Dickens Lovers in Queensland
By Joan Bruce, Queensland Literature Coordinator, State Library of Queensland | 28 February 2012
The Brisbane Branch of the Dickens Fellowship was founded in 1921, at a time when Dickens was arguably the best loved author in Australia. It’s hard to over-estimate his influence and his popularity, which seemed to stretch across the political spectrum and to include all levels of society. The Governor of Queensland, Sir Matthew Nathan, and other local luminaries such as Professor Cumbrae Stewart can be seen in this group photograph of the Dickens Fellowship Committee in 1923, while in 1939 the socialist newspaper The Worker had this to say on the anniversary of his death.
“Charles Dickens, the genius with the great heart and the magic pen, died on June 9, 1870 – just 69 years ago. All over the English-speaking world his death was mourned as the passing of a dear and universal friend, in the scattered communities of the outback no less than in crowded cities”.
Dickens Fellowship group portrait, Brisbane, ca. 1923
Sitting front centre is the Governor of Queensland Sir Matthew Nathan. Front left is Professor Frances W. S. Cumbrae-Stewart.
Also reproduced in the Brisbane Courier, Wednesday 14 November 1923, p.3
State Library of Queensland holds the records of the Brisbane branch of the Dickens Fellowship from 1921 to 1981. They include minute books, a roll book and also copies of their syllabus, which list a monthly programme of talks and dramatic evenings, parties to celebrate Dickens’ birthday and even Christmas parties where the members came dressed as Dickens’ characters. Material about the Dickens Fellowship can also be found in the Constance Gittins Papers 1890-1950 and the Cumbrae Stewart Family Papers 1906-1983.
“The Late Charles Dickens” obituary published in The Brisbane Courier, 19 August 1870.
Dickens Journals Online complete online editions of Dickens’ journals Household Words and All the Year Round.
Joan Bruce - Queensland Literature Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
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