Guide to the Papers of Peter Carey

MS 7566

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Papers of Peter Carey
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 7566
1.08 metres (7 boxes + 1 packet)
Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers include general correspondence, eight manuscript notebooks recording ideas for Carey's writing, drafts of several of his novels and short stories, reviews of his work, school reports and the transcript of an interview with Van Ikin. Five of the notebooks contain notes which relate mostly to Carey's novel 'Pets' which was later published as Illywhacker.

Correspondents include Phillip Adams, Noni Brahm, Clem Christesen, Laurie Clancy, Tim Curnow, Geoffrey Dutton, Brian Kiernan, Colleen McCullough, Frank Moorhouse, Stephen Murray-Smith, Bill Peach, Deborah Rogers (Carey's literary agent), Frank Thompson, Meril Yule, Judah Waten, Richard Walsh and Michael Wilding.

Conditions Governing Access

Access conditions may apply to this collection, please refer to the collection's catalogue record for further information (

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 becited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Peter Carey, National Library of Australia, MS 7566, [series and/or file number]'.


The initial instalment of papers was acquired from Carey in 1984, under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme. In August 2001, the Library purchased privately one volume of Carey's business correspondence and in October 2001 it purchased at auction eight notebooks containing working notes for ideas for novels and short stories.


The Library has arranged the papers into six series, retaining Carey's organisation of papers within files.

The Fryer Library at the University of Queensland holds a large collection of Carey Papers, including a set of notebooks which complement the holdings in Series 3 of this collection.

The State Library of Victoria holds manuscripts of unpublished works by Carey, together with material relating to his book True history of the Kelly Gang.

Biographical Note

Peter Carey was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in 1943. He was educated at Geelong Grammar School (1954-60) and later at Monash University where he studied science. Early contact with writers Morris Lurie and Barry Oakley led him into writing and advertising. Between 1962 and 1967 he supported his early writing career by working in advertising agencies in Melbourne, writing advertising copy. In the late 1960s he travelled through Europe and the Middle East and worked in London in advertising. He returned to Australia in 1970 and worked in a number of advertising agencies in Melbourne and Sydney. It was during this period that he began to write the short stories which appear in the Fat Man in History (1974)

In the late 1970s Carey moved to an 'alternative community' at Yandina in Queensland, writing for three weeks out of the month and working the fourth for an advertising firm in Sydney. During this time he wrote most of the stories which were published in War Crimes (1979) and completed his first novel Bliss (1981).

In 1980 Carey returned to Sydney and opened an advertising agency in partnership with Bani McSpedden. In 1981 he moved to Bellingen in northern New South Wales, which provided the inspiration for Illywhacker (1985) and Oscar and Lucinda (1988).

In 1990 Carey, his wife Alison Summers and his two sons took up residence in New York, where Carey went on to write The Tax Inspector (1991), The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994), Jack Maggs (1997) and True history of the Kelly Gang (2001). He teaches creative writing part-time at New York University.

Carey has won numerous literary awards, including:

Biographical Reference(s)

Vaughan, Rebecca. A brief history of Carey's working life. 1997.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. General correspondence, 1969-1981

This series comprises correspondence relating to Carey's writings, the publication of his books, negotiations for film rights for his novel Bliss and his short story 'The puzzling nature of blue'.

Correspondents include Phillip Adams, Noni Brahm, Clem Christesen, Geoffrey Dutton, Brian Kiernan, Colleen McCullough, Frank Moorhouse, Stephen Murray-Smith, Richard Walsh, Judah Waten and Michael Wilding.

File 1_3. Correspondence

Much of the correspondence is concerned with a copyright dispute between Carey and Deborah Rogers (his literary agent) and Meril Yule and Frank Thompson of Queensland University Press. The letters are mostly incoming, with only a few copies of Carey's replies.

File 4. Business correspondence, 1969-1974

One bound volume of original letters, comprising 109 items, mostly letters dating from 1969-74. They include letters dating from the time of Carey's first book The fat man in history (1974) and important impressions of his unpublished novel 'Wog', including Geoffrey Dutton's rejection. Other correspondents include Phillip Adams, Clem Christesen, Laurie Clancy, Frank Moorhouse, Stephen Murray-Smith, Bill Peach, Deborah Rogers and Michael Wilding.

Series 2. Writings, 1967-1979

The series comprises manuscript and typescript drafts, correspondence with publishers, cuttings, reviews and other papers relating to two of Carey's unpublished novels and a number of his short stories. Correspondents include Michael George of André Deutsch (one letter) and Tim Curnow of Curtis Brown (one letter).

Subseries 2.1. Novels

File 1. 'Wog'

Bound carbon copy of typescript and a copy of a letter from Michael George regarding the unpublished novel, 1967-70

File 2. 'Adventures aboard the Marie Celeste'

Bound copy of typescript with minor alterations (Eildon, March 1971) and a copy of a letter from Tim Curnow regarding the unpublished novel. The first page of the typescript contains the annotation 'This copy contains David Kendall's editorial marks and remarks, as the manuscript was prepared for publication by Outback Press in 1974 or 75'.

Subseries 2.2. Short Stories

File 3. 'Structure', 1970


File 4. 'Crabs', 1972

Edited typescript.

File 5. 'A windmill in the west', 1972

Drafts and cutting of the story as it appeared in Meanjin Quarterly, Dec 1972

File 6_7. 'Peeling,', 1972

Edited typescript

File 8. 'Happy story', 1973

Edited typescript

File 9. 'Conversation with unicorns', 1973

Final draft and cut-out of published story in The Sun, Jan 1973

File 10. 'Room no. 5', 1973

Typescript, plus printed copy as it appeared in Nation Review, 1973

File 11. 'The mad puzzle king', 1973

Drafts and cuttings of the story as it appeared in the Living Daylight, 1973

File 12. 'Joe', 1973

Typescript, 1973

File 13. 'Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran', 1973

Typescript, 1973

File 14. 'Withdrawal', 1974

Typescript, several drafts, 1974

File 15. 'The fat man in history', 1974

Typescript, 1974

File 16. 'The puzzling nature of blue', 1974

Manuscript and typescript drafts, 1974

File 17. 'Kristin Du', 1974

drafts and notes, including early drafts of the same idea in a different story, 1974

File 18. 'American dreams', 1974

Edited typescript, 1974

File 19. 'Life and death in the Southside Pavilion', 1974

Typescripts of several drafts, 1974

File 20. 'Report on the shadow industry', 1974

Typescripts, with several drafts, 1974

File 21. 'I know you can talk', 1975

Typescript draft, 1975

File 22_23. 'The chance', 1977

Manuscript and typescript drafts, 1977

File 24. 'The cosmic pragmatist', 1977

Edited typescript, 1977

File 25_26. 'Concerning the Greek tyrant', 1978

Edited typescript, 1978

File 27_28. 'War crimes'

Typed drafts, final versions, copies and preliminary notes as well as copies of published version cut out from periodicals.

File 29. 'Feet'

Edited typescript, undated

File 30. 'Slides for a magic lantern'

Bound original typescript with minor alterations, undated

File 31. 'In loving memory of Luke McClosky'

Edited typescript, undated

File 32. 'Marvin Gnash is really weird'

Edited typescript, undated

File 33. Untitled:

Edited typescript, undated

File 34. 'The dream of the world's greatest architect'

Edited typescript, undated

File 35. 'Saturday'

Typescript, undated

File 36. 'Rousseau set upon by his tigers'

Typescript, undated

File 37. 'Fire dreams'

Edited typescript, undated

File 38. 'The last great optimist'

Edited typescript, undated

File 39. 'Mayfair'

Typescript, undated

File 40. 'A schoolboy prank'

Typescript and manuscript, undated

File 41. 'Williamson wood'

Typescript and notes, undated

Series 3. Notebooks, 1965-1985

During the course of his career, Carey has maintained notebooks of ideas for novels and short stories. Contained in this series are eight of these handwritten notebooks, all but two of which have been numbered by Carey. Five of the eight notebooks contain notes which relate mostly to Carey's novel 'Pets', which was later published as Illywhacker.

Item 1. Unnumbered notebook, 1965-1970

Contains notes and early draft of a novella entitled 'The Chance'

Item 2. Unnumbered notebook, February-March 1967

Contains ideas for novels and stories.

Item 3. Notebook No. 1, September-October 1980

Contains notes relating to the publication and promotion of Bliss, together with ideas for novels or stories and notes for Carey's advertising projects.

Item 4. Notebook No. 2, October-December 1980

Notes relating to Carey's novel 'Pets' and some advertising and personal notes

Item 5. Notebook No. 4, February-March 1981

Notes relating to Carey's novel 'Pets' and some advertising and personal notes

Item 6. Notebook No. 5, May-June 1981

Notes relating to Carey's novel 'Pets' and some advertising and personal notes

Item 7. Notebook No. 7, August-December 1981

Notes relating to Carey's novel 'Pets' and some advertising and personal notes

Item 8. Notebook No. 8, November-December 1981

Notes relating to Carey's novel 'Pets' and some advertising and personal notes

Series 4. School reports, 1954-1960

This series contains Carey's school reports covering six years of his education at Geelong Church of England Grammar School. The reports include comments from his teachers on English, science, mathematics and physical education.

Comprises 1 folder (File 1).

Series 5. Cuttings and photocopies, 1969-1988

The series contains cuttings and photocopies of Carey's published short stories.

Comprises two folders (Files 1-2).

Series 6. Miscellaneous, 1988

This series contains a transcript of an interview with Van Ikin, a poster of contemporary Australian writers, University of Queensland Press dust jackets for Carey's books and media releases and photocopies of newspaper cuttings relating to his winning the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda.

Comprises 1 folder (File 1).

Container List

Series File Box
1 1-3 1
1 4 7
2 1-4 1
2 5-13 2
2 14-21 3
2 22-30 4
2 31-39 5
2 40-41 6
3 1-8 7
4 1 6
5 1-2 6
5 Folio
6 1 6
6 1 7