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Hanson-Dyer, Louise Berta Mosson (1884 - 1962)

19 July 1884
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
9 November 1962
Monaco, France
Musician, Patron and Publisher
Alternative Names
  • Dyer, Louise (former married name)
  • Smith, Louise (maiden name)


A talented pianist, Louise Hanson-Dyer founded the music publishing company, Editions de l'Oiseau-Lyre, in Paris in 1928. With her first husband, James Dyer, she donated £10,000 to establish a permanent orchestra in Melbourne. Upon her death, she bequeathed over £200,000 to the University of Melbourne. The Louise Hanson-Dyer Music Library at the University is named in her honour.


Born Louise Berta Mosson Smith, Hanson-Dyer was the daughter of Louis Lawrence Smith, son of Edward Tyrrell Smith and Magdeleine Nanette Gengoult. L.L. Smith came to Australia to search for gold, but his medical studies led him instead to produce medical almanacs and a variety of less than bona fide medical products. By 1880 he was earning £10,000 per year, and the Bulletin was referring to him as £.£. Smith. He became a member of parliament, representing South Bourke. In 1883, after the death of his first wife, Sarah Ann, Smith married Marion Jane 'Polly' Higgins. Their first child was Louise, followed by Louis, Harold and Gladys. The family lived in Collins St, Melbourne, where they entertained lavishly and moved in fashionable circles.

Louise was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, and was later president of its Old Collegians' Association. She attended the Alliance Française, and took private piano lessons, becoming an accomplished player. In 1905, she enrolled at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and went on to win the gold medal of the Royal College of Music, London. At home she worked with the British Music Society of Victoria to support performers and composers, encouraging the publication of musical works.

In 1911, Louise Smith married 54-year-old Jimmy Dyer - the 'linoleum king'. In 1927, before moving to Paris, the Dyers donated £10,000 to support a permanent orchestra in Melbourne. In Paris, Louise established her musical publishing company, Editions de l'Oiseau Lyre, with the intention of publishing the works of Couperin le Grand. The first twelve-volume edition was immensely popular and the company grew quickly, later expanding business to include long-play recordings.

James Dyer died in 1938 and the following year Louise married 30-year-old Joseph Birch Hanson, 24 years her junior. The pair left Paris to live in Monaco, where the publishing business continued. Despite her years abroad, Louise Hanson-Dyer retained a distinct attachment to the country of her birth. When she died in 1962, she left the majority of her £241,380 estate to the University of Melbourne. University papers record a bequest of $464,430 in 1988; by 1994 the value of the bequest had risen to over $3 million. This figure comprises the original bequest of Louise Hanson-Dyer together with that of her husband Joseph Hanson on his death nine years later. The bequest was to go toward the publication of a music series.

Sources used to compile this entry: Davidson, Jim, Lyrebird Rising: Louise Hanson-Dyer of Oiseau-Lyre, 1884-1962, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic, 1994; Lemon, Barbara, 'In Her Gift: Activism and Altruism in Australian Women's Philanthropy, 1880-2005', PhD thesis, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne, 2008; The University of Melbourne Statutes and Regulations, R7: Endowments other than those of Prizes, Exhibitions and Scholarships, R7.111, [accessed July 2006].

Archival resources

State Library of Victoria

  • Papers of Louise Hanson-Dyer, 1926 - 1971, MS 10770, Boxes 1536-1537; Hanson-Dyer, Louise Berta Mosson (1884 - 1962); State Library of Victoria. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Book of autographs of visitors to Louise Hanson-Dyer, c. 1926 - c. 1956, Baillieu RB (Cupboard); The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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