My Congenials: Miles Franklin and friends in letters
HarperCollins, $35 pb, 832 pp
My Brilliant Career, the book Miles Franklin published in 1901 when she was twenty-one, cast a shadow over her entire life. It sold well and made her famous for a time, but it did not lead to the publication of more works. The glittering literary career foretold by the critics did not eventuate, at least in Franklin’s opinion. ‘The thing that puzzles me,’ she wrote to Mary Fullerton on New Year’s Day, 1929, ‘is how are we to know whether we are a dud or not at the beginning; I mean how long should a poor creature smitten with the egotism that he can write, keep on in face of rebuffs’.
Not having further success in Australia, she tried America, from 1906 to 1915, without avail, and then Britain, where she did manage to publish a number of novels under the ‘Brent of Bin Bin’ pseudonym. However, these brought no lustre to the Franklin name, because she resolutely refused to admit authorship.