Christina Stead’s Earliest Publications


Christina Stead composed her own story of how she came to be published, moving from recollections of childhood precocity to the much repeated anecdotes of her employer Wilhelm Blech (Bill Blake) recognising the power of a draft of Seven Poor Men of Sydney in 1928, and in 1931 the publisher Peter Davies (‘Peter Pan’) agreeing to publish her. Deductions about her earliest writings are frequently made from those of her fictional heroines Louisa Pollit in The Man Who Loved Children (1940) and Teresa Hawkins in For Love Alone (1944). Stead’s earliest known publications appeared in the magazines of her high school and the teacher training college she attended. Some of them are newly identified in my discussion, while those previously known have received only glancing attention. This article discusses these publications, in both poetry and prose, together with her editorial work during her student days in Sydney; and proposes a qualification to the view put by the biographer Hazel Rowley that Stead as a student was a withdrawn outsider. The supplementary collection, ‘Christina Stead’s Student Publications’, provides a document of record by reprinting a story, poems and occasional pieces from those formative student years.

Christina Stead’s stories of herself

Christina Stead created her own mythology of her emergence as a writer particularly in the interviews she gave and the essays of reminiscence she wrote in her later years. In ‘A Writer’s Friends’ she tells of her consciousness from an early age that she was ‘a word-stringer’, recalling that ‘I first made my mark with a poem written suddenly in arithmetic class, at the age of eight, of which all is now forgotten but the line “And elephants develop must”.’ She went on, ‘My first novel was an essay, at the age of ten, on the life-cycle of the frog’ (494–95). This precocious work has long vanished. What she wrote in her next decade is largely a matter of inference, except for her published contributions to her high school magazine and the student journal of the Sydney Teachers’ College – mainly poems, together with a…

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Published 7 December 2016 in Rediscovering Christina Stead. Subjects: Stead, Christina.

Cite as: Harris, Margaret. ‘Christina Stead’s Earliest Publications.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 31, no. 6, 2016, doi: 10.20314/als.8b73130f4b.