Women of the Conservatorium: Ruby Gray

Ruby Gray in costume

The above photograph, found in the University of Melbourne’s Rare Music Collection, portrays Ruby Gray in full stage costume and make-up for an unknown role. Gray was a very early alumna of the University (Marshall-Hall) Conservatorium, graduating as a “Musical associate”: a fine soprano, as well as an accomplished pianist and accompanist. Gray was one of fourteen children of Irish emigrees Dr Andrew Sexton Gray, pioneering ocular and aural surgeon and founder of the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and Bessie Gray (nee McNalty), ‘one of the belles of early Melbourne’.[1]

Ruby Gray commenced her studies at the Conservatorium in pianoforte and in 1897 was awarded an Exhibition for Performance, a recognition of her considerable talent.[2] At the time the incumbent of the Chair of Music was George William Louis Marshall-Hall. He was a brilliant, and highly controversial character—a bohemian who outraged ‘strait-laced Melburnians’ with his ‘wild’ public behaviour, ardent denouncement of pedantry and advocacy for the ‘power of emotive discipline’.[3] As Ormond Professor of Music, he devised a syllabus that moved away from the established emphasis on ‘pure technique’ and a strict examination system: in fact, on multiple occasions Marshall-Hall attempted to have these examination systems abolished. Instead, the focus of the Marshall-Hall syllabus was to bring out the ‘interpretive sensibility’ and ‘emotional responsiveness’ of each student-musician, working from a solid foundation of technical skill.[4]

In 1898, following the publication of Marshall-Hall’s blasphemously-titled book of poetry, Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Argus newspaper launched a savage attack on both the text and Marshall-Hall’s character, directly disputing his suitability to the role of ‘lecturer to the Young, especially the Young Women, of Victoria’.[5] Ruby Gray joined many of her fellow students in a letter of public protest against the ‘hostile’ treatment of their great and unorthodox professor.[6]

The Argus, (1898-08-12), ‘Professor Marshall-Hall – His Publications’.

From 1899, Gray began accompanying University Conservatorium concerts on the pianoforte as well as singing in performances of opera.[7] Additionally, from 1901, Gray gave a series of solo vocal and pianoforte performances at the Gray family home in Collins Street.[8] By 1902 Gray, by now associated with the Melbourne or Marshall-Hall (and no longer the University) Conservatorium after Marshall-Hall’s University employment ceased, was again acknowledged for her outstanding work as accompanist in acclaimed student performances, conducted by Marshall-Hall himself and often held in the Town Hall.[9] According to one critic, ‘Ruby Gray “accompanied” the voices, which is the highest praise that can be given to accompanists, whose tendency is to give brilliant solo performances and let the voice wander on as it pleases’.[10]

In tandem with her pianoforte career, Gray continued to develop her skills as a soprano. In December 1903 she starred opposite Lovie Mueller in Vaccai’s ‘Romeo et Guillietta’, a standout for many reviewers of the Marshall-Hall Conservatorium Annual Concert that year.[11] The performances of both Mueller and Gray in Romeo et Guillietta were ‘beyond praise’ and the pair received a ‘perfect ovation at the close’.[12] One critic observed that Gray’s Juliet’s ‘Italian style of beauty and slim youthfullness of figure suited her well for this part’ and praised her ‘light and penetrating soprano’ voice, which ‘gave full effect to the music’.[13]

Punch, (1903-12-17), ‘Miss Lovie Muller & Miss Ruby Gray’.

 By 1916 Gray was teaching both operatic singing and pianoforte at the Melbourne Conservatorium and Allan’s.[14] However, this by no means signalled the conclusion or even the winding down of her career as a performer. Dame Nellie Melba, having seen Gray perform during her student days, became ‘immediately interested in her work’ and in 1917, following a shared holiday in Honolulu, the pair embarked on a concert tour of the United States, with Gray acting as Melba’s accompanist.[15] In an interview with Australian Musical News, Gray described the experience as ‘a great revelation’, continuing that she ‘always feel deeply grateful to Melba for her wonderful kindnesses to me on that tour’.[16]

Following the US tour and a brief sojourn in New Zealand, Gray recommenced her teaching role at the Conservatorium, which was by then was under Melba’s direct patronage. Additionally, Gray continued to perform opera in venues across Melbourne, reinforcing her already considerable reputation as a fine exponent of opera and rousing enthusiastic crowds whenever she sang.[17]

The Australian Musical News, (1923-11-1), ‘Miss Ruby Gray’.

When interviewed for The Australian Musical News in 1923, Gray reflected on her career as a teacher across the Marshall-Hall and Melba Conservatoriums, as well as her gratitude for the guidance of Nellie Melba throughout her career:

‘I thoroughly enjoy all my work at the Conservatorium… I hold classes there for voice production, concert, and opera work. Much of my career has been identified with the Conservatorium, for I was a student there. Dame Nellie Melba has helped me with my own voice and has given me wonderful hints and assistance in imparting my knowledge to others. Many a time she has come into my room at the Conservatorium and helped me with the placing of a difficult voice in one or other of my pupils… I find that without exception the students who are placed under my care are very enthusiastic and keen to succeed. If a student is not keen, what is the use of it? Nobody can help her. It is most interesting to watch the growth of the young voice. Maybe it is tiny at the first, but with careful handling it blossoms out like a flower. Equally interesting is the knitting together of a broken voice or one that has been recklessly forced. In my opinion, no fault should be allowed to pass on from one lesson to another, for in two or three lessons it becomes a habit all the more difficult to remedy.’[18]

In 1925 Gray was recovering from a bout of appendicitis which prevented her from both teaching and performing.[19] However, following this brief pause in her career, she began performing once more in 1926 in a series of radio broadcasts and in 1927 accepted a post at the New Conservatorium as a singing teacher of the Melba method.[20] In February 1928 she also recommenced studio teaching at Allan’s.[21] In 1937 Gray was still teaching the Melba method to private pupils out of her childhood home on Collins Street.[22] In a career that spanned decades, Ruby Gray earned and maintained a reputation as one of the finest local musicians to come out of the Conservatorium to date. From her impressive technical skill to her riveting stage presence to a voice ‘that in finish, tone and colour would carry her anywhere’, she delighted.[23]

Caroline Colbran

Rare Music Intern


[1] The Argus, 1907-07-11, p. 7; The Home: An Australian Quarterly – Melbourne Musings, v. 51, no. 9, 1928-09-01, p. 12.
[2] Table Talk – ‘Music & Musicians’, 1897-11-26, p. 15.
[3] Radic, T (1986), ‘Marshall-Hall, George William Louis (1862–1915)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography  (Vol. 10).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Argus – ‘Professor Marshall-Hall – His Publications’, 1898-08-12, p. 5.
[7] The Argus – ‘Conservatorium of Music Concert’, 1899-10-19, p. 3; Table Talk – ‘Conservatorium Opera’, 1899-12-14, p. 18.
[8] The Argus – ‘Advertising’, 1901-02-02, p. 16.
[9] The Australasian – ‘Music’, 1902-07-05, p. 24.
[10] The Arena – ’Music & Art‘, 1902-07-10, p. 19.
[11] Australian Town & Country Journal – ’Melbourne Lady’s Letter‘, 1903-12-23, p. 43.
[12] Ibid.
[13] The Arena-Sun – ’Music and Musicians’, 1903-12-17, p. 14.
[14] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 5 (Nov 1914), p. 136.
[15] The Australian Musical News, vol. 6, no. 8 (February 1917); The Australian Musical News, vol. 6, no. 12 (June 1917); The Herald – ’Woman’s World’, 1922-12-12, p. 10.
[16] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 8 (November 1923), p. 19.
[17] The Herald – ‘Woman’s World’, 1922-12-12, p. 10.
[18] The Australian Musical News, vol. 4, no. 8 (November, 1923), p. 19.
[19] The Herald – ‘Woman’s World’ 1925-06-06, p. 10.
[20] Advocate – ‘The Ladies Page’ 1927-03-10, p. 32.
[21] The Argus – ‘Classified Advertising’ 1928-02-04, p. 38.
[22] The Argus – ‘Advertising’, 1937-02-24, p. 21.
[23] Punch – ‘Music: Ruby Gray‘, 1920-10-20, p. 34.

Annotation of selected works of Yuyang Shanren 渔洋山人精华录笺注


The Annotation of selected works of Yuyang Shanren (渔洋山人精华录笺注) in the University of Melbourne’s East Asian Collection was the most widely circulated anthology by early Qing poet Wang Shizhen (王士禛, c.1634-1711). Preferring a reclusive life, Wang authored several anthologies under the pseudonym Yuyang Shanren, or simply Yuyang. In his lifetime, Wang wrote more than 3,000 poems 1. As a leading poet of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), these were not only immensely popular, but had a far-reaching impact on the acceptance of Tang Dynasty poetry aesthetics 2. Quite apart from its literary value though, the format of the Annotation provides a fascinating insight into the bitter political struggles of the early Qing Dynasty.

Portrait of Wang Shizhen wearing cone-shaped bamboo hat, The University of Melbourne Collection.

Portrait of Wang Shizhen wearing cone-shaped bamboo hat, The University of Melbourne Collection.

Due to its popularity, many editions of the Annotation circulated, in varying volumes – most commonly 12 juan (scrolls) in either 6, 8, 10 or 12 volumes. Furthermore, among extant editions, some include Wang’s Chronicle (1 juan), Supplement (1 juan), and Appendix (1 juan), which was the compilation of prefaces from Wang’s other anthologies. The University of Melbourne collection has 12 juan in 6 volumes, including the Chronicle and Supplement. Other institutions hold variations on this format: for example Harvard-Yenching Library (HY) holds two copies, one in 8 volumes and the other one in 12 volumes.

Apart from the variance in volume numbers, the differences in content between our copy and the HY copies are noteworthy. The HY 8-volume copy has had all information related to the 17th century literary mogul Qian Qianyi (钱谦益, c. 1582-1664) expunged, including a preface written by Qian, the Appendix in which Wang traced his friendship with Qian, and text in the editorial guide in which Qian is mentioned. The HY 12-volume copy contains Qian’s preface, the Appendix, and retains relevant text in the editorial guide. Our 6-volume copy does not contain Qian’s preface and the Appendix; however, the editorial guide was kept intact.



Left: HY Collection;right: University of Melbourne Collection.

These differences arose due to tensions between the Qing government and Han Chinese literati. Founded by the Manchu people, an ethnic minority, the government was initially keen to engage Han writers and thinkers to help legitimise their rule. When Han Chinese rule collapsed with the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), many Ming officials loyal to the regime committed suicide. Qian did not though 3. Instead, he served as a high-ranking official in the Qing government in c.1646. For that reason, he was initially disdained by Han intellectuals – and then later by the Qing government as well: the regime inevitably felt the need to advocate the virtue of loyalty once they were firmly established. Qian quit the post five months later, and engaged in anti-Qing campaigns during the last decades of his life. Growing furious at the anti-Qing sentiment in Qian’s literary works, in c.1769 Emperor Qianlong ordered all copies of Qian’s two anthologies in public and private collections to be destroyed, including the wooden blocks they were printed from. Furthermore, Qian’s name was listed in the Erchen Zhuan (贰臣传, Biography of turncoat officials in Ming History). Later, in the process of compiling the Siku Quanshu (四库全书, Complete Library in Four Sections), massive amounts of literature were censored, including an estimated 43 anthologies by Qian; another 72 anthologies by others were indirectly impacted 4.

The Annotation was lucky enough to survive. However, the removal of Qian’s information in extant editions illustrates the damage caused by censorship during the 18th century. Nowadays, we can use this information in conjunction with other evidence to tell the approximate date of different editions. For example, volume 1 in our collection seems to be a reprint of an early edition, which was printed between 1734 and 1784, as information about Qian was retained in the editorial guide. Volumes 2-6 are different from volume 1 in at least three aspects: first, the imprint in volumes 2-6 is clearer and more elegant, whilst volume 1 is slightly blurred; second, like other early prints, volumes 2-6 in our collection have the name of the publisher Fenghui Tang (凤翙堂) in the first page of each juan, whilst volume 1 does not; this means that volume 1 could not be the first print. Finally, the height of volumes 2-6 are the same, whilst volume 1 is shorter and has apparently been conserved post-publication – maybe by a book dealer, in order to sell the works as a complete set. Further study is needed to confirm whether volumes 2-6 are a first print or reprint.

left: volume 1, without the publisher’s name in the first page in each juan; right: volume 2, bears the publisher’s name 凤翙堂 at the bottom left.


Xiaoju Liu,

Curator, East Asian Collection


1. Around c.1700, the Selected works of Yuyang Shanren (渔洋山人精华录), which contains about 1,000 poems in 12 juan, was carved and printed based on the handwriting of Wang’s disciple Lin Ji (林佶), who was well known for his elegant calligraphy. It was later annotated by another disciple, Jin Rong (金荣), and initially printed by Fenghui Tang (凤翙堂, Hall of the flying phoenix), which was owned by Jin. According to the editorial guide, Jin finished the Annotation in c.1734, meaning the first print of the Annotation can be dated no earlier than that.

2. Zhang Limin, “论博学鸿词科对王士禛的诗学影响 [The Influence of Boxuehongci Examination on Wang Shizhen’ Poetics],” Wenxue yichan 4, (2019): 156-164.

3.Qian married the famous courtesan Liu Rushi. According to some miscellaneous notes, when the Ming Dynasty collapsed, Liu urged Qian to commit suicide in loyalty to the Ming Dynasty. But Qin refused, saying that ‘the water was too cold’. Chen Yinke has refuted this narrative in his Liu Rushi Biezhuan (柳如是别传, Anecdotal biography of Liu Rushi), however.

4. Zhuang Jifa, “清高宗禁毁钱谦益著述考,” 清史论集 (三) (Taipei: Wenshizhe chubanshe, 1998), 176, quoted in Li Shuang, “清代《钱注杜诗》暗中流传与突破禁毁考述” (Masters thesis, Capital Normal University, China, 2007], 8. China Doctoral Dissertations/Masters Theses Full-text Database.


Intern Profile, Adelaide Greig, Archives and Special Collections Blog Intern



Photograph of a young woman in an interior space.

Adelaide Greig recently completed an Internship with Archives and Special Collections, and is completing her Masters in Arts. She spoke to us about how she came to work with our collections and the new skills she was able to gain during her time working with our team.

What is your academic background? 

I’m currently working on a Masters Thesis within the English and Theatre Studies department, with a focus on medieval romance by female writers. I’m really interested in how elements of fantasy in those stories acted as a form of escapism for its writers and readers.  

 What path led you to undertaking an Internship in Archives and Special Collections? 

I think gaining as much practical experience as possible is essential for moving into any career and I’m always on the look out for any opportunities within special collections. I jumped on the chance tointernwith the Baillieu and help out in any way I can; their collections are so impressive, how could I say no!  

 How will you the skills you use now be helpful for the future? 

I’ve mostly been writing for the Special Collections blog, which requires presenting short form and entertaining but educational writing for a wider audience, something that I don’t really get a chance to do for my thesis research. It feels helpful to develop writing skills that will come in handy for curatorial work, or other positions which require sharing collections with the general public.  

What do you see as your options for next steps from here? 

 Well, I guess I’ll keep plugging away on my thesis andinterning anywhere I can and hopefully one day it will turn into a career.  

 Something unusual I’ve discovered in the collections is…. 

 The catalogue entries for every item have a brief history of from where the item was purchased; some of them are quite complex and have passed through many hands. I’d love to dig deeper into those histories and learn more about how they finally landed in the Baillieu, which being in Melbourne is quite far from where they started!  

 As told to Chelsea Harris, Coordinator, Communications and Engagement

Feature image: Chaucer’s Squires Tales to the Tree She Goth Ful Hastily, James Heath, etching and burin, 1801, Print Collection, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959.5019.000.000







“Be assured that we have some defiance left in us” – Germaine Greer and the Oz Obscenity Trial


2014.0042.00644 Oz history – Letterhead from The Adventures of Oz, a circular from Oz Magazine outlining its history, c1973. University of Melbourne Archives Greer Archive, unit 75, 2014.0042.00644


In 1971 the London underground press magazine, Oz, was put on trial for obscenity following the publication of its ‘School Kids’ issue. Germaine Greer had both personal and professional ties to the magazine and the defendants. Her public and private papers relating to the trial express a nuanced position, balanced between her public scorn for the conservative establishment and its use of the obscenity charges, and her more private critique of the underground press.

Germaine Greer’s commentary on the trial as a journalist and a feminist illuminates the trial’s public implications for not only the underground press, but for all activists who challenged the state. Germaine Greer was a figure of the grassroots Australian underground press, emerging from the 1960s libertarian movement in Sydney. However, she is best known as a prominent voice of second-wave radical feminism, publishing The Female Eunuch in 1970.[1] Notably, her views did not represent those of all second-wave feminists, though her commentary on the Oz trial provided a popular voice for women which was otherwise largely absent.

2014.0042.00267 – Oz magazine letterhead from letter from Louise Ferrier to Germaine Greer, August 1971. University of Melbourne Archives Greer Archive, unit 33, 2014.0042.00267


Three criminal charges were brought against three defendants: founder Richard Neville, fellow Australian Jim Anderson and Londoner Felix Dennis. The first count was conspiracy to corrupt public morals; the second was obscenity, which existed under statute law; namely the Obscene Publications Act 1959; the third count was a minor offence – sending an indecent article through the post.[2] The trial lasted six weeks, the longest obscenity trial in British legal history.

The underground press was largely comprised of Australians, for whom censorship was not a new battle. The Australian state historically repressed countercultural writing through police raids, government surveillance and countless criminal charges including obscenity.[3] The result was an exodus of young Australians to London, including Germaine Greer, and Richard Neville whose obscenity conviction had recently been overturned for the original Australian Oz. By 1971, Australians and Oz were at the forefront of the underground press both in London and internationally.


2014.0042.00267 unit 33 – Germaine Greer to Louise Ferrier, 4 August 1971. University of Melbourne Archives Greer Archive, unit 33, 2014.0042.00267


Germaine Greer’s articles for Daily Mail and The Sunday Times describe how “the British were still deep in denial mode”[4] and repressed “any pious liberal outcry”.[5] Despite years of relentless activism, she attests in the wake of Oz that “our task is now to persuade the readers of the News of the World to care about us”.[6] The Oz trial’s rhetorical significance extended far beyond Court 2 of the Old Bailey. According to Geoffrey Robertson, who advised the defence, the magazine “[carried] the banner of the alternative society”[7] and the trial represented a long-awaited liberation of self-expression from the underground to the mainstream.

On the jury finding the defendants not guilty on count one, but guilty on the second and third, Justice Michael Argyle ordered custodial sentences and psychiatric assessments on the men, as well a deportation order on Neville. An appeal was heard four months later on 78 counts against Justice Argyle’s summing up,[8] and on November 8th, 1971 the convictions were quashed.

2014.0042.0060 unit 75 – Aerogram letter from Richard Neville to Germaine Greer, 21 August 1971. University of Melbourne Archives Greer Archive, unit 75, 2014.0042.00620


The Oz trial extended public questioning of the law beyond authority over sexual conduct, to judicial authority more broadly. Justice Argyle’s blatant manipulation of due process and the resultant guilty verdict had publicly stripped the cornerstone of British justice of its sanctity. The Greer Archives also demonstrate how this blow to public faith in judicial authority posed an opportunity to the counterculture in a changing Britain.  Greer stresses that this was not a time for the underground press to step down, but rather a critical time for them to step up. “Now is exactly the wrong time. The subscribers would accept a sort of emergency Ink, but they must be assured that we have some defiance left in us”.[9]

The Oz trial was high farce, with the Old Bailey as its stage.[10]  Greer posits that this politics was electorally motivated; “the Oz trial was a public relations exercise for the Tories… The swiftness, thoroughness and ruthlessness of the descent on Oz, unhampered by any pettifogging concern for civil liberties, showed that this administration knows how to be tough.”.[11]

Importantly, Greer simultaneously notes that whilst Oz as a trial was deeply political, Oz as a publication was not. Given this, it becomes less surprising that second-wave feminist accounts of a trial defending a publication with questionable sexual politics, are limited. Greer also outlines how feminists had worked tirelessly over decades for women’s rights, and were still working at pressing issues such as family violence and reproductive rights.[12] Meanwhile, Oz was benefitting from this labour; “instead of developing a political analysis of the state we live in, instead of undertaking the patient and unsparing job of education which must precede even a pre-revolutionary situation, Oz behaved as though the revolution had already happened” and got away with this “by adroit use of the concomitants of privilege – culture, charm, personableness and expert defence”.[13] She maintains that “Ink and Oz must both continue, [but] they must take every advantage of the removal of misleading tokenism in developing their critique of oppression”.[14] Greer was already a second-wave feminist and a member of the underground press before the Oz trial, but the trial refined her stance within these publics.

Cinzia Pellicciotta

Cinzia Pellicciotta originally wrote this article as an essay for the law subject Public Trials, as part of her Bachelor of Arts degree (Criminology major). Cinzia is currently studying towards a Diploma in Languages (Italian) and is passionate about feminist history.

[1] Rachel Buchanan (2018) “Foreign correspondence: journalism in the Germaine Greer Archive”, Archives and Manuscripts, 46:1, at 18.

[2] Post Office Act 1953 (c. 36), section 11.

[3] Nicole Moore (2012) The Censor’s Library (University of Queensland Press), at 5.

[4] Unit 13 Daily Mail Reflective Piece, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.000751.

[5] Unit 1 Sunday Times Article, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.00011; Unit 13 Daily Mail Reflective Piece, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.000751.

[6] Unit 1 Sunday Times Article, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.00011.

[7] Geoffrey Robertson (1998) “The Trials of Oz”, Geoffrey Robertson (ed) The Justice Game (Chatto & Windus), at 21.

[8] Regina v Anderson; Regina v. Neville; Regina v. Dennis; Regina v. Oz Publications Ink Ltd [1971] 3 WLR 939.

[9] Unit 78 Ink Letter 1971, 8th August 1971, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0042.00644.

[10] Robert Hariman (1990) “Introduction”, Robert Hariman (ed) Popular Trials: Rhetoric, Mass Media, and the Law (University of Alabama Press), at 3.

[11] Unit 1 Sunday Times Article, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.00011.

[12] Unit 53 Women’s Liberation Movement, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0045.00602.

[13] Unit 1 Sunday Times Article, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.00011.

[14] Unit 1 Sunday Times Article, Germaine Greer Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2014.0046.00011.

The Renaissance of early Greek maps

The University of Melbourne’s rare and historical map collection holds over 8,000 rare original maps plus more than 100 original atlases with maps of significance, including some of the earliest cartographic charts of Australia, the Pacific and other parts of the world. Four maps are highlighted here and they depict Asia Minor—or the modern-day equivalent of Turkey and parts of Armenia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria and Bulgaria. They were donated as part of a collection of 130 maps to the University in 1991 by Australian diplomat Ronald Walker and his wife Pamela. Ronald and Pamela Walker made several donations of rare maps over the last 20 years. The first donation was of Asia Minor maps and later donations included more than 70 rare original cartograph items from the 16th and 17th centuries of Constantinople and other parts of the world. Walker was posted to the Turkish capital Ankara in the 1970s where the couple begun their collection of ‘maps of Turkey before 1700AD,’ much of which the University now owns. [1.]

Martin Waldseemüller after Claudius Ptolemy, Tabvla nova Asia Minoris, woodcut, 1513.
Martin Waldseemüller after Claudius Ptolemy, Tabvla nova Asia Minoris, woodcut, 1513.

Continue reading “The Renaissance of early Greek maps”

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