National library acquires Patrick White's personal papers
3 November 2006
The National Library of Australia has acquired one of its greatest treasures - the papers of Patrick White (1912 - 1990), Australia's only Nobel laureate for literature.
It has long been believed that White destroyed all his manuscripts and personal papers. This enormously rich collection, acquired via Barbara Mobbs, White's literary agent and executor of 30 years, dismisses the theory.
The collection consists of 33 archive boxes containing original manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and memorabilia. It is a personal archive ranging from notebooks from the 1930s to recipes reflecting an interest in international cuisine, through to annotated speeches about favourite causes and his often-worn beret. You can read more about the collection in the Library's guide to the papers of Patrick White (ms 9982).
Most importantly it contains the research for and beginnings of all White's novels, including the historical works Voss and Fringe of Leaves; every draft of Flaws in the Glass; two unpublished novels - 'The Binoculars and Helen Nell' and 'The Hanging Gardens'; an unpublished novella - 'Dolly Formosa and the Happy Few'; complete versions of several late plays and drafts of previously unknown plays; correspondence kept by White, including a letter from Salman Rushdie and handpainted postcards from Sir Sidney Nolan; and nearly 200 condolences sent to Manoly Lascaris, White's partner of 49 years.
Director-General Jan Fullerton AO said that the addition greatly enhances the Library's already pre-eminent collection of White material.
"The National Library already has the richest holdings of White's letters and a comprehensive collection of his published works in Australian and foreign language editions. The breadth of this new collection illuminates the things that White treasured for 60 years and is a window into his personal and literary life that has until now been inaccessible. For literary scholars all over the world the news of this collection is of immeasurable importance.
"Patrick White himself fuelled comments that he destroyed all his manuscripts, viewed as a great loss to scholarship. This acquisition completely changes our understanding of how White lived and worked, making the new collection all the more special and valuable to the nation," she said.
The acquisition comes sixteen years after White's death in 1990 and three years after Manoly Lascaris' death. Selected items from the new collection will be on display in the Library's Visitor Centre from Saturday 4 November.