Patrick White (Australian, 1912-1990)
A collection of correspondence including 23 autograph letters signed, 10 typed letters signed, one 2-page a.l.s fragment, 8 autograph postcards and w cards, to Margery WILLIAMS (1906 -1988), "Dogwoods" (Castle Hill), Centennial Park, London, Paris, Athens, Kavalla and elsewhere, 11 December 1960-29 October 1987, approximately 103 pages on 54 leaves, plus cards, various sizes, many letters with original envelopes; with related letters( including correspondence from Angus Wilson to Williams), 3 pp.ms fragments written by Williams, a 3pp.carbon copy of a letter from Williams to White, 30 original photographs, related newspaper clippings: and copies. .
Ink, typed letters on paper, An important collection of letters written by Patrick White to Margery Williams, the foremost of White's "lady disciples". Having met in 1960, the pair became firm friends and long -time correspondents until they fell out in the 1970s over political differences. During their friendship they corresponded regularly and White's side of the correspondence reveals that he respected Williams' opinions and relished the gossip she was able to provide:"You are my eyes and ears," he once told her(David Marr, Patrick White: A Life, 1991,p.400). In a 1964 letter to Sidney Nolan in London, White wrote, " We have a very good friend who will probably be getting in touch with Cynthis while she is in London. She is Margery Williams, the wife of the British Council representative in Australia. She is both intelligent and perceptive, and I think you will like her." (David Marr(ed.) Patrick White: Letters, 1994, p259)
White's letters to Williams, of which a number are quoted in Patrick White: A Life, and six are included in Patrick White: Letters, span White's life with Manoly Lascaris in semi- rural Castle Hill, their travels in Europe and the United States, and the move to their home in Centennial Park. White discusses in considerable detail, the publication of his work, projects for the theatre, film adaptations of his novels, and provides engaging descriptions of his travels.
His correspondence paints a vivid picture of the nascent Australian cultural scene of the 1960s and struggling to establish its own identity both locally and abroad. He discusses collaborations with other Australians carving out successful international careers including Robert Helpman, Sidney Nolan( who produced jacket illustrations for three Patrick White novels) and Barry Humphries. However, White vents his frustration that his own work, whilst lauded in the United States, and translated into many foreign languages, was frequently misunderstood and was resented and denigrated by local critics. He cites the many frustrations of "on-again, off-again" theatrical productions for the Adelaide Festival, which were repeatedly vetoed by the Festival governors. After their rejection of "The Ham Funeral", White wrote that he "sat down and poured out another play, which I suppose will have to be dedicated to the Festival Governors. It is very Australian- the Philistines have won again! I do not like the idea of playing the part of the intellectual and social pariah fo Adelaide for the third time." June, 1963.
As well as descriptions of his many travels abroad, White gives Williams an account of a trip he took in 1961 to visit Ian Fairweather on Bribie Island (the letter is quoted in A Life). White writes that he was "lucky to have his Gethsemane, which I think one of his greatest paintings. taking up the whole of one of my bedroom walls."
Gethsemane was one of 52 paintings given by White to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In a 1975 letter he described the pleasure he experiences from the staging of an exhibition of these paintings at the Gallery. Gethsemane was controversially sold by the Gallery in 2010.
Whilst we know that Williams' gossip provided the background to a number of White's short stories(and she herself was the basis of the character Mrs Mortimet in The Vivisector), the correspondence reveals White's often vicious opinions about a number of Australian cultural and social luminaries. "What a parochial whirlpool this must appear to anybody in London, and of course it is all quite unimportant, yet nauseating- a cesspool rather than a whirlpool. I am glad I have this house, my friends, and my work. Otherwise I could not endure it." White could also be blunt with Williams. He wrote in 1966, " I too am becoming exhausted. When I am not trying to be an artist, I am cooking meals, scrubbing floors, trying to push my family into a house of their own. What I don't think you realise in your British Council world, is that you really have endless 19th century leisure in which to become socially exhausted! All this may sound brutal, but had to be said, I have always valued your friendship and your mind. Norman(Margery's husband) is just a cabbage stalk, & that is why he has swum round so admirably in the swill of Sydney life. I hope if I can ever help in any way, Margery, you will still feel you and count on me. But I must protect what remains of my creative self from the luxury of sensibility. The cooking of meals and scrubbing of floors and all the family complications drain me enough as it is."(October, 1966)
Accompanying the letters is a group of intimate photographs of White's circle in Sydney including Dr John and Dorothy Chesterman, Angus Wilson and Shirley Horn. One photograph of Margery Williams from this collection was included in both Marr's biography and in Letter (plates 57 and 37 respectively). Also included here is a letter from White to Williams in 1987, after a gap of ten years in their correspondence, recommending that she speak to David Marr. Two other letters are from David Marr. The first to Williams asking to meet in London, and the second to Margery's daughter Alison Corfield regarding the publication of six of the letters, and stating his regret that he did not have the space to include more. Alison Corfield has also provided annotations to the photographs and several explanatory notes. .
Australian Colonial Furniture and Australiana
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