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‘My friends,’ wrote Myles Dunphy in 1920, ‘the aim and purpose of life is love’.
The renowned conservationist, mapmaker, architect and teacher went on to argue, in his essay ‘To Wait or Not to Wait?’, that a man should not wait to marry until he is ‘of means’. He should seize the opportunity when it arises to wed the woman he loves.
Dunphy composed this essay — a draft is in the Library’s collection — after an argument with a friend around the fire on a Sunday night. To strengthen his point he quotes American orator Robert Ingersoll, the Sanskrit text Hitopadesha, Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar and Australian author Zora Cross (‘Love — love is all; and sweeps in mighty flood’).
It’s not surprising that Dunphy took this romantic view, having lost his fiancée Hazel Matheson to tuberculosis in 1916. ‘[L]ife is too tragically uncertain,’ he writes. ‘There is no time for ample preparations. Do the best you can, seize everything within your rightful power to grasp, and the greatest of all is love.’
Many people know of Myles Dunphy’s tireless commitment to the conservation movement in NSW — including his successful lobbying for the Blue Mountains to be listed as a national park. His richly illustrated journals and other papers bequeathed to the Library in 1985 document his life of bushwalking and mapmaking (some of the journals featured in the Library’s 2018 exhibition UNESCO Six).
A recent addition to this trove emphasises the romantic side of Dunphy’s character, as set out in his essay. Dexter, the son of Myles and Margaret Dunphy, recently donated a set of hand-drawn booklets and cards his father created for his mother, as well as love letters and other personal papers. They show that Dunphy’s devotion to beauty and aesthetics permeated his personal life, and that artistic expression was as central to his romantic relationships as it was to his environmentalism.