Reading My Brilliant Career

Some years ago I was teaching a course on nineteenth-century Australian literature which involved lectures on both Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career (1901) and Joseph Furphy's Such is Life (1903). Writing the lectures started me thinking about the links between these two novels, one then a cornerstone of the Australian literary canon, the other rather less well regarded than it is today. The more I thought about them, the more links I discovered. Like Furphy, Miles Franklin had originally sent her manuscript to the Bulletin; she, too, was then referred to A.G. Stephens's literary agency. But, probably because she lacked the necessary funds, she did not follow up the Bulletin's suggestion immediately. Instead, she spent some time revising her manuscript and then sent a letter to Henry Lawson, as well as to Stephens, asking if he would be prepared to read it. Lawson happened to reply first and so it was Lawson who ended up taking Franklin's manuscript with him to London. Here the literary agent J.B. Pinker helped arrange publication of My Brilliant Career with Blackwoods in Edinburgh. As well as assisting with the deletion of contentious parts of the manuscript, Lawson wrote a Preface to the novel which encouraged the very identification of author and narrator Franklin had hoped to avoid by using her fourth given name, Miles, instead of her first, Stella (Webby v-vii) .

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Published 1 October 2002 in Volume 20 No. 4. Subjects: Australian literary history, Autobiographical writing, Critical reception, Literary canon, Miles Franklin.

Cite as: Webby, Elizabeth. ‘Reading My Brilliant Career.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 4, 2002, doi: 10.20314/als.4d98561694.