Adam Lindsay Gordon: The founder of Australian literature organisations

According to Charles Long, William Furlong (a noted singer, composer and teacher of music) and his wife issued invitations to their numerous literary friends for an evening in commemoration of Adam Lindsay Gordon. The commemoration was held in their rooms-which included a large hall-in the Royal Arcade, Bourke Street, June 24th 1898, the anniversary of the poet’s death. The evening proved so enjoyable the generous host and hostess repeated the invitation the following year.

At that gathering several speakers mentioned the fact that the formation of a society for the encouragement of Australian authors had been talked about for a long time, and Mr. C.R. Long moved, Mr. W.H. Colechin seconded, and Dr. T.P. McInerney, Dr. Daish, and Messrs. E Wilson Dobbs, J.Deegan, F.D. Rossiter, and C.Reeves supported a resolution to the effect that a society should be formed for the systematic study of Australian literature, and for the employment of means to increase the output. It was carried with enthusiasm, and the mover volunteered to issue a circular to persons likely to become members, and to make arrangements for holding a meeting on July 26 at the place where they were at the time (Furlong’s Music Studio). There was a good response to the invitation (thirty people were present) and it was decided to call the society the Australian Literature Society, and to fix the subscription at 5/- a year (the expenses being small owing to the generosity of Mr. Furlong in allowing the use of his rooms without payment). Mr. W.H Elsum read a paper on the objects of such a society, and Mr. James Maloney M.L.A., was elected president. At the next meeting the president read a paper on “Have we an Australian Literature?” He contended that we have not, and could not have one. Finding himself out of sympathy with most of the other members of the society, he soon ceased to attend the meetings and was succeeded by Mr. T.A. Browne (“Rolf Boldrewood”).

Acknowledgements: Minute Book of the Australian Literature Society by Susan Radvansky and Patricia Alsop. Foreword by John Hay, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Academic) Monash University).

Photo Royal Arcade Melbourne from The State Library of Victoria Accession no: IAN30/12/74/216