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Catherine Helen Spence: Newspaper bibliography

A guide to Catherine Helen Spence featuring writings about her and a chronological bibliography of her works.

Compiler's notes

by Dr Barbara Wall

Introduction and acknowledgements

An interest in the children's stories of Catherine Spence, and in her writings about children's literature, led me to compile this bibliography of her work and of writings about her. An earlier Bibliography of Catherine Helen Spence (Adelaide, Libraries Board of South Australia, 1967) compiled by Elizabeth Gunton as part of the Bibliographies of Australian writers series, although useful, is limited in scope. When I found that it contained no entries relating to the topics in which I was interested, I set out to discover what I could for myself. I found the search engrossing and began to record everything I could find. I soon felt it wasteful not to make the material available for other researchers and students interested in Spence.

The project has taken me well over four years and has entailed visits to the National Library of Australia in Canberra and the state libraries of New South Wales and Victoria. It also involved page-by-page scrutiny of over 50 years of the South Australian newspapers the Register and the Observer, to say nothing of lesser searches of many other newspapers.

There are surely more writings by Spence in newspapers and periodicals than I have been able to trace. I have tried very hard to eliminate errors, but I am not confident that I have succeeded. If new material is discovered and if errors are detected I would be very glad to know so that adjustments might be made.


My heartfelt thanks are due to the State Library of South Australia. Elizabeth Ho, former Associate Director, Library Services, gave me courage to continue nearly two years ago when she showed great interest in my project. Sue Lewis, former Associate Director, Library and Information Services, confirmed this support and enabled the project to be brought to fruition.

Many members of the staff of the State Library of South Australia have helped me, not only answering my queries and searching for information for me, but bringing to my notice items which they had come across and thought might be relevant. In particular Pat Moore shared with me the discoveries she made in her research for the Federation Bibliography.

Carolyn Spooner, who edited the word document, has been an inspiration to me with her knowledge, patience, tenacity and kindness. Her initiative has brought about the inclusion in the bibliography of much additional and fascinating material. I am immensely grateful.

I would like to thank all the staff of the State Library for their constant and supportive assistance over the last four years.

I am grateful too for the assistance of Geoffrey Manning who put his great knowledge and resources at my disposal and brought to my attention items I had not found. Douglas Muecke very kindly did some very dull searches for me, looking for material I had missed. Susan Magarey provided much information about Spence's manuscript letters and her enthusiasm for Spence gave my flagging spirits a final zip. Mary Teesdale Smith has shown great forbearance during these years and her support has helped me sustain my interest. I am grateful to all these people.



Catherine Helen Spence's autobiography, though a valuable source, is unfortunately often misleading. She was 84 and in indifferent health when she began to write it, and died before she had completed it. (It was completed by her much younger friend Jeanne Young.) She was constrained to compress a very long life into a series of short newspaper articles and she had revised only the first three chapters before her death. It is not surprising that the autobiography shows evidence of haste and faltering memory, that events are telescoped, and that there are many omissions.

Press cuttings in scrapbooks

The press cuttings have been my first source. There are four books of cuttings in the Catherine Helen Spence collection in the State Library of South Australia (PRG 88/21).

In the first of these books, though it has in it a handwritten note saying that Spence's niece, Lucy Morice (Mrs J. P. Morice), believed the cuttings to be the work of Catherine Spence, the majority are clearly not her work. The writer of most of the articles, published in 1866 and 1867, who often used the pseudonym 'Physiocrat', lived and worked in Victoria, and was close to its political scene. The articles appeared in the Melbourne Economist, a paper owned and edited by Spence's brother-in-law Andrew Murray. (It had begun in 1858 under the title Bear's Weekly Circular and Rural Economist.) Some of these articles were published while Spence was not even in Australia. From 9 March until 19 June 1866 Spence was on the Octavia returning from England. It seems likely that Spence kept the cuttings because they were by someone with whom she corresponded and in whom she was interested. Andrew Murray is almost certainly that person. There are however three cuttings about the Franco-Prussian War signed S., an initial that Spence used for publication at other times, and another article, 'The Principle of the Property Tax' which may have been written in South Australia and which may also be by Spence. If I eventually gain enough information to be sure, I will include these articles in the Bibliography.

The other three books of cuttings covering the years from 1878 to 1884 are indexed in Spence's handwriting and many are dated or marked by her. I have referred to these cuttings as 'Mortlock scrapbook'.

The cuttings in the Mitchell Library in the State Library of New South Wales, are from widely differing periods and can be found in two separate collections, each of which contains much manuscript material. I have used the term 'Mitchell cuttings' to refer to those found in the Spence Collection (Spence papers ML MSS202) and 'Morice cuttings' (ML F040) to refer to those given to the Mitchell library by Spence's niece, Lucy Morice. These two collections are housed separately in the Mitchell Library. Many have notes or endorsements in Spence's handwriting.

The press cuttings often present problems. Although some are of signed articles, or have notes or corrections in Spence's handwriting or bear her handwritten signature, many are anonymous and frequently give neither the name of the paper nor the date of publication. Sometimes handwritten dates prove to be wrong. Most of these cuttings have been assigned to the papers for which they were written but there were a few that defeated me. In all the collections of cuttings there are items which are not by Spence. Some are by other people whose names are given, some are dated after her death, others appear to have been collected by Spence because the topic interested her. Of the anonymous cuttings I have ascribed to Spence only those which, from my knowledge of her style, interests and activities at the time of publication, I am convinced are by Spence.


Much can be learnt of Spence's state of mind and confidence in herself by studying the transitions from anonymity to pseudonyms, initials and full name.

Anonymous writings

I have endeavoured to trace anonymous writings as well as to add to the list of her signed work. It has not been quick or easy to locate the anonymous pieces and to prove that they were Spence's work. I have used clues from her acknowledged journalism, her letters, writings left by her friends, the loose press cuttings in the Mitchell Library in the State Library of New South Wales and the books of press cuttings in the State Library of South Australia..

On the other hand there are anonymous articles, especially in the Register and the Observer, and particularly from after the period of the scrapbooks, which seem to me almost certainly to be by Spence. There is no reason to assume that her anonymous journalism did not continue at nearly the same rate after the end of 1884 when her own cutting books ceased until she left for the USA in 1893, although it is possible that there was some slowing down in the late 80s and early 90s when her public work and her work for proportional representation accelerated. There are many anonymous leaders and articles during this period in the Register and the Observer that I suspect are by Spence. When I am convinced that an article is by Spence, because of its subject matter, style, specialist knowledge and similarity to expressions and views acknowledged elsewhere, then I have included it with explanatory comments.

There are three items in the Morice cuttings which deserve special comment. I have been unable, after a long period of searching, to identify the paper or papers in which occurred three significant items: a long short story, 'An attack of indigestion and its consequences' and two stories for children.

'An attack of indigestion' has all the hallmarks of a Spence story. It is set partly in England and partly in South Australia. It deals with marriage and it has a quirky unromantic title. It appears to have been written for South Australian readers as it mentions the Register and more significantly Goyder, Surveyor General of South Australia, in a context which would be unintelligible to non-South Australians and which suggests that the story was written after 1865 and before 1870. If Spence wrote it shortly after she returned from England in mid 1866 it may have been published in the South Australian paper, the Weekly Mail. This was the paper in which her novel Uphill Work had been published in 1864. The Weekly Mail was taken over by the Chronicle in 1867. Earlier issues have not survived. It seems to me highly likely that this story and the two stories for children—'The children on the rock' and 'The story of Geraint and Enid', neither of which is complete in the Morice cuttings—were published in the Weekly Mail. I can think of no other solution. The children's stories are too short to be certainly identified as being by Spence, but they are like her work and Lucy Morice has written that the story of Geraint and Enid was one of Spence's favourites, when she told stories to children.

There is one further item which has defeated me. There is a cutting in the Mitchell cuttings of an article entitled 'Canada and Australia by C. H. Spence'. It begins 'When I was in Canada eleven years ago' (i.e. July 1893). References to Melbourne and Gippsland suggest that it was written for a Melbourne paper. The typefaces used are consistent with the Age and the Argus, but although I have searched for hours in those papers for 1903, 1904 and 1905 I have been unable to locate it.


Identical pseudonyms may be chosen by different writers. Spence certainly used the pseudonym SPES in the Register in 1880 and may have used it as early as 10 August 1875. She began using SPES in the Sydney Morning Herald in January 1879. On 20 and 27 September 1879 a short story by SPES entitled 'Nora Creina; or Only a Mare' appeared in the Herald's weekly paper the Sydney Mail. It is hard to believe this story is by Spence. There are grammatical errors which seem unlike Spence ('Between you and I') but more importantly the story is completely lacking in ideas. Her other stories published at that time are full of ideas about social and marital issues. In addition the topic of a horse race seems outside her scope. Unlike the writer of the story she strongly disapproved of gambling.

Occasionally I have come upon letters by SPES which are not verified in her scrapbooks. I have included them in with explanatory comments if I believe them to be by Spence.

In 1882, 1883 and 1884 a series of articles signed C. H. S. appeared in the Sydney Mail. Some of these deal with topics which interested Spence but there are many internal clues (for example, 'when I was in Lisbon in 1871' and an acceptance of gambling) which prove they are not by her.


Serialisation was a common way of publishing novels, but as well as this, Spence wrote three different types of series in the newspapers.

1. The Monthly Reviews. (i.e. The January reviews, the February reviews etc.)

Spence announced the beginning of this series in the Register on 24 August 1978. 'We propose from time to time to present a short sketch of some of the more noteworthy specimens of periodical literature, our aim being to give prominence to matters which nearly concern the colonies both individually and as a part of the great empire with which they are so proud to be identified.'

Spence acknowledged these articles as her work in her scrapbooks until the last scrapbook which has survived. In each article she summarised and commented on articles published in influential periodicals in the United Kingdom and sometimes in other countries. She frequently related her comments to local matters. She wrote about what interested her and what seemed important and these articles are invaluable in enabling an understanding of the range and depth of her knowledge and interests.

The last cutting is for 6 September 1884 but the series continued unbroken until Spence's departure for the United States in 1893 and ceased at that point. The format, style and tone of the series did not change in this time. I assume that Spence was the author of the series until her employment with the Register ceased with her departure.

2. Gossip About Children's Books

This series began in the Register in December 1879 and continued until 1885. Some of the articles, but not all, appear in her scrapbooks. She acknowledged that the series had become a burden in a letter to C. H. Pearson, 31 October 1885, in the Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

3. Among Children's Books.

This series ran in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1880 until 1884. The first two articles, one signed SPES, are in the Mortlock scrapbook, the third is signed C. S. The last two, though not acknowledged, are clearly part of the same series.

Arrangement and scope of the entries

The entries are in chronological order. This has the advantage of revealing the development of Spence's career and of enabling a student of her work to discover what issues were of most importance to her at any given time. Listing by topic is difficult because of the wide range of Spence's interests and expertise and the fact that her discursive style often led her to deal with several subjects at once.

As well as material by Spence, the bibliography include articles, leaders, obituaries, reports and comments about Spence, almost all by people who knew her, which show the esteem in which she was held and the impact she made on South Australian society. This material continues in some detail until 1925, the centenary of her birth. Catherine Spence was the first South Australian to be officially accorded a centenary celebration.

Later entries are by Jeanne Young and Lucy Spence Morice, the closest friends of her declining years, or by others who knew her. I have added the books by Janet Cooper, Susan Magarey and Helen Jones which have in recent times made her life and work known to the general community. Also included are a number of articles which have made significant new contributions to our knowledge of her life and work. I have not included articles on, or references to, Spence in recent feminist, political and literary publications. These are readily available on other databases, listed under Other sources.

Biographical material

Every item in the Bibliography adds of course to our knowledge of Spence and therefore has biographical significance. The use of particular words in the notes points to different types of biographical material.

  • Biography—used for books and articles which record her life or aspects of her life.
  • Obituary and Tribute—used to draw attention to items of special biographical significance, referring to her death or praising aspects of her life.
  • Biographical material—used for other material about Spence, especially for material that records her activities but does not contain her words.
  • Biographical fragment—used when the items are slight, perhaps merely noting her attendance at a function, or travel to a destination, or commenting briefly on her activities.
  • Autobiography—used as the title of the work which Spence commenced in her last year and which was completed after her death. It is used also to draw attention to autobiographical material which appears in articles which she wrote or speeches which she gave about other topics.

Duplication of material

Frequently writings by Spence, particularly serials, stories and charades, were published in more than one newspaper. When this has occurred, I have listed all such publications found, both to show how many papers found her work worth printing and also to make access to her work easier, as not all libraries hold the same newspapers.

All items are listed under the year of publication, and for newspaper items the day and month of publication are given. Where items are dated only by year, or year and month, and not by a daily date, they are listed at the head of the entries for that year.

Format of entries

The majority of entries use the following format.  

1. The year of publication.

2. The month and day of publication, if known.

3. The title of the item.

4. The name of the newspaper or periodical in which it occurs.

5. Page and column number of the newspaper or periodical.

6. A note on the item is usually included. The note may include any of the following:

  • a brief description of the item, including its authorship. Much can be learnt of Spence's state of mind and confidence in herself by studying the transitions from anonymity to pseudonyms, initials and full name.
  • if the item is unsigned that fact is stated, and is followed by the reason for my belief that the item is by Spence, for instance, 'Mortlock scrapbook' indicates that the item is pasted in one of the Spence scrapbooks or found loose at the back. 'Mitchell cuttings' or 'Morice cuttings' indicates that it can be found among the cuttings in the Spence papers in the Mitchell Library. Where there is no evidence for unsigned articles but only my strong belief that the items are by Spence, I have given reasons for my belief.
  • when the item is the report of a meeting at which Spence spoke, the word 'lecture' or 'speech' is used for a full length report of Spence's address. 'Speech' is also used for short statements or comments.
  • when the title of an entry does not adequately cover the material discussed, one or more topic words have frequently been added at the end of the note to facilitate the search for information on specific topics.
  • continuation of series statement. There are three such series: The Monthly Reviews, (ie. The January reviews, the February reviews etc.), which appeared in the Register from 1878 to 1893; Gossip About Children's Books which appeared in the Register from 1879 to 1885; and Among Children's Books, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1880 to 1884. More details are given elsewhere in this introduction on these Series.

Details of periodicals and newspapers indexed

These titles can be searched by keyword in the bibliography. 

Much of this material is on microform and available in many Australian state and academic libraries. Almost all of it can be found in South Australia, either in the State Library of South Australia or in the Barr Smith Library of the University of Adelaide. Where titles are not held in the State Library of South Australian the names of some holding libraries are shown. Some items, however, are still difficult to find and may remain so.

The Register and the Observer are of particular interest as they are the newspapers in which most of Spence's journalism and most of her letters were published. [THESE TITLES AND MANY OTHERS LISTED BELOW ARE NOW AVAILABLE VIA THE TROVE DATABASE]

The Advertiser [newspaper] Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform.]

The Age [newspaper] Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform.]

The Arena, Arena Publishing Co., Boston, Mass.

The Arena, Victorian Defence Forces, Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform. National Library of Australia. Cuttings of these articles can be found in the Spence papers in the State Library of South Australia. PRG 88/22.]

The Argus [newspaper] Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform.]

The Athenaeum, London.

The Australasian [newspaper] Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform]

The Australasian Nurses' Journal, the Journal of the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association, Sydney. [Relevant issues in Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.]

The Australian Woman's Sphere. Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform. State Library of Victoria. Some issues in the Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide.]

Bell's Life in Adelaide. Broadsheet.

The Border Watch [newspaper] Mount Gambier, South Australia. [Microform.]

Brisbane Courier [newspaper] Brisbane, Queensland. (Now Courier Mail.) [Microform.]

The Bulletin. Sydney, New South Wales. [Microform.]

The Bunyip [newspaper] Gawler, South Australia. [Microform.]

Canadian Magazine [Relevant cutting in Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia. Z324.62309942 S744.]

The Centennial Magazine An Australian monthly. Printed and published by the Centennial Printing and Publishing Company, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Charity Review. Issued quarterly by the Charity Organisation, Melbourne. [State Library of Victoria. Cutting of 'Mother State and her little ones' in the Spence papers in the Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia. PRG 88/22.]

The Children's Hour: for reading and recreation. 1889-1902. Adelaide, South Australia. [State Library of South Australia.]

The Chronicle [newspaper]: with which is incorporated the Weekly Mail. Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform.]

Church Commonwealth. The Federal Paper for the Church of England in Australia. The official organ of the Dioceses of Adelaide and Bathurst. Melbourne, Victoria. [Relevant issues in Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Cuttings in the Spence papers in the Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia. PRG 88/22.]

Cornhill Magazine London [State Library of South Australia. Bray Reference Library card catalogue.]

The Critic Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform.]

Daily Herald [newspaper] Labor and Democratic Organ of South Australia, March 1910-. (Formerly the Herald.) [Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia.]

Daily Telegraph [newspaper] Sydney, New South Wales. [1908-1910 State Library of South Australia; 1879-1908 Microform. Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide.]

The Daily Telegraph, Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform]

The Educator, Adelaide. February 1893-January 1894. [Microform]

The Express and Telegraph Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform]

Evening Journal [newspaper] Adelaide, South Australia. [Catalogued as Journal, its later title.]

Fortnightly Review London [State Library of South Australia. 

Fraser's Magazine London. [Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine New York.

The Herald [newspaper] Labor and Democratic Organ of South Australia, February 1899-March 1910. (Formerly the Weekly Herald.) [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

Journal of Australasia [Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide. The article appears also in Fiction Fields of Australia by Frederick Sinnett, edited Cecil Hadgraft, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia Queensland, 1966.]

Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia. Adelaide, South Australia.

Kadina and Wallaroo Times. [newspaper] Kadina, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Leader [newspaper] Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform.]

The Melbourne Review, Melbourne, Victoria.

The Mount Barker Courier [newspaper] Mount Barker, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The New Idea A Women's Home Journal for Australia. Melbourne, Victoria. [State Library of Victoria.]

The Nineteenth Century, London

The Observer [newspaper] Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Observer Miscellany Adelaide, South Australia.

The Petersburg Times Petersburg, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Port Pirie Advocate Port Pirie, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

Proportional Representation Review. A Quarterly Magazine: Chicago. [Relevant issues in National Library of Australia.]

The Queenslander [newspaper] Brisbane, Queensland.

Quiz and the Lantern. Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Register [newspaper] Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Renmark Pioneer Renmark, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia. Catalogued as the Murray Pioneer, its later name.]

Royal Colonial Institute: Proceedings London. [State Library of South Australia]

The South Australian [newspaper] Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

Saturday Review, London

South Australiana Adelaide, South Australia

Southern Argus [newspaper] Port Elliot, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

Southern Reporter, [newspaper] Selkirk, Scotland. [Reference digitised on website.]

The Spectator, London. [Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide. After 1872, State Library of South Australia.]

Sydney Mail [newspaper] Sydney, New South Wales. [Microform. State Library of New South Wales.]

Sydney Morning Herald [newspaper] Sydney, New South Wales. [Microform.]

Sydney Opinion. A monthly magazine. Literature, Art, Politics, People and Affairs. Sydney. [Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.]

Table Talk. A Journal for Men and women. Melbourne, Victoria. [Microform. Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide.]

The Telegraph See The Daily Telegraph, Adelaide.

The Times, London. [Microform.]

United Australia [State Library of South Australia. Bray Reference Library card catalogue.]

The Victorian Review [State Library of Victoria.]

The Voice, Adelaide, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Weekly Herald [newspaper] Labor and Democratic Organ of South Australia, October 1894-February 1899. [Microform. State Library of South Australia. Shelved as Herald.]

The Woman's Gazette or News about Work. Conducted by L. M. H., Editor of the Hand-book of Women's Work. London. [Morice cuttings. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.]

Woman's Sphere. See Australian Woman's Sphere.

The Yorke's Peninsula Advertiser. [newspaper] Moonta, South Australia. [Microform. State Library of South Australia.]

The Worker The official organ of the Trade Unions and Labor Organization. Sydney, New South Wales. [Microform. Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide.]