The kingdom of correct usage is elsewhere

by
April 1996, no. 179

The kingdom of correct usage is elsewhere

by
April 1996, no. 179

Some years ago the poet John Forbes was addressing himself to that national monument, Les Murray, and he had occasion to remark, ‘The trouble with vernacular republics is that they presuppose that the kingdom of correct usage is elsewhere.’ It was, I suppose, designed to highlight the fact that the homespun qualities of the Bard from Bunyah were dependent on an awareness of the metropolitan style Murray willed himself to transgress and that there was an inverted dandiness, if not a pedantry, in all that Boeotian ballyhoo. It does not seem to me a remotely fair remark but it is a good epigram notwithstanding and it takes on a range of meanings depending on what light you look at it in. Presumably Forbes thought, or feigned to think, that Murray’s poetic demotic was a variation on that Colonial Strut which is, in fact, a version of the Cultural Cringe. In any case his words came into my head the other day when I was reading Simon During’s new Oxford monograph about Patrick White.

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.