Peter Ryan: Final Proof

Balancing act

Sue Ebury


by Peter Ryan
Quadrant Books, $44.95 hb, 210 pp, 9780980677836


‘Thank God I have done with him!’ – the words uttered by Dr Johnson’s publisher when he received the final proofs of the dictionary from its author – might well have been Peter Ryan’s own in 1988 when Manning Clark confessed that he had changed his mind about the character and career of Robert Menzies. No longer did Clark consider him an ‘imperialistic booby’. Melbourne University Press was about to publish the final volume of Clark’s History of Australia, and the book was printing as the author confessed that he no longer believed his own, uncomplimentary text. This, for Clark’s publisher, Peter Ryan, was ‘the last straw’ in their tumultuous publishing relationship of twenty-six years. He boycotted the launch, and five years later he let fly in the pages of Quadrant with a critical attack on the press’s most profitable author, his methodology, and his work.

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Sue Ebury

Sue Ebury

Sue Ebury, a Melbourne biographer and former editor and publisher, was presented with two FAW Barbara Ramsden Awards, one of which was for Michael Cannon’s Who’s Master? Who’s Man?, the first volume of Australia in the Victorian Age, which Thomas Nelson published in 1971. She is a research associate in the History Department of the University of Hong Kong. In 2010 Miegunyah Press issued a paperback edition of her 1994 book on Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, the new title being Weary: King of the River.

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