Authors: Miles Franklin

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Australian novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

My Brilliant Career, 1901

Some Everyday Folk and Dawn, 1909

Up the Country, 1928

Ten Creeks Run, 1930

Old Blastus of Bandicoot, 1931

Back to Bool Bool, 1931

Bring the Monkey, 1933

All That Swagger, 1936

Pioneers on Parade, 1939 (with Dymphna Cusack)

My Career Goes Bung, 1946

Sydney Royal, 1947

Prelude to Waking, 1950

Cockatoos, 1954

Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang, 1956

Drama:

No Family, wr. 1937

Nonfiction:

Joseph Furphy, 1944 (with Kate Baker)

Laughter, Not for a Cage, 1956

Childhood at Brindabella, 1963

My Congenials, 1993 (2 volumes)

Biography

Miles Franklin was the pen name for the novelist Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, one of the most distinctive voices in Australian literature. Born into the “squattocracy” of the fifth generation of a pioneering family, Franklin used her upbringing and life in the Australian Bush as background for her novels. The “Miles Franklin country,” as it is called, lies in the mountainous region of Monaro or Manaroo, thirty miles west of Canberra.{$I[AN]9810001955}{$I[A]Franklin, Miles}{$S[A]Brent of Bin Bin;Franklin, Miles}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Franklin, Miles}{$I[geo]AUSTRALIA;Franklin, Miles}{$I[tim]1879;Franklin, Miles}

Franklin passed her childhood at the family stations of Talbingo and Brindabella. The family later moved to Bangalore, near Goulbourn, where, at the age of sixteen, she wrote her first novel, My Brilliant Career. Though undoubtedly showing some weaknesses (the structure is weak, and some of the dialogue forced), the novel is a remarkable tour de force for such a young author. A number of critics maintain that it is Franklin’s finest work.

The novel’s heroine, Sybylla, is a vibrant, difficult, and precociously intelligent young girl, born into a Bush family fallen on hard times. Longing for something better than her life of drudgery and fiercely determined not to subjugate herself to the “slavery” of marriage, Sybylla proudly upholds her independence in the face of the trials and frustrations of her limited existence. When the novel was published in 1901, it took critics and the public by storm. Some of Franklin’s relatives took offense, however, at what they thought were caricatures of their own lives and characters. Certainly the similarities between Sybylla Melvyn and her creator are striking: Franklin, like Sybylla, enjoyed flirtatious relationships with men but had a lifelong horror of marriage and the sexual relations that led to childbirth; like Sybylla, she was clever but labeled plain; like Sybylla, she was physically courageous and an accomplished and daring horsewoman. Her relatives’ hostile reaction to the novel made such an impression on Franklin that she ordered that the novel not be republished until ten years after her death.

After publication of My Brilliant Career Franklin moved to Sydney, where she worked as a freelance journalist. In 1905 she went to the United States and published her second novel, Some Everyday Folk and Dawn, in 1909. She pursued her passion for women’s rights by working for the National Women’s Trade Union League of America. In 1915, after World War I broke out in Europe, she moved to London, England, to do voluntary war work. The following year she traveled to the Balkans with the Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit, which was attached to the Serbian army. She returned to London in 1917.

Franklin broke her literary silence in 1928 with Up the Country, written under the squatter-like pseudonym of Brent of Bin Bin. Though Franklin never admitted authorship of this and the other “Brent of Bin Bin” novels Ten Creeks Run, Back to Bool Bool, Cockatoos, and Gentlemen at Gyang Gyang, the evidence that they were her work is overwhelming and generally accepted. Her bitter experience with the reception of My Brilliant Career is believed to have prompted her to hide behind the false name.

In 1933 she returned to Australia to live, and three years later she published All That Swagger under the name Miles Franklin. This novel, a family saga and chronicle of national development, was kindly received by critics and won the Prior Memorial Prize. It is often called her masterpiece, though many prefer the less studied effusions of My Brilliant Career. Franklin went on to write a one-act play, No Family, and the novel Pioneers on Parade in collaboration with the writer Dymphna Cusack. Together with Kate Baker she wrote a biography of her friend and literary admirer, the novelist Joseph Furphy, which won the 1939 Prior Memorial Prize. In 1946 Franklin published My Career Goes Bung, the continuing story of Sybylla Melvyn, and in 1950 she delivered the Commonwealth Literary Fund lectures on literature at the University of Western Australia. She died, determinedly single and childless, in 1954.

Miles Franklin is widely regarded as the spiritual heir to Joseph Furphy, in particular because of fervent sentiment for Australia that permeated their literature. Although her love of the Bush and the pioneer life is omnipresent in her work, the novels also offer tough, willful, impossibly egotistical heroines; sharp irony and irrepressible humor; a feminist spirit, years ahead of its time; and zeal for life in all its manifestations.

BibliographyBarnard, Marjorie. Miles Franklin. New York: Twayne, 1967. A useful introduction to Franklin’s life and works.Coleman, Verna. Miles Franklin in America: Her Unknown (Brilliant) Career. London: Angus & Robertson, 1981. A literary biography that uses excerpts from Franklin’s works to illuminate her life and character.Green, H. M. A History of Australian Literature, Pure and Applied. London: Angus & Robertson, 1984. Useful critical analyses of Franklin’s work (but also include outdated comments on the identity of “Brent of Bin Bin”); is appreciative of Franklin’s unusual voice.Hadgraft, Cecil. Australian Literature: A Critical Account to 1955. London: Heinemann, 1960. Useful critical analyses of Franklin’s work (but also include outdated comments on the identity of “Brent of Bin Bin”); a decidedly academic (and unenthusiastic) evaluation of Franklin within Australian literary context.Mathew, Ray. Miles Franklin. Melbourne: Landsdowne Press, 1963. A brief but refreshing analysis of Franklin’s works that also provides valuable insights into her fictional characters.Roderick, Colin Arthur. Miles Franklin: Her Brilliant Career. New York: Rigby, 1982. Provides critical interpretation of Franklin’s works and a biography.
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