Guide to the Papers of Murray Bail

MS 6645

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Murray Bail
Papers of Murray Bail
Date Range
1949-1951; 1975-2001
Collection Number
MS 6645
0.56 metres (4 boxes + 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence, handwritten drafts, typescripts, notes and newspaper cuttings relating to Bail's books Contemporary portraits and other short stories, Homesickness, Ian Fairweather and Eucalyptus.

There are also papers relating to 'Healing', a short story from the Winter's Tales 25 and 'Home ownership', a short story published in Quadrant (vol. 24, nos. 1-2, 1980).

Correspondents include Helen Garner, David Ireland, Ian Fairweather, Bruce Chatwin, Frank Moorhouse, Anita Brookner, Pierre Ryckmans, David Foster, Nicholas Jose, Michael Hulse, Les Murray, John Button, Bettina Arndt, Roger McDonald, Geoffrey Dutton, Hilary McPhee and Macmillan publishers.

Conditions Governing Access

Part available for research, part permission required for research (Series 6/File 1 requires permission for research until 20 years after Murray Bail's death).

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Murray Bail, National Library of Australia, MS 6645, [box number and series and/or file number]'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers in Series 1 (File 1) and Series 2, 3 and 5 were purchased by the Library from Murray Bail in 1981. In 2003 the Library purchased another instalment (Series 1 (Files 2-3) and Series 5) from Bail. In 2004 correspondence (Series 6) was donated under the Cultural Gifts Program.


The collection has been arranged into six series by Library staff.

Bail's original typed draft for The drover's wife is held in the literary papers of the Aboriginal Treaty Committee (ACT) (MS 6856)

The Pictures Section of the National Library holds two photographs and a negative of Murray Bail (PIC P2160, PIC P413 and PIC/6086)

Papers relating to Bail's research for his book Ian Fairweather are held at the National Gallery of Australia

Biographical Note

Murray Bail was born on 22 September 1941 in Adelaide, to Lindsay Bail and Hazel née Ward. He was educated at Norwood Technical School in Adelaide, where he worked briefly in advertising before travelling to India (1968 –1970) and England (1970-1974). During this time he wrote for the Transatlantic Review and the Times Lliterary Supplement. Whilst in England, Bail wrote several short stories and he published his first collection of short stories, Contemporary portraits and other stories in 1975 (later republished as Camouflage in 2001). Bail has published several short stories in a wide range of periodicals including Meanjin, Quadrant and The New Yorker.

Bail's first novel, Homesickness, published in 1980, won the 1980 National Book Council Award for Australian Literature and the Age Book of the Year award. Since then, he has published travel writing, short stories, novels such as Holden's Performance (1987) and Longhand, a writer's notebook (1989), as well as a study of the artist, Ian Fairweather (1981). Bail's interest in the visual arts led to his appointment as a trustee of the National Gallery of Australia (1976-1981).

In 1999 his novel Eucalyptus was critically acclaimed, winning the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Both Eucalyptus and Camouflage were also published overseas and in a number of foreign language editions.

Bail was formerly married to Helen Garner. He currently resides in Sydney.

Sources: Who's Who in Australia 2003, p. 174; The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, pp. 71-72.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Contemporary portraits and other stories, 1975

Contemporary portraits and other stories was initially published by the University of Queensland Press in 1975. In 1986 Faber and Faber re-published the work under the title of The drover's wife and other stories.

In 2001 Harvill Press published some of the stories under the title Camouflage. It contains three stories: 'Camouflage', 'The drover's wife' and 'The seduction of my sister'.

File 1. Handwritten draft of 'The drover's wife', including illustration - Box 1

File 1. Handwritten notes and heavily annotated typescript of 'Cul-de-Sac' - Box 1

File 1. Notebook and handwritten notes - Box 1

File 2. Typescript of Camouflage with editorial corrections and a later draft typescript with further corrections, including a handwritten inserted page - Box 1

File 3. 23 loose handwritten sheets of 'The seduction of my sister' with corrections - Box 1

File 3. A later handwritten version in notebook extensively edited - Box 1

File 3. 25 draft pages, the reverse of a number of pages used for additions and corrections - Box 1

File 3. Typescript (24 pages) heavily edited in pen and pencil, with reverse of pages used for notes and additions - Box 1

File 3. Typescript (22 pages) with minimal corrections - Box 1

Series 2. Homesickness, 1978-1981

Bail's first novel, Homesickness: a novel, was published by Macmillan in 1980.

File 1. Correspondence with publisher, 1978-1979 - Box 1

File 2. Correspondence with publisher, 1980-1981 - Box 1

File 3. Handwritten notes and story outline - Box 1

File 4. Draft typescript (pages 1-90) with ink corrections - Box 1

File 5. Draft typescript (pages 91-180) with ink corrections - Box 1

File 6. Draft typescript (pages 181-261) with ink corrections - Box 2

File 7. Draft typescript (pages 262-346) with ink corrections - Box 2

File 8. Handwritten draft (pages 1-110) with corrections - Box 2

File 9. Handwritten draft (pages 111-250) with corrections - Box 2

File 10. Mock-up cover of the book (folio item) - Folio-Box No. ?

Series 3. Ian Fairweather, 1981

Bail's study of the artist Ian Fairweather was published by Bay Books in 1981. The series comprises handwritten drafts, notes and typescripts.

Research material for the book is held at the National Gallery of Australia.

File 1. Three exercise books of handwritten drafts and notes - Box 2

File 2. Draft typescript with corrections - Box 2

Series 4. Eucalyptus, 1998-2001

Eucalyptus was published in London by Harvill Press 1998. It won the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1999.

The series includes handwritten drafts, notes, typescripts, a sampling of Spanish and American reviews, correspondence and a photograph. The correspondents include David Ireland, Frank Moorhouse, Anita Brookner, Pierre Ryckmans, David Foster, Nicholas Jose, Michael Hulse, Les Murray, John Button, Bettina Arndt, Roger McDonald, Geoffrey Dutton, Hilary McPhee and Macmillan publishers.

File 1. Handwritten notes, clippings and a photograph of the eucalyptus, two pages of diagrammatic design for the story, assorted notes relating to plot and character; - Box 2

File 2. Handwritten manuscript of the novel (167 pages), together with additions and corrections by the author; - Box 3

File 3. Typescript of the novel (226 pages) with editorial corrections and an extract from the first chapter, 'Obliqua'; - Box 3

File 4. Correspondence from readers relating to Eucalyptus;, 1998-2001 - Box 3

File 5. Sampling of Spanish and American reviews of the novel, including The New York Times Book Review (1998-2000), a Harvill Catalogue (1998), various draft designs of the cover for Eucalyptus and a poster - Box 3

Series 5. Other Writings, 1979-1980

'Healing', a short story which appeared in the Winter's Tales 25 was published by Macmillan in 1979. 'Home ownership', which first appeared as a short story, was published in Quadrant, vol. 24, no. 1-2, 1980.

File 1. A handwritten, a draft typescript and a final typescript of Healing; Four draft typescripts of 'Home ownership' with editorial changes - Box 3

Series 6. Correspondence, 1949-1951, 1975-1995

The Ian Fairweather letters, acquired by Bail in the course of his research on the artist, form an important group in this series. Most are undated, but can be placed in the very late forties and early fifties. Written from Cairns, Bribie Island or Darwin, they are addressed to Miss Swanston or Miss Smith of Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. They are almost all short one-page letters, sending paintings, thanks for cheque and so on. On some, Bail has written a date (which in most cases were cross checked to reach a fairly accurate date). The four photographs in this group depict an early family scene, Fairweather in his studio, Fairweather's house in Bali with Fairweather and Lina Bryans in background, and Fairweather in army uniform.

Correspondents include Alice Adams, Nelson Algren, Bruce Beaver, John Brack, Lina Bryans, A.S. Byatt, Gary Catalano, Peter Carey, Bruce Chatwin, Grace Cowley, Manning Clark, Peter Conrad, Peter Cowan, Peter Craven and Michael Heywood (as editors of Scripsi), Helen Daniel, Robyn Davidson, Russell (and Maisie) Drysdale, Geoffrey Dutton, Ian Fairweather (1950), Helen Garner (RESTRICTED UNTIL 20 YEARS AFTER BAIL'S DEATH), Arakawa and Madeline Gins, James Gleeson, Kate Grenville, Rodney Hall, Barbara Hanrahan, Shirley Hazzard, Robert Haupt, Doug Huebler, David Ireland, Rod Jones, Robert Klippel (Bob), Colin Lancely, Alun Leach-Jones, David Malouf, James McAuley, Roger McDonald, David Marr, Drusilla Modjeska, James Mollison, Frank Moorhouse, Craig Munro, Gerald Murnane, Barry Oakley, John Olsen, Peter Porter, John Passmore, Lucie Rie, Salman Rushdie, Bernard Smith, Vivian Smith, Dal Stivens, Mark Strand, Jeremy Treglown, Patrick White, Tim Winton, Judith Wright.

File 1. Helen Garner (RESTRICTED UNTIL 20 YEARS AFTER BAIL'S DEATH) - Box (Restricted)

File 2. Ian Fairweather (letters and photographs) - Box 4

File 3. Artists - Box 4

File 4. Bruce Chatwin - Box 4

File 4. Arakawa and Madeline Gins - Box 4

File 5-7. Other letters - Box 4