Georgian House, 271 pp
On Bertrand Russell’s ninetieth birthday, the Daily Express published a congratulatory leader, which described him as ‘an intellectual gadfly on the rump of British society’. Moreover, to demonstrate that this most conservative of British newspapers intended no insult, the leader went on to describe Russell as ‘the second greatest living Englishman’ after Winston Churchill. Australia’s record of producing, much less recognising the achievements of, intellectual gadflies is if anything worse than Britain’s. The only figure of real stature who might qualify for that title is Hugh Stretton, an academic with an unerring talent for tearing the veils of pretension from the ideas and practices we most take for granted. Since this epoch, as much as any other, needs to take a mirror to its real rather than its pretended self, this too is intended to be anything but insulting.