Canonical Australian authors

Letter from Patrick White to Clem Christesen (1st page), 10 January 1961

Christesen’s internationalism did not diminish the support he gave to Australian writers. Presented here are three letters which exemplify Christesen’s warm friendship with local authors. The first is to poet, essayist and critic Nettie Palmer, dated 4 November 1942. It is a long letter, in which Christesen details the difficulties and successes of the journal’s first two years. On the final page, he writes: ‘Miles is an uncertain quality. He is young, immature. But he has the goods and will in time produce good work. He recently lost his mother, poor lad.’ (It is almost certain Christensen is referencing Miles Franklin here, though he seems unaware of her gender, and the fact that she was fourteen years his senior.)

In the second letter, novelist Christina Stead tells Christesen about a review she has been commissioned to write about Virginia Woolf’s non-fiction prose. She takes issue with Woolf’s love of Austen - explaining that as an Australian, she cannot understand the novel of manners.

Letter from Patrick White to Clem Christesen (2nd page), 10 January 1961

Third, a letter from Patrick White. Christesen had written to White asking if he would appear on a television program being held to celebrate Meanjin’s 21st anniversary. After a long litany of his various health issues, and the home remedies he had been imbibing to keep them in check, White says he will not appear on the anniversary show: ‘I wish I could say when I am likely to be in Melbourne. Quite apart from the dietary complications, I am chained to this spot by animals. [Besides] I never watch television.’

The last letter is a rejection Peter Carey received in 1973 (the year before The Fat Man in History was published). Christesen writes that Carey’s story ‘needs to be much shorter. It’s rather repetitive, slack, sometimes flat in its present very relaxed form.’ There is something heartening about seeing such a well-known author struggle to get published early in his career.

christina Stead letter

christina Stead letter

Letter from Christine Stead to Clem Christesen (1st page), 1 September 1972 Pages 1-2

Peter Carey letter

Letter from Clem Christesen to Peter Carey, 12 March 1973

Nettie Palmer letter


Palmer letter

Letter from Clem Christesen to Nettie Palmer , 4 November 1962 pages 1-3