On this day …

The door through which Furphy’s body was carried on the day of his death, one hundred years ago today.

Early on 13 September 1912, Joseph Furphy set off to his son’s house with a horse and cart to pick up a load of iron railings. At about 8am his daughter-in-law, Mattie, saw him standing in the street in front of her house. After attempting to take a step, he collapsed and was assisted by neighbours into the house where he died of a cerebral haemorrhage soon after. On his death certificate his occupation was recorded as ‘Mechanic’.

Joseph Furphy’s name lives on as the author of Such is Life and people will gather today in Shepparton to mark the centenary of his death. John Barnes will present the John Furphy Memorial Lecture tonight on the topic, ‘Joseph Furphy: the Philosopher at the Foundry’, providing an opportunity to hear an esteemed Furphy scholar discuss the life and work of one of Australia’s most important writers. On Friday, Reading Joseph Furphy in Shepparton will bring a group of Furphy scholars together to continue the discussion.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend, but I’ll spend a few quiet moments today thinking about the man and the literary work that maintains such a prominent position in Australia’s literary history. Such is Life is one of those works that most people agree is not an easy read, but I line up with all those who will tell you that the rewards come in re-reading. The images and ideas that Furphy created emerge with such clarity in those moments when you concentrate on passages that were only vaguely familiar beforehand. I am looking forward to the next time I read about Tom Collins’ final approach to the ‘civilisation’ of the station mounted on a horse with his borrowed coat and bell-topper. I have laughed again at Tom Collins’ naked adventures on the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ side of the Murray River, and I continue to learn things about myself while thinking about Joseph Furphy’s particular brand of socialism.

I hope the accessibility and the flexibility of an electronic edition of Joseph Furphy’s works will attract more first-time readers and encourage some of those to pursue the richer experience of second and third readings to get closer to the ideas and the fictional world that emerged from the author’s imagination in the 1890s.

The Shepparton mechanic and author of Such is Life died one hundred years ago today. Long may he live in the minds of readers everywhere.

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The Palmer Abridgement of Such is Life

Such is Life (Palmer) 3 by Tom_Collins
Such is Life (Palmer) 3, a photo by Tom_Collins on Flickr.

Have just received my own copy of the 1937 Palmer abridgement of Such is Life. Scanned and roughly transformed into text I can now see the extent of the Palmer revisions. An extended account will be provided later, but for now I can confirm that the Palmers removed approximately 40,000 words for this English edition of an Australian classic. This edition will be included in the electronic edition of Such is Life for those interested in editorial intervention for marketing and cultural reasons.

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Further Towards an Electronic Edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life.

Joseph Furphy at Work in the Furphy Foundry

For more than three years, Joseph Furphy resisted suggestions that he shorten Such is Lifefor publication. But, after a visit to Sydney in April 1901, he gave in to the pressure from A. G. Stephens and the Bulletin Publishing Company. When he returned to Shepparton, he wrote to Stephens with a plan that would make radical changes to his novel: ‘As we agreed, contraction is impossible; the operation must be performed as if you would cut an ocean liner in two, then take a portion out of the centre, and deftly stick the ends together, making a tight, seaworthy brig.’ Such iron work might have been performed daily in the family foundry where Furphy worked, but the author performed a similar feat by lamplight in the ‘sanctum’ he had built for himself at the rear of his  cottage. This skillion had just enough room for a table, a bookcase and a stretcher bed, but Furphy retired there every evening to work on his ‘magnum opus.’

As I have described in a previous post, Furphy replaced the second and fifth chapters with shorter ones that contained significantly different content. The original chapters were revised and eventually published as The Buln Buln and the Brolga and Rigby’s Romance. As Julian Croft has argued in The Life and Opinion of Tom Collins, Furphy’s revisions changed the book’s ‘centre of gravity.’ With most of the text from the extracted novels, the 1898 version was ‘more concerned with relationships of men and women, and far more concerned with the notions of art, artifice, realism, and romance.’ With the two new chapters, the 1903 version placed greater emphasis on the theme of alternatives, choice, and determinism. In effect, Such is Life became a MUCH different book than the one Furphy had hoped to see published in 1898.

Collation of the 1898 typescript with the published versions confirms the variation discussed by Croft, John Barnes and Kevin Gilding, but it also identifies a multitude of variants that weave the extant documents together into complex sets of material and textual relationships.

In addition to revealing the complexity of this variation, I would also like to show today’s readers the text of Such as Lifeas Furphy typed it in 1898. But because parts of the

Furphy’s Shepparton Home (Click on image to go to State Library of Victoria)

typescript are missing, it is difficult to represent the complete text of that document with certainty. Nevertheless, we can approximate that text by drawing text from the published documents, and by flagging any words or passages likely to have been added to accommodate the new chapters, two and five.

Such a procedure will always be provisional, and so the established text is best provided in an electronic form that is easily updated and open to comment from readers. I aim to establish the provisional text over the next few months and work towards the best electronic environment for such an edition with my colleagues at the AustESE Project.

The AustESE project aims to build an electronic workbench that includes a workflow engine for scholarly editing and the best open source tools available . . . all tied together with a data model based on FRBR and the SPAR ontologies. A variety of export formats will be available, and so editors can choose from web-based electronic editions, e-reader versions, or traditional print formats.

For Such is Life, I’m aiming for something like the social editions discussed at the recent conference, Beyond Accessibility: Textual Studies in the 21st Century, but more thought will be necessary before the best way to represent Furphy’s documents and texts comes forward. With a suitable electronic environment, a beta version of ‘Such is Life (1898)’ can be offered to Furphy scholars and general readers for perusal and comment, in order to collaboratively determine which of those elements drawn from the published texts are most likely to be anachronisms. New versions of the text can then be released when necessary and made available in a variety of formats for readers of different persuasions.

By providing greater access to Furphy’s texts, with suitable tools to deal with the complex network of relationships between the related documents and people, we can all get a bit closer to a work that retains a significant place in the history of Australian literature.

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To Do List: 2012

Late in 2011, I finished a first draft of a TEI-encoded transcription of the 1898 typescript of Such is Life, providing a foundation for comparison with the published works and the core of a future electronic edition of Furphy’s works. Using Juxta, I’ve collated the typescript with the published versions, but I hope to be able to do more with Desmond Schmidt and Anna Gerber to develop an environment that will serve the preparation for and publication of an electronic edition. Desmond has been working on Multi-Version Documents for a while and is on the cusp of providing a service that will greatly assist under-skilled

Screenshot of the MVD viewer with Furphy texts uploaded.

scholars to pursue electronic editions with greater confidence. Updates and information about the technical and conceptual foundations of MVD can be found on Desmond’s blog: http://multiversiondocs.blogspot.com/

At the UQ eResearch Lab, Anna Gerber has been exploring the potential of MVD to serve as a foundation for scholarly editors wishing to collaboratively annotate works with complex textual histories. As part of the Open Annotations Collaboration, Anna has been extending LORE (Literature Object Re-Use and Exchange), an extension to the Firefox browser developed by the Aus-e-Lit Project, to support collaborative editing and serve as a first step towards a work-site for scholarly editing.

First edition of Such is Life (1903)

While these two creative people continue to develop digital infrastructure, I’ll finalise the preparation of my texts as I work towards digital and book versions of a scholarly edition of Such is Life and related works. I’m fortunate that the Furphy Project serves as a test-case for the work of my two colleagues, bringing me closer to an electronic edition than I otherwise would be. In the centenary year of Furphy’s death, these new resources and analyses will add to our knowledge of the nineteenth century print culture that helped transform a typescript from rural New South Wales into a novel that maintains a prominent position in Australia’s literary history.

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Mapping Tom Collins Update

I’ve made a few changes to the Google Map attached to this blog. The map attempts to plot

Conoble, the probable model for Furphy's Runnymede Station. Map NSW Parish and Historical Maps, http://www.lpi.nsw.gov.au/mapping_and_imagery/parish_maps

real and fictional places mentioned in Furphy’s novels. This has been helped by several new databases that have emerged since I first started the map in late 2010.But I’ve got a long way to go.

I made my first searches with the National Library’s digital map collection which contains a number of maps that locate nineteenth century boundaries and station names:

Detail of De Gruchy & Co.'s new squatting map of Riverina district of N.S.W. (1877), http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-f277

Combined with the satellite images provided by Google Maps, a geographical view of Furphy’s world is starting to emerge. Over time (in my re-readings of Furphy’s work), I’ll continue to plot new places on the map and add as much information as I can in order to provide comprehensive contextual information.

After completing the first TEI-encoded transcription of the 1898 typescript at the end of 2011, it is not lost on me that there are a lot of similarities between such transcriptions and the mapping of places in the world. Just as a map is a representation of a particular place, created by a human being with all sorts of motives, barriers and prejudices, a transcription of a document (eg manuscript, typescript, serialisation, book) has similar influences.

More broadly, a scholarly edition provides a map of documents and the human interventions that affect those documents. Our knowledge and needs continue to change, requiring new representations (and new editions) to assist our understanding of works from the past. Mapping Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life will grow with the electronic edition of the typescript and its textual descendants, providing useful notes to understand the conception, composition, revision, publication and reception of Furphy’s works. All of these things are inexorably connected to material and temporal phenomena that can be reimagined in documentary traces that have been preserved for close scrutiny.

There is too much information for this independent researcher to collate and record and there is not enough time to gather contemporary images of the region for visual context. Please contact me if you have any images or information that you’d like to share and record for future readers of Furphy, his works and his world.

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Furphy Typescript Discovered

I’ve now examined the typescript of The Buln Buln and the Brolga that is held in the Lloyd Ross Papers at the National Library of Australia and can confidently state that it was typed on Furphy’s Franklin typewriter and that Joseph Furphy struck the keys.

The Buln Buln and the Brolga Typescript

The typescript is hand-sewn with a stiff cardboard cover, but I’m not sure whether Furphy added the cover. I need to do some research on adhesive tape. Kate Baker’s signature appears on one of the pages, and so it was probably a gift to Robert Ross who was editor of the Barrier Truth when Rigby’s Romance was serialised and when The Buln Buln and the Brolga was also offered to the newspaper.

The type is definitely the same font and the typist used ‘I’ to represent 1 throughout – just like the Mitchell Library typescript. If that is not enough evidence, the absence of a space after commas clearly matches Furphy’s typing habits from the earlier typescript. That, I believe, is enough to argue that the typescript is Furphy’s and so can be included in the extant documents that were produced during his lifetime.

That means that I now have the following documents to inform my textual history of Such is Life:

  • Such is Life manuscript (ca1890s – fragment)
  • Such is Life typescript (1898 – two-thirds of novel, including early versions of Rigby’s Romance and Buln Buln and the Brolga)
  • Such is Life (Bulletin Publishing Company, 1903)
  • Rigby’s Romance (Serialised in Barrier Truth, 1905-1906)
  • The Buln Buln and the Brolga (typescript, ca. 1906)

With these documents, Furphy’s correspondence and the published texts, I can determine whether there was any editorial intervention in the publications and establish a better understanding of the textual transmission in order to mount an argument for an inferred 1898 version of Such is Life. This will be best done in an electronic form and so watch this space for experiments with representations of the text as process and product.

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What are we talking about?

I’ve been reading some of the scholarship on Such is Life, specifically the descriptions of the transformation of a single work into three. There, I’ve said it … ‘work.’ This is one of those slippery terms that anybody studying literature will have to face sooner or later, but few consider the ramifications of its meaning it for too long. To help deal with the concept, Peter Shillingsburg’s “How Literary Works Exist: Implied, Represented, Interpreted” provides a useful definition:

[first,] the work is implied by its material instantiations, not coeval with them; second, each representation of the work, material or electronic, is particular and partial; and third, the only access we have to the work is through acts of interpretation of representations that imply the work.

This is good, but the ‘material representations’ of Such is Life, Rigby’s Romance, and The Buln Buln and the Brolga test these terms by converging on a common ‘material representation,’ the typescript held at the Mitchell Library.

To visualise the convergence, I’ve been working with a hand-drawn sketch of the relationships between the material at hand.

A rough diagram of the material and textual situation.

The typescript of Such is Life (1898) ‘implies’ three works because chapters II and V were extracted in 1901 during the shortening for publication and most of the remaining text from the typescript was transmitted to the first edition of Such is Life (1903) after the new chapters II and V were added. The extracted chapters were subsequently recycled as Rigby’s Romance and The Buln Buln and the Brolga. The ‘material representations’ of these not only imply each work, but also the work Such is Life because of their origin in the 1898 typescript.

So, as an editor, or, indeed, as a reader, if I am to talk about or ‘represent’ any of these ‘works’, I have to take all of the ‘material instantiations’ into account. If any literary work/s call for digital representation, this is it. With TEI-encoded representations of Such is Life and The Buln Buln and the Brolga kindly provided by SETIS, completion of the transcription of the 1898 typescript and the serialisation of Rigby’s Romance is still required. When these are done, I hope to experiment with Desmond Schmidt’s MVD to represent that work through the transcriptions and the variation between each ‘material instantiation’. This structure promises to animate the processes of each work, allowing more readers to better understand how Furphy’s works were written, revised and published.

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