Reprint: Louise Mack: Authoress and Traveller by Ada A. Holman

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With the passing of Louise Mack there ends, it seems to me, a special page in Australia's literature. One of a clever family of writing sisters, Louise stands out by reason of her book of poems and the adorable "Teens." The poems were written in extreme youth, when she was a blue-eyed, golden-haired girl not yet involved in life's tragedies, but "broken-hearted" as we all are at that age. With what unction did the rest of us, equally broken-hearted, quote

Louise's lines:

      I am dead, dead tired of living,
         I am tired of everything.
      Tired of getting, tired of giving --
         Tired of winter, tired of spring.

The never-to-be-forgotten "Teens," the apotheosis of the Sydney High School girl, became the Bible of all the bright young things who did not then know they were "flappers." They worshipped their spokeswoman. A few years ago when I was on holiday with Louise in Queensland, important matrons were constantly introducing themselves as prototypes of her characters and demanding her autograph.

Early marriage did not interrupt Louise's literary career. Her ambition was unleashed, and London called. Without money and almost without introductions, she went and saw and conquered. Lord Northcliffe recognised her light touch in journalism as just what he wanted, and newspaper work might have claimed her altogether had not the romantic urge persisted. Book after book appeared -- innocuous novels they would be called to-day, but they had their faithful public, the young folk who like sentiment and romance and are not "hard-boiled." Once discussing her "Red Rose of Summer," Louise told me that life in London had often been far from a bed of roses for her. There were days when it seemed that she would have to own herself defeated and return to Australia.

I cannot help telling a story over which I have both laughed and cried. Going, practically penniless, after a vacancy on one of Lord Northcliffe's papers, she had to take a taxi because her shoes were so worn she could not walk in them. She got the job and haughtily told the commissionaire to pay the taxi and put it down to the boss. The man, probably dazzled by the blue eyes and baby face, meekly obeyed.


That casting all on a die was typical. Courage was the keynote of her character, and "Darkest Before Dawn" peculiarly her motto. She had, her friends are glad to know, years of success and happiness in England, and again, in Italy -- the country of her Instinctive adoption; even if they are saddened by the knowledge that life was not as kind to her as it should have been in her later years.

Then came the war, and, for Louise, further opportunities. I never clearly gathered how she defied authority, which said no woman was to go to the front as correspondent, and just got there. Anyway, some of the finest accounts of events in Belgium appeared over her name. I have often said that she saw more with one eye closed than the average man a-stare. The information that she obtained at first-hand was afterwards enjoyed throughout the length and breadth of Australia in a series of brightly expounded war lectures -- vivid pictures of life as led by men and women in the stricken areas. She came equipped with films which, with the co-operation of the Minister for Education, she showed in most cities and towns of New South Wales.

Of her bright personality, her vitality, her gifts as a hostess, her perennial youth, her passionate love of literature and, above all, poetry -- how to speak? I can only ask in the words of Mary Gilmore:

      How shall I remember --
         With tears? With laughter?
      In all the years to come yet after
         Let me remember.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 November 1935
[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 5, 2011 6:52 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #276 - Water Man by Roger McDonald was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #49 - Louise Mack is the next entry in this blog.

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