Guide to the Papers of Aileen Palmer


MS 6759

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Aileen Palmer
Papers of Aileen Palmer
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 6759
1.05 metres (7 boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Aileen Palmer, National Library of Australia, MS 6759, [box number and series and/or file number]'.

Biographical Note

Aileen Palmer, the daughter of Vance and Nettie Palmer, was born in London in 1915 and came to Australia as a baby. She was educated at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1935. She served with the British medical unit and medical service of the International Brigade in Spain, 1936-38, and with the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service, 1939-43. After her return to Australia in 1946 she contributed verse to journals such as Overland, Meanjin, Southerly, Vietnam Advances and Realist Writer. Under the pseudonym 'Caliban' she published two collections, World without Strangers? (1964) and Dear Life (1957). After a breakdown in 1948, Aileen intermittently spent long periods in mental hospitals in Melbourne.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Family Correspondence

The family correspondence dates from 1935 until 1980 and contains letters and post cards exchanged between Nettie Palmer and her daughters, Helen and Aileen, and between the two sisters. Of special significance is the group of letters written by Aileen while she was serving in Spain during the Civil War in 1935-37 as a member of a volunteer medical corps. The later correspondence between Helen and Aileen documents their last years, Nettie's final illness and Aileen's many years as an inmate of various hospitals.

Early letters; correspondence, 1935-1939 (File 1) - Box 1

Correspondence, 1940-1943 (File 2) - Box 1

Letters from Aileen Palmer in England to her family, 1944-1945 (File 3) - Box 1

Correspondence, 1944-1959 (File 4) - Box 1

Correspondence, 1961-1964 (File 5) - Box 1

Correspondence, 1965-1975 (File 6) - Box 1

Correspondence, 1976-1980 (File 7) - Box 1

Letters from Aileen Palmer, 1936-1938 (File 8) - Box 1

Letters from Helen Palmer to Aileen, 1936-1977 (File 9) - Box 1

Letter, with photograph, of Norman Walsh (cousin), to Aileen and Helen Palmer,1992. (File 10) - Box 1

Series 2. Family and Legal Papers - Box 1

The papers include obituaries of Vance, Nettie, and Helen Palmer, and letters of sympathy to Aileen on the occasion of their deaths; two passports and an address book of Aileen Palmer; legal papers relating to the sale of property in 1977; and Aileen's academic record certified by the Registrar, University of Melbourne.

Obituaries: Vance, Nettie and Helen Palmer (File 1) - Box 2

Passports, address books, press cuttings (File 2) - Box 2

Letters re sale of house, 1977 (File 3) - Box 2

Legal papers, certificates, etc. (File 4) - Box 2

Series 3. General Correspondence - Box 2

Aileen Palmer's correspondents were principally her literary friends, Katherine Susannah Prichard, Edith Young, Flora Eldershaw, Eleanor Dark, Guido Barracchi, Frank Davison, David Martin, Lesbia Harford, Stephen Murray-Smith, Lorraine Salmon, Eric Westbrook, V.J. Meyer, and her personal friends C.Jollie-Smith and Jessie Mcleod. A letter of 1938 from the then Prime Minister Joseph Lyons to Maurice Blackman, M.P., in reference to the arms embargo then enforced against Spain, is included.

Correspondence: 1935-1951. Included is a letter written by J.A. Lyons, P.M. (File 1) - Box 2

Correspondence, 1952-1958 (File 2) - Box 2

Correspondence, 1959-1966 (File 3) - Box 2

Correspondence, 1967-1981 (File 4) - Box 2

Correspondence: Esther Levy, 1950-1979 (File 5) - Box 2

Correspondence: Katherine Susannah Prichard, 1949-1962 (File 6) - Box 3

Correspondence: and literary notes, 1953-1963 (File 7) - Box 3

Correspondence: Katherine Susannah Prichard, 1950-1968; manuscripts of, and material relating to, K.S.P. (File 8) - Box 3

Katherine Susannah Prichard: correspondence, review notes etc. relating to On Strenuous Wings. (File 9) - Box 3

Correspondence: Flora Eldershaw and others, mainly 1948-1956 (File 10) - Box 3

Correspondence, 1955-1964 (File 11) - Box 3

Correspondence, 1955-1964 (File 12) - Box 3

Series 4. Writings of Aileen Palmer and Others - Box 4

Much of this series contains Aileen Palmer's 'fragments', writings she produced while she was a patient in Royal Park Hospital, Melbourne. Also included are poems privately published, Vance Palmer. A Contribution, unpublished novels Pilgrim's Way and Iron House, Mullock Verses, diary notes, notes on the work of Federico Garcia Lorca, and Nettie Palmer's Book, produced by Vance, Helen and Aileen for Nettie in 1948.

Notes on Federico Garcia Lorca; notes for Overland article, and letter from David Martin in reference to this. (File 1) - Box 4

Four original Files of Aileen Palmer, three containing her own work and the other that of various authors. (File 2) - Box 4

Notes, correspondence, drafts, by Aileen Palmer and various authors. (File 3) - Box 4

Writing, correspondence of Aileen Palmer, circa 1966-1968; verse of Helen Palmer. (File 4) - Box 4

Hospital notes, diary, circa l973 (File 5) - Box 4

Writing, Aileen Palmer and others, circa 1967, including Nettie Palmer's Book. (File 6) - Box 4

Aileen Palmer: Miscellaneous writing (File 7) - Box 5

Manuscript: Pilgrim's Way (a) (File 8) - Box 5

Manuscript: Pilgrim's Way (b) (File 9) - Box 5

Manuscript: Pilgrim's Way (c) (File 10) - Box 5

Manuscript: Pilgrim's Way (d) (File 11) - Box 5

Draft notes; typescripts: The Incident of the Potatoes by Joan Seaghers (File 12) - Box 5

Aileen Palmer: Drafts for short story/novel. (File 13) - Box 5

Aileen Palmer: Miscellaneous writing. (File 14) - Box 5

Aileen Palmer: Vance Palmer – a Contribution. (File 15) - Box 5

Aileen Palmer: diary, 1932; notes for novel/play Iron House. (File 16) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: diary, 1936-1945 (File 17) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: “fragments”, mainly 1974. (File 18) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: early writings, Spain. (File 19) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: songs, verse, circa 1948-1958; Mullock Verses. (File 20) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: miscellaneous writing, 1948 or earlier. (File 21) - Box 6

Aileen Palmer: miscellaneous writing, mainly 1948. (File 22) - Box 7

Aileen Palmer: notes, 1945, Spain, Yesterday and Tomorrow. (File 23) - Box 7

Writing of other authors, including: Helen Palmer, Robert Fitzgerald, Adrian Rawlins, R.A. Simpson, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Alexander Craig; File headed Verses from Vietnam. (File 24) - Box 7

Aileen Palmer: poems and letters sent to Nadine Dalgorno; poetry by Lesbia Harford and Sydney Jephcott. (File 25) - Box 7

Series 5. Material Relating to 3rd World Conference against A H Weapons. - Box 7

This series contains notes, newspaper cuttings and printed matter in reference to the 3rd World Conference against A & H Weapons, held in Tokyo in August 1957, which Aileen Palmer attended as an Australian delegate. Following the conference she travelled through Japan and China, and letters and descriptive notes about these countries are included in the series.

Material relating to the Conference. (File 1) - Box 7

Material relating to the Conference; material relating to subsequent travel in Japan China, 1957 (File 2) - Box 7

Series 6. Newspaper Cuttings and Printed Material - Box 7

This series contains a Cuban edition of 1962 of the poem Balada by Nicolas Guiden; a copy of the Fort Street High School magazine, The Fortian, for 1979; newspaper cuttings, electoral notices, invitations etc.; and a notice advertising a meeting in aid of Basque refugee children held in the Royal Albert Hall, London on June 24th, 1937, which includes a list of distinguished guests and is headed by a pencil sketch of a mother and child with the sub-title, Design by Pablo Picasso (1937) dedicated to the mothers and children of Spain. The sketch is signed S.Hian (?) '37

Material listed above under Series Description. (File 1) - Box 7

Flyer for the meeting, Spain Culture (File 2) - Box 7

Series 7. Photographs - Box 7

Series contains family portraits and photographs; miscellaneous photographs; a series of photographs taken in Spain during the Civil War; and postcards from Spain in the Civil period.