“suppose you come down from the clouds” – feedback to aspiring writers

Back in 2011, I wrote a post about Louisa Lawson in support of the digitisation of her ground-breaking newspaper, The Dawn. That project was successfully crowd-sourced through the efforts of Donna Benjamin, and editions are now accessible via Trove, The National Library of Australia’s digital collection.

You can find more information about Louisa Lawson’s life over here on the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.

dwpicture - royalty free Louisa Lawson

There is much source material available in The Dawn which may well appear in future Now and Then postsToday’s offering, though, features a selection of feedback for would-be contributors to the publication which ran from 1888-1905.

The regular column Answers to Correspondents incorporated advice, household hints, subscription details and responses to unsolicited stories and verse. Here’s a selection of mostly short, sweet and very direct feedback to hopeful correspondents gleaned from editions of The Dawn on Trove.

1 Dec 1896

M.B.W.  Story hardly concise enough and the incidents want rearranging.

V. S.  Not quite up to standard, would not the first theme be sufficient for one poem. Try again.

1 Jan 1900

Myra Howard.  You have a very good idea of rhyme and metre but not mechanical skill enough for the mythical theme you have chosen. Suppose you come down from the clouds and try something more mundane.

Isabel.  It would be a good plan to study the characteristics of a paper you intend writing for before commencing the work. It will save the editors time as well as your own.

1 Oct 1902

Anonymous.  Why make [your] first attempt on broken verse? Why not try simple subjects in regular metre?

1 Aug 1903

Cissie (Newcastle).  The Spelling Book Superceded will give you the instructions you seem to need for correct verse writing.

1 June 1905

Literary.    If you distrust your own judgment concerning your work, then submit it to some capable and impartial critic. Avoid consulting any relative, friend, or literary acquaintance unless you are certain that the one you select is clear-headed and hard-hearted enough not only to consider fairly what you have written, but also to tell you without, fear or favour exactly what he thinks of it.

1 July 1905

the R.W. and B.  Would you kindly send your name and address and your story “Australian Bobby” will be returned to you. The story is not without merit but it is rather crude, and you would do well to rewrite it.

C. M. (Taralga).  Your story “The True and the False” has been received, and if you forward a stamp it will be returned to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Harry Houdini in Australia

Geelong Advertiser Houdini

This photograph of Harry Houdini, held by the State Library of Victoria, appeared in The Australasian on 19 February 1910. Houdini (or Ehrich Weisz as he was known to his mother) was about to jump, handcuffed, into the Yarra River in Melbourne off Queen’s Bridge.

A month later, his aeronautical exploits were being reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (22 March 1910). His claim to be the first successful aviator in Australia was later challenged. This item at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is a starting point to the discussion and mentions a short flight by Colin Defries on 9 December 1909 which went unrecognised at the time.

SMH 22 March 1910 - Houdini

Harry didn’t stop there. This poster, again from the State Library of Victoria, showed that Houdini’s capacity for self-promotion was equal to his escapology and aviation exploits.

download (3)

From the Sydney Morning Herald again on  2 May 1910.

HOUDINI IN THE AIR.

A SENSATIONAL JOURNEY.

RECORD FLIGHT AT ROSEHILL.

Houdini made a record flight in his aeroplane at Rosehill Park Racecourse yesterday.   A crowd of several hundreds had gathered, and shortly after half-past 12 they were rewarded for their patience with the sight of the weird-looking machine circling gracefully round the track at a height of nearly 160ft.

Houdini made a successful start, and his plane, driven by the powerful 60-80-h.p. E.N.V. motor, leaped to a height of about 20ft. It then dipped, and rushed towards the ground at a rate bordering on 40 miles an hour. The public gasped, while a number of women screamed, for it seemed as if the aviator were rushing to certain destruction. A neat turn of the lever controlling the planes, however, altered its direction to a nicety, and the machine soared gracefully skyward, until an altitude of 150ft was reached.

But his difficulties were not over. The machine rose until at a height of 200ft it turned and met the wind full in the face. It quivered, and fell swiftly towards the ground, as the engines had stopped. It looked as if Houdini’s last moment had come. The crowd was dumbfounded, but when only a few feet from the ground the plucky aviator managed to start his engine again, and the plane rose once more. Houdini then circled round the race track twice, finishing up by sailing over the grand stand and dropping easily to the ground on the opposite side.

It was a splendid flight. A better demonstration of modern aeronautics could not have been provided, and the public cheered heartily, many rushing to seize Houdini by the hand when he reached the earth.

“That’s my fourteenth fly in Australia,” Houdini mentioned as he landed, “and I am satisfied.” He was carried shoulder high by the excited crowd. The machine, which was practically uninjured, excepting a slightly bent tube, is now to be dismantled, as Houdini is taking it with him to America.


an accidental death

On 13 March 1922, this funeral notice for Steven Polkinghorne appeared in the Charters Towers press.

Steven Polkinghorne

A month later, this respected member of the Towers Concert Band was remembered by his fellow players.

Steven Polkinghorne photograph

One of these framed photographs is now housed in the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers.  It is accompanied by this story.

bass drummer

“At a picnic at the weir, Steve was boating with friends when a lady’s hat was blown into the water. Steve tried to rescue the hat but when he swam back his friends, as a prank, rowed away. It is believed that Steve tired, or had a cramp, and drowned.”

Both articles are from The Northern Miner via Trove Australia – 13 March 1922 and 13 April 1922 respectively.


writing to prisoners of war – WWII

From The Albany Advertiser of 10 July 1941, advice for loved ones regarding communication with prisoners of war.  The information in this article uses all of the information required on a B.33 Red Cross leaflet to be sure (as much as was possible) that the soldier received mail from home.  The image of the B.33 leaflet comes via this site about Signaller Frank Larkin curated by his son John Larkin.

POW correspondence 1 POW correspondence 2

B33 leaflet - Larkin POW


growing up on Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot biscuits

The Arnott’s Biscuit company used actual children to advertise the goodness of its Milk Arrowroot biscuits.  In a campaign that ran for over 60 years, mothers sent photographs of their children to Arnott’s who selected babies for the promotional ads.  The history page of Arnott’s website includes details of the campaign in which those selected won a few shillings and a tin of Milk Arrowroot biscuits.
Milk Arrowroot biscuits - Rudolph John Percival Fletcher

The Albany Advertiser – 15 July 1911


when 8 balls made an over

From the Daily News (Perth) 11 January 1937, this photograph of a counter to keep track of the number of balls bowled in an over of cricket.  The umpire J D Scott had been appointed to the test arena in November of the previous year. (The Advertiser 26 November 1936).  This counter is made for 8 ball overs.

Over counterJ D Scott - test umpire

Via Wikipedia, here’s a chronology on which countries played what number of balls bowled per over until it was standardised for test cricket.

Since 1979/80, all Test cricket has been played with six balls per over. However, overs in Test cricket originally had four balls per over, and there has had varying number of balls per over around the world up to 1979/80, generally the same as the number of balls per over in force in other first-class cricketin that country.

Balls per over

In England

  • 1880 to 1888: 4
  • 1889 to 1899: 5
  • 1900 to 1938: 6
  • 1939 to 1945: 8 (though not in the “Victory” Tests)
  • 1946 to date: 6

In Australia

  • 1876/77 to 1887/88: 4
  • 1891/92 to 1920/21: 6
  • 1924/25: 8
  • 1928/29 to 1932/33: 6
  • 1936/37 to 1978/79: 8
  • 1979/80 to date: 6

In South Africa

  • 1888/89: 4
  • 1891/92 to 1898/99: 5
  • 1902/03 to 1935/36: 6
  • 1938/39 to 1957/58: 8
  • 1961/62 to date: 6

In New Zealand

  • 1929/30 to 1967/68: 6
  • 1968/69 to 1978/79: 8
  • 1979/80 to date: 6

In Pakistan

  • 1954/55 to 1972/73: 6
  • 1974/75 to 1977/78: 8
  • 1978/79 to date: 6

In IndiaWest IndiesSri LankaZimbabweBangladesh and the United Arab Emirates (venue, not host) all Test matches have been played with six ball overs.

For those unfamiliar with the game of cricket (assuming you’ve read this far), here’s a ‘helpful’ explanation.  (Benalla Ensign 10 June 1954)

explain cricket


faces in the street – Gilmore on Lawson

Mary Gilmore in Goulburn 1922

The Goulburn Evening Penny Post of 26 September 1922 reported a talk by poet Mary Gilmore at Goulburn High School. It was only a few weeks after the death of her friend Henry Lawson.

Last week, in an informal talk at the Goulburn High School, Mrs Mary Gilmore gave in outline an account of the late Henry Lawson, his work, his temperament, and some of his personal history, as well as an appreciation of his value as the outstanding figure in the history of Australian literature. Opening her remarks, Mrs. Gilmore said that, to begin with, she had known Henry Lawson ever since he was about twenty-one, that her mother and Henry’s mother, Louisa Lawson, had been friends, and that acquaintance ran through three generations of Lawson’s family. “It is not necessary,” said the speaker, “to refer to Lawson’s birthplace or to read or discuss his writings in the present talk, as all these things are given in the course of High School teaching. But something of the man, of his life as known to his friends, and of the causes which made him what he was are more necessary, and what I propose to give, for , indeed, much of this is still only passed mouth to mouth and will be lost if not collected or given now. When I first met Lawson he was a tall, thin, shy, sensitive lad, not yet done growing. In a photograph which I have of him this is shown very emphatically for the pictured Lawson has a definitely weak chin. Those who know the mature Lawson will remember that he had a big, deep, strong chin. He was like his mother in appearance; he was like her in temperament. Apart from his own mother, my mother and I were among the first to realise Lawson’s genius and his originality. He was without doubt the most original writer Australia has ever produced. His style was his own, his method was his own. From his mother he inherited much. He had her sense of drama, of humour, of the value of local colour, and the  essential point of any story. But his power of expression went beyond hers; and his capacity for a suggested under-current of feeling went beyond hers afar as genius goes beyond intellectual talent. When I first knew Louisa Lawson, social conditions were not what they are now, and it is difficult to realise what she, in her fight for women, was up against. But as an instance I might mention that at that time any woman seen in, or seen going into, a restaurant in Sydney could be arrested by the police. And just as his mother had much to do with the early shaping of conditions in Australia socially, so had her son, and I shall never forget when, nearly thirty-five years ago, in a strike of that day the young Lawson ran all the way from a mass meeting at the old Exhibition building to where I lived and burst in with the cry -‘They are going to fire on my countrymen.’ It was have served out ball cartridges and are going to fire on my countrymen. It was then that Colonel Price had given his infamous order: “Fire low and lay ’em out !’ When I had quietened Lawson down I sent him to his mother and asked for a message to be sent to Sir Henry Parkes. And I like to think that it was partly due to Henry Lawson that the infamy of that day was not carried out. His influence in the early days of the rise of our social democracy has seldom been told. But it is a fact that his ‘Faces in the Street’ and his ‘Army of the Rear’ ran like a flame throughout the young State. He wrote in the early ‘Worker’ (my paper), and throughout his work runs the note of the seer and the prophet of national democracy. His temperament was subject to moods, like his mother’s, and among his best friends was the late Minister for Education, Mr. T. D. Mutch. Our office was for twenty years a sort of home to Lawson, and till latterly there was always someone there who looked after him, and to whom he looked in time of trouble. Mr. Mutch, when Henry would have a depressed mood on him, would give up all his Saturday afternoon to the poet, returning for him on Sundays, and together they would tramp the bush of Gordon, Middle Harbour etc., silent for hours and hours at a stretch. But in those seemingly sombre hours germinated and grew much which later blossomed in the best of Lawson’s later work. When Mr. Mutch left our office to go into Parliament, his trust as regards Henry fell on Mr J Noonan, our accountant. But others were faithful friends to to poet and none more so than Mr George Robertson (Angus and Robertson’s), Mr Phil Harris (“Aussie” Magazine), and Mr . J. G. Lockley (of the Lockley Library).” Mrs Gilmore speaking of Lawson in London as well as in Australia gave tribute to his work, quoting in reference to the former place Mr. Pinker (the well-known English publishing agent), the editor of “Blackwood’s Magazine” and Mr. Garnet, the critic (afterwards Sir Richard Garnet) all of whom had stressed to her the unique value of Lawson’s work. Mrs Gilmore spoke for nearly an hour and then ended by reading a letter which Lawson’s sister, Mrs Gertrude Lawson O’Connor, had published to the children of Australia (in “The Women’s Budget”) in memory of her gifted brother.

Lawson’s handwritten story of his famous poem “Faces in the Street” is here courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.  It reveals how, at the age of 21, he “struck the keynote or the key line” for the poem on Petersham Station in Sydney on a cold wet night.

The thirteen stanza poem begins thus.

Faces in the Street

You can read it in full here at The Australian Poetry Library (HT to the following institutions that support this important cultural resource).

Australian Poetry Library