Spencer & Gillen

A journey through Aboriginal Australia

Letter from Spencer to Howitt


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Melbourne Apr.4.07
My dear Howitt,
I must apologize for any long silence but I have been very busy since my return from New Zealnd. Some time agao I examined the spear throwers about which your correspondent enquired. Both of them are Victorian and each of them has the 'blade' part shaped thus [drawing] in section & the handle part round. This is the characteristic form of Victorian and I think N.S.W. - at least Murray R. specimens. I do not quite know what to suggest in regard to your anti-Lang papers. It would

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be a very difficult matter to condense them - this would make them incapable of being understood by the ordinary reader. The most convincing thing would be a very short article somewhat as follows -

Dr Howitt's reply to 'Messrs' Lang and Thomas.

I hereby certify that after fifty years patient enquiry into the organisation, customs & beliefs of the Australian Aborigines my firm conviction is that what I have written is true and that in as much as my work is the result of personal observation & not a matter of guess work I see no reason to alter my opinions and I further beg to state that the two individuals above mentioned are a couple of unscrupulous and also unutterable idiots.

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However as you cannot well do this I suppose you will have to condense somewhat. I am not quite clear as to exactly which of the articles the letter refers.

I am now in harness again and if you would like any suggestions from an 'outsider' as to possible condensation I will gladly go through it and wont keep you waiting as I have done in the present case - or better still if you are coming down to town for a day or two & would stay with me we could put a quiet evening or two into the work & soon see what could be done.

That awful man Thomas has evidently taken up the Australians. He has recently published one book on the social Organisation and another on 'the

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Natives of Australia" giving a general account of them. He evidently has an intense dislike to Gillen & myself - constantly throwing disparaging remarks but at the same time using our material wholesale often in fact usually without any acknowledgement. He promises a large work on the subject with a complete bibliography & I have a kind of feeling that he is working with Gregory.

I hope things go well with you & am very glad that the Adelaide meeting was such a success.

We are very busy in the University with a big increase in students. With kind regards to Miss Howitt

Yours very sincerely

W. Baldwin Spencer.

Rights: State Library of Victoria

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Document Details

Letter To
Howitt, Alfred William
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State Library of Victoria