19 Jul Event: Monique Rooney: “Inky Comradeship”
Event: Monique Rooney: “Inky Comradeship:” Writing, Mutual Help and the Marriage of Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland
Biography Workshop National Centre of Biography (ANU)
10:30am-12.00pm, Thursday 27 July 2023
Seminar Room 6.71
Level 6 RSSS Building
146 Ellery Crescent
In a 1939 letter addressed to Australian writer D’Arcy Niland, New Zealand
born author Ruth Park wrote that he was the only person that she had met
who did not think women “inferior mentally.” “I’m at home amidst the thump
of machinery and the smell of ink and paper,” Park continued in the same
letter, touching on an underlying meaning of their letter-based relationship
—their “inky comradeship.” The committed pen-friendship, which had
begun in late 1937, had by 1939 developed a certain intimacy.
This development culminated in Park’s migration in 1942 to Australia, where she
married Niland and where the two made their living as freelance writers.
Following the success of Park’s The Harp in the South (1946), news about,
and interviews with, the couple appeared in newspapers and fashion
magazines. In these pages as well as in their light-hearted marriage
memoir The Drums Go Bang (1956), Park and Niland advertised the
progressively egalitarian spirit of their marriage, which involved balancing
writing commitments with shared domestic duties and child-rearing.
Based on my research into Park’s archives, this paper explores the writerly
marriage of Park and Niland as one founded on mutual help.
With referenceto John Durham Peters’s definition of media as “infrastructures” of
environment and being—of “the habitats and materials through which we
act and are”—the paper reads a selection of Park and Niland’s unpublished
letters in the light of Park’s understanding of her writing, her environment
and her own body as media. I propose that Park and Niland’s “inky
comradeship” is of a piece with Park’s self-conceptualisation as a writer
who is “at home amidst the thump of machinery and the smell of ink and