SLESSOR, Kenneth / REILLY, Virgil (illustrator)
and Morning Glories / being 47 strange sights / observed from eleventh storeys, / in a land of cream puffs and crime, by a Flat-roof Professor; / and here set forth in sketch and rhyme. Sydney : Frank C. Johnson, 1933. First edition. Presentation copy inscribed on the half title ‘To Gus Walker from Ken Slessor Dec. 22, 1931’ (Walker and Slessor were fellow contributors at Smith’s Weekly). Quarto (285 x 230 mm), pictorial colour wrappers (a little worn at corners, some paper loss along spine), staple bound, 48 pp, illustrated with monochrome line drawings; inner wrappers lightly foxed, otherwise contents clean and sound.
Darlinghurst Nights must rank as one of the most evocative books about Sydney ever published. All of the text and drawings had previously appeared in Smith’s Weekly, but it was their destiny to be published as a collection, such is their potency as a group. There is a near-perfect symbiosis between Slessor’s endlessly inventive and witty verse and Reilly’s noir-esque illustrations.
The works bring to life the demi-monde that inhabited Darlinghurst and the Cross at the tail end of the Depression era – prostitutes, alcoholics, fighters, gamblers, petty criminals, cocaine addicts, lovers, suburban interlopers – and the streets and establishments they frequented. Although Slessor’s razor-sharp observations are candid and revealing on many levels, the voice in his writing betrays a deep empathy for these denizens of inner-Sydney.