C. Hartley Grattan Remembered

C. Hartley Grattan and his Australia and Southwest Pacific Collection arrived at the University of Texas in Austin in 1964. I arrived there at the same time from Leeds to do a PhD in American literature, but aware of the impressive library in Commonwealth literary materials built up at Texas by Joseph Jones over the previous ten years. Joe Jones introduced me to Grattan in 1965. I knew nothing about the circumstances that had brought him to Texas, although it was impossible not to sense his isolation. He didn't fit into any of the academic slots that universities, like beehives, place so much importance in. It wasn't difficult to see that his Collection was an extension of his personality that he wore around him like a second skin. Texas was buying up a Jot of rare book collections and investing in a whole swatch of quite distinguished faculty around this time, and I had the sense, in the beginning, that Grattan got lost in the activity. As it happened, the profile of Australia in the United States and particularly Texas was about to change dramatically as a result of Vietnam, the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and the ambassadorship of Edward Clark in Canberra. The first kitsch tune I heard when I landed in Australia in 1967 was a spliced version of 'Waltzing Matilda' and the 'Yellow Rose of Texas'. This renewed context of interest- last achieved in the dark days of 1942- would not have pleased Grattan overmuch, although his relations with James T. Farrell and his mild association with Quadrant in the fifties suggest that, apart from tl)e Jacksonian tinge of the Lone Star enthusiasm that went along with this surge of interest, he wouldn't have been displeased either. These developments placed Grattan's Australian interests into the kind of American institutional and political focus that they had never had before for him in the United States. From 1927 up to 1964, he had worked up a formidable knowledge of Australian literature, politics and economics, on his own in the margins of his career as a freelance journalist-historian based in New York.

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Published 1 May 1996 in Volume 17 No. 3. Subjects: Australian literature - Overseas responses, Literary & cultural exchanges.

Cite as: Healy, J. J.. ‘C. Hartley Grattan Remembered.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, 1996, doi: 10.20314/als.4f3d76b0e0.