"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. In the meantime summaries of the contents for the first five years (20 editions) will be provided to indicate the riches that are available in this cultural treasurehouse.
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.
Number 5. Summer 1957-8
1. How to Destroy the Monarchy.
The relative stability and civil liberty enjoyed in the surviving monarchies of Europe are compared with conditions elsewhere. It is suggested that the crucial element is “that mysterious element of legitimacy” to which the alternative is so often naked coercion.
A twofold program is offered for those imbued with the progressive instinct and the desire to unpick the fabric of civilization. First, let the popular press turn the Royal Family into a soap opera. Second, let the progressive commentators insist that the Queen should be deprived of the right to choose her friends and associates from amongst people who are congenial to her.
2. ‘The Fine Italian Hand’.
In praise of the failing art of elegant handwriting. (There is an article in this edition on Italic Handwriting by John Bedggood).
3. How Many Flowers Shall Bloom.
Readers are advised that this magazine, along with Overland, Westerly and Australian Letters, have been refused financial assistance from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. The grants to Southerly and Meanjin have been increased to 1000 pounds per annum.
Quadrant was deemed to be “not essentially literary in aim and content”.
M. H. Ellis - The Rum Rebellion.
M H Ellis casts a critical eye over Dr H V Evatt’s Rum Rebellion which was published in 1938 and exerted a lot of influence on the popular perception of Governor Bligh and his problems with John Macarthur and the NSW Corps.
Ellis notes that Sir Ernest Scott’s reservations about the quality of the scholarship in the book were brushed aside. Ellis pours scorn on Evatt’s dependence on Dr Mackarness “an historian whose errors are legion and who often obviously does not even understand the meaning of the words used in early documents”.
Ellis treats two chapters, one on the NSW Corps and the other on the allegation that Macarthur stole or abetted the theft of a dispatch to save himself from ruin. In each case Ellis finds that the evidence does not support the Evatt thesis. On the so-called “Rum Corps”, Evatt set forth the view that the Corps was a disreputable and unsoldierly bunch led by officers who were intent on profits from rum. In the course of demolishing that impression Ellis noted the outstanding performance of the Corps when a detachment made a 45 mile march, some of it on the run, carrying 60 pound packs, to put down the Irish rebellion.
However, “The book does not profess to be a mere discussion of facts. It is obviously intended to be a judgement delivered from the High Court Bench of History”.
T Andrzejaczek - Suburbia – A Cultural Defeat.
The author is a Polish architect based in Adelaide. This is a strong criticism of the drift of population from the city centre to the suburbs, giving rise in Australia to a culture of “Rock-‘n’-Roll, Wild Westerns, Johnnie Ray, and Liberace…a salesman’s culture measured by the financial takings…not the kind of culture that I am prepared to fight for.”
He pursues his case with reference to the problems of getting people to centrally located theatres (not enough parking), the problem of cost-effective public transport through sparsely populated suburbs (too few people can walk to a railway station), the unimpressive scale of churches serving dispersed congregations, the infrastructure costs of dispersed housing.
He dreams of a solution by limiting the size of cities and decentralizing, taking commerce and industry along with the people to new, well-equipped cities, with an appropriate population density for safe and accessible schools, parks, and other public facilities. Maybe the suburbs of Canberra were planned on that basis?
Herbert Piper - The Background of Romantic Thought.
Piper explains that certain kinds of romanticism have persisted in English literature after the background of ideas which initially supported it became defunct. As an example he adduces the prominent role of landscape in Australian poetry, a tendency which he traces back to Wordsworth and Coleridge for whom landscape was a form of communication between God and man. Some of the same sentiment came through in the importance attributed to the farmer and the “bushman”, even the drover as expressed in Clancy of the Overflow.
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
“But perhaps the most remarkable example of the survival of Romantic presupposition in Australia came in the last twenty years, in the theory that the culture of the inhabitants of Australia who had been longest in contact with the natural surroundings… had more relevance for Australians than their European heritage.”
Lloyd Ross - Problems of Trade Unionism: The Australian Railways Union. Ross was the Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Australian Railways Union.
He explained that the ARU at the time was a federation of five State unions (WA standing apart). The union covers the majority of workers in some parts of the rail industry such as traffic and permanent way workers, cleaners, and workers in the catering area, while the specialized craft unions cover most of the drivers, fireman and the skilled craftsmen in the workshops.
The NSW membership was in the order of 25 to 30,000 with nationwide membership over 60,000. The communist influence was powerful and indeed dominant in states other than NSW. The membership was very hard to mobilize for any concerted action because it was so dispersed throughout the state and because the railway industry was spiraling downwards into defeatism, inefficiency and bankruptcy.
The freight service was losing to the trucking industry and the passenger service was struggling outside the metropolitan areas. He considered that the State governments, both Labor and Conservative, were not prepared to make an effort to upgrade the system. He instanced the urgent need to uniform the railway gauges for interstate transport. He wanted to enter into consultation with the management and the government to rehabilitate the industry by cooperative actions, though he insisted that his first duty lay with the pay, working conditions and rights of the workforce.
H A Lindsay - The Bastard from the Bush.
Lindsay, author and pioneer conservationist, wrote The Bushman’s Handbook and he was often asked by visiting Americans if he could provide them with a copy of The Bastard From the Bush which had a huge reputation among returned US servicemen. Fragments circulated but it was believed that the full poem consisted of many verses.
“Then the same query came from a man of a very different type, who had come to Australia to see what he could unearth in the way of folk-lore. He told me that these obscene poems have considerable value as literature, for they are the most ancient of all forms of fiction…Archaeologists have unearthed numerous examples of them, notably on the walls of public conveniences and brothels in Pompeii [and you wonder why it was trashed]. More, in prose form, can be found in Burton’s translation of the Thousand and One Nights.”
This prompted Lindsay to take the question seriously and he put out an appeal for information through the Bulletin, then very widely read both in the city and country. A long letter came in from a WWI digger whose father was close to Henry Lawson. It seems that The Bastard was not a parody on Captain of the Push but the original version, too obscene for publication, which Lawson penned for the amusement of his friends. Later he watered it down to sell it and so The Captain appears in his collected works. Moreover, there was an obscene progenitor of The Drovers Dream. The informant enclosed nine verses of the original thirteen, being all that he could recall, starting with two verses that are hardly changed in The Captain.
O.H.K. Spate - Westwards the Course: Impressions of Portugal and Brazil.
Spate sketches a contrast between the drab and unexciting atmosphere of Portugal and the diversity and effervescence of Brazil, the major Portuguese colony. They share a great cultural tradition but they are opposites in their physical and social environments.
“For what it is worth, the general impression is of a contrast between a vigorous democracy, somewhat turbulent and raffish, and a police state, respectable as police states go, but still not a free country.”
He reminds us that Medieval Portugal was well served by some of its monarchs, notably an “Alfred the Great figure” (ruler, warrior and scholar), in the form of Dom Diniz. This paragon founded the navy and the university, planted of forests and developed of wastelands, and wrote ravishing love-lyrics.
The difference between Portugal and its colony are expressed in the bookshops, the walls and the press. Works of critical historical scholarship are hard to find in the bookshops of Lisbon but in Brazil the shops stock many works of “acute and far-reaching criticism of the national temper and policy”.
“And after the bookshops, the walls: slogans, posters, placards”. In Portugal he only saw one wall inscription - SALAZAR – partly scrubbed out, while in Brazil every wall had its slogan “Down with the President”, “Long Live the President”, “Shoot the Profiteers”, “Hang the Reds”.
“As for the Brazilian press, no greater contrast with the staid and regimented Portuguese journals could be imagined…the Brazilian papers are full of supplements and features, most of them agin the Government and quite uninhibited about it”.
Roger Covell - The Noise in the Background. [Extended summary and comments by R J Stove]
Born in 1931 in Sydney, Roger David Covell was for decades Professor of Music at the University of New South Wales (he is now Emeritus Professor), as well as principal music critic for The Sydney Morning Herald during most of that time (he still contributes the occasional article to that paper, notably a recent obituary of his former SMH colleague Fred Blanks). His extremely influential book Australia’s Music: Themes of a New Society (Sun Books, Melbourne, 1967) did more than any other publication to establish the field of Australian composition as a valid musicological subject in itself. He became a Member of the Order of Australia in 1986.
When the news of Quadrant’s imminent foundation became known to Australian authors in 1955 – not that the magazine-to-be even had a name back then – Covell was the youngest of the four applicants for the editor’s job. Disappointed in this hope, he nevertheless bore the periodical no grudge, and continued to write long music-related essays on an occasional basis for it thereafter. He did not parade his politics, but his general outlook at the time might be described as belonging to the anti-Soviet left wing (although he did visit the USSR in the 1960s).
In this article Covell discussed film music. He considered that the topic ‘should not be underestimated’, although it had traditionally been so (‘the number of people who consciously note the musical background of a film is probably very small’). Tracing the history of films’ musical accompaniment from the live instrumental performances – pianos, Wurlitzer organs, even orchestras on occasion – which backed silent movies, Covell noted the invention in 1919 (by an Italian, Giuseppe Becce) of ‘a library of timed and catalogued musical sequences’, which facilitated the matching of particular music to the emotional content of each film scene. With the arrival of the ‘talkies’ in the 1920s, movies came with their own musical content built in. Even before the ‘talkies’ there had been occasional instances of entire scores composed for specific films (Camille Saint-Saëns, no less, wrote one in 1908, and the score furnished by a certain Edmund Meisel for Eisenstein’s silent Battleship Potemkin became famous in its own right). Yet once silent movies ceased to be produced, ‘the history of film music has been synchronised literally to the history of film.’
Often, Covell writes, movie directors have regarded the writing of film music with contempt, but Covell defends ‘the power a good score has to enhance or even redeem a film.’ He speaks quite highly of Alfred Newman’s score for The Black Swan, but finds ‘extremely passé’ Sir Arthur Bliss’s music for H. G. Wells’s Things to Come, and considers that Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s soundtrack for Robin Hood ‘not only [was] inadequate for the events of the story, but seemed actually to detract from them.’ By contrast he salutes Sir William Walton’s famous score for the Olivier Henry V, while warning that ‘the number of composers with superior talent is very small and the number of films produced very large.’
Concerning film music’s future, Covell predicts that rather than shrinking in significance, ‘music is likely to play a larger part in dramatic work of all kinds.’ This is partly because Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone system – which, as Covell points out, dominated classical music composition among the West’s younger composers in 1958 – is ‘an extraordinarily easy medium in which to achieve atmospheric effects without excessive reliance on musical originality.’ It is also partly because electronic music, though existing in one form or another since the 1920s, ‘is only now achieving real notoriety.’ Such music was used in the science-fiction film Forbidden Planet. Covell recounts his own experiences in listening to recent French recordings of musique concrète, which dispenses with special electronic instruments and uses, instead, sounds from the workaday world: ‘Anything from the bang of a pair of scissors on the floor to the sound of tearing silk can be recorded, repeated, transposed in pitch, played faster or slower, stripped of some of its original characteristics, and finally combined with other sounds by skilful and patient engineering.’ Some of the recordings, according to Covell, ‘had a tremendous emotional impact.’
In conclusion, Covell refers to the work of Benjamin Britten as film music composer, this work involving technological anticipations by Britten himself – as early as 1936 – of ‘the modern passion for juggling with tapes’. ‘It may well be,’ Covell believes, ‘that a simplified form of experimental music, or sound patterning, of this type will become familiar and acceptable in films long before it wins any widespread status elsewhere.’
He speculated that “years of mistuning of radios in Australian homes so they produce nothing but a rhythmical bass boom have probably helped to dull aural response to speech timbres”.
He noted the use of pianos, ad hoc orchestras and the delightful Wurlitzer organs that adorned many suburban theatres (still in use at the Cremorne Orpheum!).
An essay review of Benjamin Disraeli'S Sybil or The Two Nations, mostly concerned with the biography and politics of the author.
An essay review of R C Zaehner, Mysticism Sacred and Profane. A rejoinder to Aldous Huxley’s views on the synthetic or chemical reproduction of spiritually valuable states of mind.
Frank Knopfelmacher reviews Victor H Wallace (ed) Paths to Peace, a collection of essays by communists and fellow travellers.
A short review of Vincent Buckley'S Essays in Poetry, mainly Australian. The reviewer wanted to see more on poetry and less on poets.
A short review of Evelyn Waugh'S The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. The reviewer suggested that Waugh missed to opportunity to write “a kindly anatomy of snobbery” and produced an over-long chronicle of hallucination.
Books noted: Martin Boyd, Outbreak of Love. Simone de Beauvoir, The Mandarins. Richard Aldington, Introduction to Mistral (the great Provencal poet). Godfrey Smith, The Friends. T Inglis Moore (ed) Selected Poems of Henry Kendall. Theodore H Gaster, The Scriptures of the Dead Sea Sect. E Lampert Studies in Rebellion. Allen Tate The Man of Letters in the Modern World.
1 A Publishing Event.
The editor announces the impending publication of the new Australian Encyclopedia, in ten volumes, replacing the old two-volume edition. It is produced by Angus and Robertson. The editor suggests that a US version would engage a permanent staff of hundreds in addition to the contributors and in contrast Angus and Robertson produced this with about ten devoted people assisted by the “deplorably small” staffs of our public libraries. “The task thus performed is a prodigious one.”
2 Trips to Red China.
Scathing commentary on the true believers who make their pilgrimage to Mao’s China.
R N Spann - The Murray Report and the Universities.
Spann notes that even dull academics are likely to be excited by this report which made strong recommendations to expand the university system, which the Government promptly accepted. When he wrote there were nine universities and two university colleges, heavily concentrated in NSW and Canberra with six universities and colleges. The report recommended a second university in Melbourne and the upgrading of the Kensington Tech to university status.
In 1956 they cost 12 Million pounds, almost half from the states and a quarter from the Commonwealth. Student numbers were on the rise, from 29,000 in 1953 to 36,000 in 1957. Secondary education was expanding as well; Spann noted that the schools alone could absorb all the science graduates coming through the system.
The immediate program of expenditure for three years included 12 Million pounds for new buildings in the States (with Commonwealth assistance on a pound for pound basis). The existing Commonwealth grants for running costs would continue at 6 Million pounds per year on condition that the States increase their contributions.
The report suggested the establishment of a permanent Australian University Grants Committee, which PM Menzies accepted in principle, though some detected a potentially dangerous move towards centralization of decision-making.
Spann was not happy with some of the language of the report, with ambivalent statements about autonomy and very clear emphasis on the need to develop “brain power” in “the national interest”. He wondered if people still had an idea of the traditional university to defend from the vanguard of technocratic rationalists [not his terminology but I think that was the sense]..
F Knopfelmacher - The Threat to Academic Freedom.
Frank Knopfelmacher noted that the issue of academic freedom is typically raised by people of the left who claim that they are victims of discrimination and they see academic freedom under threat from Catholic Conspiracy and the Security Service. Strangely their concerns do not extend as far as the other side of the iron curtain.
Robin Boyd - The Culture of Austerica or ‘The Rape of Ellerslie’.
Robin Boyd has an impressive track record in promoting sensitivity to domestic design and the appearance of the urban streetscape.
“Why should Australians be the modern world’s most vandalistic people – from the teenagers who while away their time on the suburban train by slicing up the seat leather to the many bulldozing subdividers whose insensitivity amounts to at least as great a crime against the community?”
This vitriolic essay was prompted by the bulldozing of a mid-Victorian homestead on extensive grounds in Prahran to provide 16 building blocks to be sold as part of Toorak. The crowning indignity came when The Age reported that the desert created by the bulldozers was “historic land, the site of the oldest farm and building in Toorak”.
Harry Thornton - Body and Mind: A Philosophical Puzzle.
This is an ambitious attempt to bring a general readership up to speed on the state of debate in the philosophy of mind and the mind/body relationship. It begins with a rather difficult introduction to the idea of sensations, then sketches the contribution of Descartes, the “Cartesian dualism” of mind and body.
He then gets up to date with some current work by the neuroscientist John Eccles (an Australian, at the ANU), taking an interactionist approach: G F Stout who appeared to have a very complex position that the defies summary by Thornton; and Gilbert Ryle of “the ghost in the machine man”.
He concludes that Science is not equipped at the present time to solve the problem. Alternatively, there may be no problem at all.
Niall Brennan - The March of the Militants.
This describes the tactics of the communists in the Labor Party. It is treated with an extended summary here.
Walter James - Sweet Wine.
A spirited attack on the Australian production and consumption of sherry and fortified wines, and the backward state of fine wine production.
Times have changed!
Salamonn Dembitzer - Jewish Folk-Songs.
A survey of the history of the Jews and the folk-songs that have evolved from their struggles and their faith, with memories of the function of folk songs and singers in the Jewish community of Cracow.
E. G. Whitlam, The Constitution vs Labor.
He warned us! “Labor policy, he states, is in favour of monopolies in banking, credit, insurance, shipping, airlines, radio and television services, sugar refining, the stevedoring industry and the coal industry. All these, he said, should be public monopolies”.
George Nadel, Australia’s Colonial Culture.
The author pursued a thesis that Australia had difficulty in developing a high culture due to the dispersed nature of the financial elite, with many of them, the graziers, being far from the metropolitan centres. The State (instead of the church and intellectuals) tended to occupy the vacant space for leadership, which promoted the secularisation of society and also the pragmatic forms of adult education through mechanics institutes.
Gordon Greenwood and Norman Harper (eds) Australia in World Affairs 1950-1955.
Amidst the reviews is a report on conferences convened by the Congress for Cultural Freedom: Science and Freedom (Hamburg, 1953), Cultural Freedom in Asia (Rangoon, 1955), The Soviet Economy (Milan, 1955).
Randolph Stow, Act One (poems).
Frank Kermode, Romantic Image.
James McAuley reviewed this important work of criticism and theory to signal its significance as a rejoinder to the Symbolist movement which promoted a cult of symbols and images, divorced from ordinary rational meaning.
L T C Rolt, Ismbard Kingdom Brunel.
Brunel was arguably the greatest of the 19th century engineers and builders with The Great Western Railway, The Great Western steamship etc. to his credit.
D. L. Munby, Christianity and Economic Problems.
Mabel Waln Smith, Springtime in Shanghai.
1. Day of Reckoning for the Educators.
Scathing comments on the failures of progressive education and positive comment on the content the Russian system. Suggests that progressivism has not flourished in Australia due to the “otherwise regrettable” monolithic centralism of the state school systems. No need to imitate the Russians, the western tradition of intellectual culture will do very well if we stick to it.
2. Literary Commitment.
“The terms engagement and commitment have not yet made a landfall in Australia, but what they signify has been with us a long time as a matter of debate.”
The editor noted a need to avoid the extremes of commitment to repulsive causes and complete detachment in the cause of art for art’s sake.
“Literature cannot avoid involvement in the great issues without impoverishing itself.”
3. An Award for Quadrant Contributors.
Adolph Basser has donated 100 pounds a year for five years to the contribution to Quadrant judged to be most outstanding by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol, the editors of Encounter.
A G Daws - An Institution in the Metropolis: For the Centenary of Australian Rules Football.
H A Lindsay - Melba’s Husband
Lindsay notes that Dame Nellie Melba achieved fame and fortune but only passing references were ever made to the man she married, the father of her son. The impression is that he was a worthless type and best forgotten.
“Actually he was the injured party. He never accepted a penny from her, he suffered in silence, and that most unfortunate marriage wrecked his life”.
Charles Nesbitt Frederick Armstrong was the youngest son of an Irish baronet. In 1881 he was an overseer on a sugar farm near Mackay and on holiday in Brisbane he met David Mitchell, a Melbourne brickmaker, and his 22 year old daughter Nellie, who was depressed since the deaths of her mother and younger sister. Nellie fell for the handsome young man, they were married within a few weeks and she went to live in a rudimentary house during the wet season, surrounded by spiders and leeches, alone all day. Within the year a son was born and two months later she went to Melbourne to show her father the grandson. She did not return.
Some years later Charles was granted custody of the son, George, due to her desertion. Charles and George moved to America and he settled down as a farmer. He took George as a young man to a Melba concert in the US and when they met after the show George agreed to stay with his mother.
Charles ended his life as a recluse and never attempted to correct the false and misleading stories that circulated about the marriage.
Russell Kirk - Letter from America: Monopolizing American Academic Freedom. [Comments and summary by R J Stove]
In 1953 the 35-year-old Russell Amos Kirk found himself abruptly transformed from an obscure academic – who had studied in Scotland as well as in his native Michigan without achieving anything very notable – to a nationally celebrated sage. His book of that year, The Conservative Mind, became an improbable bestseller, discussed as readily in the populist pages of Time and Newsweek as in specialised journals of political science.
Kirk based The Conservative Mind – which has been in print for 58 years, undergoing several revised editions – on two novel premises: (a) that there definitely existed such a thing as Anglophone conservatism, rather than either instinctive oppositionist non-leftism or imported European Catholic monarchism; (b) that this Anglophone conservatism, far from being a cause for embarrassment (before 1953 even anti-New-Dealers like Senator Robert Taft had tended to call themselves ‘liberals’), possessed at least as valuable and sustained an intellectual genealogy as any left-wing world-view did. An industrious journalist and public lecturer, Kirk helped establish National Review in 1955 and Modern Age two years afterwards; both periodicals printed much of his output, and both are still with us. Whilst none of Kirk’s numerous subsequent books came close to matching The Conservative Mind in terms of commercial acclaim, even Kirk’s antagonists admitted his mastery of English prose style. A lifelong anti-Communist and, from 1964, a Catholic (he reluctantly involved himself in Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign), Kirk supported American policies during the Cold War, but later publicly denounced neoconservative activism in the Middle East. He died in 1994, prolific to the end. His widow Annette Kirk continues as president of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, occupying the former family home in Michigan’s west.
To this day Kirk, though still renowned in America, is hardly heard of in Australia. His sole Quadrant appearance was in this, with his ‘Letter from America,’ dealing with causes of academic discontents. He observes that while most Americans support academic freedom in the abstract, this seldom means more than freedom for their own opinions, as opposed to opinions of others. The recent case of Sidney Hook is one that Kirk considers particularly instructive. Hook, ‘a forthright Marxian socialist … associated with “liberal” and “progressive” movements,’ nevertheless fell foul of ‘a famous Midwestern university’ (not named) because he not only condemned Soviet Communism as such but condemned the employment of most known Communists on US campuses. The university’s dean banned a speaking invitation for Hook, the ban extending ‘not simply to Dr Hook, by the way, but to all known conservative speakers.’
Kirk finds in this ruling the principle of ‘no enemies on the Left.’ He describes an American academic (who had never set eyes on Kirk himself) visiting London, deploring there McCarthyism’s ‘Reign of Terror’, and responding to a mild spoken defence of Kirk with the words: ‘Kirk? Kirk? He’s a s**t! He’s a s**t!’ ‘Toleration,’ Kirk notes, ‘thou art a jewel.’ Known conservatives are to be put up with at universities, as ‘the Uncle Toms of Academe.’ Even the anti-conservative Partisan Review and Commentary contributor Ralph Gilbert Ross is reported as worrying about the situation, which results in ‘old-fangled Benthamite or Manchesterian liberals ... prefer[ring] socialists to conservatives,’ even as the liberal in general ‘thinks Voltaire was a great fellow.’
According to Kirk, religious as much as political discrimination is active. ‘The Catholic scholar, naturally, is the liberal’s greatest bugaboo.’ Often this liberal, in a semblance of fairness, ‘equates Communism and Catholicism as “totalitarian movements”,’ however well-schooled the individual Catholic (Kirk singles out a priest who ‘happened also to be a doctor of philosophy of a secular university,’ but was denounced because in liberal dogma, ‘every priest … is by necessity an ignorant obscurantist’). When an already anti-Christian liberal in America’s North has never visited the South, ‘his righteous prejudice is so much the stronger. He doesn’t need to see the South; to go there would turn his stomach, he knows.’ Second only to the South in terms of liberals’ loathing is the Midwest, ‘the abode of Joseph McCarthy’ as well as conducive to the Bible Belt, the region’s unfortunate scholars being ‘suspect as inwardly corrupted by prairie bigotry, until they have demonstrated otherwise.’
Even without narrowly religious and political considerations, the liberal is doomed by his adherence to ‘non-commitment.’ He thinks he ‘ought to pursue Truth, but he ought never to embrace her. … Nothing is settled, nor ought to be; the function of the university is to “destroy all barriers to the questing spirit of man”.’ Kirk even cites a Michigan State University test question which specifically asks whether a student believes ‘that it is wrong for a brother to have sexual relations with his sister.’ ‘Not,’ Kirk hastily assures us, ‘that the liberal professors were in favour of incest on principle; they simply aspired to “give the student an open mind”.’
Deliberately Kirk leaves open the issue of ‘whether the liberal professors really act upon this absolute relativism.’ After all, ‘relativism and ambivalence have their own test-acts.’ (Kirk here has in mind the Test Acts which England acquired in the seventeenth century and scrapped in the nineteenth, these laws being meant specifically to bar non-Anglicans – chiefly Catholics – from public office.) For instance: Kirk mentions staffers at Ohio State University who tried to force the acceptance by all staff – under oath – of John Dewey’s egalitarian, pragmatic, utterly secularised education system. ‘The proposal was defeated only after hot debate.’ Had it succeeded, it would have made problematic the position of any intellectually consistent liberal. Supposing the oath had been required, should he have sworn allegiance to it (thereby perhaps endangering his prime loyalty to ‘non-commitment’)? Or would publicly implying dissent from even Dewey’s self-evidently glorious outlook be valid (in accordance with ‘non-commitment’s dictates)? The resultant paradox Kirk summarises thus:
‘Strong [Dewey-style] affirmation of faith in democracy and liberalism isn’t commitment; it’s merely The Truth. And who defines democracy and liberalism? Why, a faculty committee of latter-day liberals. Who else could? … Commitment in that direction – well, it’s harmless, anyway.’
Kirk finds hope in the discovery that newer colleges – even in New York – seem to ‘tolerate, and even encourage, the presence of conservatives and other deviationists from liberal orthodoxy,’ even as the older and better-known colleges become bastions of such orthodoxy. Overall Kirk’s conclusion is optimistic: ‘it [liberal dictatorship over the academic mind] will not endure forever; prevailing opinions, Disraeli said, generally are the opinions of the generation that is passing.’
Peter Hastings - Krishna Menon: A Passage to England.
Peter Hastings (1920-1990) was probably the doyen of foreign correspondents in his prime. This is a beautifully observed and researched piece on Krishna Menon, a highly influential but now probably forgotten Indian Foreign Minister under Nehru.
D C Muecke - Two Errors in Literary Theory.
A turgid piece of writing. If only he had provided a summary of his argument.
Maximillian Feuerring - Abstract Art.
If you like art “isms” you can find many. Following the lead of Kandinsky, Tchurlianis and Mansuroff, by 1913 there were Tatlin’s abstract reliefs, Larianowls rayonism, Malewitch’s suprematism, Mondrian’s neo-plasticism, and Robert and Sonia Deaunay’s orphism. “Just like fauvism, cubism and surrealism, abstract art became a new and fundamental current in modern art”.
The movement did not gain momentum until after the second world war and the surge of activity is attributed to three drivers (1) the reaction against descriptive art, (2) escaping from the shadows of giants like Matisse, Bonnard and Picasso, and (3) the visual impact of living in the ruins of bombed cities.
M F Dixon - Early Trials of the ABC News Service.
The ABC news started in 1947 amidst alarm at the cost (almost 100K pounds per annum), and the fear that the service would compete with the newspapers and interfere with their circulation. Dixon reports that there has been no fuss, even when the service cost almost 400K pounds for the year ended June 1956.
Dixon reports on the gradual expansion of the news service from the time he joined the ABC in 1936 as the first news editor. The abdication crisis later in the year provided an excuse to break into the overseas news field. At the time there was a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the ABC and the newspapers over the use of stories in the press and wire services by the ABC. This agreement was constantly under strain as the ABC became more determined to provide breaking news between editions of the newspapers.
ABC news coverage increased during the war but there was an internal crisis after the war when it seemed that the ABC news service might retreat to its earlier subservient role. PM Curtin wanted advice from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and this took evidence from all interested parties. The newspapers opposed the independent news service, as did the ABC chairman (Boyer), the vice-chairman (Dawes), the general manager (Moses). One of the commissioners (Hanlon) supported the independent news service.
Dixon himself gave evidence, which meant staying in town and refusing the offer of an overseas tour to examine foreign broadcast news services. He felt the principle of the independent broadcaster was too important, so he stayed to make the case to the committee.
“In the interests of democracy, the ABC should have its own news-gathering service. The papers could, if they wished, combine to dictate what news the people of Australia should read, but they had not right to dictate what news they should hear. An ABC independent service, free of all social, political and advertising influences was, in my opinion, a prime necessity”.
The committee made a majority recommendation in favour of the independent service, the Act was amended and the news service was established in less than a year because the newspapers served notice that they would terminate the gentleman’s agreement at the end of May 1947, cutting off the supply of news to the ABC from their sources.
At the time of writing the ABC employed 126 graded journalists in Australia and a London staff of nine. Despite the increase in the cost, he considered every penny is justified. “It is the lifeblood of national broadcasting”.
Charles Higham - The Screen Writer’s Task.
Higham meditates on the low profile of the screen writer, noting the array of talent in the field – Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, Isherwood, Auden, Faulkner, Eliot, Anouilh, Joyce Cary, Lillian Hellman, Cocteau. He bewailed the neglect of the writer on the part of film critics and noted the happy results that can be obtained from a good partnership between director and writer.
Neville Hoffman, Party, State and People.
Essay review of The New Class by a writer would not normally be regarded as a member of the conservative fold. Hoffman was the secretary of the Socialist Forum in Melbourne.
Edith Sitwell, Collected Poems.
Avanda K Coomaraswamy, The Transformation of Nature in Art.
Chiang-Kai-Shek, Soviet Russia in China: A Summing Up.
E L Mascall, Words and Images.
Richard Weiss, The Secret of Individuality.
Colette, My Apprenticeships and Music Hall Sidelights.
E A Phillips, The Australian Tradition.
1.A New Springtime of History?
A look at both sides of the 20th century coin – on one side the visitation of all the ills stored up in the 19th century, on the other the capacity of science and technology to eliminate hunger and dramatically reduce disease worldwide.
“Admittedly, Communism is still advancing, like the last Mammoth”.
“We do not wish to minimize the dangers of the unsolved problems. Necessarily these must be our chief pre-occupation. But men need hope as well as awareness of peril if they are to win the future”.
2.Voss and the Novel.
The novel became the new thing in the 18th and 19th centuries but the editor detects mounting discontent among writers and critics, as though a “fresh mutation” is required to correspond to “the deepest preoccupations of contemporary man.”
McAuley noted the transformations wrought by Dostoevsky, Melville, Joyce and Lawrence. “Patrick White’s Voss has entered Australian literature as a work in this line of meta-novelistic creation”. The theme is the contest between the oldest and second oldest religion, between man made divine by God through love and humility, and man aspiring to take the place of God.
He refrained from judgement of this complex work, but voiced the thought “is there any body of work by an Australian poet that has the depth and sustained poetic vision of his prose writer?
Peter A Hunt - Industrial Design Comes to Australia: Teapots and Telegraph Poles.
Peter Hunt received his first visual shock (the telegraph poles) when he arrived from Britain in Fremantle. [I hope he looked closer and saw some of the elegance of old Freo]. He laments the quality of design from the domestic teapot to the streetscapes and architecture of his adopted country. He applauds the energy and industry of the nation but bewails the lack of sensitivity to form and function in the haste to get things done.
He reports that things are looking up, after a meeting at the ANU in 1957 we now have a Design Council, sponsored by Essington Lewis (chair) and the VC of the ANU who was prepared to stage a formal inaugural meeting.
M K E Read - Letter from Seattle.
A charming introduction to the sights, sounds and attractions of this port city, built on hills, gateway to the North West of the US.
Brian O’Brien - Caving in Australia.
A vivid introduction to the skills and thrills of one of the little-known adventure sports, with a brief history of the official organization of the sport with the formation of the Tasmanian Caverneering Club in 1946 and the Sydney University Speleological Society in 1948. In 1956 representatives from 14 groups formed the Australian Speleological Federation.
All the states have limestone caves and there are hundreds of caves under the Nullarbor Plain. The caves in remote areas of the Kimberleys, central Australia and Queensland have yet to be explored.
He casually described an experience where he was lost and alone for three days in a big unexplored cave at Yarrangobilly.
Jeremy Beckett - Aborigines Make Music.
This is a very well researched piece (with photos) on the music, dancing and drinking of the Aborigines on the edge of white towns in regional NSW (out Wilcannia way). Many occasions call for a ceremony, which once would have been a corroboree, but now there may be dancing with waltzes and barn dances. And singing!
“Almost all the songs the aborigines sing nowadays are of white origin, picked up from the radio or gramaphone, or perhaps from some quite acquaintance”. Hillbilly songs are the favorites. They also make up their own songs “about anything – rainmaking, catching porcupine, a lost child. When the white man appeared they made up songs about him. When the white station manager sent his aboriginal workers off to a distant paddock, while he fornicated with their women, there was a song about it. There was a song about the government man who, coming to inspect rabbit-infested stations, was taken into the parlour and plied with whiskey”.
They also use some American negro slang, especially “jitterbug” and “cutting a rug”. These have taken on the special meaning of letting off steam, cutting a dash, getting riproaring drunk.
The law prohibits the sale of alcohol to aborigines with the exception of those who have earned a Certificate of Exemption, scornfully called the ‘dog licence”. The aborigines are determined to drink and the police are supposed to stop them. “The result is an utterly futile running battle between the two, in which neither gains any ground”.
The more hardened drinkers accept occasional spells in gaol as a part of the price they pay for drinking. Beckett points out that there is a very large downside to this for families with children.
He suggests that there is a vicious cycle in place. “The only way to break it is either to get him [the aborigine] drinking in the hotel, alongside and in the same manner as his white neighbours or to find some substitute and less delinquent means of getting excitement”.
A E de Jasay - Kroubints for Outlanning the Planning Board.
This is a contribution to the literature on the stupidity of attempts at central economic planning. De Jasay describes some of the accounting and book-keeping tricks used by the managers of state factories to qualify for performance bonuses on top of their regular salary.
One example that he did not mention is the device used by a nail factory that was contracted to produce a certain weight of nails. They found that it was easier to make the weight when they made bigger nails, also when the point was less sharp. So eventually they produced wedges that were useless as nails, being only fit for scrap iron or ballast.
Tom Bass - Should Civic Art Make Sense: A Sculptor’s View.
This is a very sensitive and scholarly piece on the need for people to have access to works of art, preferably in public places (given that most people don’t go to art galleries), to remind them of central features of our artistic and spiritual inheritance.
Frank Keane - A New Taste for Old Wine
This can be read as a rejoinder to a piece in a previous edition which deplored the taste of Australian wine drinkers. Keane advances statistics to indicate that Australians are rapidly moving in the direction of better wines and a wider variety of vintages as well.
C. Semmler - Portrait of the Artist as a Humorist.
Semmler suggests that the cults of Gide, Proust, Lawrence, Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Pound and even Eliot have closed and their works have become the stuff of doctoral theses. Joyce is a special case because his later works met the criterion of obscurity (good for doctoral theses) but they are most unusual in having strong elements of humor.
“Joyce, as a humorist, was probably the last of the Dublin character-part geniuses. Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, James Stephens – even Oliver At John Gogarty – all gave themselves roles in Dublin’s verbal circus, a place of wits and grammarians. But Joyce was a lord of language with a genius for parody and bright dIsorder”.
Professor Eittfogel, Oriental Despotisms.
Kafka The Castle and St Theresa, The Interior Castle.
Alexander G Korol, Soviet Education for Science and Technology.
E L Wheelwright, Ownership and Control of Australian Companies.
Harold Gatty, Nature is Your Guide.
Alfred Deakin, The Crisis in Victorian Politics, 1879-1881.
F M Todd, Politics and the Poet - A Study of Wordsworth.
Karl Adam, The Christ of Faith.
Frank O'Connor (ed), Modern Irish Short Stories.
Clive Sanson, The Cathedral.