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Harris Family
Papers of Maxwell, Yvonne and Samela Harris

MSS 0213

Biographical Notes

Maxwell Henley Harris

Born in 1921, Max Harris, surrealist poet, editor and publisher, was raised in Mt Gambier.  He boarded at Adelaide’s prestigious St Peter’s College, where he established himself as a poet, contributing regularly to Sunday Mail’s Possum’s Pages for children.  He graduated B.A. from the University of Adelaide, achieving Honours in English, and by 1940, aged just 19, published his first book of poetry, The gift of blood.

In the 1940s he founded and edited the avant-garde literary magazine, The Angry Penguins.  With its title derived from a line in one of Max’s poems, inferring similarities between penguins and drunken, angry men in dinner suits, the magazine’s aim was to promote the international influences of surrealism and modernism into Australian writing and painting.  Though it produced no major Australian poet, its influence on artists such as John Perceval, Sidney Nolan and the brothers, Arthur and David Boyd was lasting.

With John Reed, Max also co-founded the firm ‘Reed and Harris’, a publisher of modern Australian poets and novelists.  He co-edited the literary journal, Australian Letters, in the 50s and 60s as well as the Australian Book Review in the 60s and 70s.  He was instrumental in establishing paperback imprints, Penguin and Sun Books, and even partnered with a University friend to form one of Australia’s most renowned book selling chains, the Mary Martin Bookshop.  He became a senior columnist for The Australian and also enjoyed television appearances, critiquing theatre and the arts.

Despite his enormous contribution to Australia’s modernist art and literary movement, Max is most remembered for the Ern Malley Affair.  In 1944 he fell victim to an extraordinary literary hoax, in which poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart set out to bring down The Angry Penguins by writing and submitting to it a collection of nonsensical poems, purportedly written by the fictitious poet ‘Ern Malley’.  Believing them to be genuine and fine examples of modernist writing, Max devoted an entire issue of The Angry Penguins to the poems, hailing Malley as a genius.  When the hoax was revealed, Max was left humiliated; he was put on trial, convicted and fined for publishing works considered immoral and obscene.  For Australian modernist poetry the hoax proved significant.  Within two years the magazine had folded and the modernist movement was set back decades.  It was not until the 1970s that the Malley poems were recognised as successful examples of surrealism poetry in their own right, inspiring award-winning writers such as Peter Carey and John Ashbery.

Samela Harris

Daughter of the late poet, Max Harris, and his wife, Yvonne Hutton, Samela Harris is a leading Adelaide journalist and critic.  She was raised in an artistic family, introduced to bookshops and the theatre at an early age, and wrote her first review at age seven.  At the University of Adelaide, she edited the student magazine, On Dit, gaining valuable experience for her Murdoch Scholarship.

Her journalism career has taken her to News Ltd, where she was apprenticed to a legendary critic, to AAP/Reuters in Fleet Street and The Evening News in Edinburgh, where she reviewed fringe shows for the underground press.  In Adelaide, she has edited and reviewed for Mary’s Own Paper, reviewed opera and theatre for The Australian and worked as Arts Editor and as a senior opinions columnist for The Advertiser.

Samela has two sons, who inspired her popular 2009 cookbook, On a shoestring: Recipes from the House of the Raising Sons.  She is also an internet writer, having contributed articles to the ‘AngryPenguin’ blog since 2003.

Collections Note

Much of the content of the Harris Family Collection is to/from/by Max Harris.  Unless otherwise stated, documents listed here relate to Max and not his wife, Yvonne (Von) Harris or their daughter, Samela Harris.

For additional items by or about Max, see Maxwell Henley Harris manuscripts collection, MSS 92 H315p

Contents Listing

Series 1: Biographical

Folder 1

  • Passport, issued 19 Jul 1983, front page/photograph missing
  • Order of Australia, and letter to Max from D. Smith, Official Secretary to the Governor-General, advising him of proposed award, 1989
  • Copy of Max’s will, codicil of the will outlining entitlements of literary trustees, copy of grant of probate, plus draft of Yvonne Harris’ will and associated correspondence, 1991-2001
  • Invitations to and copy of Max’s memorial celebration, 22 Jan 1995
  • School reports, St Peters College, 1935-38
  • Diocese of Adelaide Confirmation, St Peters Chapel, 9 Aug 1936
  • Teacher, housemaster and headmaster letters of recommendation, St Peters College-, 1935-38
  • “On the life of Max Harris”, eulogy delivered in the Bonython Hall by Peter Ward, 22 Jan 1995
  • Committal service booklet, undated but 1995
  • “Salute to Max Harris”, by Alister Kershaw, undated, 3pp.
  • Draft entry for Max in Who’s Who Australia by Barry Jones, 3 Aug 1990
  • Project outline and first and second drafts of a biography on Max by Betty Snowden, May 2007.  This likely formed part of her book “Max Harris: with reason, without rhyme” (2015).
  • Annotated paper on Max by Alan Brissenden, undated.  This would later become the “Introduction” to the book, The angry penguin: selected poems of Max Harris, 1996.
  • Talk “Unveiling of Max Harris plaque”, author unknown. 25 Oct 1995
  • Letter from St. Peter’s College granting Max honorary life membership, 2 Sep 1992
  • Letter from University of Adelaide advising Max of his selection as recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, 7 Sep 1993
  • Business cards of Max and Samela Harris
  • Variety of eulogies/tributes to Max, many of which are newspaper clippings.  Examples include: Geoffrey Dutton’s “The public and the private Max”; Peter Ward’s ”Max Harris – his life & letters”; Betty Snowden’s “Max Harris 1921-1995 a tribute”

Folder 2

Items related to Max Harris’ family members, including:

  • Yvonne Hutton’s Rose Park School report form, undated
  • Yvonne Hutton’s S.A. School of Arts and Crafts grade certificate, 1943(?)
  • Excerpt from an exercise book, annotated to the cover “Sammie Harris IIB”, undated
  • Exercise book, annotated to the cover “Story’s, S. Harris IIB, P.G.C.”, undated
  • Marbury School, Aldgate, reports for Samuel Harris, 1990, 1992-3
  • Marbury School, Aldgate, reports for Ryder Grindle, 1990, 1992

Folder 3

Eulogies and tributes to those other than Max, including:

  • Funeral service booklet, Victor Harris, 1985
  • Funeral service booklet, Emma Sacco, 1987
  • Funeral service card, Nikola Nikolic
  • Funeral service booklet, John Jefferson Bray, 1995
  • Max Harris’ typed eulogy for John Bray
  • Typed eulogy for Dave Dallwitz AO, 2003
  • Typed eulogy for Val(?), author unknown, undated

Series 2: Correspondence (Official)

Folder 1: Order of Australia
Official and congratulatory letters re Max’s award of the Order of Australia. Senders of note include: Kevin Marjoribanks, Vice Chancellor University of Adelaide; State and Federal Members of Parliament; members of local Government; the Governor of South Australia; John Olsen, Leader of the Opposition; Chairman of the Order of Australia Association

Folder 2: Norwood Farm
Paperwork related to the Harris’ property, “Norwood Farm”, a 15th century house, at Effingham, Surrey.  Includes costings and plans for conversion of cowsheds on the farm; specification of works to be done; invoices for furnishings; selling agent’s descriptive brochure; membership cards for The National Trust, etc., 1976-80.

Folder 3: Mary Martin Book Shop
General correspondence to and from Max in his capacity as Mary Martin Book Shop owner, 1973-1993.  Includes Mary Martin Booklist (catalogue), Aug 1984.

Folder 4: Mary MacKillop
Correspondence, including some news clippings, related to Mary MacKillop and the push to name her as Australia’s first saint, 1990-2001.  Also, a printed copy of chapter 8 “From 1985 to 1995 – The influence of Max Harris” from Sheila McCreanor’s 2001 book Sainthood in Australia: Mary MacKillop and the print media, and an original Mary MacKillop College 2007 Awards Assembly booklet. See also Series 18 (Folder 1) for newspaper clippings on Mary MacKillop.

Folder 5: Ern Malley
Correspondence related to the Ern Malley hoax and to Michael Heyward’s 1993 book, The Ern Malley Affair. Includes a couple of news articles on the prank, and on those behind the fictional poet (James McAuley and Harold Stewart), 1960-1995.

Folder 6: Gilberton, Norwood and Kensington Park Properties
Documentation related to the Harris’ property at 16 Edwin Tce, Gilberton, including: sales agency agreement, auction brochure and various insurance invoices/policies. Insurance invoices/policies for the Harris’ property at 112 Edward St, Norwood.  Correspondence and news article re Harris residence at Kensington Park, 1976-1995.

Folder 7: Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC)
Miscellaneous correspondence to/from ABC Radio National, including overview of Max’s Dec 1991 session with Caroline Jones in which he talks about his desire to see Mary MacKillop acknowledged as Australia’s first saint, among other topics, 1978—1991.

Folder 8: Donations and Loaned Items
Letters of acknowledgement pertaining to items donated by Harris to (primarily) the Art Gallery of South Australia, and correspondence related to the loan of items for exhibitions, 1991-2007.

Folder 9: The Angry Penguin: Selected Poems of Max Harris
Correspondence between the National Library of Australia (publishing section and marketing) and Von Harris and Alan Brissenden regarding the publication of Max Harris’ poems.  These poems would later form the basis of “The Angry Penguin: Selected Poems of Max Harris”, 1996.  A introduction to this book was written by Brissenden, a, annotated draft copy of which is held with the correspondence, 1995.

Folder 10: Various Publishers
Correspondence between Max (and his family) and a variety of publishers, mostly Penguin Books Australia, The Bulletin, Oxford University Press and Editions Tom Thompson (ETT Imprint).  Items of note include: an apology to Max Harris by Edmund Campion for defamatory remarks in a book review for The Bulletin; letters from Max to Trevor Kennedy (The Bulletin) and Les Hollings (The Australian) offering for publication his work “The statistical Australian”, a copy of which is attached, and numerous letters between Max and Robert Sessions (Penguin Books) re the former’s consultancy role on Barrie Hughes’ “Working words”, which was published in 1995 as “The Penguin Working Words: An Australian Guide to Modern English Usage”, 1979-2007.  See also folders 12 and 13.

Folder 11: Libraries, Galleries, Museums
General correspondence with the National Library of Australia, the Australian National Gallery and the Art Galleries of S.A. and W.A., among others.  Includes letters re the 1993 “Surrealism: revolution by night” exhibition (National Gallery) and various copyright/consent forms, etc., 1979-2004

Folders 12 & 13: Miscellaneous
Two folders of miscellaneous correspondence, mostly by Max to newspaper editors, ordered chronologically.  A small amount of undated correspondence filed at the end of folder 13. 1972-2000

Series 3: Correspondence (Personal)

3.1  Sympathy Cards
Cards of sympathy, expressing condolences on Max’s death.  Mostly brief and dated 1995.  7.5 cm

3.2  Letters of condolence
More detailed/lengthy letters of condolence on Max’s death.  Addressed to either Samela or Von and dated 1995. 3 cm

3.3  Birthday, Christmas and Miscellaneous Cards
Birthday, Christmas and miscellaneous cards (sorted as such), addressed mostly to Max or Von, various dates.  3 cm

3.4  Postcards
Postcards from around the world, mostly to Von, Max and occasionally Samela Harris, various dates.  3 cm.

3.5  Miscellaneous letters
Ordered chronologically within folders.

  • Folder 1 (1906-1969)
    Handwritten and typed letters, including aerogrammes.  Many to Von and some to Samela.
  • Folder 2 (1970-1979)
    Mostly handwritten letters, a few typed, including aerogrammes.  Many from Slyvia Hutton to Max and Von.
  • Folder 3 (1980-1989)
    Mostly handwritten letters and aerogrammes, some typed.  Many from Slyvia Hutton to Max.  1984 aerogramme from Valerie Howland.  Includes 4 photographs, all annotated to reverse but with only one indicating who is in the picture (Rebecca).
  • Folder 4 (1990-1994)
    Mostly handwritten letters from and to Max and Von.  Items of note include letter from Barrie Hughes to Max re the “Working words” manuscript; letter from Michael Herrman (Festival of Perth) inviting Max to appear in a documentary hosted by Greta Scacchi and televised by Channel 10 and SBS; letter from Valerie Howland, including 2 photos of the Kremlin and an unidentified male, and letter from Nin Dutton to which is attached a copy of William (Bill) Hutton’s obituary.
  • Folder 5 (1995-1997)
    Handwritten letters, mostly to Von.  Items of note include letter from Mme Pierre Bonnemaison to Von, with 7 annotated photos, and multiple letters from Peter Goers.
  • Folder 6 (1998-2000)
    Numerous letters, mostly to Von, from Douglas (??) and from Mme Pierre Bonnemaison, the latter with a wedding photograph of Pia and Johanns(??) in letter dated 2 Oct 2000.  Also, I USPS envelope containing 2 cards and 26 photographs, some briefly annotated, from Samela to her mother, 6 Jul 1999.
  • Folder 7 (2001)
    Primarily handwritten letters to Von, all from Douglas (??), with the exception of two from Mme Pierre Bonnemaison, one from Lyndall “Tommy” Hendrickson, one from Valerie Howland and one from PhD student Sheila McCreanor.  Final item of note is a letter to Van from author Colin Thiele, thanking her for sending him Max’s poetry.  Included with the letter is a copy of Theile’s poem “Pain”, published in The Australian in the mid-1970s.
  • Folder 8 (2002-2010)
    Letters, mostly handwritten and primarily to Von.  Items of note include:
    2002 letter from Betty Snowden to Von enclosing images of the Sidney Nolan “Heads”; postcard and 11 photographs, most briefly annotated, to Von from Mme Bonnemaison; letter and 14 hotographs, most briefly annotated, to Von from Mme Bonnemaison, 2005; letter and 1 photograph, annotated, to Von from Mme Bonnemaison, 2002: letter and newspaper cutting “Mad about the lad” about James McAuley from Lyndall Hendrickson to Von, 2007; letter from Lyndall “Tommie” Hendrickson to Von, including a photograph of Lyndall with her two grandchildren, 2010.
  • Folder 9 (undated)
    Various letters, mostly to Max and/or Von, which are undated.  Includes letter from Penny and Peter Luck, with 6 photographs (not annotated) but likely of Penny, Peter and their children Ann and Anthony.
  • Folder 10 (author/addressee unknown)
    Various letters missing their envelopes.  Also numerous envelopes missing letters.  The author or addressee of most items is unknown.

Series 4: Diaries and Telephone Book

Diaries, likely all belonging to Von, and a telephone book.  All inserts, such as notes, letters, newspaper clippings and brochures have been left in situ.  Diaries held for 1977, 1979, 1984, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2007.

Series 5: Publications

5.1  Books

Early pictorial publication, possibly Fair Adelaide. South Australia: with the compliments of proprietors of "Register", "Observer", and "Evening Journal". Illustrated by the Crisp-Photo Process, F. W. Niven & Co. Ballarat.  Adelaide, 189?  Several pages missing, including cover and title page.

Memorials of Thomas Ryder, Pastor of the Baptist Church, Stoney Street, Nottingham, compiled by Robert Dawson, B.A., Nottingham: Printed by J. Derry, 1875. Photocopy only.

Stump & grape & bopple-nut: prose inventions by Thomas Shapcott. Brisbane: Bullion Publications, 1981.

Noela Hjorth. South Australia: Granrott Press, 1984.

Celebrity cookbook. Vicki Pauli and Judith Rodriquez. Canberra: Young Achievement Australia, 1992. Samela Harris features on pp. 40-41 with recipes for Swedish stroganoff and two-minute noodle dinner party.

Vintage ’02: stories, poetry, prose. Ed. Margaret Muller. Penola Festival Committee, 2002.

Le journal de Jeannot Lapin, par G. Morissey. London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son, undated. Inscribed “S. Harris”. (A simple French reader intended for first or second year pupils.)

Recipes from Audubon’s happy land: West Feliciana. Woman’s Auxiliary, Grace Episcopal Church, St. Francisville, La. Undated.

The lonely verge.  Alister Kershaw. Collection of poems. Undated.

5.2  Journals/Magazines

Académie nationale de musique et de danse, 1926. Paris, France? n.d. but c1947

Vogue (Australia). Vol. 12, no. 1, March 1968. On pp.106-7 Max Harris features in an article “People are talking about the multi-talents of Adelaide”.  Also inserted her is a strip of four photo booth pictures of two men (not annotated).

Vogue (Australia). Vol. 15, no. 1, February 1971. On pp. 66-7 and 100, Max Harris shares how fame and fortune came to his Mary Martin bookshop in an article “Merry Mary Martin”.

Spectator (London). Vol. 239, no. 7774, 9 July 1977.

Scripsi. Vol. 5, no. 1, June 1988.

National Library of Australia news. Vol. 4, no. 11, August 1994.  On pp. 3-5 Max Harris shares his insights into Australian literary and artistic development in an article “John Percival and the double-backed beast.”

National Library of Australia news. Vol. 6, no. 6, March 1996. On pp. 3-6 Peter Ward provides insight into the business and literary career of Max in an article “Max Harris – his life & letters.” Inserted here is also a photocopy of an ink sketch of Max by Louis Kahan.

National Library of Australia news. Vol. 6, no. 7, April 1996.  On p. 23 there is a review of The angry penguin: selected poems of Max Harris (1996).

5.3  Newspapers and small miscellaneous papers, brochures, booklets

Poems written by ‘Billie’, by Naomi Sybil Hutton.  Includes 10 short, typed poems. Undated.

The Australian women’s weekly. Vol. 31, no. 16, 18 September 1963.  Includes Princess Margaret’s cookery book.

On Dit. Vol. 33, no. 11, 24 September 1965. On p. 8 there is a picture of the outgoing staff of On Dit, including Samela Harris (front row, left)

Australian book review. Max Harris & Rosemary Wighton (eds.), Vol. 9, no. 1, November 1969.  On pp. 1-4 Max authors the article “How to be a first-class person”.  Also inserted here are two loose news clippings, “The Ozzification of Richard Neville…” and “New Malaysia crisis over aliens without a future”, plus a handwritten note to Samela.

Media Wise. No. 3, February 1989. On p. 4 there is an article by Samela Harris “Newspaper columnist – a busy and glamorous job eh?” in which she discusses the challenges of her role as ‘Back Chat’ columnist for The Advertiser.

The Adelaide review. No. 119, October 1993. On pp. 3-5 there is an article by Peter Ward “Dear Ronnie and Rita Reader…” which describes October as the month of Max Harris, during which Adelaide University will give him a Distinguished Alumni Award and other organisations will celebrate his work.

Small booklet, Poems for passengers, TransAdelaide and Dept. for the Arts and Cultural Development, undated but c1996. It features Max’s poem “If whips cry slash”.

31 Waymouth. Issue 1, July 2004, small publication on the new Advertiser Newspapers building to be constructed on Waymouth Street. Includes an article “146 years of progress: six moves take ‘tiser from Hindley to Waymouth”.

The south east of South Australia…, tourist brochure produced by Tourism South East and the South Australian Tourism Commission.  Information within is written chiefly by Max Harris. Undated.

The under-water swimming club, Sweeney Reed, miniature booklet containing sketches and photographs of ‘Barrie, Sweeney, John and Denise’, undated.

Series 6: Invitations to Ceremonies, Openings, Exhibitions, Presentations… 

Various invitations, mostly to Max and/or Von, ordered chronologically.  Items of note include:

  • Invitation from the Governor and Lady Oliphant to dinner, August 1976
  • Invitation from the Governor and Lady Cowan to dinner at Government House, Canberra, October 1980
  • Invitation from artist, John Henry Olsen, to the opening of an exhibition of recent works, 1983
  • Invitation from the Governor-General and Mrs Hayden to an investiture at Government House, Canberra, August 1989
  • Invitation from the Governor to a reception at Government House in honour of the Queen’s birthday, June 1991
  • Paperwork re the conferral of Max’s Distinguished Alumni Award, October 1993
  • Invitation from the Mayor of Kensington to the opening ceremony of Mary Mackillop Park and the unveiling of her statue, August 1994
  • Invitation from the Kensington/Norwood council to the unveiling of the Max Harris Plaque, October 1995
  • Invitation from State Library S.A. to reception in the Mortlock Library to welcome Frances Awcock as its new director, 1991
  • Invitation from the Governor to a reception honouring the birthday of the Queen, June 1993

Series 7: Poems and Stories 

Photocopies (A3 size) of Max’s works: ‘Solomon returns’, ‘ ‘Money’, ‘Spanish lullaby’, ‘In a train’, plus other untitled and incomplete works, all handwritten, some pages missing , all undated.

Selection of Max’s typed works, mostly photocopies of poems, generally undated but c1936-45, including:

  • Midnight
  • On poetry
  • A soldier’s hymn
  • The gum
  • The city
  • General
  • Fortnight I saw an omen in the sky
  • Landscape
  • Revolutionary poem
  • Les morts
  • Necromantics
  • The philistine
  • Martin Buber au café
  • Name the town
  • The legend of the little death
  • Military incident
  • Love song of the son of Prufrock
  • Sad ones
  • Hold tight
  • Blessed Wednesday
  • Observations
  • Passing of the steps
  • To
  • South of the border
  • Winter deeds
  • The return
  • Sonnet
  • Skeltonic
  • The question
  • Retrospect
  • There are things a poet hates
  • Didactic poem for a law court
  • La Bacchanale triste
  • To Lawrence
  • The pelvic rose (To Salvador Dali). Includes Max’s(?) explanatory notes.
  • Wordsworth in Barossa
  • Words for an old mother
  • A true episode in the life of Mr William Blake at Hercules Road, Lambeth
  • The mind of God
  • God’s hurdy-gurdy
  • Thoughts on the deathly art
  • An epistrophe for bill
  • Epistles to the Saint Mary MacKillop
  • Mary MacKillop prayers for agnostics
  • Friend: Peter Goes, the avuncular one
  • Spouse: the I and the thou
  • The spouse: 1942-1992
  • The spouse: 1991
  • Spouse
  • Samela: a daughter
  • A daughter: Samela
  • A grandson: Sam
  • Grandson: Ryder
  • Conjugality
  • Paul: gung and his friend ho
  • A friend: Paul
  • Our veranda (typed and handwritten copies)
  • Untitled work, beginning “The black blossoms of the almond scatter…”, 1936
  • Untitled work, beginning “Refining…”, annotated with “Sam” at top of page

Selection of (likely) Max’s handwritten poems, mostly photocopies, all undated
See also Series 8: Notebooks/notepads where snippets of Max’s poems can be found.

  • To John Donne
  • The Ocean
  • Composed while riding a bicycle
  • Too much trying to die to die
  • Purposiveness – to D. H. Lawrence
  • These are our signs
  • Kings-cote
  • The laugh!
  • Death
  • Vision of myriad pasts reclining
  • The lament of death
  • Caravan – Duke Ellington’s new composition
  • New York fantasy
  • The I in me that I see in you
  • Love Songs
  • Untitled work, beginning “To them what have not…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “Australia is a black country…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “The (?) clowns wear human frowns…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “Each (?) calcifies…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “Is it brave to be tender in a harsh time?”
  • Untitled work, beginning “Pia(?), is the clear (?) of great suffering…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “Strange sublimation this…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “But now I have much…”
  • Untitled work, beginning “I feel the last and deepest sorrow for those…”
  • Spouse II, Max Harris, undated
  • Spouse 4, Max Harris, undated

Selection of short stories/works, originals and photocopies
See also Series 8: Notebooks/notepads were shorts works can be found

  • Fifteen, Max Harris, undated
  • Four short stories, Ryder Grindle, incorporating ‘Success’, ‘Remembrance’, ‘A strange Halloween’ and ‘The pain of death’. All undated.
  • The Tantanoola tiger, Max Harris, undated.
  • Harris in Thunderland, Max Harris, undated
  • The path to enlightenment is through the vagina, Max Harris(?), undated
  • The time has been… by ‘X’, Max Harris(?), undated
  • Dogs know this, author unknown, undated
  • On the portrait of Miss L. Hendrickson, Max Harris(?), undated
  • Untitled work, beginning “It is now some two years past…”, Max Harris(?), undated
  • Portion of a story, beginning “a disgusted look at my huddled figure…” Max Harris(?), undated
  • Commentary on Australia poetry, Voice, Max Harris, 1944
  • Untitled autobiographical note by Robert Cecil (Bob) Cugley, undated
  • Photocopy of typescript, ‘Description of the ideal woman’, William Butler Yeats, undated

Series 8: Notebooks

8.1 Notebooks
13 notebooks/notepads in total. Four A4, four A5 and six A6 size.  All loose notes have been left in situ. Ownership is not indicated but is likely Max and/or Von. Some include snippets of poetry and prose.

8.2 Family Notes

Folder 1: Max Harris
Wallet.  Items within remain in situ and include business cards, receipts, Roman pendant in the shape of a cross, etc.

Various hand-written and undated notes, including:

  • ‘Autobiog’
  • Didactics for a dying decade’
  • ‘Spouse and deity’
  • ‘Fragmentations’
  • ‘Intellectual shock – the Barr-Smith revisted’
  • ‘The Family Homes’
  • ‘The Australia’

Variety of untitled and undated handwritten notes.

Folder 2: Yvonne (Von) Harris Notes

  • Handwritten notes, ‘B. M. H.: Before I met Max Harris’, 8p.
  • Handwritten notes, ‘Max’s letter – My father’s outrage’, 2p.
  • Handwritten notes, ‘Plays I have done’, 2p.
  • Critical piece, on Geoffrey(?) Dutton and his jealousy of Max, author unknown but likely Yvonne.

Folder 3: General Family Notes & Miscellany

Notes written by Harris family members.  Also includes notes of unknown authors, though likely by a member of the Harris family.

  • Computer printout notes, ‘Placed I’ve called home’, undated, author unknown.
  • Handwritten notes on various family homes, including Norwood Farm, undated, author unknown.
  • ‘Reflective writing’, a piece about school life, by Samela Harris, undated
  • ‘The sad history of Australian comedy’, author unknown, 6p.
  • Hand-drawn ‘Furniture floor plan’, house/location unknown
  • Hand-drawn and annotated architectural plan for 81 Cascade St. Paddington, undated

Series 9: Psychobiographies

Max’s pyschobiographies and related research. Handwritten and Roneo copies.  Most of these were published as a series in The Weekend Australian Magazine and later in his book The unknown great Australian, and other psychobiographical portraits (1983)

  • Kingsley’s last tango in heaven (about Charles Kingsley)
  • Untitled work, beginning “In my grandfather’s day…”. This was later published as “The fool of love” (about William Hazlitt) in The unknown great Australian
  • Untitled work, beginning “She was the all-Australian world champion bitch.” This was later published as “The singing bikie” (about Nellie Melba) in The unknown great Australian
  • The loneliness of the long-distance epileptic (about Edward Lear)
  • King O’Malley: The flim-flam man
  • Leichhart pinched the cress.  This was later published as “Who pinched the cress?” (about Ludwig Leichhardt) in The unknown great Australian
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon’s last leap. Includes original newspaper clipping from The Weekend Australian Magazine, 3-4 May 1980
  • The virtues of pious virginity (about Christina Rosetti)
  • The monkey on the poet’s back.  Includes newspaper clipping from The Weekend Australian Magazine, 10-11 May 1980(?).  This was later published as “The hound and the monkey” (about Francis Thompson) in The unknown great Australian
  • Erroll Flynn: An Australian tragedy.  Includes cutting of the published version in The Bulletin, 23 Sep 1980
  • Gladstone, The brothel-creeper. This was later published as “The Rt Hon. Brothel-Creeper” (about W.E. Gladstone) in The unknown great Australian
  • Havelock Ellis: The flame at Sparkes Creek
  • Untitled work, beginning “I knew all three of them.” This was later published as “The secret life of Mo” (about Roy Rene) in The unknown great Australian
  • Handwritten work, “The unknown great Australian”, 2p., undated

Series 10: Bulletin articles

Folder 1

Max’s handwritten and Roneo articles for The Bulletin. Includes:

  • Untitled work, beginning “Richard Walsh shakes his head vigorously…”, 21 Aug 1978
  • The courtship of a clone, 24 Oct 1978
  • The age of semi-literate journalism, 9 Apr 1979
  • Australia’s thirty years (literary) war, 10 April 1979
  • Travel: Cleansing the soul in Bali, 6 Jun 1979
  • Untitled work, beginning “My amiable colleague, Philip Adams…”, 22 Jun 1979
  • Polluting the cerebral environment, 6 Aug 1979
  • South Australian after-math, 19 Sep 1979
  • Untitled work, beginning “Things aren’t all they might be…”, undated
  • Money for Swiss jam, undated
  • Mastermind, undated
  • Untitled work, beginning “It is bizarre to think that Australians…”, undated
  • Brown study of the Hotel Windsor soup, undated

Folder 2

Max’s handwritten and photocopies of typed articles for Bulletin Book Bulletin, all untitled and undated.  22 items


Series 11: Interviews

Various annotated versions (4) of Betty Snowden’s(?) interview with Von Harris, 31 March 2000.
Possible fifth version, not annotated, commencing from page 44.

Oral history and folklore, typescript of Hazel de Berg’s interview recorded with Max Harris, 1959

Series 12: The Arts

Items related to performing arts, exhibitions and festivals.

12.1  Penola Festival

  • Penola Festival programmes, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2003
  • Penola Festival Writers’ Weekend programmes, 1996 and 1998
  • Max Harris Literary Awards Presentation Volume, 2003, including copy of award to Xiaohan Yang for youth short story “Departure”.
  • Newsletter “Penola Festival Review”, 1996 and 2001
  • Penola Branch, National Trust of South Australia, Literary Competition entry “Adam Lidsay Gordon”, 1994
  • Handwritten correspondence between Von Harris and Margaret Muller re the Festival
  • Booklet of text from the exhibition panels, “Penola: Where it all began. Mary MacKillop 1842–1909” by Margaret Muller, 1998.
  • Photocopy of book, “Penola Primary School: Centenary history 1979” by Heatherjean Hetherington et al, 1979
  • “Message from Max Harris”, article about the importance of the Penola Annual Festival Literary Awards, undated.

12.2  Theatre/Opera

  • Original programme, “The winter’s tale”, J. C. Williamson’s Shakespeare Company, 1959
  • Original programme, “Samson et Dalila” Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 1981
  • Original programme, “A little night music”, Mayfair Theatre Company, 1996
  • Original, annotated programme, “Codgers”, A Steady Lads & Christine Dunstan production, 2010
  • Draft playscript, “No Saturnalia – this. An adaptation of Saki’s Edwardian comedy The Watched Pot”, undated
  • Portion of untitled playscript, beginning “Perhaps to look for something…”, undated, 24pp.
  • Original programme, “The miser”, Adelaide University Theatre Guild, 1950.  (Features Yvonne Harris as ‘Elsie’.  Signed by many of the performers and the director, Iris Hart.

12.3  Other arts

  • “The three fathers of Wal Riddle”, detailed screen treatment, 39pp., undated
  • “The three fathers of Ern Malley: The story of the Ern Malley Affair”, detailed screen treatment by Tom Coverdale and Rob Buttrose, 29pp., undated
  • “Words to a lover”, a song cycle, words by Max Harris and music by Kynan Johns, 1996
  • Exhibition catalogue, “Angry penguins and realist painting in Melbourne in the 1940s”, 1989
  • Exhibition catalogue, “Joy Hester: Works from the Reed Family Collection”, 2005
  • Heide Museum of Modern Art magazine, 2005-6 and Heide calendar, 2006-7
  • A3 exhibition brochure (in French), “Issey Miyake Making Things”, 1998-9
  • “Jazz at the gallery”, a musical performance of the words of six poets, 1974, 3pp.
  • Various letters, programmes, brochures related to small, miscellaneous performances, mostly undated but c1993-2006. (0.3 cm)
  • Newspaper article “Yvonne in step with history”, The Advertiser, 21 Feb 2009
  • Newspaper article “Masterpieces emerge from the basement”, The Weekend Australian, 20-21 May 2000
  • Booklet, “The Confederate Pageant”, 1977
  • “Superior reality”, a Weekend arts article by Daniel Thomas on South Australia’s surreal connections in an art gallery exhibition, 1993
  • Brochure “Theatre Museum: Covent Garden”, undated
  • Photocopy of article “The University of Adelaide Art Collections” on the six Arthur Boyd paintings commissioned for the October 1961 issue of Australian letters to accompany Max Harris’ poems, 1995(?)
  • Three short typescripts on Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, by possible authors Lou Klepac, Hal Missingham and Donald Friend, all undated

Series 13: Travel

Folder 1
Itineraries, 1969-1996

Folder 2
Receipts for various travel-related expenses, including accommodation and clothing purchases, etc.

Folder 3
Travel brochures, flyers and maps.

Folder 4
Miscellaneous travel-related items, including British Airways flight pack with all of its contents, restaurant menus and business cards, etc.


Series 14: Tape Recordings

Seventeen cassette tapes. Four without boxes and not labelled.  Thirteen labelled as follows:

  • Max
  • Max – March/April 1993
  • Papa 1 – A. London Books. B. Reading
  • Reading – Max. Tape 2
  • The Ern Malley Story
  • The Ern Malley Story. John Thompson, 1959
  • Words to a lover. Words Max Harris. Music Kynan Johns
  • The unborn by Michael Cove. Part 2. ABC Classic FM 17.2.98
  • Late night live. 3rd segment ‘Ern Malley discussion’. ABC Radio National.
  • Max Harris interview re tourism in S.A.
  • Max Harris 20.5.86
  • Adelaide Angries. Opening speeches.
  • RPH Magazine. 12.4.85


Series 15: Sketches/Whimsy

Miscellaneous sketches, likely by Max.  Most accompanied by humorous brief notes. 0.3cm

Series 16: Photographs

Variety of photographs of the Harris family and their friends.  Mostly unannotated. 15 cm.


Series 17: Max Harris’ Browsing column

Original handwritten drafts, typescripts and published cuttings of Max Harris’ “Browsing” column produced for The Australian.

  • Box 1 – 1973, 1975-76
  • Box 2 – 1977-79
  • Box 3 – 1980-83
  • Box 4 – Undated

Series 18: Newspaper articles

Newspaper clippings, typescripts and some handwritten articles to be published in various newspapers. 15 cm.

Folder 1

“Opinion” articles written by Max for Sunday Mail.  Includes newspaper cuttings, and associated typescripts. 1983-84 (incomplete).

Miscellaneous articles written by Max for various newspapers.  Includes newspaper cuttings and associated typescripts.  Newspapers include: The Australian, The Bulletin, Adelaide Advertiser, Vogue, Scope, Australian spectator, National times, Quadrant, Women’s Day, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. 1973-83

Newspaper and magazine articles about individuals other than Harris family members.  People of note include: Robert Hughes, Bernard Levin, Frank Gunnell, Mary MacKillop, Lyndall Hendrickson, Sir Stephen Spender, Peter Cowan, Commander Jack Davenport, etc. 1985-91

“Rupert Murdoch: the man behind the mind” by Max. Submitted to The Australian but declined publication, 1988

Folder 2

Newspaper articles (photocopies and originals) about Max, various dates.

Newspaper articles (photocopies and originals) either by or about Samela Harris, various dates.

Newspaper articles about Yvonne, various dates.

Series 19: Oversize items

Original black pen/ink sketch of a person, annotated “2/3 Head of Old Woman, Ben.M”. Mounted in mat board. 22.5 cm x 28 cm.

Original drawing, “The Faint, St. Peter’s College, September 1938”, framed, 27 cm x 32 cm.

Hand-coloured map, titled “Part of South Australia”. Engraved by J. Rogers, undated circa late 1800s. Fragile, with significant tears.

Lee Hayes
August 2020

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