Ion (Jack) Llewellyn Idriess 1889-1979

Dedicated to the Life and Works of

The Tiger-cat


D.H. Lawrence in his novel Kangaroo plagiarised Jack's work. He chose an imaginative yarn published in The Bulletin under the name "Gouger". According to his apologist book D. H. Lawrence in Australia, Robert Darroch said it was this plagiarism and other similar articles lifted from other sources that caused Kangaroo to be condemned as "hopelessly unreal". Darroch said Lawrence improved Jack's story but that surely is a matter for deabate. Whatever the merits of each version - Lawrence stole Jack's story.

Now, even though Jack later admitted to "youthful exaggeration" in producing this story, the idea is not entirely discounted. Ellis Troughton, Curator of Mammals at the then Australian Museum, Sydney, considered the striped marsupial cat of North Queensland.

Even so, Lawrence used Jack's story almost word-for-word. Jim Bradley reproduced the original 8 June 1922 article from The Bulletin:

Jack: Up here in the York Peninsular we have a "tiger cat" that stands as high as a hefty, medium-sized dog. His body is lithe and sleek and beautifully striped in black and grey.His pads are armed with lance-like claws of great tearing strength. His ears are sharp and pricked, and his head is shaped like that of a tiger. (Lawrence: "... a great big cat, we call 'em tiger-cats, as big as a smallish leopard, a beauty - grey and black stripes ...")

Jack: My introduction to this beauty was one day when I heard a series of snarls from the long buffalo-grass skirting a swamp. (Lawrence: "It was way up in the North. I was going along when I heard snarls out of some long buffalo grass that made my hair stand on end. I had to see what it was so into the grass goes I.")

Jack: On peering through the grass I saw a full-grown kangaroo, backed up against a tree, the flesh of one leg torn clean from the bone. (Lawrence: "And there I saw a full-grown kangaroo backed up against a tree, with the flesh of one leg torn clean from the bone.")

Jack:A streak of black and grey shot toward the "roo's" throat, then seemed to twist in the air, and the kangaroo slid to the earth with the entrails literally torn out. (Lawrence: "And before you could breathe, a streak of black and grey shot at that 'roo's throat, seemed to twist in mid-air - and the roo slipped to the ground with his entrails ripped right out".)

Jack: In my surprise I incautiously rustled the grass, and and the great cat ceased the warm feastthat he had promptly started upon, stood perfectly still over his victim, and for ten seconds turned me gaze for gaze. (Lawrence: "I was so dumbfounded I took a step in the grass, and the great hulking cat stopped and lifted his face from his arm foodthat he'd started on without ever looking up. He stood over that 'roo for ten seconds staring me in the eyes.")

Jack: Then the skin wrinkled back from his nostrils, white fangs gleamed, and a low growl issued from his throat. I went backwards and lost no time getting out of the entangled grass. (Lawrence: "Then the skin wrinkled back from his snout, and the fangs were so white and clean as death itself, and a low growl came out of his ugly throat. 'Come on, you swine', it said as plain as words. I didn't you bet. I backed out of that beastly grass.")

Jack: The next brute I saw was dead, and beside him was my much-prized staghound, also dead. This dog had been trained from puppyhood in tackling wild boars, and his strength and courage were known by all the prospectors over the country. (Lawrence: The next one I saw was a dead one. And beside him lay the boss's best staghound, that had been trained to tackling wild boars since he was a pup: dead as well.")

Jack: The cat had come fossicking round my camp on the Alice River. (Lawrence: "The cat had come fossicking round my camp on the Madden River.")

Daroch said, "There is little doubt that in borrowing this extract Lawrence improved it. His version is the better, and interesting in the way it shows how he converted raw material into finished fiction." Was Lawrence's version really "better"? Have another look at Lawrence's second sentence in which he says the buffalo grass made his hair stand on end. Then at the start, the cat was a "beauty" but later "ugly". And what of the strange sentence, "I didn't you bet"? And the mixture of styles - "...we call 'em tiger-cats..." compared with, " ... fangs as white and clean as death itself...". Personally, I don't think the thief's version improved Jack's story but I leave you to judge for yourself.

D.H. Lawrence in Australia, Robert Darroch                                                               1981
Gouger of the Bulletin, Jim Bradley                                                                             2008
Furred Animals of Australia, Ellis Troughton                                                              1954