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y We of the Never-Never single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1908 1908
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

In 1902 Jeannie Gunn, a Melbourne schoolteacher, went with her new husband to live on the remote Elsey cattle station near the Roper River in the Northern Territory. though she spent little more than a year there, her experiences in the outback and her contact with the local Aborigines impressed her deeply, and on her return to Melbourne she set down her recollections in two books, We of the Never Never and The Little Black Princess.

Adaptations

form y We of the Never Never Peter Schreck , Australia : Adams Packer Film Productions , 1982 Z901254 1982 single work film/TV (taught in 6 units)

Based on Jeannie Gunn's fictionalised autobiography of the same name, the story begins in 1902 with the arrival of Mrs Gunn and her new husband Aeneas in the Northern Territory. They have come to take over management of Elsey Station, a huge cattle and horse property. She is subsequently forced to battle isolation, disease, and the white stockmen who believe the station is no place for a woman. She befriends the local Aboriginal women, but is mystified by their culture. Her affection for the place and the people is tested by frequent tragedy.

(Source: Australian Screen.)

Notes

  • The author called this a novel. It is, however, autobiographical.
  • The book was rejected by six publishers in three months, but when it was published it became immensely popular and has been republished numerous times in Australia and the UK as well as in translation, reaching its 28th 'edition' in the 1930s.
  • Has been adapted for use in schools.
  • Harold White, in a letter dated 5 November 1953 to H. M. Green (held in the Dorothy Green Manuscript Collection at the Academy Library UNSW Canberra) advised Green that the novel is classified as fiction by the Commonwealth National Library, 'as the first edition bears the subtitle "a novel"'. White adds that 'Morris Miller also lists it as fiction, although he adds the proviso that it is not really a novel'.

    Source: H. L. White, [Letter to H. M Green, Dated 5 November 1953], Dorothy Green and H. M. Green, Dorothy Green Manuscript Collection (1918-1990)

  • Dedication: Dedicated to 'The Bush-Folk of the Never-Never'
  • Other formats: Also braille and sound recording.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Alternative title: Wir aus dem Niemals : Roman aus dem australischen Bush von Mrs. Aeneas Gunn
Language: German

Works about this Work

Forbidding Treasure Nicolas Rothwell , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 7-8 March 2015; (p. 6-8)

Western fascination with the north Kimberley coastline has endured since seafarers encountered it in the 17th century, writes Nicholas Rothwell.

Wild Love Jessica Owers , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 26-27 October 2013; (p. 9)
'Jeannie Gunn's classic book We of the Never Never is the great-grandmother of the booming rural romance genre, argues Jessica Owers.'
Books That Changed Me : Jessica Owers Jessica Owers , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 10 November 2013; (p. 12)
y Cheon of the Never Never Kevin Wong Hoy , Melbourne - North : Arcadia , 2012 Z1923438 2012 single work prose

'Australian Kevin Wong Hoy traces Cheon's journey from China to Australia, bushland to cattle station kitchen, and past the fences to Elsey Station. It was Jeannie Gunn's portrayal of her Chinese cook Cheon in We of the Never Never that sparked a great deal of fondness for "Australia's first Chinese Celebrity Cook". (Publisher's blurb)

'It Was to Have Been my Best Book' : Dorothy Green and E. L. Grant Watson Suzanne Falkiner , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , no. 10 2010;
'When literary critic Dorothy Green died in 1991, those in her immediate circle were mystified to learn that little trace of the biography of English writer E. L. Grant Watson, which she was known to have been researching for some twenty years, had been found among her papers. This article examines the reasons why.' (Author's abstract)
Never Never Dreaming Virginia Patricia Duigan , 2008 single work autobiography
— Appears in: Griffith Review , Autumn no. 19 2008; (p. 63-179)
Duigan describes the creation of an Australian imagination. (from Contents)
Outback, By the Book Daniel Scott , 2008 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 18 May 2008; (p. 20-21)
Daniel Scott relates his experiences on a tour marking the 100th anniversary of the publication of We of the Never, Never.
The Wide Brown Land : Literary Readings of Space and the Australian Continent Anthony J. Hassall , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australia : Making Space Meaningful 2007; (p. 45-53)
'In his 1987 poem "Louvres" Les Murray speaks of journeys to 'the three quarters of our continent/set aside for mystic poetry" (2002, 239), a very different reading of Australia's inner space to A.D. Hope's 1939 vision of it as '[t]he Arabian desert of the human mind" (1966, 13) In this paper I review the opposed, contradictory ways in which the inner space of Australia has been perceived by Australian writers, and note changes in those literary perceptions, especially in the last fifty years. In that time what was routinely categerised, by Patrick White among others, as the "Dead heart" (1974, 94) - the disappointing desert encountered by nineteenth=century European explorers looking for another America -has been re-mythologised as the "Red Centre," the symbolic, living heart of the continent. What Barcroft Boake's 1897 poem hauntingly portrayed as out where the dead men lie" (140,-2) is now more commonly imagined as a site of spiritual exploration and psychic renewal, a place where Aboriginal identification with the land is respected and even shared. This change was powerfully symbolised in 1985 by the return to the traditional Anangu owners of the title deeds to the renamed Uluru, the great stone sited at the centre of the continent; but while this re-mythologising has been increasingly influential in literary readings, older, more negative constructions of that space as hostile and sterile have persisted, so that contradictory attitudes towards the inner space of Australia continue to be expressed. In reviewing a selection of those readings, I am conscious that they both distort and influence broader cultural perceptions. I am also aware that literary reconstructions of the past reflect both the attitudes of the time depicted and the current attitudes of the writer, and that separating the two is seldom simple. Finally, I am conscious of the connections between literary readings and those in art and film of the kind documented by Roslynn Hanes in her 1998 study Seeking the Centre: the Australian Desert in Literature, Art and Film, and those in television and advertising. I have however, with the exception of the Postscript, limited my paper to literary readings, with an emphasis on works published since Haynes's study.' (Author's abstract p. 45)
'They Will Have to Come Sooner or Later if You Stick At 'Em : Horse Breaking As Metaphor in Australian Cultural Discourse Karen Welberry , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Westerly , November vol. 50 no. 2005; (p. 226-234)
Contends that 'horse breaking' has been used in Australian literature as a euphamism and 'justification' for Aboriginal-white conflict and dispossession of Aboriginal land.
Die Namenlandschaft in Australischen Romanen der Pionierzeit The Name Landscape in Australian Pioneer Novels Rosemarie Glaser , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Names in Language and Society : Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Onomastic Sciences : Uppsala, 19-24 August 2002 2005; (p. 453-468)
Compares the use of proper names in three novels.
Jack London and the Never Never Laurie Hergenhan , 2004 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Summer no. 177 2004; (p. 88-89)

In 1910 Jack London wrote an introduction for a proposed American edition of We of the Never Never but it was never published. The manuscript, in Jeannie Gunn's handwriting, is contained in a book of letters written to William Peter Hurst and the location is:- MS 6107, Box 169/1. William Peter Hurst papers. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The 'preface', as it was later described by Mrs Gunn, has been reproduced in this article.

Lawson, Gunn and the 'White Chinaman': A Look at How Chinese are Made White in Henry Lawson and Mrs Aeneas Gunn's Writings Yu Ouyang , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: LiNQ , October vol. 30 no. 2 2003; (p. 10-23)
Racism in the Never Never : Disparate Readings of Jeannie Gunn Katherine Ellinghaus , 1997 single work criticism
— Appears in: Hecate , vol. 23 no. 2 1997; (p. 76-94)
Lurdurdminyi : Crescent Lagoon : Harold Giles' Version. Harold Giles , 1996 single work extract
— Appears in: Big River Country : Stories from Elsey Station 1996; (p. 34-36)
Following the murder of a Chinese man by an Aboriginal man, the Northern Territory law enforcers decide to make an example of the offender by gathering as many Aboriginal people together as possible to witness his hanging. After this had taken place, the authorities distributed a variety of goods to the Aboriginal people supposedly to encourage good behaviour.
Discrimination and Distortion : The Chinese in Early Australian Literature 黄源深 , 1995 single work criticism
— Appears in: A Unique Literature : A Critical View of Australian Literary Works 1995; (p. 206-217)
Gardening in the Never-Never : Women Writers and the Bush Helen Thomson , 1993 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Time to Write : Australian Women Writers 1890-1930 1993; (p. 19-37)
Thomson describes a feminised response to the Australian landscape, an expression of the Arcadian possibilities of the bush, as distinct from the masculine 'realist' response. She also notes women writers' sense of sisterhood with Aboriginal women, expressed through a shared benign relationship with the natural world.
From Empire Feudalism and Racism to Commonwealth Citizenship: The Views of Four Female Intruders in the Colonial Tropics David A. Myers , 1993 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literature Today 1993; (p. 80-97)
'Woman's Voice': The Autobiographical Form in Three Australian Filmed Novels Ina Bertrand , 1993 single work criticism
— Appears in: Literature/Film Quarterly , vol. 21 no. 2 1993; (p. 130-137)
'Amity and Kindness' in the Never Never : Ideology and Aboriginal-European Relations in the Northern Territory Jan Larbalestier , 1990 single work criticism
— Appears in: Social Analysis , April no. 27 1990; (p. 70-82)
`The Coming of the Dingoes' - Black/White Interaction in the Literature of the Northern Territory David Headon , 1988 single work criticism
— Appears in: Connections : Essays on Black Literatures 1988; (p. 25-40)
Twelve Australian Books That Should Be in Every Australian Home Mary Gilmore , George Mackaness , Frederick T. Macartney , 1937 single work review
— Appears in: All About Books , 10 November vol. 9 no. 11 1937; (p. 172)

— Review of The Singing Gold Dorothy Cottrell 1927 single work novel ; Landtakers : The Story of an Epoch Brian Penton 1934 single work novel ; Confessions of a Beachcomber E. J. Banfield 1908 extract autobiography ; The Sentimental Bloke : The Play C. J. Dennis 1914 single work poetry ; Songs of a Campaign Leon Gellert 1917 selected work poetry ; Heart of Spring John Shaw Neilson 1919 selected work poetry ; Satyrs and Sunlight : Being the Collected Poetry of Hugh McCrae Hugh McCrae 1928 selected work poetry ; His Natural Life Marcus Clarke 1870-1872 single work novel ; The Pearl and the Octopus, and Other Exercises in Prose and Verse Alfred George Stephens 1911 selected work short story poetry ; Such Is Life : Being Certain Extracts from the Diary of Tom Collins Tom Collins 1897 single work novel ; Flynn of the Inland Ion L. Idriess 1932 single work biography ; The Fortunes of Richard Mahony Henry Handel Richardson 1917 single work novel ; Man-Shy Frank Dalby Davison 1934 extract novel ; We of the Never-Never Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1908 single work novel ; Speaking Personally Walter Murdoch 1930 selected work essay ; Best Australian One-Act Plays 1937 anthology drama ; The Wide Brown Land : A New Anthology of Australian Verse 1934 anthology poetry ; The Magic Pudding Second Slice : Being the Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and His Friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff Norman Lindsay 1971 extract children's fiction ; Separate Lives Vance Palmer 1931 selected work short story ; Modern Australian Literature, 1900-1923 Nettie Palmer 1924 single work criticism
Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Home , 1 October vol. 8 no. 10 1927; (p. 107)

— Review of We of the Never-Never Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1908 single work novel ; The Little Black Princess : A True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1905 single work autobiography
The Far North in Books : No. 6 : We of the Never Never 1931 single work review
— Appears in: Northern Affairs , 4 December vol. 1 no. 8 1931; (p. 19)

— Review of We of the Never-Never Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1908 single work novel
Untitled S. Musgrove , 1945 single work review
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 6 no. 2 1945; (p. 13-14)

— Review of We of the Never-Never Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1908 single work novel
Timely Reissue Joan Morris , 1982 single work review
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 30 October 1982; (p. 13)

— Review of We of the Never-Never Mrs Aeneas Gunn 1908 single work novel
Lawson, Gunn and the 'White Chinaman': A Look at How Chinese are Made White in Henry Lawson and Mrs Aeneas Gunn's Writings Yu Ouyang , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: LiNQ , October vol. 30 no. 2 2003; (p. 10-23)
Jack London and the Never Never Laurie Hergenhan , 2004 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Summer no. 177 2004; (p. 88-89)

In 1910 Jack London wrote an introduction for a proposed American edition of We of the Never Never but it was never published. The manuscript, in Jeannie Gunn's handwriting, is contained in a book of letters written to William Peter Hurst and the location is:- MS 6107, Box 169/1. William Peter Hurst papers. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The 'preface', as it was later described by Mrs Gunn, has been reproduced in this article.

'They Will Have to Come Sooner or Later if You Stick At 'Em : Horse Breaking As Metaphor in Australian Cultural Discourse Karen Welberry , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Westerly , November vol. 50 no. 2005; (p. 226-234)
Contends that 'horse breaking' has been used in Australian literature as a euphamism and 'justification' for Aboriginal-white conflict and dispossession of Aboriginal land.
Jeannie Gunn's Tree in the Never-Never S. Hedges Dale , 1954 single work correspondence
— Appears in: Walkabout , vol. 20 no. 2 1954; (p. 45)
What Ten Books Would You Take? Rose Nuttall , 1929 single work criticism
— Appears in: All About Books , 20 May vol. 1 no. 6 1929; (p. 187)
Reviewer Nuttall lists ten books she would take to an isolated island of which three are by Australian authors.
Discrimination and Distortion : The Chinese in Early Australian Literature 黄源深 , 1995 single work criticism
— Appears in: A Unique Literature : A Critical View of Australian Literary Works 1995; (p. 206-217)
Choosing Books for Children 1930 single work column
— Appears in: All About Books , 5 December vol. 2 no. 12 1930; (p. 320, 322)
Fellowship of Australian Writers [Meeting Report] Neil J. Myers , 1932 single work column
— Appears in: All About Books , 12 September vol. 4 no. 9 1932; (p. 149)
Twelve Australian Books That Should Be in Every Home Charles R. Long , 1938 single work criticism
— Appears in: All About Books , 15 January vol. 10 no. 1 1938; (p. 9)
The books on Long's list are 'selected mainly with an eye to their educational value'.
Die Namenlandschaft in Australischen Romanen der Pionierzeit The Name Landscape in Australian Pioneer Novels Rosemarie Glaser , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Names in Language and Society : Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Onomastic Sciences : Uppsala, 19-24 August 2002 2005; (p. 453-468)
Compares the use of proper names in three novels.
Never Never Dreaming Virginia Patricia Duigan , 2008 single work autobiography
— Appears in: Griffith Review , Autumn no. 19 2008; (p. 63-179)
Duigan describes the creation of an Australian imagination. (from Contents)
Outback, By the Book Daniel Scott , 2008 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 18 May 2008; (p. 20-21)
Daniel Scott relates his experiences on a tour marking the 100th anniversary of the publication of We of the Never, Never.
'Amity and Kindness' in the Never Never : Ideology and Aboriginal-European Relations in the Northern Territory Jan Larbalestier , 1990 single work criticism
— Appears in: Social Analysis , April no. 27 1990; (p. 70-82)
This Australia Emily Bulcock , 1926 single work essay
— Appears in: Queensland Authors and Artists' Xmas Magazine. 1926; (p. 5 - 6)
Bulcock appeals to contemporary Australian writers to break away from the 'baleful influences' of the pioneering novel, portraying only hardship and suffering, and write of other, more positive aspects of Australian life.
A Shelf of Women's Books Bernice May , 1926 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian Woman's Mirror , 2 March vol. 2 no. 14 1926; (p. 8, 57)
May writes of her desire to have a bookshelf full of women writers and discusses some of her favourites, both Australian and non-Australian.
Lurdurdminyi : Crescent Lagoon : Harold Giles' Version. Harold Giles , 1996 single work extract
— Appears in: Big River Country : Stories from Elsey Station 1996; (p. 34-36)
Following the murder of a Chinese man by an Aboriginal man, the Northern Territory law enforcers decide to make an example of the offender by gathering as many Aboriginal people together as possible to witness his hanging. After this had taken place, the authorities distributed a variety of goods to the Aboriginal people supposedly to encourage good behaviour.
Brumby Correspondent Douglas Lockwood , 1959 single work autobiography
— Appears in: Crocodiles and Other People 1959; (p. 41-49)
Lockwood discusses the nature of Northern Territory brumbies and of his experiences participating in their capture for use as stock horses on Elsey Station.
'It Was to Have Been my Best Book' : Dorothy Green and E. L. Grant Watson Suzanne Falkiner , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , no. 10 2010;
'When literary critic Dorothy Green died in 1991, those in her immediate circle were mystified to learn that little trace of the biography of English writer E. L. Grant Watson, which she was known to have been researching for some twenty years, had been found among her papers. This article examines the reasons why.' (Author's abstract)
The Wide Brown Land : Literary Readings of Space and the Australian Continent Anthony J. Hassall , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australia : Making Space Meaningful 2007; (p. 45-53)
'In his 1987 poem "Louvres" Les Murray speaks of journeys to 'the three quarters of our continent/set aside for mystic poetry" (2002, 239), a very different reading of Australia's inner space to A.D. Hope's 1939 vision of it as '[t]he Arabian desert of the human mind" (1966, 13) In this paper I review the opposed, contradictory ways in which the inner space of Australia has been perceived by Australian writers, and note changes in those literary perceptions, especially in the last fifty years. In that time what was routinely categerised, by Patrick White among others, as the "Dead heart" (1974, 94) - the disappointing desert encountered by nineteenth=century European explorers looking for another America -has been re-mythologised as the "Red Centre," the symbolic, living heart of the continent. What Barcroft Boake's 1897 poem hauntingly portrayed as out where the dead men lie" (140,-2) is now more commonly imagined as a site of spiritual exploration and psychic renewal, a place where Aboriginal identification with the land is respected and even shared. This change was powerfully symbolised in 1985 by the return to the traditional Anangu owners of the title deeds to the renamed Uluru, the great stone sited at the centre of the continent; but while this re-mythologising has been increasingly influential in literary readings, older, more negative constructions of that space as hostile and sterile have persisted, so that contradictory attitudes towards the inner space of Australia continue to be expressed. In reviewing a selection of those readings, I am conscious that they both distort and influence broader cultural perceptions. I am also aware that literary reconstructions of the past reflect both the attitudes of the time depicted and the current attitudes of the writer, and that separating the two is seldom simple. Finally, I am conscious of the connections between literary readings and those in art and film of the kind documented by Roslynn Hanes in her 1998 study Seeking the Centre: the Australian Desert in Literature, Art and Film, and those in television and advertising. I have however, with the exception of the Postscript, limited my paper to literary readings, with an emphasis on works published since Haynes's study.' (Author's abstract p. 45)
An English Publisher's Comment on Australian Literature Thomas Young , 1932 single work criticism
— Appears in: Desiderata , 2 May no. 12 1932; (p. 16)
'Why is it that the majority of Australian authors invariably write in the guide book style? It is a puzzle tot he English publisher that the majority of novels submitted are of that type; yet with just casual observation, it would seem that there are fields existent that have not yet been explored.' (Introduction)
Last amended 2 Sep 2016 07:18:44
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  • Roper River area, East Arnhem Land, Arnhem Land, Top End, Northern Territory,
  • Bush,
  • 1902
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