An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library

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110. Richardson, Henry Handel, 1870-1946.

Myself when young / by Henry Handel Richardson ; together with an essay on The art of Henry Handel Richardson by J.G. Robertson. (Melbourne : Heinemann, 1948)

111. Palmer, Nettie, 1885-1964.

Fourteen years : extracts from a private journal, 1925-1939 / Nettie Palmer. (Melbourne : Meanjin Press, 1948)

Fourteen Years, while billed as extracts from a private journal, was not in fact written quite as it was published. It is in many respects a reconstruction: Palmer produced the volume by going back to her diaries, her published critical work and also her extensive collection of correspondence from her wide and influential network of correspondents in Australia and overseas. The result is a valuable, personal account of Australian letters.

112. Gunn, Jeannie, 1870-1961.

We of the Never-Never / by Mrs Aeneas Gunn. (1908, London : Hutchinson, [1937?])


While nineteenth-century children’s literature showed strong signs of European influence, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the Australian landscape was beginning to have a greater impact. This was particularly noticeable in the genre of the fairy story as illustrators like Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and May Gibbs included native flora and fauna. Classic figures like Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Blinky Bill emerged in the early twentieth-century and would reinforce national values of the well-meaning, fun-loving characters who inevitably end up having a multitude of scrapes.

Wall case 1

113. Sister Agnes

Fairy Tales Told in the Bush (London: Elliot Stock, 1912)

Following Olga Ernst’s Fairy Tales from the Land of Wattle (1904), Sister Agnes was one of the earliest writers of Australian fairy stories. While not all the stories are set in Australia, there are allusions to Aboriginal history, such as the life of King Barak, as well as to the origins of the Blue Lake at Mount Gambier. Some stories feature European fairy creatures. One story has the central character, Tom, steal an Aborigine’s magic nail gun with which he then proceeds to delight in using kangaroos for target practice and nailing kookaburras to their trees.

114. Outhwaite, Ida Rentoul, 1888-1960.

Fairyland of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. Verses by Annie R. Rentoul and stories by Grenbry Outhwaite and Annie R. Rentoul. (London : A. & C. Black, 1931)

Born in Melbourne in 1888, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was the leading illustrator of the fairy tale genre during the first part of the twentieth century. She had an international reputation and exhibited in Paris and London as well as in Australia. Ida was said to have been able to draw birds before the age of two and used to draw in the margins of her books as a child. She started her career at the age of 15 illustrating a fairy story by her sister, Annie R. Rentoul, in New Idea.

While fairies were of popular interest, Ida depicted them alongside Australian animals like kangaroos, kookaburras, and koalas. Ida displayed her work at the Women’s Exhibition in Melbourne in 1907. The event was the first to celebrate women’s achievements in Australia.

In 1909, she married businessman, Grenbry Outhwaite and, as she had done with her sister and her mother, she would draw him in as a collaborator on a number of books, including Fairyland and The little fairy sister (item 126 below). Grenbry strongly promoted her work and was instrumental in sealing her global fame. Domestic help further relieved her of most household and childcare responsibilities (she had four children). In an interview with Woman’s World, she noted the difficulties of balancing family and work: “One’s work must suffer. How can one remain really inspired when ‘leg-of-mutton’ matters constantly intervene?”

115. Outhwaite, Ida Rentoul, 1888-1960.

Bunny & Brownie : the adventures of George & Wiggle / written and illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. (London : A. & C. Black, 1930)

Although she collaborated on a good many books, Ida would start writing and illustrating books in the 1920s. After an exhibition at the Fine Art Society in London in 1920, A. & C. Black would publish five of her books between 1921 and 1934, all in luxury editions. With the depression seeing the end of the luxury book, the shift towards characters like Winnie the Pooh and Babar, and the new colour lithography, Outhwaite’s popularity began to wane.

Wall case 2

116. Quin [Daskein], Tarella, 1877-1934 .

Chimney Town / by Tarella Quin Daskein ; illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. London: A. and C. Black, 1934.

Spanning the first three decades of the twentieth century, the fairy stories of Tarella Quin Daskein are amongst the most carefully detailed and innovative in early Australian literature. A number (such as Gum Tree Brownie and Other Faerie Folk of the Never-Never (1907), Before the Lamps are Lit (1911), Chimney Town (1934) and The Other Side of Nowhere (1934) would be illustrated by her friend Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. The illustrations Ida did for Tarella Quin Daskein’s Gum Tree Brownie and Other Faerie Folk of the Never Never (1907) would confirm her reputation as a first-class illustrator. Like many writers of the period, she frequently has a child die.

117. Gibbs, May, 1877-1969.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie : their adventures wonderful / pictures & words by May Gibbs. (Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1940)

Born in 1877 in Surrey, Cecilia May Ossoli Kelly emigrated to Australia with her family when she was four. She notes that, “I could almost draw before I could walk.” After studying art during a series of periods in London, she returned to Australia in 1913. Gibbs was Australia’s first full-time, professionally trained children’s book illustrator. In 1913 she created the gumnut babies, stating of the inspiration:

When I stayed with my cousins in the Bush, I amused myself and them by telling stories about the little people I imagined to be there. They always took the form of sturdy, common-sense little persons living the same practical busy lives as ants and other intelligent bush creatures. Never did I find the elegant star-browed fairies that my old-world books showed me. The bush suggested always things grotesque, mirthful, cunning and quaint. Even the flowers held an e

ccentric charm for me

rather than an appeal by their beauty.

(Woman’s World, 1 Nov 1924).

In 1918 her most famous creations, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie came into being. “I thought of the name Snugglepot for a book on bush babies but I could not get another name. I wanted two, and one night, lying in bed quietly, I thought Snugglepot…Cuddlepie!” The adventures of the two half-brothers were published shortly after Armistice in 1918.

118. Gibbs, May, 1877-1969.

Scotty in gumnut land / by May Gibbs. 2nd ed. (1941; Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1955)

May learned to drive a car nicknamed Dodgem and would often take her beloved Scottish terriers for rides in it. In Scotty in Gumnut Land(1941), Scotty leaves home because he thinks he is unloved. In his adventures, he comes across the Banksia Men, Boomer Roo the Kangaroo, Dr Stork, Mrs Kookaburra, Bib and Bub and others. Mr and Mrs Bear and Friends (1943) continues Scotty’s adventures, and was Gibbs’ last book about her gumnut characters.

Wall case 3

119. O’Harris, Pixie, 1903-1991

The Pixie O. Harris fairy book : stories and verse / by Lynette Yardley, Eva Lawton, Gwen M. Cock. Pixie O. Harris ; illustrations in color, half-tone and line by Pixie O. Harris. (Adelaide : Rigby, [1925])

‘Pixie O’Harris’ was the pseudonym of Rhona Olive Harris née Pratt. At the age of 14, she was a member of the South West Art Society in Wales. The Harris family migrated to Australia in 1920. It was on the voyage out that she adopted the name ‘Pixie’, disliking the name Rhona and having been referred to as ‘the Welsh pixie.’ A change to her surname began after a printer at the Sydney Morning Herald accidentally added an apostrophe to her second initial. Pixie undertook art training at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney. She wrote and illustrated more than forty books and painted many murals in succeeding years, until she was well in her 80s. From the 1920s on, Pixie O’Harris wrote commercially successful fairy stories, although they reflect more of a European influence than the output of some of her contemporaries.

120. O'Harris, Pixie, 1903-1991.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie : the story of two little rock-sprites / told and decorated by Pixie O'Harris. (Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1935)

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, the Story of Two Little Rock Sprites (1935) is about Pearl Pinkie, who is beautiful but vain, and Sea Greenie, who is plain but humble.

121. Higgins, Kathleen.

Betty in bushland / by Kathleen Higgins ; illustrated by Pixie O'Harris and E.A. King. (Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1937)

Wall case 4

122. Wall, Dorothy, 1894-1942.

Blinky Bill and Nutsy : two little Australians / story and illustrations by Dorothy Wall. (Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1939)

Born in New Zealand in 1894, Dorothy Wall migrated to Australia in 1914. Wall had training in art and would support herself through a series of commercial jobs that included illustrating fashion designs, and book jackets. An earlier book, Tommy Bear and the Zookies (1920) has a koala as its central character. Blinky is first found in Brooke Nicholls’ Jacko the Broadcasting Kookaburra(1933) but Wall developed the character more fully as the archetypal Aussie larrikin. Blinky Bill and Nutsy: Two Little Australians (1937) introduces a new friend for Blinky. Nutsy is an orphan adopted by Mrs Bear. In this book, Wall simplified her drawings in an attempt to make them for adaptable for animation.

When Mickey Mouse was chosen to be King of Melbourne’s Moomba festival in 1977, there was a public outcry and a campaign to replace him by Blinky Bill.

123. Wall, Dorothy, 1894-1942.

Blinky Bill / [Dorothy Wall]. (Racine, Wisconsin : Whitman Publishing Co., 1935)

This is a copy of a rare American pop-up version of Blinky Bill. It was a pirated publication for which Dorothy Wall received no royalties.

124. Bedford, Ruth, 1882-1963.

Fairies and fancies / by Ruth Bedford ; with seventeen page illustrations by Mela Koehler Broman. (London : A. & C. Black, 1929)

Born 1882 in Petersham, Ruth Marjory Bedford, was part of a prominent Sydney family. When she was ten, she wrote to her mother that she would try to be ‘more clever and good’ and the following year saw the publication of Rhymes by Ruth. At the age of forty, she claimed she could still write her “own thoughts of the times of ten or eleven.” In a profile on her in Aussie magazines, she declared that “children come first in her affections, and then people, books, the stage, surfing, pictures, and travels.” Fairies and Fancies touches on childhood experiences, including trying on summer dresses.

Small upright case

125. Barnard, Marjorie, 1897-1987.

The ivory gate / by Marjorie Barnard ; illustrated by Leyshon White. (Melbourne : H.H. Champion, Australasian Authors' Agency, 1920)

This represents Marjorie Barnard’s earliest published literary effort. A honours graduate of the University of Sydney, Barnard was the librarian at Sydney Technical College for many years, and later at the National Standards Laboratories, CSIRO. Her children’s book, The Ivory Gate, contains stories such as ‘Shadows’ about how fear is created; descriptions of magical places; and small adventures, such as ‘The Runaways’ about two boys who save an injured child. This was Barnard’s only work for children. Her next literary efforts would be adult fiction written in collaboration with Flora Eldershaw and published under the pseudonym, “M. Barnard Eldershaw”.

126. Outhwaite, Ida Rentoul, 1888-1960.

The little fairy sister / By Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Grenbry Outhwaite. (London : A. & C. Black, 1929)

127. “Beauty is strength”, by Marjorie Barnard, in The Home, 1 May 1940, p. 25.

A number of the stories collected in The Persimmon Tree (item 128 below) first appeared in magazines. Barnard was extremely fond of The Home as it paid its contributors so well.

128. Barnard, Marjorie, 1897-1987.

The persimmon tree and other stories / by Marjorie Barnard. (Sydney : Clarendon Publishing Co., 1943)

This volume shows the quality constraints war-time placed on local publishing efforts. This was Barnard’s only collection of short stories to appear in her lifetime and it represents some of her best work. The title story, ‘The Persimmon Tree’, remains one of the most frequently anthologised short stories of the period. A number of stories in the collection deal with the dramas of marital infidelity, love triangles and the challenges facing women endeavouring to do ‘the right thing’. Several of these stories reflect aspects of Barnard’s own secret love affair with fellow-writer, Frank Dalby Davison.

129. “The first Australian”, by Marjorie Barnard, in The Home, 3 Jan. 1938, p. 27.

Barnard, an honours graduate in history, received a large commission from The Home to produce historical essays for issues of the magazine coinciding with the Sesquicentenary celebrations in New South Wales in 1938. After the work was produced, however, the editor Leon Gellert, decided not to publish the full text and this piece represents one of two “salvaged from the wreck”. On a personal level she found the 150th anniversary celebrations less than inspiring. She wrote to Nettie Palmer that: “The Celebrations are upon us, so I think, is general rain — so badly needed. The city is festooned with sopping and melancholy bunting. Everywhere is crowded and messy. Personally my impulse to celebrate is quite dead”.81

130. Greig, Maysie, 1902-1971.

Don't wait for love / Maysie Greig. (New York : Triangle Books, 1941)

Born Jennifer Greig Smith in Sydney, ‘Maysie Greig’ won a literary competition at fifteen. She worked as a journalist with the Sydney Sun between 1919 and 1920 and then went to England where she published Peggy of Beacon Hill (1920) which was serialised and later filmed. One of the most prolific romantic novelists to emerge from Australia, ‘Maysie Greig’ went on to write some 200 popular novels. She also wrote as Jennifer Ames, Ann Barclay, Mary Douglas Warre and Mary Douglas Warren, and published in the Westminster Gazette, Daily Sketch and Mirror. She married three times and worked primarily in England but also in New York, Boston and, in the 1950s, in Australia. Greig noted that, ‘Love is the most fascinating, inspiring, complete emotion in the world. Happiness is its greatest virtue, and misery the greatest sin in the world.’

131. Greig, Maysie, 1902-1971.

Marry in haste / Maysie Grieg. (New York : Triangle Books, 1943)

132. Greig, Maysie, 1902-1971.

Lips for a stranger / by Jennifer Ames. “Star weekly complete novel”, from the Toronto Star, 22 January, 1949.

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