Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, many distinguished writers made the long and arduous voyage across the seas to Australia. Brief Encounters tells some of their stories.
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They came to give lecture tours and make money, to sort out difficult children sent here to be out of the way; for health, for science, to escape demanding spouses back home, or simply to satisfy a sense of adventure. Brief Encounters reveals sudden flashes of insight into the authors themselves, but also into the Australian nation and the Australian character: Anthony Trollope on our cultural cringe; Joseph Conrad‘s vision of Sydney’s criminal ‘underbelly’; Rudyard Kipling on Australia’s sad, second-hand Americanism and Arthur Conan Doyle on the ‘dark stain’ of while Australia’s treatment of Aboriginals.
In 1890, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny arrived at Circular Quay after a dramatic sea voyage only to be refused entry at the Victoria, one of Sydney’s most elegant hotels. Stevenson threw a tantrum, but was forced to go to a cheaper, less fussy establishment. Next day, the Victoria’s manager, recognising the famous author from a picture in the paper, rushed to find Stevenson and beg him to return. He did not.
Brief Encounters is a feast of irony, idiosyncrasy, and occasional insight from Charles Darwin‘s fascination with the misnamed lion-ant through to Arthur Conan Doyle’s missionary spiritualism. The liveliness of these stories, along with Susannah’s infectious enthusiasm, is evident in every chapter of the book.
“Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia 1836 – 1939 is the full title of Susannah Fullerton’s latest work. And that just about sums up its contents. But that dry and scholarly description masks a feast of anecdote, insight and beautifully turned narrative that sheds an amusing light on how Australians relate to a frequently uncomprehending rest of the world … Brief Encounters is a delightful book, well illustrated and indexed. Definitely one to seek out.”
― Ray Franklin, Sunshine Coast newspapers
Many people have enjoyed reading Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia 1836-1939. Read more of their reviews here.
In Brief Encounters, renowned author and speaker Susannah Fullerton examines a diverse array of writers including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, Agatha Christie and Jack London to discover what they did when they got here, what their opinion was of Australia and Australians, how the public and media reacted to them, and how their future works were shaped or influenced by this country.