from the editor's desk

Randolph Stow

Randolph Stow: Pictures, Letters and Conversations

The Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture. Delivered by Suzanne Falkiner at the Perth Writers Festival, February 2016.


When Randolph Stow was at Forrest River Mission, or Umbulgurri, in 1957, before visiting his friend, the schoolteacher Sally Gare, he adopted the local custom of standing outside and giving a shout before approaching someone else’s camp, to establish that a visit would be welcome. So I like to think Mick Stow would share today my respectful acknowledgement of the Whadjuk, of the Noongah, custodians of this country before us. And as a stranger in this country myself, I’d like to thank you for the welcome I’ve had on previous visits while researching this book, which I take as a mark of the esteem and affection in which Mick Stow is held. Today, too, I’d like to thank Westerly in particular for inviting me, and I hope you’ll support this magazine in these difficult times for arts and publishing.

*  *  *

Suzanne Falkiner’s ‘Mick: A life of Randolph Stow’, UWA Publishing, 2016.

When I started out in researching this somewhat contentious project, a biography of Randolph Stow, whom I consider one of the greatest Australian writers of his generation, I foresaw two rather large obstacles. The first was that Stow was known to be ambivalent about the idea of biography, and the second that he was known to be a very private man.

I’m sure I can’t tell you much you don’t already know about Stow the published writer. Hundreds of critical articles have been published in academic journals—many of which he would have disagreed with—as well as several book-length studies of his work. However, as mainly Western Australians, some of those present also probably knew him as Mick, and so it’s largely Mick—the Mick that comes across in his more private moments—of whom I’d like to try to give you a glimpse.

And as one of his friends remarked in 1961, when Stow was best known as the precocious young University student who had written two novels and a collection of poetry while still an undergraduate, and then gone on to win the Miles Franklin Award at the age of 23: ‘Mick Stow has two selves. You might begin to know something about him if you could discover where Mick Stow ends and Randolph Stow begins.’

Initially, when I started out, I had in my mind an image of a man who was thought to be reclusive, austere, and solitary; one who, after his various sojourns in the Kimberley, the Trobriand Islands and America, had lived much of his life in rural England, or in the seaport of Harwich, minding his own business and generally avoiding contact with the world.1

‘I am in the funny position of not having a pseudonym for writing, but I’ve got a pseudonym for living’, he told a journalist in later years, while living in Harwich. ‘I’m just this feller who’s called Mick or Mike whom people often take as a seaman or a truck driver.’2

This duality, combined with silence and desire for an authorial invisibility, had seemingly led to a desire for a chameleon-like camouflage in his personal life. But this reputation for solitude was not entirely well-founded. Mick the private man, I was to discover, had a scurrilous sense of humour, a talent for friendship, and a long list of correspondents. I met one of these in England, a painter who had shared a primitive stone farmhouse with him on Malta in 1963, and who explained him like this:

One further thing to say about Mick. I always had the feeling that he lived in a huge subterranean world, rich in treasure, into which others were not invited. He came out often—bearing gifts or maps and postcards, stories and fables—but that world was too precious and vulnerable to admit others. He kept it a deliberate mystery. For me and the simple peasants of Malta, that was a rare and valuable offering of friendship.3

Randolph Stow’s poems in particular, while sometimes deceptively simple on the surface, are also often enigmatic, cryptic, and elliptical. As a writer of his generation, he seemed content that the poems—especially his love poems—should speak only to those who understood them, without his needing to reveal or explain himself further. As he famously wrote to the poet Alexander Craig, who was editing an anthology in the early 1960s: ‘I really have nothing to say about poetry in general (except that mine tries to counterfeit the communication of those who communicate by silence). And these poems are mostly private letters.’4

Portrait of Randolph Stow by John C. P. Constable, East Bergholt, circa 1980. oil on canvas, 18 by 13.5 inches. Collection: Freda Constable

‘I’m not terribly concerned with publishing’, he told John Beston in 1974. Some of his poems he had kept for several years. He did publish, he added, usually by invitation when asked for one, but that was not his intention when he wrote. His voice was not the ‘Romantic “I” of the sonneteers’, but ‘Just a man talking.’5

In the early 1980s, queried on exactly what he meant by such remarks, Stow told Tony Hassall that his poems were ‘private letters’ to people he knew: ‘They are….written to people with whom I have a relationship, about which, for one reason or another, I want to say something to them, directly…’.6

The major discovery I made in tracing Stow’s life was that nearly all his works become much more accessible when contextualised by the events of his life, and, most importantly, that all his work tends to be based on his own acute observations and memories of the real world. Stow preferred people not to read symbolic or allegorical meanings into his work. Questions about literary influences and theory tended to irritate him: he did not build castles in the air or derive a style from others. And, as anyone who has read The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea will realise, Stow was observant: very, very observant, and he forgot little, and this began for him at a very early age.

Randolph Stow’s affinity with silence had not always been so apparent, his sister Helen told me. When he was aged two or three, ‘you could not stop the words’. Before visiting friends, her mother would have to admonish him that he was ‘not to talk all the time while they were out.’

From a very early age, too, he regarded his poems as personal letters. Mickey Stow’s first poetical work, as far as we know, was written in about 1943, in Standard One at Geraldton primary school, and his teacher thought it ‘rather good’.7 The first that survive, however, are ones that he carefully copied out in pencil, in ‘joining up’ writing, and placed in an envelope, which he inscribed on the front with the name of a neighbour, ‘Mrs Helen Wilson’, and ‘Poems by J. R. Stow’, and hand delivered it to Mrs Wilson, who lived in the same street.

Mary Stow recalled that even then, at the age of about eight, Mickey would not permit Mrs Wilson to read out the poems, he insisted on reading them to her.8 In these early couplets and quatrains, about his cat, his parents, and the meaning of life, Mick’s instinctive grasp of metre and rhythm was already apparent. They sufficiently impressed Helen Helga Wilson, later a successful writer herself, that she kept them among her papers for the next fifty years, and now they’re in the State Library of NSW.

Mary Stow probably received her first proper letter from her son when he went away to boarding school in 1950, and the last one in about 1998, when she was nearly ninety. Fortunately for us, these too were kept. We have as well his friend Bill Grono’s correspondence with Mick, begun when both were uninhibited young poets in their early twenties, and ending a few months before Mick’s death. Over several decades he also made Jeanne Jeffares, the French-speaking Belgian wife of his mentor Professor Derry Jeffares, one of his closest confidantes, telling her things he could not tell others. Unlike Patrick White—to whom Mick also wrote— even as he became increasingly ill in the last years of his life, he did not ask any of these people to destroy his letters.

Mick’s first surviving letter to his mother Mary Stow, written in February 1950, on a Sunday just after his arrival at Guildford Grammar School at age fourteen, is worth savouring almost in its entirety.

Dear Dad and Mum,

I hope you’re both well. I am, but I’m hungry! I wish I’d accepted those biscuits Mum. I’ve already eaten three of those tins of food. The food is getting worse. Yesterday we had polony and trifle. The trifle nearly made us sick to look at, and tasted worse. However, everyone was pleasantly surprised to find that the things that looked like stewed slugs were really dried apricots.

We have chapel every day. Today was longer than usual of course. The chapel is very, very high and there is a gallery for the choir and organ. There are only three stained glass windows, they are waiting for the rest to come from England. Now all the others are leadlight. Those things with lampshades that were in the picture …in the prospectus are not candles, they’re electric lights. The ‘candle’ is painted conduit.

We have a good reading room and a good library here. The reading room has a lot of leather chairs and a few little tables scattered around and some book cases containing the House Library, as well as the House letter-rack and a big Astor wireless which is never turned off.

….There are lots of shields, honour boards and reproductions of old masters. ‘Boy with a rabbit’, which is just above me, is ripped. It looks as if someone threw something at him. There [are] lots of good books, all sorts, including murders, and I found one yesterday called ‘Famous Dogs’. ….Would you ask Hen to save the dog cards for me please. …I enclose a Pointer, which was in the Weeties this morning.

The dining-hall is very long, and there are a lot of waitresses. Everything, even toast (when we have it —so far twice) is served in enamel baking-dishes.

The table cloths are starched, and white with an irregular pattern of egg, gravy and tea. The other day we had custard for dinner, in a jug with a broken spout. The next day we had water in the same jug, which still had custard running down from the spout. The china is about half an inch thick.

….Mr Thwaites came from England. It seems Guildford has been copying the English schools as closely as it could, and everyone’s pleased to have a man who’s been studying English schools as a headmaster.

I have started German and Latin. Bim [Brown] is teaching me Latin for nothing, but he says [the Chaplain] Mr [Cardell-]Oliver charges about £4 per annum for German. I am also taking History, French and Agricultural Science, as well as compulsory subjects (Maths A and B, English, Divinity). I’m taking tennis as a sport.

That’s all I have to say, so goodbye.

Lots of love,


Following three years of routine governed by bells, cold showers, church services and talks by missionaries, along with football and cadet training (both of which he hated), Mick was pleased to move on to St George’s College at the University of Western Australia, not least because there he could sleep in in the morning. After a miserable first year studying law, like his father Cedric, he switched to Arts, and completed a Bachelor degree in English and French with consistent Distinctions. Despite his father’s apparent belief that he was ‘bone idle’,10 during his four years at University he wrote three novels (one unfinished) and published some 35 poems in national and international magazines. Many more poems were written but later discarded. He also wrote several plays, also lost, along with a number of educational radio scripts commissioned by ABC producer Rayden James.

Helge Grant-Frost (brother of Stow’s room-mate Dieter) throws a bucket of water over fellow-student John Mitchell, while sun-baking on the top balcony of St George’s College. Collection: John Mitchell

In addition, he scripted skits for College revues, and wrote sketches, editorials and regular columns for University publications such as Pelican, the Dragon and The Winthrop Review, the forerunner of Westerly, which he helped to edit. He won four University prizes for verse and literature. He also kept up his schoolboy German, learned some Russian, gave himself a working knowledge of Italian, Spanish and Scottish Gaelic, read widely on anthropology and art, and taught himself to play the mandolin.

Probably it was his childhood mentor Helen Helga Wilson, now also living in Perth, who introduced him to the local Fellowship of Australian Writers, or FAW, at age seventeen. Mick had first attended a ‘do’ there—albeit with some reservations— in October 1953, as he wrote home to his mother from St George’s College.

Tom Collins House is a very small weatherboard house with some of the most hideous pictures in it that I have seen. The first thing I saw was an exhibition of Arts and Crafts…pottery and watercolors. It is all very literary, and I don’t want to join, although Mrs Wilson says there are endless advantages to be reaped…John K. Ewers, who is very pleasant, [was there], and Henrietta Drake-Brockman, who attempts to be extremely intimidating. We did not get on startlingly well; she thought I was frivolous. She was discoursing earnestly on an article she wrote for the Minnesota University Review, all about the influence of American culture on Australia. She frowned upon me when I suggested the most lasting influence was Coca-Cola.11

Nine months later, in July 1954, Mick had attended again, he wrote to Mary Stow:

I went to my first meeting of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (as a member) on Tuesday night. Mary Durack Miller got up and spoke about Aboriginal legends, praising Henrietta Drake-Brockman’s work right and left. Then Henrietta got up and spoke some more and praised Mary Durack’s work very loudly. Then they both got up and sang the praises of Aunt Kate [Mrs Catherine Langloh Parker], she being the patron saint of anyone who writes about abo’s [sic].

Lots of interesting people there, including Mollie Skinner, co author with D. H. Lawrence of ‘Boys in the Bush’, who looks like a very old centenarian and chain smokes. D. H. Lawrence used to live with her in her house at Darlington, but I don’t know whether it was in sin or not. There was a South Australian called Cyril Maitland Brown, who looks like a drug addict and wants to see the Maitland Brown tombstones at Geraldton. He was talking about the Stow Play, which he said was immensely moving. Apparently in the last scene, great-great-grandpapa’s ghost comes and sits down beside great-great-grandmama, which seemed rather corny to me, but had C.M.B. almost in tears. It probably came off quite well on stage; you can’t tell from a second hand account. We seem to come from a very dramatizable family. Some day I am going to write a play or a novel about the Logues. It should read like Wuthering Heights.12

One mustn’t overlook that it was during this literary apprenticeship that Stow published his two early novels, A Haunted Land and The Bystander, and also compiled his first collection of poems, Act One, most of which he later repudiated. What he would consider his first ‘real’ poem, one that was not just an exercise of linguistic craft, was jolted out of him by the death of a University friend, nineteen-year-old Richard Benjamin Taylor, a Private in the University Rifle Regiment, who was killed when he rolled an Army jeep while driving back from a National Service training camp at Northam.

Until he was aged eighteen, Stow noted later, his writing had not been an expression of himself, but an imitation of those whose work he admired. He became a writer for two reasons:

One was that in National Service I first collided with the facts of life in the atomic age. The other was the death of a friend. He was not a particularly close friend, but …to me his death coming at that time of my life, was a pretty world-shaking experience. I felt it was terribly necessary for me to do something creative and do it quickly.

I expressed this at the time in a poem called ‘Madame Yuan Ying Disoriented’, and that was really my first poem—the first, that is, that wasn’t simply a literary exercise.13

Later, after his return in late 1959 from what turned out to be a very traumatic time in the Trobriand Islands, he added at the end of a letter to the poet Thom Gunn in San Francisco, whose work he admired:

‘I did have my juvenilia published last year, but am a novelist, if anything, not a poet. After vowing to cut the bull out of my verse I found there was nothing left.’14

From his sojourn in Papua New Guinea until his death in England in 2010, partly through a determination to publish only work that was minus ‘the bull’, Stow retreated by degrees towards an almost complete public literary silence. What we are privileged to have from him, however, as he travelled between these extremes, I believe, is some of Australia’s most startlingly beautiful poetry and prose.

Patrol Officer Peter Gall aboard an outrigger canoe, fishing in the Trobriand Islands, circa October 1959. Collection: Barry Fox

Some of this earlier work arose from an interlude that he would look back on later as a period of great happiness, almost with nostalgia for a paradise lost. These were the months in early 1957, after leaving University, that he spent as a volunteer worker at Forrest River Mission, or Umbulgurri, in the Kimberley. This of course was the seminal experience that led to his novel To the Islands, which won him the second-ever Miles Franklin Award, after Patrick White’s Voss.

Mick to Mary Stow, from Forrest River, 2 April 1957:

Dear Mother,

Just dashing this off at top speed to catch the launch when it goes to town again. Arrived here about eight o’clock on Sunday after leaving Wyndham [at] half past eleven the night before. It generally takes 24 hours to get to town and back from here, because you have to wait for the tide to come up before you can get out of the river [and] into the gulf, and vice versa….Wyndham was rather fun, I thought, though everyone else affects to despise it. It is a real shanty town, with little tin shops all owned by Chinese who are all ‘Tailors: Outfitters and General Merchants’. I’m thinking of getting Lee Tong or Dong Fan to make me a suit. All the people I met there were remarkably nice, couldn’t be friendlier.

….Can’t describe how wild and grand the scenery is coming up the river, and even at Wyndham itself. Great red cliffs and gorges — there is one just at the end of the road here where the launch lands, at the end of the avenue of boabs.…Tonight after tea there was [a snake] in the cane grass outside the dining room and everyone joined in to try and get it—screams and shrieks of laughter from all the kitchen girls about the big black wala that was going to go for them…. Sally [Gare] has a collection of fearful monsters in bottles and things in her room. (Funny thing. When I was filing away great masses of papers, was stumped for a category for a letter starting: ‘Dear Sir, We wonder if your Mission would supply us with a small crocodile…’)

…The kids are wonderful, when I come out of church at night I have to fight them off—they come and grab your hands and hang on your arms and just about climb over the top of you—couldn’t be more friendly. I had about ten of them in here last night giving me a lesson on the language.

…Everyone is equal and we’re all called “brother” or “sister”— Brother Bill, Sister Mary, Sisters Gare and Turner and Hill and so on. I’m supposed to be Brother Mick but I notice they call me Abela Mick (abela means brother) which sounds less like a monastery. The storeman, whose name is Tennyson Thompson, is always Abela Tenny.

I’m living in the funniest little one-roomed cottage I ever did see. Low overhanging thatched roof, mud brick walls with rows of loopholes to keep it cool, prop-open shutters over the window (no glass up here) and a cement floor. It’s pretty cool and I like it a lot. I gather that Sally was casting a calculating eye at it while it was empty.

I also have my own shower (open air in a tin shelter) and a peculiar lavatory of futuristic design with a pit that seem to be fathoms deep and is inhabited by some creature that goes ARRGHGH! It could be just a Forrest River sized frog.15

Stow’s first departure from Australia came in early 1959 when he left as a cadet patrol officer for Port Moresby, where he was soon inducted into nightly drinking sessions in places like the Snake Pit bar and the Paga Hill Club.16 A few weeks later he was seconded to the anthropologist Charles Julius, and left for the Trobriand Islands.

‘Self at home’ — Stow in his thatched mudbrick house at Forrest River Mission, 1957. Collection: National Library of Australia: Papers of Randolph Stow MS Acc10.128

This year, 1959, for the first time that we know of, Mick kept a diary, but he stopped writing in it —and stopped writing letters home—when his mental and physical health began to decline. In an entry made later in 1960, in the cold and grey of Leeds in Northern England, he reflected on the period in a fragmented note:

Remember the green fire flies like eyes in the dripping trees – the owl – the smell of palm leaves drying.

At Joboada in August the flowers were out – vinca, convolvulus, hibiscus, painted lady, and some kind of pea like a violet, very sweet smell.

Bwita too, a fragrant cream-coloured flowering ficus. Very windy. Stayed there three weeks. Then Sinaketa, on the sea. When tide is out pigs went to [the] waterline foraging among the mussels. Reef beyond at waterline. Awake all one night and saw before dawn Katamapula Guyan out in his canoe fishing. Extraordinary blue world.

Vakuta, three weeks. Remember the terrible broken and desert coral forest. Surf smashing on the forsaken cliffs. Kitava, and the strange hospitality and character of Cam the King. Iwa – an island left alone by Europeans – high coral cliffs…rising out of a sea that was clear as the air itself, …[showing] the fish and coral, as if through a magnifying glass. A long moonlight trip back to Kitava, not a disturbance on the sea but our own wake. Then the sickness – cold, all day & night, and finished or tried to at Muwo.

Remember Dokonikan cave, the one at Kitava – old woman at census whose husband and son had died – evening when the lamps were lit – changing colours of palm fronds at different times of the day – much else. Was happy, often.17

After his repatriation to Australia, Stow experienced his first severe writing block, finally broken during his first sojourn in Suffolk in England—and partly, he wrote later, through the encouragement of Geoffrey Dutton and Sidney Nolan. This psychological watershed led to the Outrider suite of poems—which he called his ‘fever poems’—and much later, of course, to Visitants and The Girl Green as Elderflower.

Further travels followed, to Leeds, Scotland, Malta, New Mexico, Alaska and France, before he settled permanently in East Anglia, first in East Bergholt and then in the port of old Harwich.

Stow’s meanderings about the world seemed to me sometimes purely impulsive, as he changed his mind often, seemingly carelessly discarding opportunities, grants, fellowships, commissions and offers of jobs, almost as if blown about by the wind. In very fragile health after his return from the Trobriands, he gave up a writing scholarship to Stanford University in favour of travelling to London to meet his publisher, but within a week of arriving had applied unsuccessfully for a job in the Congo. What, one might wonder, might he have written had he succeeded in that?

Periods spent teaching—in Adelaide, Leeds and Western Australia—inevitably gave way to a longing to live elsewhere, away from the sophistry of the cities and academia.

Randolph Stow, Dedham, Essex, August 1970. Photograph: William Grono

When Bill Grono showed him an academic paper in which he argued that Stow was part of that group of expatriates—Christina Stead, Henry Handel Richardson, Martin Boyd, George Johnston, even Henry Lawson and Xavier Herbert—who had felt impelled to escape Australia for more ‘civilised’ countries, Mick responded dryly: “I didn’t leave Australia for more civilisation, I left it for less.”

‘But you still ended up in England,’ Grono retorted.18

When he finally did settle in East Anglia, it was in a part of England where he felt comfortably at home in the land of his ancestors, but also, finally, where strangers were accepted without questions. Sailors on land in a place like the port of old Harwich, one might say, are by definition only ever visiting. Stow told an interviewer that he had only settled in England by accident. When questioned about his various periods of silence, Stow told interviewers there were too many unnecessary books in the world, and that he would write again only when he had something worthwhile to say.

In his later years, and when he was finally financially secure, he contented himself with the smaller occupations of old age: writing the odd book review for the TLS, feeding the swans in the river, making sloe gin, walking in Wrabness forest, reading in the pub, drinking beer and doing the Times crossword. He had no great imperative or need to produce a published book, either for public recognition or money.

Randolph Stow in later years, Harwich. Collection: National Library of Australia: Papers of Randolph Stow MS Acc10.128

‘I lead a most sedentary life,’ Mick wrote to his friend Jeanne Jeffares in the snowy winter months of 1994. He had been reading the complete set of Proust in French, he reported, and he had made a batch of (French-style) madeleines and lime-flower tea, to copy Proust’s experience.19

[They] tasted delicious when dunked with a silver spoon in the tisane in a Wedgwood cup. But of course it didn’t connect with any memory of my own. The equivalent for me would be Australian country-type tea in a Victorian cup of pale blue Willow Pattern and my grandmother’s bran-biscuits. I do have a cup like that (no saucer), but I just can’t reproduce the biscuits, although I have one of my grandmother’s recipe books and have tried.20

When I first wrote to Stow in 2006 it was about another writer, born fifty years earlier, who had shared some of Stow’s geographical and intellectual territory in Western Australia. Had he, in his youth, ever come upon the work of Elliot Lovegood Grant Watson, I asked? Back came a postcard, written in blue fountain pen in Stow’s characteristic neat, backward-sloping script. He had never read E. L. Grant Watson; was unsure that he had even heard of him.

‘But academics are so keen on finding influences where none exist. I don’t believe any Australian writer has influenced me—except, possibly, the early Judith Wright’, he continued. ‘The thing about people in the arts is, surely, that they have eyes and ears of their own, and that is what stirs them to be creative.’

On the front of the postcard was a reproduction of an exquisite still life painted by the 17th century Dutch painter Balthasar van der Ast. Beneath a porcelain vase of flowers were scattered some exotically-patterned Pacific and Indian ocean seashells: a murex, a harp shell, a volute and several highly poisonous textile cone shells.

I was almost glad that he had not encountered Grant Watson, I wrote back, but it was a question I had needed to ask. I wondered if the Dutch artist knew that, alongside those glamorous European tulips, he had juxtaposed three of the most lethal sea shells in the Australian region, I added.

A further van der Ast postcard arrived: tulips and iris, a grasshopper, a beetle and some other insects, a spider shell, a snail, more cones and a spiky murex.

‘I wonder if the painter—who may have borrowed the shells from the “cabinet of curiosities” of some scientifically-minded patron—did know about them as living creatures, and meant to moralise, like so many Dutch still life painters, about the precariousness of life and evanescence of beauty’, Stow wrote back. ‘Leaving aside lethalness, in the case of cone shells, they’re all empty houses, whose inhabitants are dead. In this one, which I send as a companion piece, is that a locust in the left corner? If so, the vanitas message is plain.’21

Then, the year before my book on Grant Watson came out, Randolph Stow unexpectedly died. It seemed like an unfinished conversation, and one that I had hoped to continue.

Postcard: Balthasar van der Ast (1593/94-1657), “Blumen in einem Korb”. Randolph Stow to author, 23 January 2006. Collection: Suzanne Falkiner



[1] John Aikman Hetherington, ‘Randolph Stow: Young Man in No Hurry’, Forty-Two Faces, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1962, pp.242-47

[2] Richard Wallace, ‘The Man Behind the Pseudonym’, ‘The Saturday Page’, The Canberra Times, 1 June 1985, p.17

[3] Patrick (rashid) Maxwell, emails to author, November and December 2011, March 2014. Interview with author, East Bergholt, 22 May 2012

[4]Afterword’, Twelve Poets: 1950-1970, Craig, Alexander (ed.) Jacaranda Press, Milton, 1971. p.175.

[5] John Beston, ‘An Interview with Randolph Stow’, World Literature Written in English Vol. 14.1, Modern Language Association of America, University of Texas at Arlington 1975, pp. 221–30.

[6] ‘These are the poems with mythological titles: “Ishmael” [1962], “Enkidu” [1970], “Endymion” [1960], “Persephone” [1964], “Penelope” [1968], “Efire” [1974], which use the “objective correlative” in the strict sense of the term. They are private letters written to people with whom I have a relationship, about which, for one reason or another, I want to say something to them, directly; but I say it through the circumstances of the myth-figure, who gives each poem its title. Using that device makes them a little less private than otherwise they would be; but all the same they remain very private. And I have wondered about the value of publishing them.’ Anthony J. Hassall, ‘Breaking the Silence’, Australian Literary Studies, May 1982, pp. 311–25.

[7] Helen McArthur, née Stow, interview with author, Byford, WA, Friday 4 November 2011

[8] Jennifer Moran, ‘Searching for Randolph Stow’, The West Magazine, circa post mid 1980s, p. 25

[9] NLA MS Acc 10.195: Folder 4 – Letter, Stow to Mary Stow [annotated early 1951, more likely 1950]

[10] NLA MS 10.128 Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 8 Pkt 31: Richard Wallace, ‘The Man Behind the Pseudonym’, ‘The Saturday Page’, The Canberra Times 1 June 1985, p. 17

[11] NLA MS Acc 10.195, Papers of Randolph Stow (1 Box): Folder 2: Letter, Stow to Mary Stow, ‘Monday’ [12 October 1953]

[12] MS Acc 10.195, Papers of Randolph Stow (1 Box): Folder 2: Letter, Stow to Mary Stow, ‘Thursday’ [29 July 1954]

[13] Hetherington, John Aikman, ‘Randolph Stow: Young Man in No Hurry’, Forty-Two Faces, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1962, pp. 244-5

[14] Thom Gunn Papers, BANC MSS 2006/235, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Stow to Gunn, 3 November 1958.

[15] NLA MS Acc 10.195, Papers of Randolph Stow (1 Box): Folder 4: Letter, Stow to Mary Stow, 2 April 1957

[16] NLA MS 10.128 Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 5 Pkt 20: Diary 1959-1982: entry for 19 March 1959

[17] NLA MS 10.128, Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 5, Pkt 20: Diary 1959–1982, entry for ‘1960’.

[18] William Grono, interview with author, Perth, 18 November 2011. Bill Grono, emails to author, 6 February 2012; 31 July 2014

[19] NLA Papers of A.N. Jeffares Mss Acc 12.081, Box 1: letter, Stow to Jeanne Jeffares [24 January 1994]

[21] NLA Papers of A.N. Jeffares Mss Acc 12.081, Box 1: letter, Stow to Jeanne Jeffares, [4 February 1994]

[22] NLA MS Acc 10.128, Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 2 Pkt 8: draft letter to Suzanne Falkiner [10 and 23 January 2006]; and postcards to Suzanne Falkiner [private collection]


Suzanne Falkiner is a full-time writer based in Sydney. Her biography of Stow, Mick: a life of Randolph Stow, was published by UWA Publishing in 2016. Her previous books include Mrs Mort’s Madness: The True Story of a Sydney Scandal (XOUM 2014), Eugenia: A Man (Second Edition, XOUM 2014), Joan in India (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2008), Lizard Island: The Journey of Mary Watson (Allen & Unwin 2000), The Writers’ Landscape: Wilderness (Simon & Schuster 1992), The Writers’ Landscape: Settlement (Simon & Schuster 1992), After the Great Novelist: and Other Stories (Picador 1989), and Rain in the Distance (Penguin 1986).

Suzanne has travelled widely and lived in Paris, Umbria, and New York. She has studied at the University of New South Wales and Columbia University. In 2005 she was awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney.

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