Review of The Oxford Book of Australian Essays, edited by Imre Salusinszky
George Cowling, who infamously remarked that no-one would need a Baedecker to conduct a literary pilgrimage through the cultural scrub of Australia, and Fumley Maurice, poet and director of Melbourne University Press, co-edited one of the earliest collections of this country's essays. The book was called, simply, Australian Essays, and it appeared in 1935. The introduction began by explaining that 'essay' is another form of the word 'assay', 'meaning the trial of the fineness or the value of gold ... An essay was originally a consideration of a subject with the intent to find out its value in human life and conduct.' If the essay began with Montaigne, in Australia it was 'the product of that most potent force in the [country's] cultural development ... the newspaper'. The editors' task was evidently more pleasant than onerous. They (or was it Cowling) assert that in Australia 'quite definitely ... there are more good essays than good novels'.
Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.