Australia's Growing Tradition Work in Literature and War

The West Australian Saturday 23 December 1939 p.5

... despite the pronouncements of officialdom, a number of acute observers have noted that Australians are different, the product of a social background which is expressed nowhere better than in the political and cultural forms, not least among them our literature, which embody Australian ideals and aspirations. As Professor W. K. Hancock pertinently remarks in his excellent book, "Australia":— "Liberated from the congested ice-forms of convention and class which are packed so tightly in a small northern island, the vigorous flow of Australian life cuts ever-changing channels for the irrigation of limitless virgin plains."

In studying Australian literature, university students will be exploring one of these "ever-changing channels" and to do so they will, if it is the genuinely Australian tradition they seek, neglect much that it regarded as Australian literature but is really only a small off-shoot of Victorian literature. In fact it would not be too much to say that after William Charles Wentworth's "Australasia" (1823), the only really Australian compositions, until the foundation of the "Bulletin" in 1881, are the old bush songs dating back to convict days collected by "Banjo" Paterson early this century and published in a number of editions since.

Such a genealogy would leave out Henry Kendall, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Marcus Clarke and Rolf Boldrewood, whose works constitute Australian literature for many readers, but it would be a more realistic presentation of the subject than one which lists the books of nostalgic or adventurous Englishmen as the "classics" of this country.

Protest and aspiration have been persistent notes in Australian literature. Frank the Poet, a convict versifier, pilloried hangmen, gaolers, flagellators, commandants, constables, spies, informers and overseers in his "Tour of Hell" which was committed to memory by his fellow-convicts and dictated to Thomas Holdstock in 1857 ...