MS 4955

Papers of Rosemary Dobson

Please note: This guide was revised in 2007. The updated version is available from the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Scope and Content Note



2.10 m. (15 boxes)

Permission required for research during the lifetime of Rosemary Dobson.

The papers were donated under the Taxation Incentive for the Arts Scheme to the Library by Rosemary Dobson in several consignments between July 1986 and August 1999.

The papers include a considerable amount of correspondence about literary, business and personal matters, drafts of poems, drafts of reviews, index cards, press cuttings, sketches, material about writers’ festivals, details of seminars and information about poetry competitions.

The major correspondents are Margaret Horder, Christina Stead, Francis Webb, Nan McDonald, Geoffrey Bingham, Claire O’Brien, Elizabeth Marsh, Denise Levertov, Alan Tregaskis, Lady Casey, Patrick White and David Marr. There is also a large amount of other correspondence from many notable Australian authors and poets.

Biographical Note

Author and poet, Rosemary de Brissac Dobson, was born in Sydney 18 June 1920. She married Alec Bolton in 1951. They had three children. As well as her writing career, Dobson has worked as an editor and reader for Angus and Robertson Publishers in the 1940s, and as an art and art history teacher. Her interest in art, antiquity and mythology and her personal experiences of motherhood are reflected in her work.

Dobson’s publications include In a convex mirror (1944), The ship of ice (1948), Child with a cockatoo (18955), Australian poets : Rosemary Dobson (1963), Cock crow (1965), Focus on Ray Crooke (1971), Selected poems (1973), World of difference : Australian poetry and painting in the 1940s (1973), Three poems on water springs (1973), Moscow trefoil (1975), translated with David Campbell, Greek coins (1977), Over the frontier (1978), Seven Russian poets (1979), with David Campbell, Continuance of poetry (1981), The three fates (!984), Summer press (1987) a novel for young adults, Collected poems : Rosemary Dobson (1991) and Untold lives (1992). Dobson has contributed to many Australian publications including Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Australian, Meanjin, Quadrant, Bulletin, Southerly, Luna, Westerly, Island mag, Overland, LiNQ, Poetry Aust, Hemisphere, Australian letters, Poetry review and others. Her overseas contributions include Antaeus, Texas quarterly, Voices (USA) and Poetry review. She has also written articles, essays and radio scripts on various writers and artists including Denise Levertov (1985), Natalya Gorbanyevskaya (1988) and Vasko Popa (1988). A selection of her poems, L’Enfant en Cacatoès, was translated into French in Autour du Monde (1967).

Dobson has received the following recognition and awards for her work: Sydney Morning Herald award for poetry, 1948 (The ship of ice); FAW Christopher Brennan Award, 1978; Robert Frost Prize, 1979; Senior Fellowship, Literature Board of the Australia Council, 1980; Patrick White Award, 1984; Grace Leven Poetry Prize, 1984 (The three fates); Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, 1985 (The three fates); Emeritus Fellowship, Literature Board of the Australia Council, 1996.

Dobson was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia in 1987 for her outstanding contribution to Australian literature. She is a member of the Australian Society of Authors and was made an honorary life member of Association for the Study of Australian Literature in 1985.

Box List

Box 1

Folder 1 Poems, press cuttings, sketches, The ship of ice and Riverside
Folder 2 Index cards and four early poetry books
Folder 3 Correspondence about Focus on Ray Crooke, 1967-71
Folder 4 Correspondence, 1965-79
Folder 5 World Festival of Poetry article
Folder 6 Letter from Margaret Horder to Dobson, 1955

Box 2

Folder 7 Correspondence with Francis Webb, 1946-67
Folder 8 Correspondence with Francis Webb, 1972-73
Folder 9 Correspondence between Francis Webb and Nan McDonald, 1961-73
Folder 10 Correspondence about Francis Webb, 1962-83
Folder 11 Correspondence with Norman Lindsay, Judith Wright, Douglas Stewart, Philip Lindsay, Isobel Lindsay and other correspondents, 1947-71

Box 2a

Folder 12 Correspondence with Geoffrey Bingham including poem ‘Camp’, 1945-46
Folder 13 Correspondence with Robert D. FitzGerald, Bruce Dawe, Ray Mathew and other correspondents, 1951-73
Folder 14 Correspondence with Nancy Cato, Geoffrey Dutton, Sylvia Lawson, Alexander Craig, John Blight, Laurence Collinson, Douglas Stewart, Ethel Anderson, Robert Lindsay, Judith Wright and other correspondents, 1941-75
Folder 15 Correspondence with James McAuley, Hal Porter, Harold Stewart, Margaret Sutherland, Gladys Scott, Roland Robinson, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Tom Shapcott, Douglas Stewart, Judith Wright McKinney, Russell Drysdale, Sheila Wiley, Henrietta Drake-Brockman, Valentine Ackland, Dulcie Pearse, Russell N. Hill, Lloyd Ross and other correspondents, 1948-75
Folder 16 Correspondence with James McAuley, John Rowland, Majorie Pizer Holburn, Tom Shapcott, Sylvia Townsend-Warner, Alexander Craig, David Campbell, Ray Matthew, Bruce Dawe, R.D. FitzGerald, and other correspondents, 1948-75

Box 3

Folders 17-23 Letters of Nan McDonald to Dobson, 1940s to 1974, including poems

Box 4

Folders 24-30 Letters of Dobson to Nan McDonald, 1960s and 1970s, including poems

Box 5

Folders 31-35 Drafts of poems ‘F.V.S.P.’
Folders 36-40 Drafts of Russian poem translations

Box 6 (Added 17 April 1990 and 11 February 1991)

Folder 41 Letters from Margaret Horder, 1965 (Added April 1990)
Folders 42-43 Correspondence with Christina Stead, 1980-83.
Folder 44 Correspondence on anthologies, 1961-67. A small group of business letters concerning the publications of poems in anthologies. The correspondents include Douglas Stewart, Ian Mudie, Max Harris, James McAuley and Geoffrey Dutton.

Box 6 cont.

Folders 45-48 General correspondence, 1973-86. A large group of business and literary letters mostly relating to Dobson's contribution to magazines, reproduction of poems in anthologies and elsewhere, ABC programs, talks to schools and publishing projects. There are also a number of circulars and leaflets. The correspondents include Beatrice Davis, C.B. Christesen, Thea Astley, Paul Carter, Kevin Hart, Gwen Harwood, Nancy Keesing, Judith Wright, Gerald Murnane, Philip Roberts, Vivian Smith, Graham Kinross Smith, Dal Stivens, Ron Petty, Alan Ashbolt, David Brooks, Debra Adelaide, Ron Simpson, Barrett Reid, Jill Hellyer, William Hart Smith, Lou Klepac, Dimitris Tsuloumas, Philip Martin, Clare O'Brien and Barbara Blackman.

Box 7 (Added 11 February 1991)

Folders 49-52 General correspondence, 1973-86
Folders 53-54 Correspondence and general papers on the Sisters Publishing Ltd., 1979-84. The correspondents include Clare O'Brien, Hilary McPhee and Diana Gribble.
Folder 55 Correspondence concerning Sisters poets 1, which was published by the Sisters Publishing 1979. The correspondents are Susan Hampton, Joyce Lee, Anne O'Donovan and Anne Lloyd.
Folder 56 Correspondence concerning the David Campbell Seminar at ADFA, held in September 1985, with Harry Heseltine and Barry Andrews.
Folder 57 Correspondence concerning the Martin Bequest Travelling Scholarship, 1981-90.
Box 8 (Added 26 February 1991)
Folders 58-62 General correspondence, 1973-89. The correspondents include: Robert Adamson, Cheryl Adamson, Harry Aspland, Ross Blackwood, Judith Brett, R. Brissenden, David Brooks, C.B. Christesen, Richard Connolly, Tim Curnow, Geoffrey Dutton, Chris Edwards, June Epstein, Michele Field, Clare Fleming, Helen Frizell, Peter Gebhardt, Barbara Giles, Christine Green, Michael Griffith, Suzanne Hayes, Leoni Hensch, Joy Hooten, Konrad Hopkins, Nancy Keesing, Frank Kellaway, Brian Kennedy, Lou Klepac, Elaine Lindsay, Phillip Mathews, T.B.Millar, Les Murray, Jeremy Nelson, Claire O'Brien, Carole Olsen, Barbara Petrie, B. Porter, Lucy Rees, Annette Renshaw, Stuart Sayers, Vivian Smith, Graeme Kinross-Smith, David S. Thomson, Dane Thwaites, Michael Thwaites, G. Ursing, Vicki Viidikas, Susan Wild and Richard Walsh.
Folder 63 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1965-72
Folder 64 Correspondence with Clare O'Brien of Sisters PublishingLtd., 1981-83
Box 9 (Added 26 February 1991)
Folder 65 Correspondence with Elizabeth Marsh, 1979
Folder 66 Correspondence with the University of Tasmania, 1979
Folder 67 Salamanca Writers' Festival, 1988
Folder 68 Correspondence with Denise Levertov, relating to the ‘Poet's Tongue’, 1981-82
Folder 69 Correspondence with Alan Tregaskis, 1978-80
Folder 70 Anthology correspondence, 1977-80
Folder 71 Correspondence with the Australian Literature Board, 1972-81
Folder 72 Drafts of poems, including The fisherman and the moon
Folder 73 Struga Poetry Festival, 1972

Box 10 (Added 26 February 1991)

Folder 74 Drafts for Continuance of poetry
Folder 75 Early poems, 1953-65
Folder 76 Seminar at the Humanities Research Centre, ANU, 1977
Folder 77 Seminar at the Capricornia Institute of Advance Education, 1979
Folder 78 Drafts of reviews, 1984-88
Folder 79 Drafts of the Greek coins
Folder 80 Papers on the National Poetry Competition, the Literature Board Assessment Panel, the National Books Council's Award and the Bicentennial Poetry Awards, 1979-86
Folder 81 Translations of Dobson's poetry into French by Margaret Diesendorf and Louis Dautheuil
Folder 82 Miscellaneous papers

Box 11 (Added 12 February 1993)

Folder 83 Lady Casey's letters and writings sent to Rosemary Dobson and Alec Bolton, 1966-68
Folder 84 Lady Casey's letters, lecture notes and other miscellaneous writings sent to Rosemary Dobson, 1969-76
Folder 85 Letters of Lady Casey to Ruth Dobson (1967-72) and Majorie Dobson (1967 and 1976)
Folder 86 Letters of Patrick White to Rosemary Dobson (1974-82) and correspondence between Dobson and David Marr pertaining to White's letters (1991-92)
Folder 87 Letters of Francis Webb to Rosemary Dobson, 1973
Folder 88 Drafts of poem ‘Folding the sheets’
Folder 89 Typescript of poem ‘The harrowing of Balmain - a mock-heroick poem in four books in the style of Mr Hope’ signed by Alan Gould and Kevin Hart

Box 12 (Added 17 August 1999)

Folder 90 Correspondence (1973-77) on Russian Translation Project. Notes on Osip Mandelstam
Folder 91 Poetry typescripts
Folder 92 Poetry after Osip Mandelstam
Folder 93 Annotated typescripts of poetry after Osip Mandelstam translated by Olga Hassanoff
Folder 94 Typescript draft of foreword by A.D. Hope to Moscow trefoil. Translations by Natalie Staples
Folder 95 Poetry transcripts with handwritten annotations
Item 96 Literal translations by Natalie Staples

Box 13

Folder 97 Seven Russian poets
Folder 98 Poems from the Russian of Osip Mandelstam
Folder 99 Versions of poems from the Russian of Osip Mandelstam
Folder 100 Poetry of Natalya Gorbanevskaya
Folder 101 Correspondence (1981) about Jill Scurfield’s article ‘Some recent translations of Mandel’stam’ (1981). Copy of Dobson’s article ‘A poet’s response’ (1981).
Folder 102 Correspondence (1972, 1974). Mandelstam material


Box 14

Folder 103 Seven Russian poets: imitations by R. Dobson and David Campbell
Folder 104 Draft of Seven Russian poets
Folder 105 Literal translations by Olga Hassanoff and Robert Dessaix
Folder 106 Correspondence (1978-80) with University of Queensland Press. Reviews of Seven Russian poets
Folder 107 Assorted Mandelstam versions by Dobson and David Campbell
Folder 108 Poems from the Russian
Folder 109 Correspondence with Australian literary studies (1982-83). Annotated typescripts of poetry
Folder 110 Moscow trefoil: poems from the Russian of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam / David Campbell, Rosemary Dobson, translator: Natalie Staples, foreword by A.D. Hope (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1975)
November 1999
Access conditions updated May 2008