November 16th – Joan Lindsay

“Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place.” 

― Joan LindsayPicnic at Hanging Rock

Australian novelist Joan Lindsey was born Joan à Beckett Weigall on November 16, 1896, in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Her father was a judge. Her mother, a musician, was born in Dublin and was the daughter of the Governor of Tasmania. Lindsay grew up with two sisters and a brother in a mansion called “St. Margaret’s.”

At thirteen, she went to boarding school and then studied art at the National Gallery of Victoria School between 1916 and 1920. At the National Gallery school, she met fellow artist Daryl Lindsay, and the two married on Valentine’s day in 1922.

She pursued writing, completed two plays, then published her first novel, Through Darkest Pondelayo: An account of the adventures of two English ladies on a cannibal island, in 1936, under the pseudonym Serena Livingstone-Stanley. She also wrote articles, reviews, and stories for magazines and newspapers. Her husband became the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria between 1942 and 1955. He was knighted in 1956, making her Lady Lindsay. 

Her next work, Time without Clocks, was published in 1962. It is a semi-autobiographical account of her wedding and early marriage, the title referencing her ability to stop clocks and watches by being in close proximity. She followed with Facts Soft and Hard, an account of her and her husband’s travels to America while on a Fulbright scholarship to study art. 

Lindsay published her most famous work, Picnic at Hanging Rock, in 1967, when she was 71 years old. It was written in four weeks at her home after having reoccurring dreams about girls from a prestigious college that disappeared on a picnic. It takes place on Saint Valentine’s Day 1900, Lindsay’s favorite day, and the day she eloped with her husband. It was made into a film in 1975 and is considered an iconic Australian book.

A reprinting of the novel in 1975 by Penguin Books in Australia sold over 350,000 copies, making it Penguin Australia’s best-selling book to date.

Her editor cut her final chapter, later published in 1987 as a stand-alone The Secret of Hanging Rock, that provides a conclusion for the mysterious tale. 

In 1969 Lindsay was in a car accident, and it took her months to recover. Lindsay returned to painting, holding an exhibit in 1972. Her husband died on Christmas Day in 1976. In 1982 she published a children’s book, Syd Sixpence.

She died on December 23, 1984, at the age of 88. Her house, Mulberry Hill, where she lived from 1926 until her death, was donated to the National Trust and is now a museum. 

Lesson from Lindsay

Linsday didn’t believe in an expiration on her life. She wrote her best-known and still highly celebrated work at sixty-nine, past retirement age. I love that, Lady Lindsay.

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