[Editor: This review of two books regarding the Kelly Gang, The Girl Who Helped Ned Kelly (by C. E. Taylor) and The Inner History of the Kelly Gang (by James Jerome Kenneally), was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 3 July 1929.]
The Kelly Komplex
The Girl Who Helped Ned Kelly, by C. E. Taylor, published by United Press — an offshoot of Melbourne Herald — is a well-told tale that had a successful run as a serial in Table Talk. In it are mingled most of the facts about the Kellys and some of the fiction that has attached to their career. That it is often blind to their faults and more than a little kind to their virtues is only one more illustration of the hero worship which has enhaloed every predatory ruffian from Hereward the Wake and Robin Hood to Claude Duval and Dick Turpin. But the author has liberal opinions.
If the Kellys and their friends are persecuted heroes, the remaining figures, historical and otherwise, are not entirely vile. Even the police have saving graces, and a fictitious baronet who appears late on the scene is actually good — an infraction of the canons relating to the baronets of melodrama calculated to make the late Dan Barry, also a Victorian author, turn in his grave.
The sub-hero of the story — Ned, of course, is the principal lead — is one Jack Briant, a youth of high degree who, for no apparent purpose, is humping his bluey in the Kelly country. There he works as a selection hand, befriends the Kellys, defies the police, and falls in love with the beauteous heroine, also a warm admirer of the Gang. In company with the lady he has many exciting adventures by flood and field until, with the approval of his uncle, the good baronet before mentioned, he is about to take her to church as the story closes at historic Glenrowan.
This leit motif is interwoven with the familiar story of the last of the Australian bushrangers, a story with all its picturesque, if sometimes rather sordid and homicidal, details duly set out in their proper order. The illustrations by R. Wenban are excellent.
In quite a different category is The Inner History of the Kelly Gang, by J. J. Kenneally (Reviews Pty., Melb.). This is practically an epitome of those paper-bound volumes purporting to chronicle the history of the bushranger heroes which were the delight of the youth of Australia in the years from 1878 to 1880. The series began almost as soon as the gang took to the bush, and the writer of this review was just beginning the fourth volume, dealing with Glenrowan and the execution of Ned, when parental authority armed with a doubled stirrup leather, intervened.
Like its predecessors, the book is intensely biased in tone. The Kellys are driven to horse stealing, cattle duffing, murder and robbery in just protest against intolerable persecution by the police. The latter are all knaves or fools, and most of them cowards into the bargain. Aaron Sherritt, suspected as a spy and murdered unarmed and in cold blood before his young wife, is, according to this book, “executed.” The police ambushed and shot down in the Wombat Ranges brought their fate on themselves by refusing to surrender, with much of the same sort.
An adventure into sheer sensationalism, the book seems to have no particular reason for existence, though the author’s constant reference to the terror inspired in the outlaws by the black trackers brought from Queensland is of interest.
The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 3 July 1929, p. 5 (column 1)
canon = a general rule or law; a widespread or generally accepted principle; a body of principles, standards, or norms (can also refer to: a rule or dogma enacted by the authority of a church; a list of sacred books or writings, especially religious texts, recognised by a church authority as authentic)
cattle duffing = cattle stealing
Claude Duval = (1643-1670) a Frenchman who migrated to England, and ended up having a criminal career as a highwayman, although he gained a reputation of being a courteous and gallant robber (his surname has variously been spelt as: Du Val, Duval, Du Vall, and Duvall)
Dan Barry = the stage name of John Ringrose Atkins (1851-1908), founder of Dan Barry’s Dramatic Company, which gave performances in theatres and halls in Australia’s eastern provinces (including in its home base of Melbourne) during the 1880s to early 1900s
Dick Turpin = Richard Turpin (1705-1739), infamously known for his criminal career as an English highwayman (although he was also the leader of the “Gregory Gang”, who robbed homes, shops, and isolated farms in the English county of Essex)
enhaloed = adorned by a halo, whether actually or metaphorically
Hereward the Wake = (ca.1035-ca.1072) an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and a resistance leader against the Norman occupation of England; “Hereward the Wake” means “Hereward the Watchful” (he was also known as Hereward the Outlaw, or Hereward the Exile)
humping his bluey = regarding a swagman humping (carrying) his swag, travelling as a swagman
Kelly country = a vaguely-defined area in which the Kelly Gang operated, ranging from Yarrawonga, Howlong, and Albury in the North, down to Euroa, Mansfield, and Omeo in the south, and centred around Benalla, Glenrowan, and Greta
See: “Map of the Kelly country”, in: J. J. Kenneally, The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers, Melbourne: J. Roy Stevens, 1946 (5th edition), p. 3
leit motif = (an anglicization of the German “leitmotiv”, meaning “leading motif”) a short, recurring musical phrase which is associated with a particular person, place, situation, or idea; any recurring feature, image, phrase, word, or theme in art, literature, music, or in the life of a person (whether real or fictional); any recurring pattern or theme (usually rendered as one word, “leitmotif”, but also spelt as “leit motif” and “leit-motif”)
Robin Hood = a legendary heroic who has been popularised in English folklore, as well as modern in literature and film (there is much debate over whether Robin Hood was a particular person, a storyteller’s combination of several people, or simply a folk legend)
sub-hero = under-hero, lesser hero; assistant hero
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]