These four books—two autobiographical, two biographical—between them cover almost the whole span of Australia's literary history. Catherine Spence s autobiography begins with reminiscences ofher childhood at Melrose, next door to Sir Walter Scott, the domi nant influence on early Australian fiction. Hal Porter takes us up to 1973 and a brief en counter with Moorhouse and Wilding.
To begin with the earliest, Spence commenced her autobiography only a few months before her death in 1910. She was then eighty-four and, as is often the case with elderly people, some of her most vivid memories are of her childhood in early nineteenth-century Scotland. In Chapter 1, drawing also on her mother's memories, she gives a most in teresting, if somewhat disjointed, picture of Scottish life at this time. At thirteen, Spence was, she tells us, 'a very ambitious girl' who 'wanted to be a teacher first and a great writer afterwards'. But her father's financial ruin found her, a year later, not at school in Edin burgh but in Adelaide. Whatever may have been her feelings at the time, seventy years later, looking back on her varied career as journalist, novelist and active worker for political, educational and social reform, she did not regret the change.