Review of My Congenials: Miles Franklin & Friends in Letters, edited by Jill Roe.
I am acquainted with at least one writer who believes that letter-writing saps creative energy which might be directed to the more public art forms of the novel and the poem. So, a long and thoughtful letter to this writer may well be answered by a minimal two lines expressing gratitude and appreciation. Of course, the rise of a market for Australian literary papers can mean that one has an uncanny sense of even personal letters from writers being directed at some wider audience, with a fair certainty that a copy has been kept. I've even heard of an American writer who sends the duplicates and keeps the originals so his collection will retain its value. Such attitudes seem positively mean-spirited in the face of the corresponding habits of Patrick White, Christina Stead and Miles Franklin. David Marr's biography of White rests securely on the two or three personal letters White wrote every day, and Hazel Rowley's biography of Stead is almost overwhelmed by the detail provided by Stead's seemingly compulsive letters to friends. In the case of these writers, the public work formed a continuum with the less-structured private writing. There was no fear of creative drain in these prolific correspondents.
Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.