Review of The Passing Guest: A Life of Henry Kingsley by J.S.D. Mellick


The biographer of Henry Kingsley begins with a dilemma, more marked if he is an Australian writer. We all recognize that Kingsley is an English novelist and that it was in the English context that he wished to make his way. But we Australians also recognize that he, in a sense never yet quite clearly defined, wrote for us, and belongs to us for ever and a day, in a way that we do not expect English readers completely to understand. So there are two possible perspectives. And yet as the Australian one is colonial, with rather a historical than a permanently continuing emphasis, with values in it still to be clarified, the choice between them is by no means easy. Australian literary-cultural revelation is still relatively protean. It is still possible for its shapes and visions to change and re-form as the consolidating processes of tradition go on, as they still do; while the British reader, glancing back, can rely upon a pretty well settled pattern of progress and interpretation. Whether or not a writer conforms submissively to those patterns, is of course, to a certain degree at least, a personal matter.

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Published 1 May 1984 in Volume 11 No. 3. Subjects: Biographical writing, Henry Kingsley.

Cite as: Elliott, Brian. ‘Review of The Passing Guest: A Life of Henry Kingsley by J.S.D. Mellick.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 11, no. 3, 1984, doi: 10.20314/als.83d8b0d0d6.