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    Barry Watts shares a secret about ...

MILES FRANKLIN

Miles from Brindabella


'Banjo' Paterson was in his late thirties when he first met Miles Franklin. He took quite a fancy to the bright young lady from the country and there is some evidence to suggest he may have even proposed marriage to her.

She was the 20-year-old author of the newly-acclaimed My Brilliant Career , and he was a sophisticated Sydney solicitor who had written the best-known poem of the day, The Man from Snowy River.

Their first meeting did not go well. Paterson offered Miles professional advice on her publishing contract and dismissed, rather off-handedly, some new stories offered for his appraisal. 'Banjo', we're told, suggested they should work together on a book, and Miles counter-proposed the writing of a joint play.

While she may have been flattered by the attention of such a literary celebrity, Miles Franklin ultimately drafted a letter to Paterson in which she satirically parodied his approach. It was a clear rebuttal, and their relationship foundered.

Miles was born at Talbingo homestead in the Snowy Mountains in 1879 and grew up at Brindabella, 40kms closer to Canberra. Her best book, an autobiography named Childhood at Brindabella , covers this period of her life. Her first book, My Brilliant Career , caused a minor furore when some of Miles' friends and family thought they recognized themselves in it. The author had it withdrawn from sale. Another writer said of this incident, it was 'a storm in a billycan, but Miles took them seriously. She cleared out of Australia, to get away from all the provincial fuss ...'

She lived and worked in American and England, and did not return to Sydney until 1933.

When Miles Franklin died in 1954 she bequeathed funds for an annual literary prize for "a published novel portraying some aspect of Australian life" - today's most prestigious prize for writers - Miles Franklin Literary Award.

She never married.

 


© BARRY JOHN WATTS 2002

 

 

 

 

 

'Banjo' Paterson, suitor


Miles, aged in her 70's

 
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