The Journal of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia

ISSN No: 1039-9658

Vol 18. No 2. July 2011

With over 60 talks and events to cover, SANDRA DARROCH attempts to convey some of the flavour of the
12th International DH Lawrence Conference held in Sydney Australia in late June 2011
( See also Robert Whitelaw's article "The House at the End of the Road" over page - click HERE.)

SYDNEY, where Lawrence arrived in May 1922, was host in late June to the 12th International DH Lawrence Conference, held over three days at the Mitchell Library in Macquarie Street.

Sixty delegates from the USA, UK, India, South Korea, France, Sweden, South America and Japan, as well as a strong contingent of Australian academics, listened to over 60 papers, whose topics ranged far and wide, from Lawrence's poetry and that of Judith Wright and Henry Lawson, through to such esoteric-sounding ones as "Beyond Character: Exploring Allotropic States in the Fiction of D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf" and "Panophilia to Phallophobia: Sublimation and Projection in St. Mawr".

The first plenary session was addressed by Dr. Bethan Jones, Lecturer, Department of English, University of Hull, UK, who illustrated her talk on "Music and Sound in DH Lawrence's Poetry" with recordings of music played by herself and others.

Bethan Jones, who spoke about Lawrence and music

The Conference was co-ordinated by Nancy Paxton, Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, who, despite her onerous duties, somehow managed to fit in a paper on "Lady Chatterley in Australia". Joint co-ordinator, David Game, from the School of Cultural Inquiry, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, ANU, discussed "Colonial Australians in St. Mawr"

There were far too many sessions for your humble correspondent to attend or report on, but she will crave your indulgence to mention that she presented a paper on her discovery that Lawrence based much of the character of Alvina Houghton in The Lost Girl on the New Zealand writer, Katherine Mansfield.

As well as the presentation of papers, delegates were entertained by a screening of the film "Kangaroo", a poetry reading, and a Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony in the Sydney Room at the Menzies Hotel. The top Awards went to two Australians: Paul Eggert, Editor of the CUP edition of The Boy in the Bush, and Christopher Pollnitz, editor of the CUP editions of Lawrence's poetry.

Chris Pollnitz with an on-screen image
of Judith Wright

The Gala address was elegantly and amusingly presented by Betsy Sargent, who reminisced about her long friendship with David Ellis, whose address to the Conference was videotaped and read by Betsy in David's absence. Ellis raised the question of why Lawrence was no longer regarded as a major literary figure for school or university courses. Did Lady Chatterley have something to do with this? he pondered.

Next day, Saturday July 2, we went on an excursion in Lawrence's footsteps to Manly and Narrabeen, led by the DH Lawrence Society of Australia with member and historian, Robert Whitelaw, standing in as tour leader in place of our Presdent, John Lacey, who has been very ill of late (but is now slowly recovering).

Robert Whitelaw, our excursion guide

Lawrence wrote in Kangaroo:

…It was Sunday, and a lovely sunny day of Australian winter. Manly is the bathing suburb of Sydney--one of them. You pass quite close to the wide harbour gate, The


Some of the Conference delegates visited Taronga Park Zoo where Lawrence found the inspiration to write his poem, "Kangaroo"

Heads, on the ferry steamer. Then you land on the wharf, and walk up the street, like a bit of Margate with sea-side shops and restaurants, till you come out on a promenade at the end, and there is the wide Pacific

We set off by Manly ferry from Circular Quay, and, on arriving at Manly,walked up the Corso to the ocean beach, opposite which still stands the tea rooms where Richard Lovatt Somers and Harriett, aka Lawrence and Frieda, had a cup of waming soup.

We re-grouped at the bus provided by Manly Coaches, whose driver, Keiron, turned out to be a keen reader of Lawrence's novels. (A cheer from the passengers went up on hearing this news.) Keiran suggested we make a slight detour from the Narrabeen tram route, which Lawrence and Frieda had themselves taken, to view Sydney Harbour from North Head.

Delegates take in the view of Sydney Harbour
from North Head

Then we travelled north on the route Lawrence took by tram along Pittwater Road, deviating via Curl Curl, Harbord and Dee Why Beaches, before once again following what was the tram route in 1922, arriving at the tram terminus and tram shed at Narrabeen Lakes, which trip Lawrence describes in Kangaroo:

…They sat on the tram-car and ran for miles along a coast with ragged bush loused over with thousands of small promiscuous bungalows, built of built of everything from patchwork of kerosene tin up to fine red brick and stucco, like Margate. Not far off the Pacific boomed…

…The tram took them five or six miles, to the terminus. This was the end of everywhere, with new "stores"--that is, flyblown shops with corrugated iron roofs--and with a tram-shelter…

Dr. Hiroshi Muto (let), chair of D. H. Lawrence Society of Japan, Kumiko Hoshi (centre), who gave a paper
on Lawrence and the Dada movement, and Dr Muto's wife (right), at the historic tram shed at Narrabeen

Then our bus turned off Pittwater Road towards Ocean Street, where Lawrence recounts a long walk his characters undertook:

…The happy couple…walked up a wide sand-road dotted on either side with small bungalows, beyond the backs of which lay a whole aura of rusty tin cans chucked over the back fence. They came to the ridge of sand, and again the pure, long-rolling Pacific…
As our bus trundled down the road, our guide, Robert Whitelaw, explained that there was no reason why Lawrence/Somers would have taken such a very long walk through a sandy wilderness unless he had a pre-arranged rendezvous to keep at the end of it:

The road ended on the salt pool where the sea had ebbed in. Across was a state reserve--a bit of aboriginal Australia, with gum trees and empty spaces beyond the flat salt waters…Two men in bathing suits were running over the spit of sand from the lagoon to the surf


A letter in defence of Kangaroo, alerting
readers of
The Sydney Morning Herald
to the Conference


Finally reaching the lake, or lagoon, as Lawrence called it, "the happy couple" sat on the sand, then:

…Harriet sat up and began dusting the sand from her coat--Lovat did likewise. Then they rose to be going back to the tram-car. There was a motor-car standing on the sand of the road near the gate of the end house…it was quite a nice little place, standing on a bluff of sand sideways above the lagoon…

Robert Whitelaw showed a photograph and plan he had discovered showing a house standing on a bluff of sand sideways above the lagoon, which stood there in 1922 but which had been demolished in the 1950s. The house was called "Billabong" and was owned by the wife of a wealth property developer, Charles Schultz.

Robert explained that the house was architecturally superior to the other shacks in the surrounding area and was used as a holiday retreat by the Schultz's and their friends, many of whom were early aviation enthusiasts who experimented with gliders off the sandhills at Narrabeen.

This was where their friends, George Taylor, a cartoonist on the Bulletin magazine, and Charles (later Major General Sir Charles) Rosenthal, head of the King and Empire Alliance, along with a teenage Edward (later Sir Edward) Halstrom, (patron of Taronga Zoo), flew the first heavier-than-air aircraft in Australia. (As Robert Whitelaw will explain in his article - see link at foot of this page - George's wife Florence Taylor was the first woman to fly in Australia.)

The Conference delegates then climbed over the sandhills, as Somers and Harriett had done, to gaze again at the Pacific crashing on to the shore.

David Game (right) and Sean Matthews
at the Narrabeen sandhills

Then it was back to the bus for a drive through Wakehurst Parkway and a glimpse of Australian bushland before terminating at Taronga Zoo, which Lawrence later visited during his time in Sydney.

…when he went over to the Zoo, on the other side of the harbour--and the warm sun shone on the rocks and the mimosa bloom, and he saw the animals…

The kangaroo he found at the zoo provided him
with the inspiration for his poem "Kangaroo".

The following day, the delegates went on an expedition to Thirroul to try and catch a glimpse of Wyewurk, where Lawrence wrote his novel, Kangaroo.

The next International DH Lawrence Conference will be staged in Italy in 2014

See Robert Whitelaw's article "The House at the End of the Road" over page - click HERE.

A photograph of "Billabong", set sideways to the lagoon, taken before it was demolished in the 1950s
The site today where "Billabong" once stood