Article excerpt

In early July 1 flew to Perth to a Conference of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) called 'Spectres, Screens, Shadows and Mirrors'. I presented a paper on 'Fisher's Ghost' and John Lang. There were 115 papers presented over three days. It was a stimulating time and I enjoyed myself. It took me, at least partly, out of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Not yet into the twenty first. There is a report of the Conference in the pages of this edition of Margin giving some details about papers on nineteenth century Australian writers and their books.

Many ideas have arisen in my mind about questions related to John Lang and the early writers not least in relation to pseudonymous works. One of the fascinating aspects of the nineteenth century is trying to uncover the authorship of stories and novels. This is a problem when constructing a bibliography of the earliest of our writers. There were various reasons for publishing a book or story without revealing the names of authors. One most commonly put forward was that a 'gentleman' could not write for money. He or she had to pose as an amateur. Dickens's Household Words was only one of the popular nineteenth century magazines which published in their pages many unattributed stories, articles and serials. The exception was Dickens himself. It seems to me a little unfair to hog the limelight in this way. John Lang sometimes did likewise in his newspaper The Mofussilite. …