Alexandra Hasluck Books

Portrait in a Mirror

An autobiography published by Oxford University Press in 1981.
by Alexandra Hasluck

Publication Details:
Oxford University Press, 1981
Hardback 329 pp
ISBN: 0 19 554298 3

Book cover notes:
"Alexandra Hasluck is already well-known as one of that small but distinguished group of female historians who have done so much, by their perceptive biographies, to increase and enlarge our knowledge of the characters of our history. In the early chapters of this autobiography she brings a discerning eye to bear on her own ancestors, and with vivid sketches of her English, Irish and Scottish forbears portrays what she regards as the typical experiences of British settlers. The same observing eye and mind follow her through a long and varied career, from her basically happy childhood and youth in Western Australia to becoming herself a 'Governor's Lady'.

She married Paul Hasluck when he was sub-editor on the West Australian newspaper. When he entered the diplomatic sphere she moved with him to Canberra and, later (when Sir Paul was Head of the Australian Mission to the United Nations Assembly in New York) in America, are enlivened by wryly humorous sketches of people and events which few people have been fortunate to experience at such close hand.

These opportunities increased when, on their return to Australia, her husband became a member of Parliament and a Cabinet Minister in Sir Robert Menzies' Government, first as Minister for Territories and later as Foreign Minister. Both positions provided them with many new experiences: of journeys to the remoter parts of Australia and New Guinea in his responsibility for Territories and, later, as Foreign Minister, of visits to the capitals of the world, meeting most of the great men of our time. Even wider vistas opened when her husband became Governor-General of Australia and the observing historian was able to record characteristically life at Government House, with its constant stream of visitors colouring its own interesting inner life.

Portrait in a Mirror is not only a fascinating story but also a remarkable self-portrait, told through letters, diaries, speeches as well as her own commentaries, of a watching woman: a dispassionate observer of the famous people and great events of her time, who was unaffected by her varying environments and remained, as she had begun, a typical scion of that early colonial stock - intelligent, literate, strongly-opinioned - and staunchly Australian.

Alexandra Hasluck's family story is linked to the earliest days of Australia's history. Her English great-great-grandparents arrived in 1796 with two children. Their third child, her great-grandmother, was born in the year of Trafalgar, and while in her teens married an Irishman. On her father's side her grandparents were English, and Scottish, and settled in Queensland. She herself was born in Western Australia. She was educated at Perth College and graduated from the University of Western Australia, which in later years recognised her work in Australian history and literature with the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. She made Australian social history her field of study and her twelve books have been well received both by scholars and general readers. In recognition of her service to Australian letters she was the first woman to be created a Dame in the Order of Australia.

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