THE PROLIFIC Pens of Hilda and Roy Bridges
The old house at Wood's Farm is empty now, and derelict, its windows sightless eyes. History has been here and gone; only the stone chimney suggests the survival of human endeavour. The once-brilliant garden that thrived in the rich dark loam of the Sorell Valley has disappeared.There is an air of the graveyard about the old farm now; a lone cow grazing where the garden used to be and the cawing of a passing raven are the only signs of life.
This dereliction, this deathly stillness, seems a symbol of the passing of the lives of those for whom Wood's Farm (or Burnside, as it was originally called) was home for 150 years. They were Roy and Hilda Bridges, prolific sibling writers, part of whose childhood was spent here in their ancestral home, and who returned in middle age to live out their lives in their great grandfather's house in the valley they loved.
Hobart bookseller Christopher Pearce believes that Roy Bridges was probably Australia's best-selling novelist in the 1920s and 1930s. It may well be so: between 1909 and 1950 he published at least 35 books of fiction (mainly adventure and historical novels), as well as three non-fiction books, and he was published simultaneously in New York and London.
Hilda., his sister, was nearly as prolific: from 1920 to 1946 she published 16 books (three of them for children), plus serials and short stories in newspapers and magazines. She also found time to be Roy's housekeeper and amanuensis (for typewriters were not then in general use), transcribing by hand legible copies of the manuscripts he dashed off.
Yet despite their literary prolificity, they are now virtually unknowns.