Loving Words

Deborah Jordan

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'When Vance met Nettie, his future seemed open; hers wascircumscribed by anxious parents and by the influence of her famous uncle,Henry Bournes Higgins, judge, politician, public intellectual, and member ofthe university senate. Vance's early letters were written from a Queenslandcattle 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 early1909 were inward-looking, self-searching. They were not yet love letters.

The pace quickened when, without consultation, Nettie was toldthat she was going to England early in 1910: 'every- thing is arranged fromchaperone (alas) [and] oh yes they say I may go to Ireland'. The trip waspartly financed by Nettie's uncle Henry, a towering figure in her life. Nettielonged for the freedom of anonymity, but knew that the watchful John andCatherine Higgins would exercise remote control. To her astonishment, Vancefollowed Nettie to England. The signature 'Vance P' became 'Your mate', andNettie wrote: 'Kiss me, Vance, and make me brave and steady and worthwhile.'Chaperone and propriety forgotten, they became happy lovers...Deborah Jordan's contribution to Palmer scholarship is especially welcome in taking us back to the uncertain beginnings of a remarkable partnership.' -- Brenda Niall, Australian Book Review

'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 partnerships 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

ISBN: 9780994429667
Publication Date: 01-Jul-2018
Publisher: Brandl & Schlesinger