Serendipity: A Conversation with Adrian Mitchell
Dooley, Gillian Mary
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South Australians might still like to claim Adrian Mitchell as one of their own, despite the fact that he now lives in Sydney. An associate professor of English and now Honorary Associate of the University of Sydney, he has published many articles and co-edited several books on Australian literature and historiography. More recently, he has made an impressive contribution to Australian historical non-fiction, beginning with Drawing the Crow (2006), a memoir about Adelaide in the 1950s, and continuing with Dampier’s Monkey: the South Sea Voyages of William Dampier (2010), Plein Airs and Graces: the Life and Times of George Collingridge (2012) and From Corner to Corner: the Line of Henry Colless (2015). Also published in 2015 was a novel, The Profilist: the Notebooks of Ethan Dibble, based on the life of English-born colonial artist Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-1880). Gill came to Adelaide in 1839, three years after its foundation. He worked as an artist in South Australia for more than a decade before heading east to the Victorian goldfields. I hadn’t met Adrian before September 2015 when this conversation took place. But I had read and enjoyed Drawing the Crow when it first appeared, and had been captivated by The Profilist’s wry and poignant depiction of the precarious life of the colonial artist. So I contacted him through his publishers, South Australia’s Wakefield Press, and he agreed to meet me when next we were in the same city at the same time. We recorded this conversation, appropriately, in the State Library of South Australia, where he has spent many hours researching the lives of his subjects.