A Simple Enigma: Juliet Dawson Profile – Part 4

Juliet didn’t only argue with Miles, although you could say their relationship was passionate, tempestuous even. “We enjoyed making up, put it that way,” she said with a deliberate far away look when pressed for a comment about their emotional lives together. Their time together was comparatively short, barely a semester, but in that period she met Miles’ father, Justice Urquhart, and had many stimulating conversations with him. She also became close to Miles’ mother Sonia and was surprised to find that a lot of the charity work Mrs Urquhart did with the various organisations she belonged to had similar aims to the causes Juliet and her circle supported. It was in this time that the first meeting of United Women Against Poverty was held. The first fundraising ball for UWAP was held too, a month later, and the occasion is still in the front rank of events in the Sydney social calendar over forty years later.

The young couple spent a lot of time in book shops together, and even more time in conversation. It was stimulating for both of them to speak with an intellectual equal from a different political position, and it can truly be said that they each taught the other a lot during their few months together.

Miles encouraged Juliet to complete the backlog of her academic work and he gave her the confidence to approach the examinations at the end of the year with a positive outlook. His confidence in her proved to be well founded when her results were so good that her tutors and lecturers convinced her to apply for some scholarships to study overseas. She really wanted the Cambridge scholarship and when she received word that it had been offered to her she was excited as well as sad. Miles, typically, gave good advice and told her to be sensible. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, he said, and she would soon forget him and move on with her life, he said. “He was right, of course. I did move on. But I never forgot him,” Juliet said. “The future was so exciting though.”

Soon Juliet was reading Law by day, rapidly completing her Honours degree, and writing reviews and opinion pieces by night for all the main journals with any intellectual and critical merit. In her small study at the top of a narrow staircase in St. Margaret’s College she wrote gossipy columns for Tattler and restaurant reviews for The Spectator and political sketches for The New Statesman, and she also reviewed books for the LRB and Times Literary Supplement in her spare time.

In these years she became friends with Adrian Monroe, the Spectator’s 23 year-old literary editor, who would later move into publishing and win the bidding war for A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing for Charles Darley. It was rumoured at the time that the pair were more than friends, but she positively brays at this suggestion, saying: “Oh, didn’t you know about Adrian? That would have been impossible, my dear. He was married to his work, and besides he wore a green carnation in his lapel, if you know what I mean.” Adrian was very close to the young men who were reforming the National Portrait Gallery at the time, many of whom were known to be confirmed bachelors, to use the phrase the press used, and all of whom have since hosted an antiques program on television at one time or another.

After graduation Juliet commenced postgraduate work on French Renaissance poetry from a feminist perspective and for a long time she was able to combine her academic and professional selves into a coherent functioning existence.

The balance she had achieved was to be upset, again, when she was offered a job, which was just too good to refuse.

The owner of Pembroke Review, Lord Pembroke, had asked Juliet to become his editor-in-chief over a lunch at his club which overlooked The Strand. They drank a quantity of claret from antique claret jugs and sat on mahogany furniture and the beef Wellington was excellent. It was a meal so hearty that Juliet was reminded of her mother’s dinners back on the farm at Murdoch Flat, and she naturally said yes. It was faintly absurd to be called editor-in-chief when she only had eight staff, but there was an expense account, and the Pembroke family had never interfered with the editorial independence of their flagship.

In her time at the helm the journal called for the House of Lords to be abolished, several times, and advocated equality of opportunity for all minorities via a social revolution which would turn the patriarchal order on its head. Juliet saw no conflict between these stances and her practice of appearing at society events populated by the same people who had been pilloried in the pages of her magazine. In fact she relished the opportunity to meet these people. Their discomfort amused her and she was soon making an ever widening circle of friends in this group.

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Published in: on April 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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