A Companion to Australian Literature Since 1900
Camden House, £50 hb, 496 pp
When G.B. Barton presented his two works concerning the literary history of New South Wales to the Paris Exhibition of 1866, he hoped that they would enable readers ‘to form an exact idea of the progress, extent and prospects of literary enterprise among us’. The words are succinct, unobjectionable, and their sentiments influenced much of the literary history of the next century, much as the productions of that time were usually annals rather than analysis. Barton’s civic-minded project linked the maturing of Australian literature with its political culture. Implicit in his endeavour, though numerous others would use the metaphor outright, was the notion of ‘coming-of-age’. This chimera had as long a life as the search for the Great Australian Novel.