'All that my love and I / Strive till after we die': The Courtship Letters of Vance and Nettie Palmer, 1909-1914


  • Deborah Jordan University of Queensland


Vance Palmer, Nettie Palmer, epistolary


The extended courtship correspondence of Vance and Nettie Palmer, Australia’s most significant literary couple between the wars, begun in 1909 ended with their marriage in 1914. Like the literary exchanges between Robert Browning and Emily Barrett, and Dowell O’Reilly and his wife to be, they discuss the nature and meaning of life and love, the relations between language, poetry, spirit and emotion, their future together and politics. The private letter is an action or gesture, as well as a representation of one, and in Vance’s case often experienced as a kiss. Multiple readings – rhetorical, historical, biographical and psychological – are possible but the content of the letters has also a creative function. In Vance’s understanding of the ‘universe’ and their individual place within in, through the erotic charge between them, in their rapture, we can begin to make visible the Palmers’ disruption of their colonial present in their defiance of conventional understandings of male and female friendship, and marriage.

Author Biography

Deborah Jordan, University of Queensland

Research Fellow English, Media Studies and Art History