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Vidler, Edward Alexander (1863–1942)

by Lurline Stuart

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Edward Alexander Vidler (1863-1942), publisher, journalist and author, was born on 13 August 1863 in London, son of Thomas Collins Vidler, surgeon dentist, and his wife Amelia Gould, daughter of George Bennett and god-daughter of John Gould. Educated at a private school at Gravesend, at 17 Edward was employed by Cassell & Co., publishers, where he was largely responsible for the publication of R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island in volume form. Migrating to Melbourne in 1888, Vidler worked as a freelance journalist and critic. On 28 December 1889 he married Florence Jessie Byrchall at St Barnabas's Anglican Church, Balwyn. Moving to Geelong as part-proprietor and editor of the Evening News, he was founder and secretary of the Geelong Progress League, a founder and life member of the Geelong Art Gallery and a life member of the Geelong Public Library. His involvement in regional affairs extended to Warrnambool where he was secretary of the chamber of commerce and the progress league. He published commemorative volumes on Geelong (1897) and Warrnambool (1907).

Returning to Melbourne by 1897, he edited the Tatler, a weekly magazine of art, literature, music and drama. His poetic play, The Rose of Ravenna, was published by George Robertson & Co., booksellers, who in 1908 appointed him head of their publishing department. When this department closed in 1918, Vidler began publishing on his own account, while continuing to work as a journalist, lecturer and literary agent. He concentrated on work by local artists and authors in an attempt to popularize Australian art and literature, but few of his publications made money and the business folded in 1930. Vidler also suffered financial losses with the demise of the Spinner, the magazine through which he promoted Australian verse.

The active interest that Vidler displayed in all branches of the arts was the stimulus for the foundation of the Australian Institute of Arts and Literature in 1921. Artists, writers and musicians were drawn together with the primary objectives of promoting artistic and literary appreciation and furthering the development of the arts in Australia. While Vidler's initial enthusiasm had helped the institute to become established as a focal meeting place, declining membership forced it to disband in 1931.

A keen naturalist, Vidler wrote and published books on Australian flora and fauna. In 1932, when appointed an honorary joint curator of the Maranoa Gardens at Balwyn, he helped to design the structure of native plantings. He was essentially a man of ideas, rather than practicalities, whose lack of organizational ability appears to have prevented him from achieving financial success, but his consistent support of Australian art and letters was recognized by the award in 1939 of a pension from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Vidler died on 28 October 1942 at Surrey Hills. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he was buried in Box Hill cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • F. T. Macartney, Furnley Maurice (Syd, 1955)
  • Australian Musical News, 1 Aug 1922, p 47
  • Victorian Naturalist, 59 (1942-43), p 180
  • Table Talk, 1 Mar 1900, p 6
  • Age (Melbourne), 3 Nov 1942
  • Herald (Melbourne), 3 Nov 1942
  • B. Morris, Edward Vidler: Man of Contradictions (lecture delivered at Warrnambool Public Library, 10 Mar 1983)
  • private information.

Citation details

Lurline Stuart, 'Vidler, Edward Alexander (1863–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vidler-edward-alexander-8921/text15677, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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