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  • Writer's picturemeredithdownes

The Artistic Temperament

The year was 1920 and the city was Brisbane. Two fourteen year old boys decided they were going to write and illustrate their own literary magazine. One of the boys was Philip Lindsay, son of the famous artist, Norman Lindsay, and the other was Charles B. Thomson, whose parents weren’t famous at all. The pages of the "The Artistic Temperament", as they called it, are filled with all sorts of marvellous things – poems, stories, drawings and bits of humour that this pair dreamt up. There’s sword-fighting and swashbuckling and many old-timey tales, a few essays on philosophy and art, and even, here and there, some interesting tidbits about the world in which they lived.

Almost 100 years later, I was thrilled to discover their hand-written pages in the bottom of an old cardboard box, lost and forgotten amongst the papers and books of a professor who had passed away. They had been kept and handed down from person to person across that time – most likely because of Philip’s famous Dad and his family, (There was also a script for a play by Philip in there, illustrated by his artist brother, Raymond Lindsay.) Although I’d like to think they would have been kept anyway for the treasure that they are – a window to the thoughts, feelings, art and ideas of those boys from so long ago. I know that even now I sometimes like to revisit the photographs I took and delight in what they made.

There is no doubt a magic to creating something and sharing it. To taking what’s in your head and trying to show it to someone else, whether that person is sitting right next to you or reading what you’ve written a century on. There is a magic too to putting things down on the page. It gives you a chance to go deeper into that secret place in your mind where stories are made. You can visit the world you’ve been dreaming about or finally meet those characters who have been bumping around in your brain. And once you start to put your ideas down, more ideas are sure to follow and soon you will have created something altogether new and wonderful, that is entirely your own.

If you’ve ever thought about putting pen to paper, or hitting the keyboard, what are you waiting for? Write a short story, turn that doodle into a cartoon strip, or start putting together a literary magazine with your best friend, like Philip did. You never know where it might take you or what you might end up with. Philip went on to become a published author of historical fiction – his scribbled tales of pirates and knights grew into books for people around the world to enjoy. I don’t know what happened to Charles but I hope wherever he ended up, he kept on writing and sharing it too.

“The Artistic Temperament” and the other papers were donated to the State Library of Queensland in 2011, by arrangement with the University of Queensland and Professor Powell’s niece.


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