University Libraries (2024)

MSS 92 H315p

Biographical Note

Max Harris, poet, editor and publisher, has generally been regarded as the founding father of Australian modernism in the arts.

Born in Adelaide in 1921 and educated at the University of Adelaide, Harris published his first book of poetry The Gift of Blood in 1940 at the age of 19. He achieved notoriety through the “Ern Malley” poetry hoax of 1944, which aimed to discredit the modernist movement in Australian poetry, and through his subsequent prosecutionfor publishing obscene literature.

Between 1941 and 1945 he edited the avant-garde journal Angry Penguins which aimed to promote the international influences of surrealism and modernism into the Australian artistic scene. The Angry Penguins journal produced no major Australian poet but had a real and lasting influence on artists such as Sidney Nolan, John Perceval and the Boyds. During this period Harris also co-founded, with John Reed, the firm of Reed and Harris, a pioneer publisher of modern Australian poets, novelists and intellectuals. In subsequent years, Harris co-edited with Henry Dutton the literary quarterly Australian Letters (1957-1968), the monthly Australian Book Review (1961-1974) as well as books of criticism.

Max Harris also played a central role in establishing Penguin and Sun Books paperback imprints in Australia and became, through his Mary Martin Bookshop, one of the best known booksellers in Australia.He was also a senior columnist of literary and social criticism for The Australian, in addition to his role as a well known and sometimes controversial drama, theatre and arts critic on radio and television.

Contents Summary

Series 1. 1935-1967
Series 2. Cuttings of published poetry and articles by Max Harris, and reviews of his work
Series 3. Miscellaneous correspondence re literary and financial matters 1947, 1964, 1971-76, 1979-85
Series 4. Articles about Max Harris, obituaries etc. (1979-2000)

Contents Listing

Series 1. 1935-1967

1.1. Books texts and typescripts by Max Harris and others

Folder 1
Harris, Max. The vegetative eye (Typescript and published text: Reed & Harris, 1943)
Harris, Max. The Coorong and other poems (Mary Martin Bookshop, 1955)
Harris, Max. Dramas from the sky (Hassell Press, 1942)
Folder 2
Horne, Donald. The lucky country (Typescript with original title “The Lost Country” crossed out, and ms. corrections)
Folder 3
Ginzburg, Ralph. An unhurried view of erotica (Proof copy: Secker & Warburg, 1959)
“Poems of the Sub-Junior Literary Society” (Typescript booklet, 1935) Also ms poem “Squash” by Max Harris (1936)
Folder 4
“Poetry by Max Harris 1935. From October to November” (Photocopy of ms notebook)
Additional material donated by Betty Snowden June 2005
Folder 5
“Works 1939-42” (Photocopy of bound volume containing The gift of blood (1940), Dramas from the sky (1942), Angry penguins no. 2, ed. By Max Harris (1941), Phoenix (1939)
Additional material donated by Betty Snowden June 20051.2. Short stories / Max Harris (typescript originals and copies with ms corrections)
“The Augustine impulse” (holograph)
“If I were Field-Marshal Montgomery” (typescript)
“Nostalgia. With wurlitzer” 1944 (typescript, 2 copies)
“Ayenbite” (typescript)
“Sermons of Emmaus no. 1. My name is Ezekial” (typescript, 2 copies)
“Sermons of Emmaus no. 2. The parable of the antimacassar” (typescript, 2 copies)
“The judge” (typescript, 4 copies)
“The Tantanoola tiger” 1945 (typescript, 2 copies)
“The boy friend who believed in fairies” (typescript, 3 copies)
“Story” [1st line: The girl with love in her mouth …] (typescript, 3 copies)
[Untitled. 1st line: Sitting next to her, and also facing me, was a warrant officer …] (typescript, lacking 1st leaf)
[Untitled. 1st line: He lay there belary and bemused …] (typescript)
“A tribute to Frankie Sinatra” (typescript)
“The priest” (typescript, 3 copies – 1 incomplete)
“Papeye Pat and the Molacca” (typescript)
[Untitled. 1st line: The train drew out, and Sid and I settled down …] (typescript)
“On a portrait of Franz Kafka” (typescript)
[… a farewell to art …] (typescript, lacking 1st leaf)

1.3. Essays (holograph and typescript)
Folder 1
Primarily literary criticisms (some incomplete), also book reviews, biographies, interviews. Includes ‘Tribute to the tea drinkers’ and ‘Harris in Thunderland’. Also a brief biographical note (undated)
Folder 2
"Class in Australia" etc. Various Australian literary criticisms (some incomplete)
See also Series 2.5

1.4. Plays and radio scripts (typescripts)
“The little prince”; “Atoine de Saint Exupary” / adapted for radio by Max Harris.
“The tutor” (various scenes, incomplete)

1.5. Correspondence 1947-1968, 1975 and undated (v. incomplete)
Arranged by dated items first, then undated items (some incomplete) Includes 1968 article on Meric Boyd from Yvonne (Boyd?)

1.6. Titled poems
Folder 1
Folio pages (some with holograph drafts attached, many duplicated, some dated and some printed cuttings)
Folders 2-3
Quarto pages (some with holograph drafts attached, many duplicated, some dated and some printed cuttings)
Folder 4
Poems (some holographs, some dated)
Folder 5
Untitled poems (some holographs, some dated)
Folder 6
Poetry fragments (some holographs; individual, numbered, sheets)

1.7. Individual pages, unattached or detached from their original groupings
Poems, short stories, essays, reviews, Australian literary criticisms, etc. (some holograph)
1.8. Miscellanea
Folders 1-2
Photographs: Max Harris and others; group with caption ‘Chairman, Mr. Cartledge, officially opening the [SA Housing Trust] Canteen premises’; a young Max Harris; Max Harris at 60 with Yvonne Harris.
Newspaper extract, May 10-11, 1980 (Weekend Australian magazine). Article by Max Harris. Newspaper clippings.
Drawings and paintings on paper scraps.
Theatre programmes.
Miscellaneous sheets, some typed, some holograph.
Graham, Clem. "So nice to come home to". (Short story).
Extracts from other writers; some incomplete
Folder 3
[Collection of newspaper clippings concerning Mary Martin Bookshop, Harris’ activities as a bookseller, and Australian book publishing] (purchased July 2005)

1.9. Newspapers and magazine issues
On Dit (23 July 1941 and 8 August 1939 only)
Biblio News
Truth (with note against one item "Origin of vegetative eye")
Mary's Own Paper (Nov and Dec 1951 issues only)
And others

1.10. Poems (other authors)
Harris. Max, tr. “Na Toj Chrnoy gosi” trans. from Croatian.
Campbell, Roy. “Soci dou Felibrige”
Unknown. “The classical tourists” (holograph and typescript)
Baxter, James K. “Letter to Sam Hunt”; “Letter to Max Harris”; "Two obscene poems with an introduction to Max Harris"
Wright, Judith. “Gum trees stripping” (2 copies)
Fitzgerald, Robert D. “Song in Autumn (2 copies); “Academic fragments: R.G. Schulze, J.I.M. Stewart, Brian Elliott, Bruce Williams, K.S. Isles” (2 copies)
Mathew, Ray. “Morning song” (2 copies)
Campbell, David. “Hogan's daughter” (2 copies); “Who points the swallow” (2 copies)
Stewart, Douglas. “Sombrero” (2 copies); “Lizard” (2 copies)
Philip, John. “Pleasure cruise”; “Toreadors and mathematicians” (3 copies)
Davies, M. Bryn. “Sydney or the bush” (3 copies)
Thompson, John. “When forty summers” (2 copies)
McAuley, James. “Cantide”
[Medlin, Brian] “For Margaret (who died)”; “A book of poems” (94 p.)

1.11. Ern Malley papers 1944-1947, 1987-89 (many undated). 15 cm.
Folders 1–3
Photocopies of the Ern Malley poems as published in Angry Penguins, with copies of articles and reviews of the poems. 3 cm.
Folder 4
Typescripts (some originals, some copies) of letter re the poems by Ethel Malley and of Harris' statements about Ern Malley and his work. 2 cm.
Folder 5
Typescript of text of broadcast by John Thompson "The Ern Malley Story", an ABC feature (n.d., 31 p.); Photocopies of newspaper reports of the Angry Penguins indecency trial. 1 cm.; Prints and photocopies of paintings by Sydney Nolan to accompany the Ern Malley poems. 2 cm.
Folder 6
Published copy and typescript (with amendments) of The poems of Ern Malley; comprising the complete poems and commentaries by Max Harris and Joanna Murray-Smith (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1987) 4 cm. [Supplied by Allen & Unwin at the request of Max Harris]
Folder 7
Catalogue of 1989 Australian National Gallery exhibition Angry Penguins and realist painting in Melbourne in the 1940s. 1 v.; Issue of Overland 112, with covering letter by Max Harris explaining that it "contains what can be regarded as the definitive and accepted final judgement on Ern Malley. (See Dorothy Hewitt)." 1 v.
Folder 8
Tape recordings of Max Harris in conversation with Mairi Nicolson, ABC Radio, c.1987 and of ABC Radio National broadcast 'Forty Years On' by Max Harris and Barrett Reid, introduced by Ron Blair, 13 March 1988. 2 cassette tapes. [Supplied by the ABC at the request of Max Harris] Tapes digitised to DVDs 2013.
Folder 9
Photocopies of Angry Penguins broadsheets 1-10 (1946). Originals have been catalogued separately.

Series 2. Cuttings of published poetry and articles by Max Harris, and reviews of his work

2.1. Poetry and literary articles (published in various journals) and reviews of works by Harris 1938-1944. 1 v. Includes signed ms poem “An Essay in Morals” (1945) and typescript poem “The Fugitive Deity” (1963)
2.2. “Book Bulletin” articles published in The Bulletin 23 September 1980-2, March 1984. 5v.
2.3. Articles published in the Sunday Mail (including 'Opinion' and 'Max on the land') Oct. 1982-Dec. 1983. 1v.
2.4. Article “Letterkunde in Australie” published in Kroniek van Kunst en Kultur January 1950. 1v.
2.5. Incomplete works/drafts: “The scientist in anguish” (n.d., c.1954); “Essays on the bad old new Australia” (1975); “The literature of Australian exploration” (n.d., incomplete) 3 cm.
See also series 1.3

Series 3: Miscellaneous correspondence re literary and financial matters 1947, 1964, 1971-1976, 1979-1985.

3.1. Miscellaneous correspondence relating to literary work submitted (by Harris and others) 1947 and undated. 4 items. Includes typescript poem by Brian Medlin (untitled, undated) and Harris’ typescript article “Sermons at Emmaus”
3.2. Correspondence re publication of poems by James K. Baxter, 1972. 1 cm. With typescript of “Two obscene poems”, letters by Baxter to Sam Hunt (typescript) and Harris (typescript and holograph), and draft introduction to the poems by Harris.
Outline, with lists and draft letter, of proposed 'Max Harris Food and Wine Guide', 1975-76. 1 cm.
Correspondence re [opposition to] Traditional Markets Agreement (as affected bookselling) 1972-1975. 1 cm.
3.5. Correspondence re support for foster children under Foster Parents Plan of Australia (including many letters from children supported) 1971-1975. 3 cm.
3.6. Miscellaneous (personal and business) correspondence 1964, 1972-1975, 1979-1985. Including Dissolution of agreement with Mary Martin in book partnership, 1964; documents re dispute over sale of Lord of the Rings, 1974; appointment as consultant to Macmillan Co. 1979 and report by Harris on Macmillan London discussions.

Series 4: Articles about Max Harris, obituaries etc. (1979-2000)

Series 5. [Six paintings illustrating ‘The circus and other poems’ by Max Harris] by Arthur Boyd created in 1961. Previously been catalogued as SR Oversize 75 B789A.

6 art originals: oil on board; 5 37 x 48cm, 1 48 x 37cm

5 of the paintings were reproduced in the series "Australian artists and poets" published in vol. 4 no.1 (1961) of the journal Australian letters (founded and co-edited by Max Harris).

Contents : 1. At the circus. 2. The explanation. 3. A window at night. 4. The death of Bert Sassenowsky. 5. Your eyes content me. 6. Dim the green hope.

This is the only remaining complete set of the 19 author/artist collaborations commissioned by Harris. The paintings were presented to the Library by Mr. and Mrs Max Harris in July 1982 to accompany his Papers. They are currently hung in the Collections Room.

University Libraries (2024)


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