|Jean Devanny's cottage in Townsville. Photo Credit: Peter Simon|
The most extensive user of the Devanny archive must surely have been Carole Ferrier, editor of Jean’s previously unpublished autobiography, “ Points of Departure” (1986), and author of the definitive biography, “Jean Devanny: Romantic Revolutionary” (1999). Several drafts of the autobiography are among the manuscripts held in the archive, as is much of the material used by Ferrier in her research for the later work. It seems fair to say that, without the careful preservation of this archive, the story of Devanny’s turbulent and controversial life may never have been so fully, or so well told.
|Books by and about Jean Devanny retrieved from the North Queensland Collection.|
More modestly, much interest also lies in material relating to her time in the tropics, particularly Cairns, the Tablelands and Townsville. It seems to have been here that her interest in natural history developed and flourished. Introduced to the Queensland Naturalists by her friend Dr Hugo Flecker (after whom the box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, was named) she became a contributor to their newsletters. And among carefully saved natural history newspaper clippings we find Devanny’s own writings on everything from trees to butterflies and the strange behavior of crabs. Her long letter to the “Cairns Post” calling for rainforest protection and fire control appeared years before these became mainstream issues.
Two unpublished manuscripts are of particular interest. She firmly believed her last novel, the unpublished “You can’t have everything”, was her most important. Like her very successful “Sugar Heaven” (1936), it too featured the conflicts and characters of north Queensland’s sugar industry. Changing tastes in fiction surely mean that any chance of publication for this work has long passed but its preservation in manuscript form means that it is not completely lost.
|Jean Devanny (right) and friend on Magnetic Island, Jean Devanny Album, NQ Photographic Collection, NQID 13769|