Kanga Creek, by Havelock Ellis


THIS Australian Idyll is largely based on reminiscences of a year (1878) spent as school teacher at the spot described. The haunting memories of that unique year in my life still pursued me, on my return to London, amid medical studies at St. Thomas’s Hospital. I attempted at intervals to throw those memories into a fictional form, and my friend Oliver Schreiner, interested in my experiment, encouraged me to pursue it. This was round about the year 1886, some eight years after leaving the real Sparkes Creek, but while my memories of the life there were still vivid and precise. The only critical judgment to which I submitted the Idyll was that of my friend Arthur Symons who was pleased to find it of the same class as Flaubert’s Contes. But I put it aside, making no attempt at publication. Apart from the fact that it was far removed from the field of my choosen work in life, I suspected that if the book ever wandered into the real Kanga Creek it might give offence to people for whom I cherished only friendly feelings.

It was not until many years later (in 1922), when I supposed that the people who came into my story must be nearly all dead, that I arranged for its publication with the Golden Cockerel Tress. The little book was soon out of print. So I have welcomed the proposal of Mr. Joseph Ishill to bring out an American edition at his Oriole Press, from which so many books of interest have issued.

I hasten to point that while the Idyll on the whole presents a faithful picture of the Sparkes Creek I knew, it is not to be taken as autobiographical. The routine of my outward life and various slight mental traits were those of the youthful schoolmaster. But of the deep inner development which made that year the most memorable of my life in formative spiritual growth this Idyll gives no smallest hint. Indeed, even as an Idyll, it is purely imaginary.

In some minor points of realistic detail I have deliberately diverged from the facts. The town of “Ayr” is really Scone and situated in the district of the Liverpool Range, some two hundred miles north of Sydney. But the route from Sydney I have described, in order to mislead the reader, would never reach Scone, but more likely Carcoar in another region of New South Wales, also familiar to me but a hundred miles south of Scone. There is, again, no lagoon near Sparkes Creek, and this also, with the manna-gum tree and some of the fauna, I borrowed from the Carcoar neighbourhood.

On the whole, however, I have been told, I have exactly reproduced the atmosphere of that Creek, even as it exists today. There has been little change. The population has scarcely grown or has even diminished for a school is no longer needed, and my schoolhouse, save for a few bricks from the chimney, has disappeared. The two families whom I call the Carrolls and the Quicks still flourish and monopolise the neighbourhood, though those who were once my school children are now old. After an interval of fifty years I have come into touch with theses families again, partly by direct contact and partly through my friend by correspondence in Sydney, Miss Marjorie Ross who, first drawn to the spot by my Idyll, has since been there on many holiday visits, entered into friendly relation with the people, and learnt to love the place almost as much as I do. She has taken many photographs there, including all the spots that meant most to me, even the identical boulder which I described.

H. E.


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