Australian Journal of French Studies

Gardner Davies and Mallarmé

Australian Journal of French Studies (1994), 31, (1), 3–8.


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Gardner Davies and Mallarmé WALLACE KIRSOP When AJFS decided—in 1991, with the encouragement of some of his friends and with the consent of his widow—to produce a memorial to Bill Davies, there was not the slightest doubt what the theme of the special number should be. The choice made of Mallarmé is reflected in the title of these prefatory remarks. Almost all of our compatriot's scholarly work was published under the name of "Gardner Davies". His first given name, especially in its familiar form, was reserved for family, friends and intimates. However, it is also necessary to insist that a heading selected for its simplicity and directness does not claim to offer that comprehensive assessment of a distinguished corpus of exegetical writing that we must eventually have from someone more qualified to write it than the Editor of AJFS. Not that Davies' death on 1 August 1991, shortly before his seventieth birthday, has gone unnoticed by mallarméens. Bertrand Marchai spoke eloquently at the memorial service in Paris at the beginning of October that year about a contribution made over nearly half a century to better understanding of Mallarmé's writings. The greater part of this tribute was to appear later as an obituary in French Studies (XLVI, 1992, pp. 118-119), otherwise it could most appropriately have been printed in these pages. Marchal's generous and gratifying assertion that "l'Australie peut revendiquer le titre de deuxième patrie de Mallarmé" has already been mentioned in AJFS (XXVIII, 1991, p. 309). Alongside it one could put the following sentence from the October 1991 oration: Car l'Australie nous aura donné, grâce au vivier que fut l'université de Melbourne au temps du professeur Chisholm, les deux plus éminents mallarméens de notre temps: Lloyd James Austin et Gardner Davies. For those of us who are still aware of the tradition—now a century old, as readers of this issue will be reminded—it is good to see French recognition of an extraordinarily fruitful commitment to documentation and interpretation of the life and works of Mallarmé. Can the lifelong activity that grew out of the youthful enthusiasm evoked by Sir Ninian Stephen be explained in terms of an influence first encountered in the classroom? What is striking in the case of Bill Davies is the strength of his devotion to a favourite author in the midst of a busy professional life. It is not the concern of AJFS to chronicle a career of faithful and effective service not only to Australia but also to Unesco. However, when one notes these achievements in cultural diplomacy and recalls the health problems that beset him,

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Author details

Kirsop, Wallace