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Miles Franklin, Brent of Bin Bin and the Great Australian Bight

March 25, 2015

In this week’s Monday Musings I discussed the literary mystery concerning the identity of Brent of Bin Bin. I referred to an article written in 1954 after her death by Murray Tonkin in which he asked whether the truth that she is, or is a collaborator of, Brent of Bin Bin will now be revealed. I didn’t share though a delightful little story he includes.

FranklinBrentBoolBoolA&R

Angus & Robertson 1956 ed.

You see, those who argued that Brent of Bin Bin was Miles Franklin used stylistic and thematic similarities between the works of the two authors together with facts about Franklin’s life to prove their case. “Bin Bin”, for example, was the name of a property (or run) next to the one her father managed in Brindabella. There’s a “Gool Gool” in My brilliant career and All that swagger, and one of the books in the Brent of Bin Bin series is called Back to Bool Bool. Thematic similarities between the two “authors” include the exploration of the harshness of life for bush women, and stories about literary women.

But, I didn’t share a fun little point which Tonkin says had “escaped other literary detectives”. It comes from poet Ian Mudie, who apparently knew her well. Tonkin writes that Mudie had identified that

Both she and Brent, in their books, have the Murray River emptying itself into the Great Australian Bight. But when he taxed her with it she brushed the point aside. “Of course!”   she said firmly. Every body knows the Murray runs into the Bight!”

Haha, I thought, he’s right, the Murray doesn’t flow into the Great Australian Bight but into Lake Alexandrina, which is rather east of the Bight. However, according to one definition of the Bight, Franklin was right. Wikipedia tells me there are two definitions of the extent of the Bight: The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) sets its eastern limit as Cape Otway in Victoria, which easily encompasses the mouth of the Murray, while the Australian Hydrographic Service (AHS) has it as Cape Carnot which definitely does not.

By the IHO definition, then, Mudie’s argument doesn’t work as a coincidence outing Franklin as Brent of Bin Bin, but I suspect she probably had made a mistake and that most Australians then, and now, would not see the mouth of the Murray as being in the area we call the Bight. Fascinating the places that literary detection can take you, eh?

Anyhow, what do other Aussies think about the Murray and the Bight?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    March 25, 2015 9:12 am

    I have never thought of the Murray River and the ‘Bight’ of either South Australia or Cape Otway (Victoria), together.

  2. March 26, 2015 1:14 am

    That is great detective work! I would have liked to see both Franklin’s and Mudie’s faces during the exchange about the river!

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