A note about Humphrey McQueen’s Tom Roberts

The great Australian artist Tom Roberts volunteered to serve in a London military hospital during the Great War. He ended up serving as an unofficial batman to Katharine Susannah Prichard’s future husband, Hugo Throssell, who was being treated for war wounds. I picked up Humphrey McQueen’s comprehensive 1996 biography of Roberts and found a lively account of their friendship. Another biography I wish I had the time to read. Each chapter has the name of a literary work from “Such is Life” to “The Good Soldier”. I love this acknowledgement at the back:

Paul Kelly for offering me a column in the Weekend Australian. The $585 I earned each week for two days work during the almost three years was the equivalent of a literary fellowship, without which this book would still not be completed. Rupert Murdoch let us get away with it until the week before the first draft went to the publishers.

One must always look for creative ways to fund the writing of a book.

Another note: McQueen’s great account of Roberts and Throssell is quoted or paraphrased at length in John Hamilton’s biography of Throssell Price of Valour without referencing. Mcqueen’s book does appear in the bibliography, but I don’t think that’s enough. Even “popular” biographies owe it to other writers and to the readers to acknowledge their sources fully.

About Nathan Hobby

Biographer of the great Australian writer, Katharine Susannah Prichard. Honorary research fellow at University of Western Australia; academic librarian. Writing creative non-fiction and reflections on books, biography, literature, and history. View all posts by Nathan Hobby

4 responses to “A note about Humphrey McQueen’s Tom Roberts

  • wadholloway

    Agreed about acknowledgement – one might say using without acknowledging is plagiarism. The other side McQueen’s ‘fellowship’ is that it is clear authors must often be prepared to subsist on part-time wages while they are writing.


  • Sue Walker

    Fascinating information….the connections between creative people.
    Just read Hal Porter’s The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony and he mentions meeting KSP in 1928 – page 218 of the Faber paperback edition. She pours him a glass of claret.


    • Nathan Hobby

      How interesting! Somewhere he says something rude about her BO! I am surprised how little outrage has been expressed over Porter’s paedophilia. Still, Watcher is such a landmark of autobiography I am interested in reading.


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