The approach of the fortieth year of ALS, and a recent visit to Hobart, brought back memories of how the journal began. I would like here to recover aspects of these as I remember them.
The journal was launched at the University of Tasmania Staff Club on 6 August 1963. A photograph and a brief write-up the next day in the Hobart Mercury recorded the occasion. On the right is the late A.D. Hope who was not only the launcher and the distinguished visitor from the 'mainland', but also an important influence and encourager of the new venture - the godfather, in a benevolent sense. Hope looks genial and spry, balancing a wine glass in one hand and in the other a copy of the first issue in which he seems to be immersed. (I recall a poem of Gwen Harwood, who was no doubt present on this occasion, mentioning Hope being approached at a cocktail party by a woman exclaiming: 'How unusual to meet a poet in the flesh!' 'I am usually present in that form', Hope replies urbanely.) He also wrote for the issue a review of a biography of Charles Harpur. In it he commented on the 'real need for biographies and critical editions ... since Australian literature has ceased to be an Aunt Sally or the Jingo's totem pole and has become a respectable subject for academic study.' I appear in the photograph as the editor, the young hopeful, or as I see it now, the ambitious innocent who didn't know what he was letting himself in for. Absent from the photo, but not from the scene, the third man is the main mover and inspiration of the project, James McAuley. The Mercury's caption, 'A New Literary Critic', was astray but its short report was accurate enough. It recaptures for me one aim of the journal which slipped out of the picture later because it was too difficult to implement at this early first stage: 'to encourage comparative studies of Australian literature and those of other English speaking countries'.