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Elyne Mitchell's typewriter

At a glance

  • Famous Australian writer
  • Author of The Silver Brumby
  • A woman of the high country
  • Corona typewriter
A black and white photograph of a man and a woman. The woman stands at the left of the photo, wearing a dress with a floral print. She has dark hair, and smiles. The man stands at the right of the photo, wearing a Second World War-era army uniform and slouch hat. He has his hands behind his back. Behind them both are large flowering shrubs and bushes.
Elyne Mitchell with husband Tom. Photo courtesy Mitchell family.

Elyne Mitchell

Elyne Mitchell (19132002), author of The Silver Brumby novel and various non-fiction works, lived most of her life at Towong Hill in the Upper Murray. Her life was profoundly influenced by the nearby Snowy Mountains which in turn shaped her writing.

Mitchell was the daughter of General Sir Harry Chauvel, commander of the Desert Mounted Corps in the First World War. Her husband Tom was a prisoner of war in the Second World War and later a member of the Victorian Parliament.

She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to literature in 1988. Charles Sturt University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 1993. She also won Children's Book Council awards. Mitchell's fiction titles total 25, and her non-fiction books 10; she also wrote poetry, short stories and articles. She often illustrated her work with her own photographs. The Corryong Library was renamed in Elyne Mitchell's honour in 2001 and a rural women's literary award (with prizes totalling $2000) also bears her name.

A room with a table, bookcase, filing cabinet and two chairs. The table faces a window that has a red, blue and purple stained glass feature above it. On the table are books, boxes, a tall lamp, a modern keypad telephone and loose papers. There are photographs on the bookcase and paintings hung on one wall.
Elyne's study at Towong Hill, where she wrote her books. Photo: Matthew Higgins.

The Silver Brumby

Elyne Mitchell is best remembered for her Silver Brumby series of children's novels. She wrote the first book, The Silver Brumby, for her daughter Indi. Towong Hill was isolated and far from libraries, and Mitchell was not satisfied with the reading matter available for her daughter, which lacked Australian content. At that time children's literature was dominated by British publishers.

Mitchell wrote The Silver Brumby with the mountains and brumbies as her setting and characters. In a tribute written by Jeff Prentice, Mitchell said Indi, aged ten, was 'crazy about ponies'. The book started off as a short story but soon Indi was 'waiting at the typewriter for the next instalment'. The typewriter acquired by the Museum is one of those used by Mitchell in her long writing career.

The Silver Brumby, first published in 1958, is still in print. The popularity of this first brumby book led to the writing of a 13-volume series. The books have been read by thousands of young Australians, and people overseas – the series was published in over forty countries.

The Silver Brumby was made into a feature film in 1993, starring Caroline Goodall and Russell Crowe. Since the book first appeared, the presence of brumbies (feral horses) in Kosciuszko National Park has become a major land management issue. Many people feel strongly either for or against the horses' presence in the park. Mitchell's books have no doubt contributed to popular views of horses in the high country.

A colour photograph of a broad valley. In the foreground is a slope, and a building partially visible at the bottom of the slope. Beyond the building is an open plain and some trees at the far edge of the plain. In the background a mountain range is visible. In the far distance are some snow-covered mountain peaks. Some scattered clouds are visible in the sky.
The snow-clad Main Range of the Snowy Mountains on the skyline, as seen from Towong Hill, with the Murray River valley in the middle ground. Photo: Matthew Higgins.

A woman of the high country

Mitchell's work focused on the Snowy Mountains, including the Main Range, the Cascades and other areas which she popularised in the Silver Brumby series. She wrote of the mountains as being for her a symbol of 'a profound belonging to the Australian land'. In non-fiction books like Australia's Alps, Speak to the Earth and Towong Hill, Mitchell evoked a powerful sense of place. Her deep love of the mountains, the Upper Murray, station life and nature are central themes in much of her work. Her relationship with nature evolved over time as seen in several of her works.

Mitchell was a champion skier internationally; she skied the Snowy Mountains whenever she could. She did many significant exploratory ski journeys in the Snowies in the 1930s-40s and was the first woman to ski parts of the steep western faces. She skied until she was 77.

Horses were an important element in Mitchell's rural life as well as her fiction, and she made many long rides through the mountains as well as helping run Towong Hill cattle station. Elyne Mitchell's adventurous spirit is reflected in the 1948 trip she did with husband Tom and two companions when they drove a jeep across the Snowies - the first vehicle crossing of the mountains.

An old-fashioned typewriter on a desk. The typewriter has round keys and the word 'Corona' on the front of the mechanism casing. A piece of string is tied to the front of the typewriter; a disc with a hole in it is attached to the other end of the string. Two books are next to the typewriter. The book at left is called Speak To The Earth while the book at right is called The Silver Brumby.
Elyne Mitchell's typewriter, with copies of 'Speak to the Earth' (first edition) and 'The Silver Brumby' (latest edition). Photo: Matthew Higgins.

Corona typewriter

The typewriter is a Corona Four and, judging by the serial number, was manufactured in September-October 1936. It was used by Mitchell at various times during her long life. She also used Remington typewriters and, from 1993, reverted to longhand writing that was word-processed by an assistant.

Corona was an extremely popular brand of typewriter, made in the United States. It was first launched in 1912 and various models were manufactured. Many famous authors used Corona or Smith-Corona typewriters, including: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, ee cummings, TS Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Sinclair Lewis, Dorothy Parker and Kurt Vonnegut.

The Museum is grateful to Elyne Mitchell's son John for donating the typewriter.

Selected books by Elyne Mitchell

Fiction

  • The Silver Brumby (1958)
  • Silver Brumby's Daughter (1960)
  • Kingfisher Feather (1962)
  • Winged Skis (1964)
  • Silver Brumby Kingdom (1966)
  • Moon Filly (1968)
  • Jinki: Dingo of the Snows (1970)
  • Light Horse to Damascus (1971)
  • Silver Brumby Whirlwind (1973)
  • The Colt at Taparoo (1973)
  • Snowy River Brumby (1980)
  • The Man from Snowy River (1982)
  • Silver Brumby, Silver Dingo (1993)
  • The Thousandth Brumby (1999)
  • Wild Echoes Ringing (2003)

Non-fiction

  • Australia's Alps (1942)
  • Speak to the Earth (1945)
  • Soil and Civilization (1946)
  • Light Horse: The Story of Australia's Mounted Troops (1978)
  • Chauvel Country - The story of a great Australian pioneering family (1983)
  • Discoverers of the Snowy Mountains (1985)
  • Towong Hill: Fifty Years on an Upper Murray Cattle Station (1989)

More

View a slideshow of images taken by Matthew Higgins at Towong Hill