‘From the Honest History vault: Jauncey’s View: the world through the eyes of an eccentric author, world traveller and rent collector’, Honest History, 13 October 2020
When we began the Honest History website nearly seven years ago, we had the idea of running a regular column, to which different authors could contribute. For reasons now lost, we decided to call the column Jauncey’s View, after Leslie Cyril Jauncey (1899-1959), known to his wife as ‘Bill’, author of seminal books on conscription during the Great War and on Australian banking.
Jauncey in Australia May 1949 (Adelaide News)
David Stephens, Peter Stanley and Alison Broinowski took up the Jauncey mantle and wrote interesting pieces wearing it, but we soon discovered, through the assiduous research of Steve Flora, that the late ‘Bill’ Jauncey had more than enough chops to carry the column by himself. And so he did, for four years from October 2013 to September 2017, with a late flurry in February 2019.
We wrote about Bill and his circle, and we let him speak for himself, as he produced a couple of books and some perceptive journal articles and letters, lived in California (some of the time as a landlord), and (for still obscure reasons) was shadowed by ASIO and the FBI. (Steve Flora for some years kept up a correspondence with the Bureau, seeking release of their Jauncey file, and eventually achieved some – redacted – success. Similarly with the ASIO file.)
Fellow-travelling with Bill – and financing their life-style – was his wife, Beatrice (Bea or Bee) Eva Edmonds Fripp Jauncey (1895-1996), heiress to a New Zealand fortune derived from baking powder, divorced to marry Bill, pursuer of an Indian guru after his death, and, eventually, centurion.
Some choice Jauncey cuts include the following:
- Jauncey’s brother, George, is a victim of war paranoia in the United States in 1917;
- a letter to Jauncey in 1933 from his great friend, King O’Malley, former Australian politician;
- Jauncey writes on US politics 1936 for an Australian audience;
- Jauncey writes to Labor Leader, HV Evatt, on US politics 1952;
- Jauncey, person of interest to the FBI;
- letters from Bill (1935) and Bea (1951) to King O’Malley;
- Jauncey writes to Amy O’Malley in 1953 on the death of her husband;
- a Jauncey Christmas bonus 2015 carries the fruits of some Steve Flora research;
- a 2019 miscellany of some late-breaking Jaunceyiana.
In the course of our acquaintance with Jauncey, we reckon we came to know him and Bea better than most people did then or since. Our research has given us glimpses into milieus as different as Great War Missouri and 1950s California, early 2oth century Adelaide and 1930s Albert Park, Melbourne. The photo of Jauncey in the online Australian Dictionary of Biography entry is but one fruit of our labours. Both Steve Flora and I reckon that, behind those thick spectacles, Bill Jauncey would have been an interesting person to get to know. And so would Bea, perhaps even more so.
* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.