Guide to the Papers of Patrick White [MSS 022]

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Manuscript Name Papers of Patrick White
Manuscript Number MSS 022
Last Updated August 2021
Extent 16 cm (1 box + 1 oversize)
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra

Collection Subject Type


Scope and Content

This collection is part of a larger collection of material by, and relating to Patrick White, purchased in 1984. The manuscript material comprises unpublished correspondence from Patrick White, articles, reviews, newspaper clippings and portraits, including a black and white portrait of the writer by Brett Whiteley. Also included is the original Tim McCormick catalogue for the entire collection with brief descriptions of his works and references to him and his work in books, magazines and newspapers.

Patrick White's published works including his novels, poems, short stories and plays, and references to him and his work in books, magazines and newspapers have been catalogued separately and added to the Library's Special Collection.

Date Range of Content


Biographical Note

Wikipedia article:

Patrick Victor Martindale White was born 28 May 1912 in London, England. Patrick White is the first and to date, only Australian writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1973), was born into a wealthy Australian graziers family with strong ties to England, and received his school education partly in Australia, partly at Cheltenham College, England. He then lived a few years in Australia, working as a jackaroo and preparing for university. At King's College, Cambridge, he studied French and German languages and literatures (1932-1935) and spent considerable time in France and Germany (particularly Hannover, the fictional Heimat of Voss and of Himmelfarb in Riders in the Chariot). The experience of the Australian landscape on the one hand, and European literature and thought on the other were to become two major sources of influence on White's writing.

White had realised early in life that he was not cut out for a grazier's life but rather for that of an artist and writer. He wrote his first poems at Cheltenham (later privately printed in Sydney as Thirteen Poems), and soon started writing plays (some of them staged in Sydney and London), short stories and his first novel Happy Valley. After graduating from Cambridge he went to London where he moved in artist circles, making friends with painters, musicians and writers. While on a visit to the USA he wrote his second novel The Living and the Dead, 1941.

During what he used to call 'Hitler's war' White joined the RAF and worked as an intelligence officer in the Middle East. In Egypt, he met Manoly Lascaris, 'this small Greek of immense moral strength, who became the central mandala in my life's hitherto messy design' (Flaws in the Glass) and who was to become his life-long partner. Through Lascaris and his family White also discovered his love for Greece.

After some years in dreary post-war London White and Lascaris moved to Australia. They first settled on a farm at Castle Hill (at the outskirts of Sydney) and in 1964 to Centennial Park, Sydney. White explained his reasons for returning to Australia - and his ambivalent response to this country - in his famous essay 'The Prodigal Son', 1958. The national and international success of his novels The Aunt's Story, 1948 and The Tree of Man, 1955 mark the beginning of an extremely intense and productive writer's career. The many novels, short stories and plays White wrote until his death explore the nature of good and evil, love and hate, life and death, the material and the spiritual world, suffering and solitude. Among his many eccentric characters it is often the seemingly miserable 'outsider' figures who succeed in integrating life's ambivalences and in coming to terms with themselves, God and the universe.

After receiving the Nobel Prize, White became a celebrity in Australia, a role he did not cherish at all. With his Nobel Prize money he established the Patrick White Literary Award for Australian writers. Plagued with asthma and ill health all his life, White admitted to a 'bitter nature'. With his sometimes harsh criticism of people and issues he managed to make a number of enemies. In 1976 he returned his OA in protest against some of the government's policies. But his social commitment in speaking out on public matters and his generous support of various charitable causes were remarkable, and he had many friends and admirers.

White's self-portrait Flaws in the Glass, 1981 is an indispensable guide for biographical facts; for understanding his personality, beliefs and views of human nature; for reading his novels, and for background information on the real-life models of many of his fictional characters. For more biographical detail see David Marr's award-winning book Patrick White - A Life, 1991.

Nobel Prize for Literature, 1973. Note: 'for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature'.
Australian of the Year, 1973
Helpmann Awards for Performing Arts in Australia, Best Play, 2007: nominated for The Season at Sarsaparilla : A Charade of Suburbia in Two Acts 
Note: Nominated for the 2007 Sydney Theatre Company production
Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, 1965: winner for 'The Burnt Ones'
Miles Franklin Literary Award, 1961: winner for Riders in the Chariot 
W.H. Smith Literary Award (UK), 1959: winner for Voss 
Miles Franklin Literary Award, 1957: winner for Voss 
Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, 1955: winner for The Tree of Man 
Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, 1939: winner for Happy Valley : A Novel

Patrick White died 30 September 1990 in Sydney, New South Wales.

AustLit : the Resource for Australian Literature, retrieved 19 September 2007
Tim McCormick catalogue, 1984.


Administrative Information


Access and Copying Conditions

Access: Check with Curator

This collection contains a variety of copyright material. Copyright is held by the creator of each item. Specific conditions for this collection are listed below. If no conditions are stipulated then the standard terms of the Copyright Act apply for published and unpublished items. Digitised material from manuscript collections is provided to clients by UNSW Canberra in good faith for private study and research only, and may not be published or re-purposed without the express and written permission of the individual legal holder of that copyright. Refer also to the UNSW copyright, disclaimer and takedown policy. 

Copying: Check with Curator

Preferred Citation

Papers of Patrick White, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, MSS 022, Box [Number], Folder [Number].


The collection was acquired from Tim McCormick in one consignment in 1984.

Separated Material

Further papers of Patrick White are held by the National Library, in the Papers of Patrick White at NLA MS 9982.


Subject Keywords



Australian authors, Australian literature

Personal Names

Patrick White 1912-1990


Novelists, dramatists


Container List


Box 1

Folder 1 
Original Tim McCormick catalogue for this collection, which includes 18 colour photographs; and photocopy of the packing and shipping list 3 August 1984

Folder 2 
Correspondence, 1932-1975, from Patrick White to:
Mr Heron Ward, 17 Sep. 1932 - 1 p., handwritten
Mr Heron Ward, Thursday 25 Sept. 1932 - 1 leaf, handwritten
Professor T. Inglis Moore, Mar. 1963 - 1 leaf typescript + addressed envelope
Mr R. Smith, 14 Jun. 1966 - aerogramme, handwritten
Mr R. Smith, 1 Aug. 1966 - aerogramme, typescript
Miss E. Forbes, 24 May 1970 - 1 page, handwritten + addressed envelope
Miss E. Forbes, 22 Jun. 1970 - 1 page, handwritten + addressed envelope
Miss E. Forbes, 1 Nov. 1970 - 1 page, handwritten + addressed envelope
Mr R. Hayman, 25 Oct. 1975 - 1 leaf, typescript

Folder 3 
Three pen and ink portraits:
Patrick White, by Nicolas Bentley - ink on paper 17.3 x 14.3 cm, signed by the artist, used for The Sunday Telegraph
Photocopy of drawing of Mary Gilmour by Louis Kahan, 1960
Photocopy of crayon and pencil drawing of Patrick White by Louis Kahan, 1962
Two art catalogues: Brett Whitely Exhibition at David Reid's Gallery, Paddington, April 26 - May 17 1980, p.14-16, works 60-70, includes portraits, sketches, etc of Patrick White
'Patrick White's Choice', Art Gallery of NSW, 22 December 1981-31 January 1982 for the Festival of Sydney 1982
Photocopy of 'The acceptance speech by Patrick White or his proxy, Sydney Nolan' from The Nobel Foundation, Les Prix Nobel en 1973, Stockholm 1974, pp.221-224 [added to this collection via ADFA ILL from the State Library of Victoria in 1984]

Folder 4 
Reviews 1962-1982:
'Australia Through the Looking-glass : Patrick White's Latest Novel ' (Riders in the Chariot) by David Bradley, Overland, No. 23, Apr. 1962, pp.41-45
'Sarsaparilla in Solferino : the new Patrick White short story sequence' by Clement Semmler, Australian Book Review, Vol. 1, no. 8, June 1962, pp.94-95
'True smell of mortality in new White novel' (The Eye of the Storm) by Brian Kiernan, The Age, 6 October 1973
'Big toys : Patrick White's Power Without Glory' (Big toys) by Katherine Brisbane, The National Times, 1-6- August 1977, p.26
'Patrick White's latest novel : a rich and enigmatic triptych' (The Twyborn affair) by Jim Davidson, The National Times, 24 November 1979, pp.54-55
'Drawn subtly inside a transexual's experience' (The Twyborn affair) by Jean Bedford, The National Times, 24 November 1979, p.55
'Reflections' (Flaws in the glass : a self-portrait), The Economist, 31 October 1981, p.97
'Patrick White's search for truth - a fresh appraisal' (Flaws in the glass) by Dorothy Green, The National Times, 8-14 November 1981, pp.54 & 57
'Patrick White's curious new play' (Signal driver) by H.G. Kippax, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1982, p.8

Folder 5 
Newspaper clippings 1970-1984:
'White' by Elizabeth Riddell in The Australian, Saturday 1 August 1970, p.15
'The Nobel winner who hates writing' ['The Age', 20 October 1973, p.2]
'Novelist named Australian of the Year' [in 'The Age'], 15 January 1974
'White will give Nobel cash as award fund' by Stuart Sayers [in 'The Age', 27 October 1973, p.2]
'Understanding Patrick White' by G.A. Wilkes, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1974, p.12
'Private lives, public art' by David Marr, The National Times, 1-6- August 1977, p.27
'Patrick White : a revealing profile' by David Leitch, The National Times, No. 373, 27 March-1 April 1978, pp.30-35
'Whiteley' by Kristin Williamson, The National Times, No. 486, 25-31 May 1980, pp.28-32
'Patrick White (after a portrait by Brett Whiteley)', poem by Peter Skrzynecki, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 1980
'Patrick White replies : 'Nowra's vision of Australia', advertisement published by the Nimrod Theatre from an unpublished letter Patrick White sent to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in reply to H.G. Kippax's review of Inside the Island, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 3 September 1980, p.8
'Truth and fiction', text of an address prepared by Patrick White for the National Book Council Awards 1980, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October 1980, p.20
'Patrick White's pen shows no mercy as he exposes the flaws' by Margaret Jones, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 1981, p.7
'The Confessions of Patrick White in a searing autobiography' by Robert Drewe, The Bulletin, Vol. 101, no. 5285, 20 October 1981, pp.26-30
'Patrick White - has he written his last novel?' by Alan Roberts, The Sun Herald, 28 February 1982, p.9
'Author White sees maniacs leading us into nuclear war...' by Laura Veltman, 1 June 1983
'Brett Whiteley - painting about his friends' by Sandra McGrath, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 3-4 May 1980, p.11
'Voss, the movie, becomes a pawn in Nolan-White feud' by Sally McInerney, nd
'Patrick White collection purchased', Uniken, No. 197, no. 17 of 1984, 26 October 1984, p.3
'Duntroon captures Patrick White' by Zoe Reynolds, The Sun-Herald, 4 November 1984, p.95

Folder 6 
Head sketch of Patrick White by Brett Whiteley, 1980 - ink on paper, 16 x 12 cm. Signed by the artist. No. 63 in exhibition of Brett Whiteley's work, David Reid's Gallery, Paddington, April-May 1980. Wood mounted and covered with perspex


Oversize material, Map Cabinet 2, Drawer 7

Oversize 1 
Poster of The ham funeral by Patrick White, produced by John Tasker. World premiere, Adelaide University Theatre Guild... at the University Union Hall, 15-25 November 1961
Programme for 12th Biennial Adelaide Festival, 5-21 March 1982, includes the notification for the premiere of Patrick White's new play Signal drive