Review of James Smith: The Making of a Colonial Culture by Lurline Stuart, and James Edward Neild: Victorian Virtuoso by Harold Love
The appearance of two major biographies of prominent colonial men of letters, both immigrants to Victoria, is symptomatic of a movement to reassess the achievements of colonial culture. The present historic moment both enables and motivates such studies. As intellectual investment in the paradigms of modernism gives way in the postmodern present, the culture of the period preceding the modernist era, so frequently in the Australian context obscured by its successor and impatiently dismissed as derivative, immature or plain perverse, can be more equably considered. The prominent personalities of the high colonial culture nourishing between the gold rushes and Federation need to be seen neither as heroic precursors in a triumphalist saga of modernism vindicated, nor as repressive patriarchs to be overthrown in a righteous oedipal usurpation so that a more enlightened age might be born. The 1890s is usually constructed as the moment when 'colonial' gave way to 'national' literary culture, but how helpful is this particular legitimation drama? Stuart's and Love's studies enable this and other nationalist narratives to be renegotiated.
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Cite as: Kelly, Veronica. ‘Review of James Smith: The Making of a Colonial Culture by Lurline Stuart, and James Edward Neild: Victorian Virtuoso by Harold Love.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 14, no. 3, 1990, doi: 10.20314/als.baa2c0f2a6.