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Clift, Charmian (1923 - 1969)

Kiama, New South Wales, Australia
Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales
Author, Journalist and Print Journalist


Journalist Charmian Clift wrote a popular weekly column for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Herald from 1964 to 1969. She is the author of several novels including Mermaid Singing (1956), Peel me a Lotus (1959), Walk to the Paradise Gardens (1960), and Honour's Mimic (1964).


Raised in regional New South Wales, Charmian Clift moved to Sydney in 1941 after winning the New South Wales title in Pix magazine's Beach Girl Quest. In 1943 she enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service, and served with the 15th Australian Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, before moving to Melbourne to take up the position of orderly officer at Land Headquarters. There she edited an army magazine and published a number of short stories.

Clift joined the Argus in 1946, where she met war correspondent George Henry Johnston. Johnston was a married man, but the pair moved to Sydney and were married in 1947, following his divorce. They had a son and a daughter. The family moved to London in 1951 and later, in 1954, to the Greek island of Kalimnos. Between 1956 and 1964, Clift wrote several novels to great acclaim in Britain and the United States of America.

In 1964, Clift returned to Sydney with her family and began a weekly column for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Herald. The topical column became immensely popular, and she continued to meet her weekly deadline until her untimely death in July 1969. Depressed and under enormous strain, Clift took an overdose of sleeping tablets.

A collection of Clift's essays, The World of Charmian Clift, was published posthumously by her husband and illustrated by her son. Trouble in Lotus Land (1990) and Being Alone with Oneself (1991) were also published posthumously.


c. 1940 - 1969
Career in journalism active

Sources used to compile this entry: Wheatley, Nadia, 'Clift, Charmian (1923 - 1969)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

Barbara Lemon

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