London: Published by R. Alistair McAlpine, 1974. Item #04676
"The Greatest Literary Hoax of the Twentieth Century"
MALLEY, Ern. NOLAN, Sidney, artist. The Darkening Ecliptic. Poems by Ern Malley. Paintings by Sidney Nolan, Preface by Robert Melville. Introduction by Elwyn Lynn. [London]: Published by R. Alistair McAlpine, 1974.
First edition. Limited to 1,000 copies.
Folio (12 1/4 x 9 1/2 inches; 311 x 241 mm.). 56 pp. Seventeen full-page Caran D'ache illustrations and numerous color drawings within the text.
Publisher's tan boards front cover lettered and with a deign in black, spine lettered in black, color pictorial paste-downs. A fine copy in the original color printed dust-jacket.
"Ern Malley was an Australian poet who died at the age of twenty-five in 1943. In fact he did not exist, his life and poetry was a hoax. But his poems still remain, haunting the imagination, like a fake holy ghost." (dust jacket front flap).
Ernest Lalor "Ern" Malley was a fictitious poet and the central figure in Australia's most famous literary hoax, known as the Ern Malley hoax or the Ern Malley affair. He and his entire body of work were created in one day in 1943 by conservative writers James McAuley and Harold Stewart in order to hoax members of the Angry Penguins, a modernist art and literary movement centered around a journal of the same name, co-edited by poet Max Harris and art patron John Reed, of Heide, Melbourne. Imitating the modernist poetry they despised, the hoaxers deliberately created what they thought was bad verse and mailed sixteen poems to Harris under the guise of Ethel, Ern Malley's surviving sister. Harris and other members of the Heide Circle fell for the hoax, and, enraptured by the poetry, devoted the next issue of Angry Penguins to Malley, hailing him as a genius. The hoax was revealed soon after, resulting in a cause célèbre and the humiliation of Harris, who was put on trial, convicted and fined for publishing the poems on the grounds that they contained obscene content. Angry Penguins folded in 1946. In the decades that followed, the hoax proved to be a significant setback for modernist poetry in Australia. Since the 1970s, however, the Ern Malley poems, though known to be a hoax, became celebrated as a successful example of surrealist poetry in their own right, lauded by poets and critics such as John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and Robert Hughes. The poems of Ern Malley are now more widely read than those of his creators, and the affair has inspired works by major Australian writers and artists, such as Peter Carey and Sidney Nolan. American poet and anthologist David Lehman called Ern Malley "the greatest literary hoax of the twentieth century".
Sir Sidney Robert Nolan (1917-1992) was one of Australia's leading artists of the 20th century. Working in a wide variety of mediums, his oeuvre is among the most diverse and prolific in all of modern art. He is best known for his series of paintings on legends from Australian history, most famously Ned Kelly, the bushranger and outlaw. Nolan's stylized depiction of Kelly's armor has become an icon of Australian art.