Barnard, Marjorie (1897–1987)

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Barnard, Marjorie (1897–1987)

Australian author who, with Flora Eldershaw, wrote more than 20 books under the joint pseudonym M. Barnard Eldershaw. Name variations: (joint pseudonym with Flora Eldershaw) M. Barnard Eldershaw. Born Marjorie Faith Barnard on August 16, 1897, in Sydney, Australia; died in 1987 in Sydney, Australia; daughter of Ethel Frances (Ashford) and Oswald Holmes Barnard; educated at University of Sydney; never married; no children.

Selected works—as M. Barnard Eldershaw:

A House is Built (1929); Green Memory (1931); The Glasshouse (1936); Plaque with Laurel (1937); Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1947).

Selected works as Marjorie Barnard:

The Ivory Gate (1920); Macquarie's World (1942); The Persimmon Tree and Other Stories (1943); Sydney: The Story of a City (1956); Australia's First Architect: Francis Greenway (1961); A History of Australia (1962); Miles Franklin (1967).

Publishing under the joint pseudonym M. Barnard Eldershaw, the writing team of Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw evolved into a well-oiled Australian literary machine. The shy Barnard contributed the majority of the books' text, while Eldershaw cultivated publishers and readers, acquiring an audience who would remain loyal to the pair even when they did not publish together.

The only surviving child of Ethel Frances and Oswald Holmes Barnard, Marjorie Faith Barnard was born and raised in Sydney, where her Oswald's theories of a proper girl's upbringing determined many aspects of her life. Barnard was not permitted to study the alphabet until age seven; she then learned it so quickly that she had to belie her proficiency for fear of displeasing him. Educated by a governess and at Sydney's Cambridge School of Girls' High School, Barnard then entered the University of Sydney. At first, Oswald was opposed to higher education but permitted it on condition that she live at home.

Upon graduation in 1918, Barnard was offered a fully paid scholarship to Oxford University, but her father, who controlled her by controlling her purse strings, refused his permission. Still living at home, she took a post as librarian at the Sydney Technical College in 1920, where she stayed for 12 years. In her hours away from the library, Barnard and Flora Eldershaw, whom she had met at university, began to work together. Barnard was an excellent writer but lacked the spirit to sell her work, while Eldershaw, though a skilled author, excelled more at publicity and public speaking. Together, they developed stories, outlined and assigned portions to be written, and exchanged work for mutual editing.

Eldershaw, Flora (1897–1956)

Australian author who wrote literary criticism on her own as well as fiction with Marjorie Barnard under the pseudonym M. Barnard Eldershaw. Name variations: (joint pseudonym with Marjorie Barnard) M. Barnard Eldershaw. Born Flora Sydney Patricia Eldershaw in Sydney, Australia, in 1897; died on September 20, 1956; daughter of Henry and Margaret Eldershaw; educated at Wagga Wagga; graduated from Sydney University, 1918; never married but romantically linked with Frank Dolby Davison; no children.

As Flora Eldershaw, works include:

Contemporary Australian Women Writers (1931); The Peaceful Army (1938, 1988).

Flora Eldershaw was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1897, the daughter of Henry and Margaret Eldershaw , and raised on the family sheep station in Riverina. Though weak in health since childhood, Flora enrolled at Sydney University as a teenager where she met Marjorie Barnard . The two would remain close friends throughout their lives. Following graduation in 1918, Eldershaw worked at Presbyterian Ladies' College in Croydon, then in the departments of Reconstruction and Labour and National Service, but she and Barnard aspired to literary careers. Combining their talents and personalities into the writing persona M. Barnard Eldershaw, the partners became hugely successful. Where Barnard was the stronger writer, Eldershaw often edited and created the storyline. She also shepherded works to publication, a process that Barnard abhorred. When a British editor lost one of their manuscripts, Eldershaw wrote to Barnard, "Don't worry, I'll be nasty to them." Barnard, in turn, wrote another friend: "She can be very competently nasty too, bless her heart." Though Eldershaw published some solo literary criticism, she preferred public lecturing. Flora Eldershaw died in 1956, at age 59.

Crista Martin, Boston, Massachusetts

Though they were voluminous correspondents, the private Barnard burned all her letters. Only occasionally did they sit down together, and it was generally understood that Barnard would perform most of the final writing. The partners made no effort to conceal their identities and viewed the pseudonym M. Barnard Eldershaw as a simplified expression of, and explanation for, their cooperative efforts. Both refused to disclose which portions in any given book were their individual work. "Collaborators should not publicly claim their contributions to a shared book," remarked Barnard. "It is not fair to the book."

Finally in 1932, when their presence in the literary community was on the ascendance, Barnard solicited her mother Ethel's assistance to help free her of full-time employment. Ethel successfully pleaded with Oswald to grant their daughter an allowance to support her writing. While Barnard continued to live at home, she and Flora occasionally departed Sydney for a month of side-by-side collaboration. More regularly, their work was confined to a weekend, or to a few hours in a flat they rented together; the room was strictly for writing or entertaining, and neither ever made it a residence.

In 1933, with two successful M. Barnard Eldershaw books behind her, Barnard made her first trip out of Australia, on a ship bound for England. The trip sparked a passion for sea travel and the idea for a third book. Barnard continued living with her parents until Oswald's death in 1940 and Ethel's in 1949. Left with the house and a small sum of money, Barnard was an independent woman for the first time. Having resumed library work in 1942, she again retired in 1950 to write full time.

Though she wrote fiction, Barnard's greater passion was the history of Australia, particularly Sydney. The 1941 book Macquarie's World, begun as a Barnard-Eldershaw project, was published under Barnard's name alone. In a sense, this work freed the partners. Though works under their joint authorship were still in demand, each woman felt the liberty, and assurance of positive reception, to pursue her own projects.

Her health long fragile, Flora Eldershaw died in 1956 at the age of 59. The loss of her alter ego weakened Barnard's writing, as did her increasingly failing eyesight. She continued to publish history and literary reviews into the 1960s, but her pen fell almost silent during the following two decades. She died in 1987, having spent more then two thirds of her life in the Sydney home built by her father. Her manuscripts are located at the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

sources:

Rorabacher, Louise E. Marjorie Barnard and M. Barnard Eldershaw. NY: Twayne, 1973.

Wilde, William H., Joy Horton and Barry Andrews, ed. Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts