MISSING CHAPTER 10
- Draft (crossed
out and underlined)
had not been concentrating when the street address had been given
to her by Hum the hatter on the ship's forward deck that morning
as they took their constitutional walk. She protested that Lovatt
should have been listening.
Lovatt had politely expressed interest in the person Hum was describing.
"I know you don't want to meet any writers in Sydney although
I can easily arrange that for you, but my cousin Julian is an
artist and a good conversationalist. He drew the Kelly gang. He
drew Ned Kelly in the dock at his trial."
Lovatt, intrigued, had heard about the infamous Australian Kelly
"I am sure that he would like to meet you. He always makes
people from the old country welcome. Like me, he grew up in Cornwell.
He is a friend of Robert Louis Stephenson."
Lovett had a passion for Stephenson. What a curious connection
so far from home.
Hum had a way of addressing the sea or the deck, or the persistent
albatross, anything, rather than facing his listener. Possibly
Harriott had misheard when she wrote it down.
Was it Bondi or Bronte and was this the correct number in Glen
St, with the large magnolia tree, on the high side of the hill
as Hum described it. The sea thundered below.
The Bondi landscape reminded Lovatt of Cornwall. It was so like
Polperro, but without the gentle inlets. Here the misnamed Pacific
Ocean had torn out deep gullies where the Banksias grew horizontal
and waves pounded the sandstone into wide beaches.
This was where the gods and goddesses of Australia bathed.
The brick and tile cottage was unimposing. A short flight of neat
white painted steps led to a wide wooden veranda overlooking the
sea. Lovett looked back to the sea as Hariett tapped on the door,
amused by the oxidised brass knocker cast in the shape of a mermaid,
green from the salt. Harriet sometimes felt like a mermaid. Like
The sea was cobalt now ripped up by the prevailing southerly into
wide flurries of pure ultramarine. A distant tramp steamer was
preceded by its grey black plume as it beat up the coast with
the following wind.
The door was opened by a bustling ruddy faced woman carrying a
bunch of flowers, which she explained as being, "on their
way to vase". She had just picked them. "Come in, Come
in. Down the hall. Julian is looking forward to seeing you."
The artist who greeted them, was, it seemed to Lovett, at first
meeting, Italianate in his bearing and gestures. Long expressive
fingers. Fingers that reached out to him emphasising, shaping
the air like a conjurer. But there was no doubt from his speech
that he was an Englishman. The verandah door was closed behind
them and the paintings in the hall that had been clattering in
the wind from the sea fell silent. The woman, who introduced herself
as the artist's wife Renee, disappeared into a kitchen with the
flowers, saying lightly over her shoulder "I will put on
a pot of tea."
"You are on your
way to America, you say. My father was American, from Boston,
but you plan to go to New Mexico, where I regret I cannot help
you. No relatives."
The artist seemed to look past Lovatt at a distant burning hot
landscape, he thought. He learnt later that the artist was going
blind, some said from too much looking into the Australian sun.
Around the walls were paintings from floor to ceiling. A jewel
box. Lovett found himself talking confusedly about Hum, to make
The artist detected his reserve and set off on a journey of words
that wound around the house down in to the gullies below with
nude models restive on the beach and then back to youth in London
and Cornwell and then with affection included his brother and
son who were both artists, but living in London and the North
Shore of Sydney Harbour respectively.
"You must visit my studio in the Queen Victoria Building.
I can show you the work of young painters the equal of any in
"I must tell you Mister Lawrence your work has created quite
a stir in this town. Mary Gillmore is just one of the worthies
who are easily shocked." He laughed.
"Our Norman Lindsay comes in for a lot of criticism too so
you are in good company."
The artist confirmed Lovetts fears regarding the Sydney writing
Tea and scones arrived and Harriott and Rene, both of whom agreed
that they did not their tea too hot, went on a tour of the house
to find and bring back the Burmese cat which was held up to be
"You are writing a novel. Mr Lawrence. Australians are not
like Englishmen, who write. They have become Spaniards in this
hot land. We paint. We paint like Latins. From the heart. And
our bullfight is held in the sea and the bull is the shark and
we are fearless. I swim in the ocean every day at dawn."
Lovett had earlier made a mental note of a quaintly Victorian
full length horizontally striped bathing costume hanging on a
nail on the verandah.
Our artists have just scratched the surface in this vast land.
You too paint, you say, I would like to see your paintings. Blake
wrote and painted."
Lovett tentatively asked the artist about the feeling in Australia
about old Europe and the looming class war. "We have it all
here of course but it will come to nothing. We are Spaniards but
hedonists and egalitarian. Australians are lazy and very forgiving."
Lovett mused, what would these people think of his novel, Kangaroo,
when it came out. Would it be forgotten? Would future generations
share his mystic realization that this country was the future?
Around him he sensed dark ancient forces populated by innocents.
Long may they keep this innocence.
If he had a second life Lovett would spend it in Australia.
It was time to leave Bondi. The artist, who preferred to paint
out of doors, had an appointment with a girl and a certain sandstone
cliff face at this time of the day, in a certain light. The model
He would meet the writer again in the city in George Street. Lovett
would wind up the spiral staircase leading to a studio straight
out of Florence with easels and statuary and friendly curious
girls and young men mixing paint and glancing at him with the
mildest of interest.
The artist, dressed now in a long white coat, took him on a tour
of the studio. Lovett was grateful that at no time was his identity
revealed. He was just another studio visitor. The writer could
return to Thirroul on the train with the bones of another chapter
at the tip of his pen and not one of the scribblers in Sydney
would be any the wiser.
Now again it was the sea and the flat horizon and the bush behind.
From the dazzle of the slope above the beach the train entered
a hellish tunnel and holding hands as it clattered on Lovett and
Harriet came out and down into the safe home region of the familiar
Californian Bungalow with the pine trees and the wainscoting.
He lit the gas lamp.
When he opened the current, scribbled and crossed out, exercise
book on the desk where it was kept by habit to be available to
hand, next to the neatly stacked completed books, he turned pages.
Where was this new chapter to go?
He pondered and reached then for a new exercise book, turned the
cover to a crisp page and started writing. From time to time he
pumped the gas lamp. The artist had admired his poem "The
Snake." Lovett resolved that he would finish this chapter
on the train when he took his next trip to that friendly studio,
the oasis of art in George St Sydney
I found this exercise book leaning against the bust of Homer at
the back of the studio years after David Lawrence had left Australia.
He had sat happily in the corner of the life room writing in it
and sketching the models. We lunched together every day. One day
his wife joined us. There was no furthering address.
JRA (Julian Rossi Ashton)
PS: One of the students is working with a conservator in an attempt
to unstick the undecipherable pages in the exercise book. Oil
and turpentine were spilled on the book as it lay neglected. We
are hopeful of being able to read more.