Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 7, 2009

La Trobe Journal (Victorian Writers) (May 2009), edited by John Arnold

LaTrobe JournalI have to confess that the La Trobe Journal is usually a bit too academic in its orientation for me, but this one (May 2009) is a gem, and I won’t be recycling it down at my local library!

The Journal is one of the benefits of being a State Library of Victoria Foundation member and it’s published twice a year in Spring and Autumn.  This edition, edited by John Arnold, complements the Independent Type exhibition at the State Library and it focuses on Victorian writers (that’s Victoria the State, not the period).  There is a lovely short essay entitled ‘Sweet Yarra, Run Softly’ by Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and a really interesting article by Gavin de Lacey about neglected Victorian writers of the 1930s – Jean Campbell, ‘Georgia Rivers’ and ‘Capel Boake’ . These were especially interesting so soon after reading about Miles Franklin’s struggle for recognition as a mature writer in Jill Roe’s Stella Miles Franklin, A Biography.  I also enjoyed John Barnes’ memoir of Vance and Nettie Palmer, previously to me just authors of books I hadn’t yet read, but now fleshed-out to become real people and important literary patrons of their time.

My favourite, however, was Terence O’Neill’s study of Joan Lindsay, author of Picnic at Hanging Rock.  What an interesting person she was, and how sad to read that she was an artist of some note who gave up her art because she was better at it than her husband.  Still, art’s loss was literature’s gain, as anyone who has read the novel or seen the film will attest.

I collect Miles Franklin winners but have yet to acquire a copy of Trap  by Peter Mathers (1966).    As you can see if you click the link, there is no Wikipedia article about this novel, which has been out of print for more than 30 years.  If Peter Pierce should chance upon this blog post of mine, I hope he will take up the challenge of writing something about it, because he obviously thinks highly of the novel.  (Update 10/6/16: I acquired a copy of Trap, and reviewed it here).

Another gem is the article about Georgina McCrae, with a reminder that Brenda Niall wrote Georgiana: a biography of Georgiana McCrae, painter, diarist, pioneer – which I really should try to chase up because I enjoyed her biography of the Boyds so much.  (Update: here’s my review of that bio).


  1. Ah, Trap, is one of those “stubs” Perry Middlemiss created on Wikipedia. He created one for every Miles Franklin winner, showing the before and after winners. His idea is that he or someone else can go back and flesh the articles out later. You perhaps?

    Vance and Nettie Palmer were wonderful mentors I think in their heyday. I came across them a lot when I was writing Wikipedia articles on Aus Lit in the 1930s plus – Barnard, Eldershaw etc. I have read Vance Palmer’s The passage, but so long ago now that I only recollect that I enjoyed it. First year high school it was! (THAT long ago!)


    • Gosh, Sue, I don’t know anything much about Trap, only what I’ve read about it in this journal. But I confess: I did a search of Biblioz and have ordered a copy!


  2. Well, there you are – here’s your chance to try your hand! (Regardless, I look forward to hearing what you think about it).


    • I suppose I could always have a go – and then the academics could come and fix it up!


  3. You shouldn’t be so shy – you would be as academic if not more so than many of we contributors to Wikipedia. And, as you say, we want more and better Aussie content there. I’ve started three novel articles (and contributed to a few others): The Pea-Pickers (my most comprehensive one), The Children’s Bach (someone else had a bit of a go at this), and Tuvalu (a pretty minimal one). All can have more work done…but you can see that there are various ways you can approach it.


    • The Pea Pickers one must have taken an extraordinary amount of time, Sue! All those references and research – and how I wish I’d had it to refer to when I read The Pea Pickers a few years ago, I might have made better sense of it. Definitely a project for retirement, I think *grin*. BTW I haven’t got round to learning how to do Wiki footnotes this holidays like I promised myself I would, and now I only have a few days left *sigh*.


  4. The Pea-Pickers one did take quite a bit of time but I was rather inspired. More can be done on it but it’s a good start. (When you learn footnotes, don’t look at this one though. It’s valid but is a more oldfashioned approach. I now do it a bit differently. The technique of setting up the actual footnote is the same but I now include the full ref in the footnotes and not have a separate Refs list). I’ll let you off until retirement but after that, beware, you’ll get no peace!


    • ROTFL NO rest for the wicked then!


  5. Have you been in to see the exhibition? It is really good as well – details here:


  6. Yes, Robert – I have indeed been in to the Independent Type exhibition at the SLV. I gathered up a group of friends and we all went in together, had a nice lunch at Mr Tulks and then dawdled around the exhibition admiring it Like all the SLV exhibitions I’ve been to recently it is absolutely wonderful. I especially loved looking at the original MSS and the old typewriters, and highly recommend a visit to anyone who’s a booklover.


  7. She gave up her art because she was better at it than her husband?

    What a sad loss, and how un-necessary. Make you wonder what sort of relationship that was.

    An interesting post – thanks for sharing


    • Yes, that’s what the article says. From 1916 – 1920 Lindsay was a student at the NGV, and as Joan Weigall seemed ‘destined for a career as an artist’. She had a favourably reviewed exhibition in 1920 and the watercolour reproduced in the journal is very fine. However she married Daryl Lindsay (one of a family of bohemian artists) in 1921 when she went to England and they held a joint exhibition (opened by Nellie Melba) when they returned to Melbourne… However. ‘despite being, according to art critic Alan McCulloch, ‘a fine artist’ with her drawings possessing ‘the lyrical quality’ that would later distinguish her writing, Joan gradually changed direction. There is some evidence of a desire not to detract from the development of her husband’s career. Perhaps she sensed that he would never become a first rank artist and felt uneasy with the thought that her work might ultimately be regarded more highly than his.’ (LaTrobe Journal No 83 May 2009 p48). Lisa


  8. Thanks to biblioz, I now have a copy of Trap sitting beside my other Milkes Franklin winners on the shelf. I’ve got a couple of other early ones to read before I get to it though…


  9. […] indebted to Terence O’Neill for bringing this book to my notice: he was a contributor to the May 2009 LaTrobe Journal and his article about Joan Lindsay made me realise that there was more to this […]


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