Brian Matthews (writer)

Brian Matthews (1936–2022) was an Australian literary scholar, biographer and short story writer. He is considered Australia's foremost scholar of Henry Lawson and his mother Louisa.

Brian Matthews
St Kilda, Victoria
DiedJune 2nd 2022

Life and careerEdit

Matthews was born in St Kilda, Victoria, and educated at De La Salle College and Melbourne University.[1] He took a BA with a major in English and later an MA on Henry Lawson under the direction of Vincent Buckley. After teaching in various schools in the 1950s and 1960s, he moved to Adelaide in 1967 to work at Bedford Park Teachers' College, but soon joined the new English Department at Flinders University. He taught English and Australian literature (and in later years, solely the latter) until the early 1990s at Flinders. He was a frequent visitor to Italy, where he taught Australian literature and spent 1974 at Exeter University. In 1986 he held a Fullbright fellowship and taught at the University of Oregon.

Matthews took a leading role in the establishment of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL). He published his critical study of Henry Lawson, The Receding Wave, in 1972 and later wrote the entry for Lawson in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.[2]

In the 1970s, although he had a secure position at Flinders University, he undertook a PhD on George Orwell. After its completion, he focused entirely on Australian literature and culture. His chief preoccupation throughout the 1980s was a work that began as a biography of Henry Lawson's mother, Louisa. When Louisa appeared in 1987, it proved to be a much more radical form of biography than had originally been envisaged. It went on to win the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal,[3] and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for non-fiction.[4]

In 1989, Matthews was granted an Australia Council for the Arts Writer's Fellowship. He chaired the Literature Board of the Australia Council from 1990 to 1992.[1] In 1993, he took up the headship of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at the University of London, remaining there for four years. On his return to Australia, he became foundation director of the Europe-Australia Institute at Victoria University.

He was by then engaged on a commissioned biography, of the historian Manning Clark. This work eventually appeared with Allen & Unwin in 2008. In the meantime he published The Temple Down the Road, an eccentric history of the MCG, in 2003 and a memoir, A Fine and Private Place in 2000. In retirement he continued writing, contributing a monthly column for Eureka Street . His last book, Benaud: An Appreciation appeared with Text in 2017.

In his last years he moved back to South Australia and the Adelaide Hills, which he had always loved. He died there after a short illness in June, 2022.



Short story collectionsEdit

  • Quickening and Other Stories (1989)


  • A Fine and Private Place (2000)


  • Louisa (1987)
  • Manning Clark : A Life (2008)
  • Benaud: An Appreciation (2017)


  • Romantics and Mavericks : The Australian Short Story (1987)
  • Oval Dreams : Larrikin Essays on Sport and Low Culture (1991)


  • Henry Lawson : Selected Stories (1971)
  • Readers, Writers, Publishers : Essays and Poems (2004)

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Austlit – Brian Matthews"
  2. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1986. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b "ALS Gold Medal: Previous Winners". Association for the Study of Australian Literature LTD. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b "The Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction: Winners". Austlit. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  5. ^ "New South Wales State Literary Awards: Winners". Austlit. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  6. ^ "National Biography Award: 2010 Winner". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 27 August 2021.