Literary Victoria

Victoria in story, memory, and the imagination. A guide to stories and works about Victoria and Victorians in fiction, personal narratives and non fiction works.

Introduction

The Library has a vast collection of Australian fiction. This guide will help you to:

1. Find and browse Australian fiction in the Library

2. Discover fictional works set in Victoria, along with some examples

3. Find reference books, including bibliographies and anthologies, about Australian fiction

4. Locate  serialised fiction in the Library's periodicals.

Finding Australian fiction in the Library

You can find a browsing collection of Australian fiction in The Ian Potter Queens Hall Reading Room.

Unlike the Library's other reading rooms, The Ian Potter Queens Hall Reading Room is divided into genre lounges, including an entire section showcasing the fictional works of Victorian writers. Books are ordered by author's surname, rather than by Dewey number, so they are easier to find. There are also lounges for Australian fiction and Young Adult fiction, as well as an area devoted to Australian fictional works in translation (ie Languages Other Than English). 

You can also find a limited amount of Australian fictional works in the library's La Trobe Reading Room ("the Dome") Look for books in the call number range of A823.

You can browse our full collection of Australian fiction using the Library catalogue.You can search for specific titles or authors, or you can browse search by Subject, AuthorTitle or Call number. See our Help pages for tips on how to search.

Here are some useful searches:

Australian fiction
Australian fiction-21st century
Australian fiction--20th century 
Australian fiction--19th century 
Australian fiction--History and criticism
Australian fiction--Women authors
Short stories, Australian
Short stories, Australian--19th century
Short stories, Australian--20th century
Short stories, Australian--21st century

You can narrow down your results using the sub-fields on the left, eg you can filter by Subject or Creation date.

Much of the Library's Australian fiction collection is in closed storage. To access these items, you will need a Library membership number. You can register as an Access member with us online. Once you have a membership number, you can request items through the catalogue:

AustLit

The best way to find details of fictional works set in Victoria is using the AustLit database:

As of January 2017, AustLit also contains more than 87,000 records with links to full-text resources, including out-of-copyright works that have been digitised by AustLit, and out-of-copyright works that have been digitised by other organisations, such as Trove.

How to find fiction set in Victoria in AustLit

1. Go to Advanced Search in AustLit (via the Menu - look for the lines icon in the top bar)

2. Find Work box and click on arrow next to Form/Genre/Type

3. Select your chosen form from list of options e.g. novel, short story

4. Find the Subject box. Click on arrow next to 'Geographic and temporal settings'.

3. Enter Victoria into Place/Settings box, & then select 'Victoria-Australia' from list of options that will appear from AustLit thesaurus.

4. Press Enter.

This will give you a list of all the novels in the AustLit database that are set in Victoria.

To find full text works in AustLit

To find full text items in your AustLit search results, look for either a yellow 'F' icon, or a blue arrow.

A yellow 'F' icon indicates that AustLit has digitised a work.

A blue arrow icon indicates that full text is available elsewhere, but accessible through AustLit.

To access full text

To access the full text, click on a title from your search results with a blue arrow or a yellow 'F' next to it. Then click on the Read Online button on the top right.

Reference sources

Reference sources, such as anthologies and bibliographies, can be an excellent place to begin your inquiries - whether you are looking to simply browse the collection, or you are interested in doing more serious research.

[Public Library of Victoria - staff and public]. Photograph by Mark Strizic; H2008.11/276

To find anthologies and bibliographies of Australian fiction in the Library, use the tabs at the top of this box.

Anthologies

Anthologies are collections of literary works, usually grouped together by a common theme, author, period, genre or subject. Anthologies can be an excellent starting point when searching for resources. To browse the library's anthologies of Australian literature, go to call numbers LT 819-A820 in the the La Trobe Reading Room ("the Dome").

Useful anthologies about Australian literature include:

The best Australian stories is an annual publication showcasing the best new short stories that have been published in Australia for any given year. 

To browse the library's full collection of anthologies, you will need to use the catalogue. Enter the string: Australian literature antholog* into the Search box and press Enter.

Bibliographies

A bibliography is a complete or selective list of literature on a particular subject. The library has numerous bibliographies on Australian literature that include lists of Australian fictional works. The bibliographies cover a range of different time spans and topics - some are wide-ranging, while others are more specialised. Here are some useful ones:

Novel & short stories set in Victoria: some examples

For the first one hundred years of European settlement in the Colony, social realism was the dominant form of literature in Victoria. Melbourne's writers explored themes of social displacement, colonial life and identity, as they tried to reconcile their new lives in Australia with their English ancestry. Some key novels and short stories set in Victoria in the Colonial era include:

Latest information with regard to Australia Felix by George Arden (1840)

The recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn by Henry Kingsley (1859)

The mystery of a hansom cab by Fergus Hume (1886)
(Also available online)

Uncle Piper of Piper's Hill by Jessie Couvreur (aka Tasma) (1888)

Robbery under arms by Rolf Boldrewood (1888)

A marked man: some episodes in his life by Ada Cambridge (1890)
(Also available online)

A romance of Canvas Town and other stories by Rolf Boldrewood (1898)

Although most books in Australia were still imported from England in the early twentieth century, Australian writers were coming into their own. Some examples of works featuring Victoria during this period include:

The getting of wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson (1910)
(Also available online)

The fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson (1917)
(Also available online)

Painted clay by Capel Boake

The Monforts by Martin Boyd (1928)

The Swayne Family by Vance Palmer (1934)

These are my people: collected short stories by Alan Marshall [1940]

The Pea Pickers by Eve Langley (1942)

Murder in the telephone exchange by June Wright (1948)

Whilst social realism remained popular in the latter half of the twentieth century, Australian literature diversified to include science fiction, surrealism, crime writing and other varied forms. Examples include:

Power without glory by Frank Hardy (1950) 
(Also available online)

On the beach by Nevil Shute (1957)
(Also available online)

A bachelor's children: short stories by Hal Porter (1962)

My brother Jack by George Johnston (1964)

Picnic at hanging rock by Joan Lindsay (1967)

Monkey grip by Helen Garner (1977)

Illywhacker by Peter Carey (1985)

The brush-off by Shane Maloney (1996)

Australian literature has continued to flourish in the twentieth century, with many wonderful stories set in Victoria. Here are just a few:

Three dollars by Elliot Perlman (1998)                                               

Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable (2001)

The art of the engine driver by Steven Carroll (2001)

Shadowboxing by Tony Birch (2006)

The slap by Christos Tsolkias (2008)

Truth by Peter Temple (2009)

The Rosie project by Graeme Simsion (2012)

Serialised fiction

There was no publishing industry to speak of in colonial Australia, so authors relied on Australian newspapers and magazines to make an income. Prior to 1890, many well known authors earned a living by serialising their work, including writers such as Marcus ClarkeRolf BoldrewoodJessie Couvreur ('Tasma'), and Ada Cambridge. This has posed a problem for researchers, as works are spread diffusely through different newspapers and magazines, without a single definitive index to draw them together. 

The Index to serials in Australian periodicals and newspapers : nineteenth century  by Toni Johnson-Woods is a useful tool for finding nineteenth century serialised fiction in Australian newspapers and magazines. Almost 1,000 works are listed, 174 of which are Australian works of fiction. It provides an author and title index, and an index by newspaper or magazine. There are also brief but useful bibliographic summaries of authors works, and introductory notes about the range and presentation of serialised fiction for each publication. The publications surveyed range from 1853 until 1900.

To be continued: The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database contains over 21,000 novels, novellas and short stories published in Australian newspapers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.This database enables anyone to read, explore, correct, add and export the fiction early Australians read and wrote.You can read about some of the discoveries for Australian literature enabled by this collection of fiction on the National Library of Australia's web search engine Trove.

You can also find serialised works using AustLit:

How to find serialised fiction in AustLit

1. Enter your search term  into the Search box on the AustLit home page. Eg to search for serialised novels, enter the string: serialised novel and then press Enter

2. Look for Filter by work box on left of screen and select Subject.  A drop down list of subjects will appear.

3. Select 'Melbourne' from drop down list of subjects and press Enter

Project Gutenberg Australia

Project Gutenberg Australia is a website offering access to a compilation of public domain literature (ie works that are out of copyright)  by Australian authors or about Australia, digitally re-published. The website presents electronic texts of books covering Australian literature, Australian history including journals by Australian explorers, biographies, and reference tools including the Dictionary of Australian biography.

You can find many Australian classics on Project Gutenberg Australia, such as:

The mystery of a hansom cab

[Collins Street looking east from Queen Street] ; H99.100/31

Aspiring playwright Fergus Hume self-published his novel, The mystery of a hansom cab, in 1886, after every publisher he offered it to ‘refused even to look at the manuscript on the ground that no Colonial could write anything worth reading’ (Fergus Hume). Read more in Block buster! : Fergus Hume & the mystery of a hansom cab

Crime fiction

There is a proud tradition of crime fiction in Melbourne, from the short stories of James Skipp Borlase in the mid nineteenth century, to the best-selling novels by Fergus Hume and June Wright, and our well-known crime writers of today, such as Peter Temple, Kerry Greenwood and Shane Maloney. Read more about Melbourne's crime fiction scene at eMelbourne - Crime fiction.

Melbourne. Athenaeum. 188 Collins St. Photograph by John T. Collins; H98.252/776

Victoria's oldest subscription library, the Melbourne Athenaeum Library in Collins Street, is well known for its excellent collection of crime fiction.

Literary magazines

You can also find many excellent short fiction works by established and emerging writers in literary journals. The library has a great selection. Here are some of the well-known ones:

Going down swinging

Going Down Swinging is a literary journal at the forefront of both digital and print culture, with the willingness to take to the stage wherever an audience can be found. This is where the fierce, fresh writing lives.

The lifted brow

This quarterly literary journal publishes a combination of work: essays, commentary, columns, criticism, fiction, poetry, interviews, comics, visual art, and more.

Kill your darlings

Kill your darlings (KYD) is an independent online magazine dedicated to arts and culture. The journal publishes fiction, commentary, essays, memoir and criticism and more.

Meanjin

Meanjijn is one of Australia's best and oldest literary journals of literature and ideas.

Overland

Overland - Australia's only radical literary magazine – has been showcasing brilliant and progressive fiction, poetry, nonfiction and art since 1954.

Southerly

Southerly, the journal of the English Association, Sydney, is one of Australia’s oldest continuous literary journals. The journal publishes the best in new fiction and poetry, reviews and criticism, from and about Australian and New Zealand authors. Also available online to Victorian residents who join the library. 

Australian Journal

Published in Melbourne by Clarson, Massina & Company, the Australian Journal was one of the more successful magazines of the nineteenth century in Australia. The journal had a policy of publishing content of both local and overseas origin until Marcus Clarke took over the reins, pronouncing in the July edition of 1871 that:

"... the Australian Journal will publish no 'original' story, the scene of which is laid elsewhere than in the Colonies, or which does not - in some way - treat of Colonial life, or subjects of Colonial interest."

Murder in the telephone exchange

[Workers at the Central Telephone Exchange, Melbourne] H25298

Melbourne mother of four and telephonist June Wright became a best selling crime writer with her first novel, Murder in the telephone exchange in 1948. You can read more of June Wright's stories in The collected works of June Wright : crime fiction. Volume 1-2.

Colonial Australian popular fiction: a digital archive

[Madame Couvreur - 'Tasma']; H250 

The digital archive, Colonial Australian Popular Fiction, is an online bibliography and digital archive that, for the first time, gathers together a wide range of vibrant colonial writing that has previously been difficult to access.It makes available a wide selection of popular colonial publications, many of which are now rare and out of print. 

Research guides

To find reviews of Australian literature, visit our research guide: VCE English & Literature guide.