Xavier Herbert

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Xavier Herbert
Xavier Herbert.PNG
1 April 1938, the day he received news of winning the Sesquicentenary Library Prize
Born(1901-05-15)15 May 1901
Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia
Died10 November 1984(1984-11-10) (aged 83)
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Pen nameXavier Herbert, E. Norden, Alfred Jackson, Herbert Astor [1]

Xavier Herbert (15 May 1901 10 November 1984) was an Australian writer best known for his Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Poor Fellow My Country (1975). He is considered one of the elder statesmen of Australian literature. He is also known for short story collections and his autobiography Disturbing Element. [1] [2]

The Miles Franklin Literary Award is an annual literary prize awarded to "a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases". The award was set up according to the will of Miles Franklin (1879–1954), who is best known for writing the Australian classic My Brilliant Career (1901). She bequeathed her estate to fund this award. As of 2016, the award is valued A$60,000.

<i>Poor Fellow My Country</i> novel by Xavier Herbert

Poor Fellow My Country is a Miles Franklin Award-winning novel by Australian author Xavier Herbert. At 1,463 pages, it is the longest Australian work of fiction ever written. Primarily, it is the story of Jeremy Delacy and his illegitimate grandson Prindy in the years leading up to World War II. The novel's subject matter includes Aboriginal affairs and Australian patriotism and Australian nationalism, issues also dealt with in Herbert's 1938 novel Capricornia.

Australian literature is the written or literary work produced in the area or by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding colonies. During its early Western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its literary tradition begins with and is linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, the narrative art of Australian writers has, since 1788, introduced the character of a new continent into literature—exploring such themes as Aboriginality, mateship, egalitarianism, democracy, national identity, migration, Australia's unique location and geography, the complexities of urban living, and "the beauty and the terror" of life in the Australian bush.


Life and career

Herbert was born Alfred Jackson in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1901, the illegitimate son of Amy Victoria Scammell and Benjamin Francis Herbert, a Welsh-born engine driver. He was registered at birth as Alfred Jackson, son of John Jackson, auctioneer, with whom his mother had already had two children. Before writing he worked many jobs in Western Australia and Victoria; his first job was in a pharmacy at the age of fourteen. He studied pharmacy at Perth Technical College and was registered as a pharmacist on 21 May 1923 as Alfred Xavier Herbert. He moved to Melbourne, and in 1935 enrolled at the University of Melbourne to study medicine. He started his writing career writing short stories for the popular magazine and newspaper market, publishing under a range of pseudonyms, the most common being Herbert Astor. [2]

Geraldton City in Western Australia

Geraldton is a coastal city in the Mid West region of Western Australia, 424 kilometres (263 mi) north of Perth.

Victoria (Australia) State in Australia

Victoria is a state in south-eastern Australia. Victoria is Australia's most densely populated state and its second-most populous state overall. Most of its population lives concentrated in the area surrounding Port Phillip Bay, which includes the metropolitan area of its state capital and largest city, Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. Geographically the smallest state on the Australian mainland, Victoria is bordered by Bass Strait and Tasmania to the south, New South Wales to the north, the Tasman Sea to the east, and South Australia to the west.

University of Melbourne Australian public university located in Melbourne, Victoria

The University of Melbourne is a public research university located in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 1853, it is Australia's second oldest university and the oldest in Victoria. Melbourne's main campus is located in Parkville, an inner suburb north of the Melbourne central business district, with several other campuses located across Victoria.

He did not publish his first book, Capricornia , until 1938. Capricornia was in part based on Herbert's experiences as Protector of Aborigines in Darwin, though it was written in London between 1930 and 1932. It won the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal for Australia's Best Novel of 1939. [3]

Capricornia (1938) is the debut novel by Xavier Herbert.

The office of the Protector of Aborigines was established pursuant to a recommendation contained in the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes, of the House of Commons. On 31 January 1838, Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies sent Governor Gipps the report.

Darwin, Northern Territory City in the Northern Territory, Australia

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, situated on the Timor Sea. It is the largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, with a population of 145,916. It is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities, and acts as the Top End's regional centre.

The 1940s and 1950s were a relatively lean time for Herbert in terms of publication. He released Seven Emus (1959). [1] [2] In the 1960s he published two books, before the release of Poor Fellow My Country (1975), as well as a short story collection. Poor Fellow My Country is the longest Australian novel. [4]

Herbert was well known for his outspoken views on indigenous issues. He was a great champion of Aboriginal peoples, [4] [5] particularly those living in missions in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In his personal life he was considered difficult, and his wife Sadie said it was a choice between having children and looking after Xavier. [4] Aware of his own mythology, he frustrated biographers by telling unreliable stories about his life and past. [2]

Queensland North-east state of Australia

Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world's sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 1,852,642 square kilometres (715,309 sq mi).

Northern Territory federal territory of Australia

The Northern Territory is an Australian territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia. It shares borders with Western Australia to the west, South Australia to the south, and Queensland to the east. To the north, the territory looks out to the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, including Western New Guinea and other Indonesian islands. The NT covers 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 sq mi), making it the third-largest Australian federal division, and the 11th-largest country subdivision in the world. It is sparsely populated, with a population of only 246,700, making it the least-populous of Australia's eight states and major territories, with fewer than half as many people as Tasmania.

In 1977 the artist Ray Crooke painted a Portrait of Xavier Herbert followed in 1980 by a Portrait of Sadie Herbert. Professor Emeritus Laurie Hergenhan discusses the story behind the creation of these artworks, and another portrait by Crooke of Sir Zelman Cowen, in "A Tale of Three Portraits." [6] Xavier Herbert died in 1984, aged 83. [7]

Published works

Xavier and Sadie Herbert's cottage in Queensland, as of 1996 Xavier and Sadie Herbert's Cottage (former), 1996.jpg
Xavier and Sadie Herbert's cottage in Queensland, as of 1996


Short story collections


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Xavier and Sadie Herberts Cottage

Xavier and Sadie Herbert's Cottage is a heritage-listed cottage at 399 Kamerunga Road, Redlynch, Cairns, Cairns Region, Queensland, Australia. It was built from c. 1920 to 1970s. It is also known as Sadie's House. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 24 January 1997.


  1. 1 2 3 "Xavier Herbert". AustLit. Association for the Study of Australian Literature. 2002. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 McDougall, Russell (2007). "Herbert, Albert Francis Xavier (1901–1984)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . 17. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  3. "Prize for Best Novel" The Argus, 19 March 1940, p1
  4. 1 2 3 ""Xavier Herbert" ABC Retrieved 12 July 2013". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  5. 31 May 2006 (31 May 2006). "Remembering Herbert" Archived 12 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine . Eureka Street. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  6. Hergenhan, Laurie (July 2013). "A Tale of Three Portraits" (PDF). Fryer Folios: 7–9. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  7. "OBITUARY". The Canberra Times . 12 November 1984. p. 7. Retrieved 3 December 2014 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "The Sydney Morning Herald – Google News Archive". News.google.com. 28 April 1976. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  9. "His country". 28 November 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  10. Herbert, Xavier (2002). Francis de Groen & Laurie Hergenhan, eds. Letters. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press. p. 490. ISBN   0-7022-3309-9 . Retrieved 19 August 2013.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  11. Hayes, Peggy. Letters from Xavier Herbert, 1980–1983 [manuscript]. National Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2013. Manuscript reference no.: NLA MS 9116

Xavier Herbert biographies

Xavier Herbert literary criticism