Spencer & Gillen

A journey through Aboriginal Australia

Letter from Spencer to Howitt


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Aug 10.06

My dear Howitt,

Enclosed is a type copy of Lang's letter in the "Athenaeum". Mr Armstrong has just read out to me through the telephone the one in the "Academy" and it is not much different. We do not take the A. in our University Library & I cannot get down to the Public Library today.

The connection made is so slight that it does not seem to me to count for much & no one unless he refers to the work will have the vaguest idea of what it means. Also it is rather cleverly written so that while acknowledging his error he gives

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the reader the idea that he had correctly understood your meaning it would have been all the better for his own theory.

I shall very much regret if you withdraw or hold over any of your articles. An insignificant withdrawal on Lang's part such as this is of no avail whatever. What he has written in the "Secret" & other books is more or less permanently before the public and ethnologists generally whilst the 'Athenaeum' & Academic' are not.

He has been accustomed to criticising, misrepresenting & misquoting with impunity for to long that now that he is caught & bailed up he whines aloud & does not like it.

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I do not think that you would be justified in withdrawing your criticisms. The matter at issue is one of great importance for the study of mankind and I trust that you will write to Lang and tell him that you regard it in this light & for the sake of establishing the truth you feel it incumbent on you to reply as you have done to his criticisms. If you do not he remains master of the field. Why should he be allowed to criticize & no one reply to him?

I quite agree with Miss Howitt that A.L. knows he is in a hole & is in a fright.

It is only by your publishing what you have written that the

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public can learn the truth.

I am convinced that this is the right thing to do.

Yours very sincerely

W. Baldwin Spencer.

I do not think there will any difficulty in regard to getting of all the papers you mention. I am bringing up at the Library committee on Tuesday the matter of you having access to all the [very ?] papers dealing with Bourke & Wills but of course these will not be able to be removed from the Library buildings. Only wish I could get up to Metung. School teacher registration occupies all my spare time & I am itching to get to some writing & research.


Rights: State Library of Victoria

Document Details

Date Made

Document Details

Letter From
Sir, Spencer, Walter Baldwin
Letter To
Howitt, Alfred William
Number of Pages




State Library of Victoria