"In spite of all that can be said against our age, what a moment to be alive in. What an epoch for a magazine to emerge in!"
THE McAULEY YEARS
Quadrant was founded in 1956 and the first four issues appeared in 1957. The organising genius in the venture was Richard Krygier, a Polish-Jewish refugee, and the founding editor was the leading poet James McAuley. Behind the magazine stood the Australian Committee for Cultural Freedom, the Australian arm of the international Congress for Cultural Freedom, dedicated to cultural freedom and the intellectual resistance to communism and its fellow travellers in the West.
Peter Coleman is one of the surviving members of that resistance movement. He wrote The Liberal Conspiracy to chart the rise and fall of the Congress, and he also wrote an account of the selection process when James McAuley became the first editor of Quadrant. McAuley was the sole editor for the first five years and the magazines that appeared during that time have become collectors items because he published the leading poets, essayists and critics of the day.
They stand as a monument to the spirit of freedom, of democratic capitalism and the best aspects of western culture and intellectual life. It will be good to see them put on line for the benefit of people who do not have access to the originals. The contents of the first five years (20 editions) of the McAuley Quadants can be seen below to indicate the riches that will become available when they are put into the public domain.
Rafe Champion, Sydney 2012
The guiding principles, from McAuley's first editorial comment.
To be Australian in our orientation, because we are interested in this country, its people, its problems, its cultural life, its liberties, and its safety;
To publish work of interest and merit on any topic without regard to the affiliations or repute of the author, the sole requirement being that the material should be worth reading;
To be guided, when an editorial attitude is called for with regard to questions of civil liberty or public standards, by the principles underlying the parliamentary institutions of this country and the Common Law - than which we know no better school of freedom and civility and prudence, in the old high sense of those words; for to be a good Australian is to be a local variety of that 'free and lawful man', the traditional ideal of Western civilization.
Comment – Only One Thing Left to Do.
“In the end the only novel, daring and revolutionary act left to be performed is the re-assertion of commonsense. But this is the most difficult of all. It has no chance of success until the revolution has run its course…That moment may have arrived for modern poetry.”
McAuley hoped that the revolution of modern poetry had run its course, producing demoralization, apathy and distrust. The reign of terror unleashed by the likes of Ezra Pound and (in a more genteel manner) by T. S. Eliot at last generated a reaction from Yvor Winters, Graham Hough, and, locally, A. D. Hope.
H. P. Heseltine – Saint Henry, Our Apostle of Mateship. [Summary and comments by R. J. Stove]
Born at Fremantle in 1931, Harry Payne Heseltine – unusually for an Australian academic of his generation – did his postgraduate study not in England but in America (Louisiana State University). Afterwards he spent most of his collegiate career in New South Wales (1959-77), Queensland (1977-82), and the ACT (Professor of English at Duntroon, 1986-96). A specialist in Australian literature – and among the first such specialists who consistently championed Patrick White – Heseltine produced numerous books and articles on writers as varied as Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Vance Palmer, Xavier Herbert, John Le Gay Brereton, Francis Webb, and the obscure Irish-born Nathaniel Walter Swan (this last a colleague of Adam Lindsay Gordon). He co-authored, with Joy Hooton, Annals of Australian Literature, published in 1992; and he has served as a juror for the Miles Franklin award, in which capacity he hailed Mark “Chopper” Read’s The Singing Defective (“written with verve and pace … has the ring of authenticity”). In 1990 the Hawke Government made him a member of the Order of Australia.
With this essay, Heseltine wants to rescue Henry Lawson from his widespread reputation as having elevated mateship into a religion. He also seeks to establish “a version of his [Lawson’s] greatness not entirely dependent on the image of the prophet of the Australian way of life, and … the provision of an account of what, in his prose, mateship actually is, not what it has been interpreted to be by the faithful.” Concentrating on the second task, he admits the significance of mateship in Lawson’s output, but points out that sometimes (by no means always) Lawson turned it from an understandable emotion into a “doctrinaire political programme” of an incoherently anti-capitalist kind. When he did so, the results cannot “be accounted among Lawson’s best [creations]. … He was moved to his best writing by … the very things which the reformer in him wanted to do away with.”
Another misapprehension which Heseltine opposes is the idea – “a common reading of the Holy Writ,” he says facetiously – that Lawson was “the spokesman, par excellence, of the bush and the bushmen.” It is perfectly true that certain passages, quoted in isolation, would give the impression of Lawson having been such a spokesman for “Rousseauistic romanticism, the assertion of the moral and aesthetic superiority of unspoiled nature.” These passages’ occurrence Heseltine himself concedes. But deep down, he maintains, “[t]he Australian outback, as Lawson represents it, is unfriendly, frightening, aggressively anti-human.” And he cites various scenes from Lawson’s stories – “Water Them Geraniums,” “His Country After All,” “Send Round the Hat”, “At Dead Dingo,” “Hungerford” – in which the bush is “capable of striking a deep chord of terror in the spirits of any pioneer foolhardy, or desperate, enough to grapple with it … the lone hand who preserves his life in the outback is likely to do so at the cost of his sanity.”
Neither for mateship nor for rural life, thus, was Lawson an uncritical apologist. Mateship itself seems, Heseltine argues, inextricably tied in Lawson’s work to “cruel practical joking, irresponsible behaviour, and, occasionally, even, dishonesty … It is a mistake, then, to think of Lawson’s mateship as a kind of ideal and idealised code of honour.” The most successful appearances of the phenomenon in Lawson’s writing are “when he contemplates it as a condition of man’s existence, not of his salvation.”
Edith Kalmar – The Righteous Witch. Short story
Irene Gough – “At Her Birth”.
P. H. Partridge – The State of our Universities.
This is a meditation on the issues raised in an acerbic memoire by Mr A P Rowe, the retired Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University. If the Gown Fits is the story of his troubled ten-year term, which towards the end generated “mutinous mutterings” among the academic staff. There are two aspects of the book, one being Rowe’s side the story, the other, which Partridge chose to concentrate upon, is a battery of damning criticisms of the Australian universities at large and the University of Adelaide in particular. Partridge conceded that it would be good for someone to do a Jacques Barzun kind of review of the system, but he concluded that Rowe was not the man for the job. His criticisms were generally overstated and did not do justice to the stronger parts of the Australian university system and the healthy developments that were under way, despite the disadvantages of geographic isolation and the small and scattered population.
Evan Jones – “Ode to an American University”.
H. E. Strakosch – Natural Law and the Sovereign State.
Strakosch was born in Vienna, was teaching at the Sydney College and was a specialist in 18th century legal history. He described the decline of natural law that was replaced by the notion of “positive law” that was vested in the sovereign state and the disasters than ensued when that form of sovereignty was joined by modern totalitarianism. In the aftermath he considered that the nineteenth century form of State sovereignty was obsolete and a renewed process of international integration is required. This calls for the renewed expression of a principle that lies at the root of our civilization – the limitation of power by law. “The revival of natural-law thinking which is taking place at the present time could be the harbinger of a major and positive change in the direction of political thought.”
Beyond Nihilism. A short notice that Michael Polanyi’s Eddington Memorial Lecture 1960 has been published by Cambridge University Press. In it he attempts to trace the way in which the generous moral passions of our age have been converted into driving forces of totalitarian fascism.
Clement Semmler – Jazz and the Intelligentsia.
Semmler provided a historical account of the evolution of jazz in its various forms as it moved from the fringe of US society to the mainstream of middleclass white culture around the world. His story is enlivened by firsthand experience, notably in New York when he tracked down one of his heroes, ‘Red’ Allen who was playing his trumpet at the Metropole. He introduced himself as an Australian devotee.
“I joined temporarily that exclusive clientele whose entrance on any night was hailed by a trumpet blast of Gabrielesque proportions.”
[Commentary by R. J. Stove]
From the early 1960s to the mid-1990s, Quadrant had no more versatile or assiduous contributor than Clement Semmler, born (1914) in rural South Australia of German parents. Originally an academic (MA, Adelaide), Semmler nevertheless spent most of his career not at a university but within the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (“Commission” until 1982), and he eventually became that organisation’s Deputy General Manager. His memoir Pictures on the Margin – published in 1991 – gives absorbing insights into his intellectual development, which included specialised knowledge of Banjo Paterson, Kenneth Slessor, Douglas Stewart, and other eminent Australian (or, in Stewart’s case, Australian-domiciled) authors. A classicist by schooling and a reclusive scholar by nature, Semmler opposed both the leather-lunged Marxist rhetoric so common among ABC spokespersons in the 1970s, and the crude populism of post-Cold-War broadcasting fashion. His articles appeared frequently in The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald (where he had a column for several years entitled “Semmler on Television”), and The Age. He died in 2000.
Classic jazz was an abiding passion of Semmler’s, and he turned to it several times in Quadrant’s pages. Here he traces the jazz phenomenon from its origins in 1917 (the very word “jazz” first cropped up in that year), through the remarkable fillip which it was given by the advent of mass-produced gramophone records in 78 rpm format during the 1930s, to its regular appearance on such internationally-minded Western broadcasting networks as the Voice of America. The allied emergence of swing (“Jazz is music, swing is business”, according to Duke Ellington) is inseparable from the achievements of Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson, not least via big bands, which grew extraordinarily popular: “The teenagers of the day queued for hours to hear the band in theatres and concert halls; they ‘jitterbugged’ in the aisles to the horror of their parents.” Afterwards, several of jazz’s earliest figures, who had tended to be rather forgotten, were discovered anew: notably Jelly Roll Morton – a belated beneficiary of Library of Congress recording largesse – and Willie “Bunk” Johnson, to whom analogous latter-day patronage brought “a new trumpet and a set of teeth.” Semmler himself met in Paris (1956) another jazz veteran, Sidney Bechet, who had spent decades in the City of Light.
In New York, Semmler took Bechet’s advice and tracked down yet another veteran, Henry “Red” Allen. “It was like meeting royalty.” Allen expressed to Semmler his delighted amazement that any Australians knew of his output, and “looked as strong and healthy as an ox.”
A third factor in jazz’s popularity which Semmler noted was the role of self-conscious revivalists, who – particularly in California during the 1940s – imitated (in a spirit of deliberate homage) the sound and style of their New Orleans forebears from just after 1900. Semmler himself met one such revivalist, Earl “Fatha” Hines, in San Francisco. But Australia had its own revivalists too, notably the Graeme Bell Band (which toured Europe shortly after the Second World War). Humphrey Lyttleton performed a similar revivalist function among the British, starting at around the same period.
Regarding “progressive”, “cool”, or “modern” jazz, Semmler mentioned the profound influence which classical composers – above all Aaron Copland, Béla Bartók, and Darius Milhaud – had on its origins (some of its practitioners had actually studied in person with these men), and the following which it acquired in Adelaide among classically-trained practitioners (who went on to find renown in the USA). As to its future, Semmler was an optimist: “in it lies the one possible cure for the creeping paralysis which has afflicted today’s ‘popular’ music.” Perhaps most remarkable, for Semmler, was the new-found popularity among the young of blues- and gospel-singers – Big Bill Broonzy and Mahalia Jackson, among others – who had been “on record for years with very few outside the minority of collectors being aware of [them].” Semmler, in Toronto, met and interviewed Miss Jackson (“big-bosomed and affable … her sincerity is beyond doubt, and to hear her sing is something to cherish”).
Altogether, despite the problems specific to perpetuating jazz traditions – writers on jazz, he complained, “have suffered the serious disability of having to rely on memories and legends,” quite apart from the disparity which Semmler found between Bix Beiderbecke’s posthumous reputation and his disappointing discs – Semmler remained confident that the jazz buff “can still relax and enjoy his music as he has always done, [while being now] spared the bother of having to rationalise his appreciation. … Indeed jazz, as far as it goes, is what life is about.”
Ronald M. Berndt – The Status of Australian Aborigines.
Berndt advised that the Federal Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1955 states that every Aboriginal born in Australia is a citizen of the Commonwealth but every state and territory has restrictive rules and regulations that apply to Aborigines. The prima facie purpose of these controls is protective but the main effect, in conjunction with prejudice on the part of the white population is a great deal of disadvantage and discrimination. He also explained that general statements are hard to apply.
“When we speak of the Aboriginal problem, what we really mean is the common problem of the adjustment of these people to new ways. But local situations vary, not only in the conditions but in the particular phases of Aboriginal-European contact relevant to them. Furthermore we are not dealing with a people whose ways of living were entirely the same.”
Thomas W. Shapcott – “Autumn Grasses”.
Erich Goldhagen – Communism and Anti-Semitism.
Generally anti-Semitism has been a constant in the communist movement from the pre-revolutionary period to the time when Stalin became convinced that the Jews were seriously subversive.
Martin S. Dworkin – The Vegetables Walk Among Us.
This article is based on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a 1956 American science fiction film adapted from Jack Finney's novel of the same name. The story depicts an extraterrestrial invasion in a small California town. The invaders replace human beings with duplicates that appear identical on the surface but are devoid of any emotion or individuality. Dworkin speculated whether the subtext was the communist subversion which was proceeding during the Cold War.
John Burnham – Philosophy of History.
An essay review of Jacques Maritain, On the Philosophy of History and M. C. D’Arcy, S, J., The Sense of History, Secular and Sacred.
Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific; Robin Gollan, Radical and Working Class Politics; Ernest Gellner, Words and Things; Hugh Kenner, The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot; Robert N. Wilson, Man Made Plain; William F. Buckley Jr, Up From Liberalism; A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz, Roman Catholicism and Religious Liberty; The Poem of the Cid, translated by W. S. Merwin; H, S. Dinerstein, War and the Soviet Union; Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism.
Francis Geyer – “All Souls’”
J. G. Latham – Australian Immigration Policy.
Latham (1877-1964) was one of the most distinguished legal and political figures in Australia. This piece was a rejoinder to a pamphlet entitled Control or Colour Bar published by the Immigration Reform Group at the University of Melbourne. The pamphlet calls for changes to allow people of all nations, not just Europeans, to come to Australia as permanent settlers. Latham argued that the term “White Australia Policy” was a misnomer because the actual policy was concerned with cultural compatibility, not colour. He noted the restrictive settlement policies of many Asian nations and he indicated that complaints from Asian students who could not stay after graduation were misplaced because they understood the conditions before they came.
Vivian Smith – Brennan for a New Generation.
Christopher Brennan (1970-1932) is likely to be forgotten, or remembered for the wrong reasons, for the chaos and tragedy of his life and his wasted talents rather than his verse. Vivian Smith saluted his poetic achievement.
“The publication, at last, of Brennan’s collected verse can only be greeted with gratitude and a certain relief by all who care about Australian literature.”
Smith deplored the defects which could alienate some readers. But “they only obscure is real achievement…Brennan is too good a poet for these lapses not to be extremely irritating.”
“To claim that Brennan is the greatest Australian poet is not to claim too much. To compare him with his greatest contemporaries, Rilke and Yeats, is to be aware of severe limitations within his work…But that Brennan can and must be compared with the greatest poets is beyond doubt.”
Martin Haley – Brennan and Mallarme: A Footnote.
Jessica Aldridge – "Psychology".
H. Messel – Education in the Soviet Union Today.
Like everyone else in the world, the Australian prophet of science education Harry Messel was over-impressed by the Russian achievement of launching Sputknik to orbit the earth in 1957. This was a very important symbolic victory for Russia in the Cold War and Messel was very impressed by Russia’s education system when he visited for a conference on cosmic radiation.
Whatever the merits of their education, especially in science, it never paid off in economic performance or the quality of life of the masses. He found that there was next to no education for the sake of education, it was all about world domination. However apart from a few fields like rockets, some aspects of military technology, and possibly some sporting events, the effort never really worked.
Alexander Craig – "Philosopher Among New Ruins".
O. H. K. Spate – On Being an Expert.
A rambling story about the trials and tribulations of a District Officer in the semi-colonial administration of an un-named part of the developing world.
F. N. Cox – Behavioural Science and Social Scientism.
An elaboration of the damage that was being done in the social sciences by the development that Frank Knopfelmacher called “social scientism”, that is, a blending of uncritical interpretations of the findings from cultural anthropology and acceptance of the assumptions of psychoanalysis.
Geoffrey Dutton – "Absence".
H. A. Lindsay – An American Settlement in Australia.
The story of a temporary settlement on Kangaroo Island in 1803 when a sealing expedition sent by Fanning and Co of New York established a base to prepare for operations along the south coast.
Alexander Craig – "Culture".
Chris Wallace-Crabbe – Joseph Furphy, Realist.
Wallace-Crabbe gave Furphy high marks. “Is there any other Australian novelist before Patrick White from whom we can gain so much?” That conclusion is rather strange in view of some serious reservations that Wallace-Crabbe noted in Furphy’s book Such is Life (written under the name Tom Collins).
"Such is Life stands as a unique and important book, yet it is in some ways obviously flawed; and its chief flaws can be seen to arise from an excess of artifice, from the creation of a prose structure which is too idiosyncratic to be always effective.”
Furphy produced a diverse body of work, although very little was printed apart from Such Is Life which itself was only publishable with heavy editing of the original manuscript. He pursued a range of occupations, read widely and was much given to philosophical speculation, some of which ended up in his fiction.
Clive Samson – "Gnomic Verses".
Kenneth Gee – Taiwan Journey.
An entertaining travellers tale of a train trip in Taiwan with a vivid account of his fellow passengers and the rural countryside.
Noel Macainsh – "Rural Song".
Irene Gronowski – Modern Australian Drama [Commentary by R. J. Stove]
Irene Gronowski seems to have faded from view completely. The usual reference sources for Australian literature are silent on her. Her surname is Polish in origin; was she a post-war immigrant? Certainly her outlook, as revealed in this article, is of a thoroughly European sort.
At the time her essay was published, the world’s most famous living dramatists included three Frenchmen: Jean Anouilh (best known for Becket, afterwards made into a movie), Henry de Montherlant (Queen After Death, The Spanish Cardinal, The Fire That Consumes), and – perhaps surprisingly – Sartre, whose plays were then at least as famous as his novels and political diatribes. Gronowski finds in all three writers’ theatrical work a sophistication not to be detected among Australian playwrights. She comments that a willingness to choose religious, philosophical, political, and heroic themes for the stage marks the French in general.
But then, the Australian theatre is a youngster by world standards, and there are worse things than being young. There is, for instance, the attitude (espoused by London’s Observer in its requirements for a recent competition) that all plays must be set in the present. “This is a serious limitation of artistic freedom,” Gronowski observes. Communist regimes have of course had their own ways of stifling sincere dramaturgical expression. The latter peril does not face Australian writers, so the question arises: “Let us presume that an Australian playwright has complete freedom as to the choice of subject. What kind of play does he write?”
He tends to write a play which Gronowski is apt to find rather disappointing. Such a play will be naturalistic, in a style that “could have been the last word at the time of Zola and Strindberg but which seems hopelessly dated when compared not only with the latest tendencies of [Eugene] Ionesco, [Samuel] Beckett or [Jean] Genêt, but even with no so recent plays by [Jean] Giraudoux, Brecht, Sartre or [Jean] Cocteau.”
Nor does she discern notable artistic health in the profound influence of Tennessee Williams over Australian drama. The over-emphasis on naturalism she considers especially weird when the New-Zealand-born but Australian-resident Douglas Stewart had already written four poetic dramas, artistically successful and decidedly popular with audiences too. “Recently Douglas Stewart has written a new comedy on Fisher’s ghost [the shade of a murder victim, said to haunt Campbelltown, New South Wales]. Isn’t it just what we need here – lovers and ghosts, humour, poetry and fantasy, and down with neurotics?”
Gronowski praises the then-celebrated play by Richard Beynon, The Shifting Heart, and also Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which has needed no introduction since its initial staging (more than half a century ago, as of 2012). Even with Doll, though, she has reservations: “the overdose of naturalism in the treatment, the emphasis on slang … can obscure this true inward meaning of the play.” In two much stormier and more violent efforts, Peter Kenna’s The Slaughter of St Teresa Day and J. A. Coburn’s The Bastard Country, she finds little of value, though she prefers Kenna’s to Coburn’s.
Alluding to an article by pundit Lindsay Browne (long familiar to Sun-Herald readers as columnist, and to Sydney Morning Herald readers as compiler of crossword puzzles), Gronowski expresses concern – like Browne himself – at the dangers to playwrights involved in slumming. “Can anybody seriously maintain,” she asks, “that people wearing clean shirts and pronouncing their aitches go through life without emotional conflicts and problems?” And are not these conflicts and problems at least as likely to produce fine plays as any more obviously thrilling warfare in filthy backyards? Alas, an all too frequent Australian tendency to shun mental exercise (a tendency as liable to afflict writers as to afflict theatre-goers) makes such reflections seem eccentric. “A playwright who will make his Australian public think hard – and enjoy it – will be a worthy and talented writer indeed.” In conclusion, Gronowski quotes one of France’s leading film-makers, Jean Renoir: “I distrust modern realism … only a poetic interpretation of reality can lead an audience to discover the truth.”
W. G. L. Imms – Change and Frustration in the Torres Straits.
A well informed account, based on extensive experience in the area, of the anxiety and uncertainties of the indigenous population in the Torres Straits as the strains of transition to modern ways of life become more intense.
Thomas Ohm, Asia Looks at Western Christianity; Tamas Aczel and Tibor Meray, The Revolt of the Mind; Joszef Koag, You Are All Alone; R. A. Simon, The Walk along the Beach; Donald McLean, The Roaring Days; Jack Lindsay, The Roaring Twenties; Ursula Hoff, Charles Conder, His Australian Years; R, W. B. Lewis, The Picaresque Saint; Leonard Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union; E.L. French (ed), Melbourne Studies in Education, 1958-1959; C. Northcote Parkinson, The Law and the Profits; Yvor Winters, The Poetry of W. B. Yeats; W. B. Yeats, Essays and Introductions; J. B. Broadbent, Some Graver Subject; John Peters, A Critique of Paradise Lost; Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems; The Truth About the Nagy Affair, Facts, Documents, Comments with a Preface by Albert Camus.
V. L. Borin – Australian Bachelors of Misery.
A sad piece on the difficulties experienced by many “bachelors of misery”, migrants from Europe who arrived with hope and enthusiasm, established themselves and then found that they had no prospects of marriage, domestic life and children. In their home countries there were large numbers of women in the same situation due to the loss of men during the war and Borin proposed that marriageable females in Europe should be allowed to migrate but he considered that the authorities were grossly insensitive to the problem.
Peter Shrubb- Hell. (Short story)
James McAuley – My New Guinea.
A perceptive and disconcerting meditation on the past the present and the likely future of the new nation, starting with McAuley’s wartime tour of duty in New Guinea when he participated in a small engagement with a Japanese patrol.
“The first corpses I had ever seen at close quarters were those of the Japanese whom we attacked by surprise next morning. They died from bullets or grenade fragments, or in many cases they lay with their chests blown out by the grenades which they held to themselves in a soldier’s suicide. The flies, appearing as the sun rose, crept into the pale pink shells of their gaping mouths.”
He became involved in the affairs of New Guinea during his time with the mysterious semi-secret research agency, known as Alf Conlon’s “circus” and this led him to the “vocation” that he pursued for almost two decades, including the building of the Australian School of Pacific Administration.
Everywhere he moved on the ground he encountered signs of restless frustration seeking for change and material progress. Often this took the bizarre forms of the various Cargo Cults, more often it consisted of wildly unrealistic expectations of the services that Australia could render in lieu of the gods of the cargo cults, or of the benefits of self-government and independence.
“There has been talk of us needing thirty years to create the conditions for self-government. This, I fear, is foolish talk both ways. Thirty years would not be nearly enough for genuine preparation…On the other hand, we have not got thirty years.”
John Thompson – "Ars Critica".
R. A. Simpson – "Sisphus".
Charles Higham – Judith Wright’s Vision.
Higham began with the proposition that no living Australian poet had a higher reputation both inside and outside the literary world, and her name was respected overseas where many of her contemporaries are unknown. He then proceeded to dismantle some aspects of her reputation which he considered to be inflated by local “boosters” such as H.M. Green and T. Inglis Moore, against the more considered opinions of others like R. F. Brissendon and Vincent Buckley.
Higham paid tribute to the clarity and force of her first collection of poems in The Moving Image (1946) and “an extraordinary step forward” in maturity as a poet and a person in her collection Woman to Man (1949). However since that time he considered that she has been marking time and repeating herself with “a slow but decided slackening of concentration”. He was left with “a sense of incompleteness” that the poet had ceased to develop, unlike McAuley and Hope whose each successive poem delivers “a strong sense of developing strength, of a desire to experiment” and to explore more deeply the medium in which they work.
“We can only keep faith that Judith Wright will have more to convey to us of her maturing vision of life.”
Cyril Goode – 'Two Sonnets".
Angus Maude – Cloaking the Dagger.
A wry essay about the “conspiracy of euphemism” with examples ranging from the branding of eggs to the public announcements when Cabinet members are demoted. In England he purchased some eggs branded STANDARD, which he observed to be minute. On asking the vendor why they were not marked SMALL he was told “If we called them that, no one would buy them”.
As for the politicians, when an incompetent Minister is dispatched to the back benches, the Prime Minister will give forth statements of gratitude and admiration for his sterling service, while for his part the bumbling oaf will say that “he had long felt it was time to give way for a younger man, but persisted out of his sense of public duty and loyalty to his leader.”
Laszlo Balint – "Conjugaliter".
Hugh Atkinson – Little Lady. (short story)
Ian Morris – Violence and Democracy in Japan.
A survey of recent examples of political violence in Japan, with a reference to the spate of prewar killings that made the 1930s a period of “government by assassination”. Morris noted that both extremes of politics are equally culpable, and some politicians were irresponsible in making statements that sound dangerously close to incitement to violence. The press was also implicated by constant vitriolic attacks on the elected government and its failure to condemn acts of violence.
Stanley Tick – Initiations In and Out: The American Novel and the American Dream.
A very illuminating comparison and contrast Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
“Both are first-person-singular narratives, constructed for the most part in picaresque form, using adolescent boys as heroes…both novels deal with boys who are violently at odds with their societies, though they are at different stages of rebellion.”
Tick noted the recurring theme of the American dream of the frontier society and the west, as though the corruption of society might be redeemed in the “innocence” of the wilderness or the wide open spaces. Ironically, one of the protagonists was last seen in the novel “lighting out for the territory” while the modern avatar also went west, but for a very different reason, to the west coast for psychiatric treatment.
M. J. Charlesworth – The World of Teilhard de Chardin.
The philosopher Charlesworth reviewed The Phenomenon of Man in a manner not far removed from the scathing tone of the review by the eminent biologist Peter Medawar. The book attracted extravagant praise in some quarters; from Arnold Toynbee “…a great man of science…a great soul” and from Graham Green “the number one book of the century”.
Charlesworth concluded in a more moderate manner than Medawar:
‘If we have to judge The Phenomenon of Man a failure, we also have to say that it is noble in its attempt to construct a vast and grandiose scientifico-philosophico-theological synthesis in the classical style; and significant in that it shows quite clearly that, whether we like it or not, the day of the classical synthesis or ‘system’ is past.”
Eugene Kamenka – Anti-Semitism and the Religion of Love.
A somewhat deflating review essay on Malcolm Hay’s Europe and the Jews, a treatment of the long “chain of error” in the Christian attitude, especially the Catholic attitude, to Jews.
“There is, I suppose, some value in another popular and highly readable account of the anti-Semitic strain in Christian history…But while there may be value in reminding people of the facts, Mr Hay has virtually nothing to contribute to our understanding of those facts.”
Mungo MacCallum – Where Now For Drysdale?
On the occasion of an exhibition celebrating 20 years of work by Drysdale, MacCallum wondered whether the painter might be able to turn from the outback to find inspiration in the city and infuse metropolitan images with his special vision.
J. L. Talmon, Political Messianism – The Romantic Phase; Cyril Pearn, Always Morning, a biography of ‘Orion’ Horne, a forgotten nineteenth century poet and journalist; Guiseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard; Harold Stewart, A Net of Fireflies; Evan Jones, Inside the Whale; T. H. Jones, Song of a Mad Prince; Ferdinand Peroutka, Democratic Manifesto.
F. E. Chamberlain – What is to be Done (I). The Need for Democratic Socialism.
The case for democratic socialism, presented by the Federal Secretary of the ALP. The first of a series under this heading, with pieces by E. L. Wheelwright and B. A. Santamaria to follow.
Australia’s Immigration Policy.
J. A. C. Mackie & Kenneth Rivett – A Reply to Sir John Latham and J. G. Latham – A Rejoinder to the Reply.
Two short pieces rounding off the previous exchange between these two parties.
J. Normington-Rawling – Recollections in Tranquillity.
A survey of the activities of communists over thirty years, setting up “front” organizations to advance the cause by exploiting people who took the fronts at their face value. The Green Party is the latest vehicle in this long parade.
From the top, starting in the 1930s, the League Against Imperialism (in Australia), the anti-war Congress in Amsterdam in 1932 and its Australian satellite the Movement Against War, the International Peace Campaign Committee (a satellite of the World Committee Against War and Fascism). The author had inside information because he was heavily involved in those movements.
With the wisdom of age and experience he wrote:
“To us who went through the mill in the 1930s and understand how and why the Communists organize ‘peace’ conferences and fronts, it is amazing, not merely that they are still at it, but that they are having greater success than ever, drawing in wider circles than they dreamed of a quarter of a century ago. Barnum was wrong. You can fool more and more people the longer you try.”
Desmond O’Grady – Sandor Papp. (short story)
Charles Doyle – "Two Poems".
Jennifer Dallimore – The Malaise of Richard Mahoney.
The author vigorously disputed the ‘common consent’ that ‘our greatest novelist is Henry Handel Richardson’, based on the Fortunes of Richard Mahoney trilogy.
“In the last analysis is seems to me to be a large and ambitious book, but not a great one. Its earnest study of human psychology is constantly betrayed by the inherent limitations of Richardson’s prose style; its attempt to explore on of the fundamental problems of human existence only emphasises her spiritual and artistic immaturity. For all its scope and seriousness of intention, it is, I think, a minor achievement in our literary history.”
Vivian Smith – Advice.
James McAuley – The Pyramid in the Waste: An Introduction to A. D. Hope’s Poetry.
A thorough investigation of Hope’s poetic output, up to that time, charting remarkable progress in the mastery of language and contents, based on prodigious reading and intense personal dramas.
“Hope has, to an almost dangerous degree, a facility in adopting the different modes of expression that have prevailed in poetry form the sixteenth to the twentieth century…The poems have their starting point from a high degree of dissociation and conflict within the personality: reason versus passion, morality versus desire, sociality versus individual feeling.”
At the end:
“The dignity and eloquence of two of the most recent poems, and the humane realism of another, make one look forward to what may be yet to come.”
Vincent Buckley – "Two Political Poems".
Gwen Harwood – "Memento Homo Quia Pulvis Es".
Thomas Molnar – The New Intellectual Climate.
A report written in the flush of excitement during the “first hundred days” of the presidency of John F Kennedy, universally known in the press as JFK, thus evoking the magic initials FDR. Molnar noted that the political class was becoming increasingly homogenous, no doubt partly driven by the Keynesian tendency to favour increased state intervention and Big Government, which also favours the political class which attaches itself to Big Government under both political parties.
He noted that the Right was becoming isolated from national affairs and the Right in the public mind was still the Republican Party but that had become a mild imitation of the Democrats. Hence any formation to the Right of the Republicans could be depicted as ‘the lunatic fringe’.
A particularly interesting observation (anticipating the current situation in 2012).
“The citizen’s leanings are conservative as reflected in the conservative strength of Congress. But the presidential election is an altogether different business, both parties putting up glamourized candidates who conform to the image that the metropolitan mass media of communication like to present to a more intellectual audience. And this image is that of a progressive liberal, one who speaks the language of the managerial elite and picks his advisors among them.”
T. H. Jones - "Wales-New South Wales, May 1961".
Eric Feldt – Errol Flynn at Salamaua [RJS]
This short essay questions the veracity of material which appears in Flynn’s memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Feldt, born (1899) in Queensland of Swedish ancestry, joined the Royal Australian Navy upon leaving school, but resigned after its numbers underwent a post-1919 reduction. Subsequently he lived and worked in New Guinea. From 1942 he directed the Coastwatchers intelligence organisation, which had its Australian headquarters in Townsville; the Coastwatchers had the task of observing enemy action in Pacific territories. They assumed a particularly important information-gathering role against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands and during the Battle of Guadalcanal. In 1946 Feldt published a book about his experiences, called, simply, The Coastwatchers. He died in Brisbane in 1968, thanks to the heart disease which had first afflicted him a quarter of a century before.
Feldt is scathing about Flynn’s account of having been charged with murder at Salamaua (a gold-mining centre on New Guinea’s north-east coast) and of having triumphed in court against his prosecutor, a man named Hawthorne. “An exciting and moving incident [Feldt observes]. And all lies. … If there had been a trial, I would have been the presiding magistrate. There was no trial. He [Flynn] did return to the District after 1932, when I had gone. There was no man named Hawthorne in the Administration at the time.” Feldt finds Flynn equally unreliable on such topics as the religion of Aitape’s missionaries (who were Catholic, not Lutheran), the location of the town of Finschhafen, and the geography of New Ireland.
Not everything Flynn says is downright mendacious. His account of the diamonds he stole from a woman in Sydney probably has elements of truth, according to Feldt, who mentions a pre-war rumour that “Flynn insured non-existent diamonds and then claimed for them.” Certainly Flynn had dental work done in Wau (south of Salamaua) and never paid for it; his later Hollywood renown eventually reached the defrauded dentist, who “sent him the account, saying that now he was prosperous, no doubt he would be glad to settle it. In return, the dentist got an autographed photograph.”
Flynn’s openly swashbuckling nature – a nature which, nevertheless, kept him in civilian life throughout World War II, “making money, drinking and fornicating”, even as Clark Cable and James Stewart enlisted in the armed forces – ensured that “admissions which would be against interest to an ordinary man were not necessarily so to Flynn.” Thanks to his cinematic glamour, his tales were almost universally believed by those in no position to assess them. And thus, “people accepted this lying crook as a hero.”
Judith Wright & Charles Higham – Correspondence following Higham’s article on Wright’s poetry.
Australian Writers and Their Work: Geoffrey Dutton on Patrick White and John Hetherington on Norman Lindsay; W. H. C. Eddy, Orr; Robin Boyd, The Australian Ugliness; A. G. Austin, Education in Australia; Tsuji Masanobu, Singapore, The Japanese Version.