Miles Franklin Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Miles Franklin was the pen name for the novelist Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, one of the most distinctive voices in Australian literature. Born into the “squattocracy” of the fifth generation of a pioneering family, Franklin used her upbringing and life in the Australian Bush as background for her novels. The “Miles Franklin country,” as it is called, lies in the mountainous region of Monaro or Manaroo, thirty miles west of Canberra.{$S[A]Brent of Bin Bin;Franklin, Miles}

Franklin passed her childhood at the family stations of Talbingo and Brindabella. The family later moved to Bangalore, near Goulbourn, where, at the age of sixteen, she wrote her first novel, My Brilliant Career. Though undoubtedly showing some weaknesses (the structure is weak, and some of the dialogue forced), the novel is a remarkable tour de force for such a young author. A number of critics maintain that it is Franklin’s finest work.

The novel’s heroine, Sybylla, is a vibrant, difficult, and precociously intelligent young girl, born into a Bush family fallen on hard times. Longing for something better than her life of drudgery and fiercely determined not to subjugate herself to the “slavery” of marriage, Sybylla proudly upholds her independence in the face of the trials and frustrations of her limited existence. When the novel was published in 1901, it took critics and the public by storm. Some of Franklin’s relatives took offense, however, at what they thought were caricatures of their own lives and characters. Certainly the similarities between Sybylla Melvyn and her creator are striking: Franklin, like Sybylla, enjoyed flirtatious relationships with men but had a lifelong horror of marriage and the sexual relations that led to childbirth; like...

(The entire section is 726 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111228253-Franklin_Miles.jpg Miles Franklin Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin was born on October 14, 1879, in Talbingo station in New South Wales, Australia, a mountainous region near Canberra, the nation’s capital. She spent her first ten years on the family cattle station with her six younger brothers and sisters. Her education was provided by a Scottish tutor, a Mr. Auchinvole, who taught her about William Shakespeare, the Bible, Charles Dickens, and Aesop’s fables. After the family’s cattle business was dissolved, the Franklins went to live on a dairy farm near Bangalore, where Franklin’s mother named the small property with scant resources Stillwater.

Franklin was jealous of her younger, prettier sister, who remained with her grandmother at Brindabella, and she was often at odds with her mother. She attended the nearby Thornford School, where she excelled in music. In 1896, she got a position at Oakdale with her uncle, George Franklin, who hired her to teach his eldest children. However, she soon returned home to write, with the guidance of Thomas J. Hebblewhite, editor of the Goulburn Post.

She turned to fiction and in just ten weeks wrote My Brilliant Career (1901), her first novel and best-known book, when she was only sixteen. After three Australian publishers rejected the book, she asked poet and short-story writer Henry Lawson to take the novel to England and find a publisher for her. Lawson read the novel and wrote a preface for it. In 1901, the book was published abroad, under the pseudonym Miles Franklin, by Blackwoods, the same Edinburgh-based company that published Lawson’s work. Because so many of the characters and events in the novel corresponded closely to those in Franklin’s life, many readers, including her own family, particularly the relatives at Oakdale, and her former neighbors, regarded the novel as fact, not fiction, and were hurt by their treatment in the...

(The entire section is 775 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Miles Franklin’s literary reputation rests upon My Brilliant Career, hardly her best novel, but the one that attracted readers who were impressed by the portrait of pioneering Australians and the depiction of a spunky young narrator, whose “yarn” about her coming-of-age was a significant break with conventional nineteenth century novels about courtship and marriage. The novel resurfaced in 1966, and when it was adapted, somewhat loosely, as a film released in 1979, during the Women’s Movement, it gained even more popularity.

She revisited the material covered in My Brilliant Career in a series of six novels written during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the “Brent of Bin Bin” books, which have been unjustly neglected. All That Swagger, hailed as her best book, captures the Australian pioneering spirit and the country’s ties to Ireland as no other Australian novel has, but the book does tend to get bogged down in its later stages by quite a bit of political and social theorizing.