When he was thirteen, White's parents sent him to England so that he could finish his secondary schooling.

He did not like it there and he wrote a number of poems that were privately published through the effort of his mother. One of those poems has references to Mt Wilson

In September 1925, Patrick White was taken by his parents to Cheltenham College, in Gloucestershire,England.

He did not enjoy his time at this exclusive boarding school. In his Flaws in the Glass: A Self Portrait, he remarked: "Ruth said while we were driving down to Cheltenham, 'This is the proudest day of my life'. When the gates of my expensive prison closed I lost confidence in my mother, and the Uncle James [Patrick White's great uncle] in me never forgave. What my father thought I can't be sure. An amiable, accommodating husband, he went along with what she wanted".

The quality of his school work declined; he felt trapped and was very lonely, except when he would take himself to London with Ronald Waterall, a fellow student, to go to the pictures or theatre. White was to find some solace too during these times when he visited his favourite Cheltenham bookshop - and when he was writing his early poems.

Southwood House, Cheltenham, photo of 1927.
Patrick is in the back row, seventh from the left.

White sent his poems back to Australia where his proud mother had them printed. The volume, entitled Thirteen Poems, was published in 1930 and is now so rare that it is thought that only two copies survive, one of which is held in the Rare Books library at the University of Sydney.

White destroyed every copy that he could lay his hands on and he placed very strict conditions on its use while he was alive. These 13 poems were written between 1927 and 1929.

Two poems in the volume A Rustic Eclogue (1927) and The Death of Arabella Cheyne(1928) were dedicated to Ruth, his mother: "Dedicated to Mummy, Christmas, 1927" and "To Mrs Victor White, with the author's compliments", respectively. The formality of the second dedication is perhaps an indication of White's anger at his mother, especially for putting him in the school on the other side of the globe.

There is one poem in the volume which has a special link to Mt Wilson.

Long Ago: A Reminiscence

I think that it must have happened in a dream,

So far removed, so distant does it seem,

A dream which somehow buried in my heart

At times creeps forth to soothe my troubled soul

And all its buried fragrancy impart,

The fragrance of fresh lilacs in a bowl,

Fresh picked and on each clust'ring bloom the dew

As glistening as when from the skies it flew.

 

Flung from the purpled train of murky night;

And so once more this vision brings to light

The days when I was still a little boy,

When life was but a game from morn till night,

When Sue and I disputed for some toy

And Nurse was forced to come and stop the fight.

Our morning walks come back so vividly

When I refused to act constrainedly,

 

But must rush on ahead and, falling, skin

My knees, or Sue must bash her sturdy shin;

And there were picnics near the waterfall

Where tadpoles swam about in pebbled pools,

Just meant for every childish hand to maul

And gaily cram in jars, where, as a rule,

They only live to die in muddy dregs.

The picnics done, we ran on hastening legs

 

Down to the saw-mill in the sassafras.

How loved we then to watch the steely mass

Of that giant moon, eating the fallen logs

With gaping teeth, while sawdust fell in showers,

Commingling with the oily stench of cogs

And toiling wheels, the scent of forest flowers

Floating upon the limpid summer air.

Christmas was never then a cold affair

 

Of frosts, and snow and frozen finger tips.

About our Christmas tree, with hops and skips

We flew, and made the gutt'ring candles dance,

Till, tired of this we ranged the garden o'er

And caught the frisking fireflies, if perchance

Unwary they became; but when we saw

Nurse sweeping down to pack us off to bed 

No hour from out the twenty-four so dread 

 

We climbed up high into a sycamore,

With not a thought for all the clothes we tore,

And there sat cowering close, against the stars

With bated breath. My heart beats strangely

When

I think of these far-off elusive hours

And strive to scape this toiling world of men

So fettered that they scarce know where to turn

And seek the liberty for what they yearn.

In A Moonlight Picnic, published when he was ten years old, White describes a moonlight picnic at the waterfall in Mt Wilson. Now look at the third and fourth stanzas. There are references to "picnics near the waterfall", "pebbled pools" and after the picnic White and his sister run to Sid Kirk's sawmill "in the sassafras" where they watch the "steely mass of the giant moon", the large circular saw-blade "eating the fallen logs with gaping teeth, while sawdust fell in showers". There was, too, "the oily stench of cogs and toiling wheels", contrasted with nearby "the scent of forest flowers floating upon the limpid summer air".

The Mt Wilson Waterfall

The poem is filled with the nostalgia of a teenage boy for long ago when he was a child: it also suggests that time and space are intertwined, as Mt Wilson was certainly far away.