williamson's book of poems, "Purple and Gold." Archibald Strong had objected to one of lines, and pleasantly suggested six variations, The printer (in London) put in the whole lot as a complete new verse:--

Rainbows made by spring of leaves,
Rainbows touched by Spring to leaves,
Woven irises of leaves,
Made by Spring of rainbow leaves,
Consecrated rainbow leaves,
Vernal iridescent leaves.


It has been called "the only piece of true Celtic mysticism written by an Australian."'

As to M. J. MacNally, now an Adelaide resident, there are many quaint stories of his early and more riotous days.

Mr. Croll has been called "the only man in Australia who "writes by Act of Parliament." The fact is that his presswork and verse would have infringed regulations when he was a public servant, and an Order-in-Council, duly gazetted, authorised his freelance works.

But he is thankful that he did not take up journalism. "Much brilliant and capable writing is printed every day: yet, of its brilliant and capable producers, it would be safe to say that not one in ten ever comes into the literary field with a volume."' he says. Whereas this public servant (now retired) has written books of travel and verse, and valuable biographies of Shirlow, Tom Roberts, and Sturgess. He also helped to edit an Australasian Anthology.

First published in The Advertiser, 23 September 1939

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Note: the original review was accompanied by the David Low caricature of R. H.Croll, as reprinted here.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 2, 2011 7:25 AM.

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