Document Type

Journal Article


For all his reputation as a singular figure, Patrick White's relation to fame exhibits contradictions or tensions that are, up to a point, entirely characteristic of the Anglophone literary modernism of which he was a belated proponent. White frequently professed to despise fame, pronouncing for instance that 'adulation is the most insidious form of death the world can inflict on artists' (qtd in Marr, Life 346). For many years he was inclined to destroy letters that would furnish biographical materials (and to urge his correspondents to do the same), motivated no doubt by the modernist credo famously formulated by one of his heroes, D.H. Lawrence, to 'trust the tale and not the teller'. On the other hand, White craved acclaim and affirmation - indeed, saw these as his due - and late in his career gave his imprimatur to David Marr's biography, thereafter abandoning his policy of urging the destruction of his letters (Marr, 'White and His Letters' 623-24). But while White's oscillation between repudiating literary celebrity and desiring recognition was typical of modernist writers, this complicated relation to fame was, in his case, made still more complicated by his homosexuality. Again, of course, this issue is hardly White's alone: indeed, the anxieties and potentials associated with the cloaking and disclosure of queer sexuality may be observed in particularly charged form in the careers of many of the leading lights of modernism. Where White's career differs from those of other queer modernist writers, such as W.H. Auden, is in his public 'confession' of his sexual orientation - first implicitly in the novel The Twyborn Affair (1979), then overtly in the memoir Flaws in the Glass (1981).