Early attempts by Australian writers took to faking the English style and were obsessed with the weirdness of this new landscape. Probably because most writers were shrewdly pitching at a British audience in the hope they would do well there and be invited back home with more welcome than they were shipped off.
Our first literary foray as a nation was a challenge taken up by Tasweigian convict. Quintus Servinton: A Tale founded upon Incidents of Real Occurrence by Henry Savery was published in 1831.
His biography begins with an outstanding, historical example of Australian logic where he’s sentenced to the Van Dieman’s Land colonies from England for white collar forgery and appointed in a government service position in the Colonial Treasurer’s office upon his arrival.
Following which, he dabbled as frequently in writing as he did in crime and seems to have struggled to succeed at either. All in all, I’d say his erratic life paints a somewhat un-savery picture. (ah yes, yes I did.) Yet, he was moved to thinly disguise an autobiography behind a silly little tale about a convict a lot like himself but better which, in A Bride Stripped Bare move, he attempted to published anonymously. Everyone found out and he got in some trouble. Colonial reviews were quite glowing but then, it was our very first book in history, meaning nothing much to compare it to then, right?
But none so well admired, from our early days, as Lawson’s more romantically-inclined, Banjo Paterson (1864-1941.) We are a sentimental bunch when we want to be, and collectively melt into our vinyl, suburban armchairs when we hear this poet’s wistful words, conjuring the embers of campfires and wild, roguish bush-lore.
Here we can see for miles and miles... Yes, Miles Franklin, the Aussie carrying on the tradition of popular female novelists assuming male names, penned My Brilliant Career. In 1937, Franklin thumbed the poms who loved the book and rejected an Order of the British Empire but came to fear that nothing she wrote would match its success and resorted to publishing behind the veil of many nom de plumes including the bizarre pseudonym Brent of Bin Bin, for fear of scathing reviews comparing her newer work to her opus. When she died in 1954 she left literature Down Under an annual literary award known as The Miles Franklin Award.
- Wanda Koolmatrie (aka Leon Carmen)
- Ern Malley (aka James McAuley and Harold Stewart)
- Eddie Burrup (aka Elizabeth Durack)
- Helen Demidenko (aka Helen Darville)