River, trees, stacked rocks

Part of the adventure for a biographer is walking the earth on which your subject walked, smelling the bush air, feeling the seasonal chill, listening to the river flow and really seeing the forms that may have been seen by the eyes of another. On a chill Melbourne morning this week I walked ‘ Warrandyte‘ My mother’s vague description of where Miller’s little cottage sat challenged me but the feel of the earth and the stand of the trees gave me the connection I sought.

So, July’s banner is of Yarra Yarra, Warrandyte.

Snippets from Godfrey Miller Papers MSS 1005 Vol 7 1922-36 To Arthur Fenwick. Manuscript held in the Mitchell Wing of the State Library of NSW

‘…I am found to be living in a one roomed house in the country and rarely seen in Melbourne streets. I have left architecture for the time and am totally rapped up with the charms of the sister art of landscape painting. I lead a jolly existence if any was lead by any creature, and find the days too short.’

‘…Too I should have to play the gentleman and this is rather hard for me – I do not ask for a compliment in return – but the larrikin is pretty strong in me… Needless to say it is the call of my new profession which has steadied my adventurous spirit. I have already sacrificed a great deal to it – now is another sacrifice – when I grow old – not so very long [Miller is only 31 at this time] – I wonder if I will have regrets. One wonders…. If I thought, and seriously did not, that you could endure this little cottage and quietness you would have stayed on and on without my orthodox invitation…the little trivial business of existence have all to be encountered and time expended on them, but they in comparison, are in minute proportion to other affairs, it is all very well for Shakespeare (why drag him in) to write “How the moonlight sleeps upon the bank” but if he had just done a fairly large washing laboriously in kerosene tins by moonlight he might be a little less poetic.’

‘…for this purpose you can imagine me living  in a rather dismal cottage which I have rented for three months. It was despair or desperation which took me there: It has all come about in this manner. The little house in Warrandyte found a buyer and in a few days we were packing. By some curious insight Grant had another ____ and bought away up in the trees where few know there is a house. It boasts seven rooms…and I come here to at frequent occasions to break the fast of my hermitage…’

‘…With some sneaking thoughts of over estimation of Melba I went to hear her La Boheme. the men sing delightfully easy through their parts and exited leaving the tenor. The door opened, she sang a few words and sat down. My doubts fell from me like the ancient mariner’s curse and I worshipped. Cleopatra in all her glory and the magnificent Elizabeth are mere figures in history. I have read diffusely lately while keeping Browning on hand. R>S.L. and one lately of Balzac ‘Quest of Absolute’ have taken me from my cottage, Thomas Hardy too. … all well and life without big events. Father is in Sydney and remarkably well.’

A classic Miller sepia wash from the Warrandyte ‘hermitage’ period

Warrandyte 1920s from Charles Nodrum Gallery Richmond Melbourne

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