ON Saturday May 25,
2013, a new literary society was born in the Rose Garden Pavilion
in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.
The newly-formed Robert
Louis Stevenson Society of Australia & Oceania will join the
Literary Societies of Sydney/ (LitSocSyd) which include the DH
Lawrence Society of Australia, The NSW Dickens Society Sydney,
The Dylan Thomas Society, Jane Austen Society Sydney, Australian
Bronte Association, The Kipling Society of Australia, and The
Sydney Passengers (Sherlock Holmes Society) *
The birth of the RLS
Society took place on the 21st anniversary celebrations of the
DH Lawrence Society of Australia, which was itself formed in the
Rose Garden Pavilion in 1992. The DHL Society was also celebrating,
with a picnic buffet lunch in the Pavilion, the 91st anniversary
of Lawrence's arrival in Australia.
It is no coincidence
that the two societies should be linked. Lawrence was a great
admirer of Stevenson, and they shared a number of things.
Both visited Australia.
Both were enamored of the South Seas. Both wrote novels (Kangaroo
and The Wrecker) with scenes in the Domain/Botanic Gardens.
Kangaroo is set mainly in the coast south of Sydney, while
one of thge characters in The Wrecker goes down to work
on a railway on the coast sotuh of Sydney.
Lawrence named his
main protagonist Richard Lovatt Somers, whose initials, RLS, mirror
those of Stevenson's.
met Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, and Stevenson's widow,
Fanny, in Capri in 1921. (Lloyd co-wroteThe Wrecker.) But
the connections between Lawrence and Stevenson don't stop here.
Stevenson visited Sydney several times,
Jan Andrews, Rob Darroch
and Lindsay Foyle relax during lunch
John and young Jasper Robens chat
with Greg Baran
Michael Lester, an enthusiastic
member of the
RL Stevenson Society
and on each visit he
stayed at the prestigious Union Club. His special chair is still
in the Club's library (where the RLS convention members will foregather
in July, at the invitation of the Club).
members of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia - including Robert
Darroch, Sandra Darroch, Robert Whitelaw, and Paul Delprat - are
current members of the Union Club, now called the Union, University
& Schools Club.
Paul Delprat's great-grandfather, the artist Julian Ashton, invited
Stevenson to visit the artists' camp he and other celebrated artists
(such as Arthur Streeton) had set up at Balmoral Beach, thus establishing
a tradition of painting en plein air in Australia.
then invited Ashton to lunch at the Club.
there is another link between the Rose Garden Pavilion and DH
of the secret army Lawrence describes in Kangaroo - Benjamin
Cooley ("Kangaroo") - was based on a real person, Major
General Sir Charles Rosenthal, an architect in peacetime. In Rosenthal's
army division during the War was a fellow architect, Hugh Venables
Vernon, who was also deeply involved in secret army activity after
the War. (The Vernon Papers in the Mitchell Library lists the
members of the Old Guard who lived on Sydney's North Shore.)
architect who designed the Rose Garden Pavilion, Walter Liberty
Vernon, was Hugh Venables father.
was a small world then (and still is, to some extent, today).
John Robens with his young son, Jasper
The cake, wrongly
inscribed RSL instead of RLS
(even today, the "Diggers"
have an influence)
friendly ibis joined the party
DHL Society President, Rob Darroch, emphasising that we were
celebrating two socieities today
Robert Whitelaw shows where Stevenson lived in Samoa
Greg Baran came to the picnic
Peter Jones and his friend
Dean Laurance, all the way from Minnesota
During the buffet picnic, the DH Lawrence Society held
a brief AGM.
Robert Darroch, who had been acting President of the
Society after the sad death of President John Lacey, was
elected the new President.
Sandra Darroch was re-elected as Secretary and web mistress,
and Clif Barker was re-elected, in absentia, as Treasurer.