Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

More 'Ignorance-Shifting': Supplementary Annotations to the Second Annotated Edition of Joseph Furphy's Such Is Life

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

More 'Ignorance-Shifting': Supplementary Annotations to the Second Annotated Edition of Joseph Furphy's Such Is Life

Article excerpt


Joseph Furphy's Such is Life can never have-will never have, one fears-too many readers, but it is no disparagement to say that those readers will need help and will probably be increasingly grateful, as time goes by, for more help rather than less. Far from being a criticism, it is a tribute to the novel that it continues to spring surprises on us, continues to afford the opportunity for new discoveries after 111 years in print and decades under the scholarly microscope. The following notes (keyed to the 1903 page and line references) are one reader's gleaning of the field after the professional back (and side) deliveries have gone over it for the first and second harvests. Only someone who has attempted to supplement the work of the professional annotators in this way can appreciate the magnitude of their achievement. I would add finally that my sixth reading of the novel for these present purposes has only increased my admiration of it and that I feel in need of a seventh.

3:15 as poets feign

Richard Barnfield, The Passionate Pilgrim, VIII, 13: 'One god is god of both, as poets feign.' Often attributed to Shakespeare and included in editions of his works without reference to Barnfield.

4:8-9 as the wives of Napoleon's generals could never learn to walk on a carpet

Louis de Bourrienne. Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte. London: Richard Bentley, 1836:

The wives of certain generals had several times committed themselves by their awkwardness. In many circles there was an affectation of treating with contempt what are called the parvenus; those people who, to use M. de Talleyrand's expression, did not know how to walk upon a carpet. (vol ii 125)

Note that the Napoleon anecdote at 114:3 below does not appear in this source, which suggests that Furphy had both anecdotes from an intermediary one.

5:18 'Roll up, Port Phillipers! The Sydney man's goin' to strike a match!'

In the Healesville Guardian, 20 September 1895, one of three small self-contained items obviously printed to fill up space-jokes of a sort-reads as follows:

Writes a correspondent:-The neighbouring cockies-mostly with the saving blood of North Britain in their veins-were noted for their 'closeness.' At the shearing-time they would turn an honest penny by shearing, and one day, at 'smoko,' where three or four were assembled among the general shearers, one of the latter was about to 'light up' when a mate sang out: 'Roll up, South and cockatoos! Here's a shearer going to strike a match!' (2)

The joke is on people so tight-fisted that to them the striking of a single match is an opportunity to save money by clustering around it to light their cigarettes.

A second example comes from an item headed 'With Our First Contingent' in the West Australian (Perth), 7 February 1900: '"Roll up here, chaps, Here's a feller going to strike a match," marks the fact that the match famine has broken out again with renewed violence-as it frequently does' (7).

It seems, then, that Mosey is quoting a well-known joke, even to some extent a catchphrase, in order to cast scorn on what is about to be said.

14:9 keeps curs like Martin to do his dirty work

An example of the dirty work occurs below; see note on 242:33-34.

20:35-36 that impulse which bids us ease the loaded breast, even when discovery's pain

Sir Walter Scott. Marmion. Canto IV, XVIII, 16-18:

But, by that strong emotion press'd;

Which prompts us to unload our breast,

Even when discovery's pain . . .

25:10 gurl

Possibly a phonetic spelling of 'girl.'

25:43 a half-suppressed sigh

Thompson is possibly reacting here to his own use of the word 'bone' at 25:41 with its associations of mortality and his 'curse.'

27:21 as bold as brass

A fairly obvious joke, of course; although Mosey has been at a loss to name its material, the statue is cast in bronze.

28:4 keep off of weltin' a dyin' man

Nineteenth-century public opinion charged Burke with having hastened the death of one of his party, Charlie Grey, by assaulting him as punishment for stealing flour: Tim Bonyhady, Burke & Wills: From Melbourne to Myth. …

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