Published: 2018
No of Pages: 500
RRP: 39.95
Dimensions: 153x234 mm
ISBN Print: 978-0-9944296-6-7
ISBN E-Pub: 978-0-9944296-8-1
ISBN PDF: 978-0-9944296-7-4

Loving Words

“These letters provide a remarkable, bird’s eye view of the friendship, courtship and love of two ‘colonial intellectuals’ played out in Melbourne, London and Brisbane. Their deep interest in knowledge, ideas and culture shapes their growing commitment to each other – their letters bring a relationship to life and capture a time. The tentative and increasingly passionate youthful correspondence sets the scene and tone for a life-time of collaboration and activism. Reading these moving and tender letters is a timely reminder of the enduring nature of love, the value of partnership, and the importance of engaging with the world.” Professor Julianne Schultz – Editor of Griffith Review.

“The great originality of Deborah Jordan’s collection of Vance and Nettie Palmer’s love letters is that it shows us not just the private life—the desire, the love, the searching for self—behind the public life of two of Australia’s most significant literary figures but the private in the public life and the public in the private life, revealing how their private and public selves were intimately entangled.” David Carter, Professor of Australian Literature and Cultural History, University of Queensland

“The Palmers were prolific letter writers and their observations on the people around them, their social and cultural circumstances and the natural world make for rich reading. We are privy to the emotional, intellectual, political and spiritual development of one of the most significant partner – ships in Australian literary history, that of Janet (Nettie) Higgins and Vance Palmer.” Elaine Lindsay, author of Rewriting God: Spirituality in Contemporary Australian Women’s Fiction.

Reviews & Interviews

Click here for the ABC Radio National Program – Dear Mate – an anthology, and commentary on, the courtship correspondence of Vance and Nettie Palmer

Click here – Review in the Sydney Morning Herald – Saturday 4 August 2018

Click here – Review by Barry Oakley in The Australian 4-5 August 2018

Extract from Brenda Niall’s review in the Australian Book Review:

“When Vance met Nettie, his future seemed open; hers was circumscribed by anxious parents and by the influence of her famous uncle, Henry Bournes Higgins, judge, politician, public intellectual, and member of the university senate. Vance’s early letters were written from a Queensland cattle station where he worked as a tutor. Hers came from suburban Melbourne. Nettie’s privileged education contrasts with Vance’s un-sheltered experience, but they were alike in their commitment to books and ideas. Their letters of early 1909 were inward-looking, self-searching. They were not yet love letters.

The pace quickened when, without consultation, Nettie was told that she was going to England early in 1910: ‘every- thing is arranged from chaperone (alas) [and] oh yes they say I may go to Ireland’. The trip was partly financed by Nettie’s uncle Henry, a towering figure in her life. Nettie longed for the freedom of anonymity, but knew that the watchful John and Catherine Higgins would exercise remote control. To her astonishment, Vance followed Nettie to England. The signature ‘Vance P’ became ‘Your mate’, and Nettie wrote: ‘Kiss me, Vance, and make me brave and steady and worthwhile.’ Chaperone and propriety forgotten, they became happy lovers… ” Click here for full review (full review available to subscribers only)

This is my favorite book of the year” – Granny’s Good Reads, Gleebooks Gleaner – Vol 25 no 9, October 2018 – click here for full review.

Extract from letter to Deborah Jordan from Martin Sullivan, historian, formerly of Faculty of Education, Monash University

“I finished Nettie Palmer (Vivian Smith) and Loving Words a few days ago. It has been such an enjoyable binge. During it all I googled Vance Palmer and found your ADB entry for 1988 so you have been there a long time. Nettie and Vance have been so fortunate in having you. At various times I found Loving Words unputdownable, much of that coming from your scholarly contributions. I know I have already said that, but it bears emphasising.  ‘Drenched’ is a word I learnt when I sat at the knees of Gwyn A. Williams in Cardiff, 1979-80, and I love to use it, though I try to do it sparingly. From cover to cover, Loving Words is drenched with your scholarship. [Only historians actually understand what is involved]. Your essays—‘Across the oceans’, ‘Separations’ etc are necessary for the flow of the narrative and they do it well: more than that, they should, down the decades, provoke more work from historians. (I’ve been threatening for years that, in a second life, I will write a biography of Ernest Wetherell). And Broken Hill, 1908-9, always stirs me… Nettie  comes out of it well: better than that. She, at least in these years, was more profound than Vance. Yet again, a wife made to sit in the shadow of a husband, perhaps of lesser capacity.Thankfully, Vance does not seem to have been a  bastard as Bulwer Lytton was, for example. The Palmers’ learning/scholarship is dismaying, even in the context of parliamentarians quoting the great classical writers without notes and school teachers having had to read everything form Dostoevsky to Dickens to pass an annual pupil teacher examination. Raymond Evans’ history of Queensland is, as Lyndall Ryan has argued,  one of the great histories of my life time, but Loving Words stands beside it. I am often effusive, but not about histories. For anyone with a shred of perspicacity, Loving Words will sit in the pantheon, a monument to what others down the decades must do if they are to produce (hateful word) similar works. [The only irritant, their (and especially Vance’s) use of ‘mate’. I’m guilty but I will never use it again]… Thank you for enriching my life.


About the Author

Deborah Jordan

Dr Deborah Jordan, born in Melbourne, is a historian, skipper and scholar,has published widely in Australian cultural history and women’s history. Her biography Nettie Palmer: Search for an Aesthetic was published in 1999. She is attached to the School of History at Monash University and has held research fellowships at the National Library of Australia, and the University of Queensland. She is the author of Climate Change Narratives in Australian Fiction; World of Work; East Coast Shipwrecks; and co-edited Hibicus and Ti-Tree, with Carole Ferrier; and There’s A Woman in the House with Sarah Paddle. Deborah Jordan lives between Northern NSW and in Moreton Bay, outside Brisbane with her partner, their rescue greyhound, Cam and seven ducks.

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