The story of the publication of The Lucky Country
Reviewers of The Lucky Country, split as they were on most other matters, reached at least one point of consensus—Donald Horne’s new book wouldn’t last the summer. ‘Over-compression, leading to over-simplification’ was its first sin, the second, more awful, ‘no man can write with authority on every aspect of even his own society’1. This ‘headlong mixture of opinions and sheer prejudices’ was a type of polemical con job by a ‘clean sweeper’.2 John Pringle, the long-standing editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, was critical of the ‘scorn’ Horne poured on ‘Australian politicians, trade unionists, schoolteachers, dons, intellectuals, journalists and business’.3 The book’s ‘exasperating bias’ made matters ‘too easy’ and on some matters it was ‘wrong-headed and ill-informed’.4 The source of such ‘exasperating bias’ was a trickier matter.5
One reviewer argued these were the typical opinions of ‘an extreme right-winger’, while another thought them suited to a ‘republican, pro-American, working-class, left-of-centre journalist’.6 Beyond these disagreements came consensus: Australian life was a knottier problem than Horne’s critical rhetoric suggested.
Australia’s reading public tended to disagree. In nine short days in December 1964 The Lucky Country‘s first print run of 18,000 copies had completely sold out.7 Within eighteen months a staggering 82,159 copies were sold, reaching a breakneck rate of 3500 sold each month, with a total of 120,000 sold by January 1968.8 These enthusiastic book-buyers also wrote adoring letters to Horne, many of which he collected. Their overwhelming sentiment was a simple one: ‘I agreed with every word.’9 Instead of a book filled with easy stereotypes they praised The Lucky Country as ‘honest and fair’.10 They welcomed it as a ‘serious social appraisal of Australian life which rides above chauvinistic or provincial sentiment’ and found it ‘exhilarating to be present at such a rare dissection of the country’.11 To these readers The Lucky Country seemed to have ‘expressed opinions which I felt but hadn’t put into words, and my thoughts are now more coherent thanks to you’.12 A particular rallying point was Horne’s ‘recurring emphasis on the mediocrity of our leaders’, as one reader put it, ‘How bloody true.’13 These readers and letter-writers, unlike Horne’s critics, thought the book was the opposite of a polemical ‘con job’ but rather, serious, honest and true. These were two very different opinions.
The reception of one of Australia’s most famous books was so divided it is as though it was published in two different countries, but, like most Australian nationalist texts at the time, The Lucky Country was at the centre of a fierce contest. The different visions of Australian life these texts presented courted controversy and, more often than not, were subject to fervent debates on the pages of daily newspapers and in the newly established intellectual magazines. John Pringle’s own analysis of local life Australian Accent was another site of critical derision, with the academic Hugo Wolfsohn describing it ‘as the most complete collection of stereotypes about this country ever published’.14 Over time, however, The Lucky Country’s reputation has moved closer to the view of Horne’s doting readers than to that of his hostile critics.
In the five decades since The Lucky Country first reached Australian bookshops it has often been praised as ‘an uncomfortably frank, sweeping and caustic portrait of Australian society’.15 As one commentator recently put it, The Lucky Country ‘had the effect Horne wanted—it shook Australians out of their complacency and started a national conversation’.16 While this analysis is a common one, a curious thing has happened. The vast changes that Horne, with the careful antennae of a magazine editor, sought to describe are now regularly attributed to him. If anything The Lucky Country is better understood as the expression of changes already underway in Australian life rather than their source.
Horne’s book did not shift Australia’s cultural and political identity on its own. While Horne sought to influence the changes washing through Australian national life at the time, he did little to instigate them. Rather, these changes were, if anything, the product of Australia’s continuing disentanglement from Britain, a process that James Curran, Neville Meaney, and Stuart Ward have convincingly shown was a source of national and political anxieties from the start of the 1950s.17 Horne was attempting to engage with these anxieties in The Lucky Country and did so while advancing his own set of ideas about what made Australia unique.
The dominant view, however—that Horne changed a nation over a summer—still proves a hardy perennial. This is in part due to Horne’s own interventions. Horne was assiduous in this regard and from February 1965 worked to protect his reputation and that of The Lucky Country. The narrative Horne favoured was of him writing alone over six weeks a book that reinvented a country. This desire by an author to protect his most famous book is understandable. But Horne’s interventions, apart from adding to the mythology that surrounds the book, have distorted the historical record. The Lucky Country more closely resembles a group exercise. Viewing Horne’s book in the context in which it was produced helps to show that Horne, far from the solitary genius, worked over a number of years with his publishers Max Harris and Geoffrey Dutton. The three wanted to advance a set of ideas about what made Australia unique, at a time when it looked like such interventions could prove influential.
More importantly, however, Horne’s interventions about his first book have contributed to a powerful, and distorting, set of assumptions about Australian culture and nationalism. These are as follows. If Australian culture changed dramatically in the 1960s, then a major cause, gauged by popular opinion, was The Lucky Country. If Horne alone wrote The Lucky Country, and did so in only six weeks, then it is a fair conclusion to reach that intellectuals, acting by themselves, influence and shape Australian national culture and identity. The Australian public’s subsequent widespread apathy towards nationalism, the best representation of which is the popular rejection of the republic, is then a failure of an Australian elite to foist nationalism onto an unwilling populace. These assumptions have affected cultural arguments about Australian nationalism on both the right and the left for decades.
If we are to correct the narrative of how The Lucky Country was produced, and bring it closer to the facts, some of these assumptions about Australian nationalism become less persuasive. Indeed the opposite becomes true. We can perhaps understand Australian nationalism as something else, something closer to a messy growth, constantly debated, fought over, and forever unresolved.
Much like the divide between the readers and the reviewers, there exist two narratives about The Lucky Country—Horne’s own and the one revealed by the historical record. Where these two lines meet is a place that is probably closest to the truth. But, like the great Renaissance paintings, that point remains unconfirmed, a blank spot at the heart of the canvas. These parallel lines reveal that The Lucky Country was far from a simple ‘con job’ but rather a living thing, tended to and fed, growing still, and in need of regular examination.
• • •
In Horne’s narrative The Lucky Country was a book that began as a series of ‘imaginary conversations’ he thought of himself, ‘arguing in my head with Henry Mayer, R.G. Menzies, John Anderson’.18 Sitting in his garden one warm Sydney Saturday summer afternoon, Horne ‘put a long, lined, foolscap writing pad on my knee, got out my felt pen and began writing a book about Australia’.19 In the course of ‘six weeks’ over the quiet summer of 1963–64, ‘at home, after dinner and over weekends’, Horne jotted out his book.20 In this version Horne is centre stage, dissecting his country, while his fellow citizens lazed about the beach.
This history of The Lucky Country was one Horne quickly aimed to establish. He wrote a pugilistic review of his reviewers in the Bulletin, letters to journalists and academics and, most tellingly, dictated an agreed history with his closest partners Dutton and Harris.21 The key to Horne’s early efforts resides in a document that he sent to Dutton a year or two after publishing The Lucky Country. This carefully typed two-page document with its 13 bullet points, numerous quotes and including photos, aimed to establish the story that would become commonplace in the years ahead. Horne with a keen acquisitive instinct also took care to arrange his Lucky Country papers in the State Library of New South Wales in accordance with the bullet points of the document, down to the individual quotes.
Yet, in a decision that is obscured by the vagaries of personal motivation and random chance, Horne failed to include this key document among his own papers. The unvarnished reality of The Lucky Country’s production shifts the narrative away from Horne’s and to a wider one. This counter-narrative relocates the book’s history from six weeks to several years and from Horne working alone to contributing to a group with a bold new agenda for Australia.
The Lucky Country began, if any book has a single beginning, many years earlier in a meeting between Horne and Harris.22 During one of his editorial meetings with Harris, who contributed to the Bulletin, they got onto the topic of future books. Harris the poet, bookseller, and recently appointed silent literary adviser to Penguin Australia, suggested Horne write one for them. Harris, having come of age in Mount Gambier as the Jewish son of a butcher, was an unlikely member of Australia’s literary establishment. He was an indefatigable journalist, cultural critic, editor of Australian Book Review and Australian Letters, and chairman of the influential ABC television series The Critics. Harris was also a close friend and collaborator with another influential member of Australia’s literary establishment, the academic and poet Geoffrey Dutton. Patrician, Oxford-educated, and resident of a vast family estate outside Adelaide, Dutton held the typical attributes of other members of his class, yet combined them with a radical embrace of modernism. This helped create, in these years at least, a closer partnership with Harris than with his fellow members of the Athenaeum Club. It was such a partnership of the radical and the patrician that it caught the attention of the British head of Penguin Books, Allen Lane, and eased his decision to select them to restart the Australian outpost of Penguin in February 1962. Along with Brian Stonier, the new managing director, these men would prove to have an enduring impact on Australia’s cultural life.
Harris’s meeting with Horne towards the end of 1962 was the flashing of a carefully crafted lure, with Harris suggesting to Horne he ‘write a book about Australia’.23 After reading Anatomy of Britain by the British journalist Anthony Sampson earlier in 1962, Harris and Dutton were on the lookout for a suitably critical book on Australia. While Anatomy of Britain had sold well, their interest in publishing an ‘Anatomy of Australia’ as they called it, was not purely commercial. Following the profound shifts in Australia’s relationship with Britain, Dutton and Harris were desperate to articulate a set of ideas about what made Australians unique.
The withdrawal of Britain from Australian interests—a steady progression but perceived as sudden—had a profound impact on Australia’s political identity. In the editorial pages of Australian newspapers this was perceived as a grave crisis. As one of Horne’s readers described it:
I sat on the beach near Wellington last Sunday with a friend who shares a doleful vision of the plight of the millions of quasi-Europeans left in these outposts of a vanished empire. The legions have been recalled. What must it have been like to have been a Roman in Gaul when that happened?24
Dutton and Harris were acutely conscious of the public crisis along with the opportunities it provided. Dutton wrote that ‘the recent body blows from the dear old Mother-country, like her zigzags over the Common Market or her requiring her so-called children to visit her through the aliens gate’ permitted Australians to reject ‘this patronising pseudo-patronage’, especially as it occurred ‘at a time when our national identity is at last emerging in full adult strength’.25 Harris would defend The Critics to the Australian Senate Committee on Television as part of ‘social philosophy’ that was ‘important in the largest national sense’. Harris argued that
With the problem of the years ahead, the potential European Common Market situation, and the need for Australia to develop new export and productive energies, a common belief in our mature nationhood and a unique culture of our own, is as much a practical requisite for the future as economic and industrial planning.26
For Dutton and Harris a book that could address these concerns was vital, as was an author they could rely on to advance their ideas about the reality of Australia’s national identity. Suspicious of the common myths of Australian identity, they sought to replace them with a view of Australian life that was realistic and distinctive. Harris would argue that the bush myth, as popularised by historians such as Russel Ward, was ‘an invented mythology of the Australian character’ and that this ‘brand of national romanticism’ was, damningly, ‘untrue of our present civilisation’.27 Dutton shared this disaffection and despaired at Australia’s British trappings, writing:
In the flat model town of Elizabeth the only high spots
Two blocks of flats, are called Oxford and Cambridge;
The streets are Somerset and Kent, the airfield Edinburgh.
(Is there a single street in all Australia
Called after an artist, a poet, or a scientist?)
My country, my country, what can you call your own?’28
For these men such myths obscured ‘the fact’, in Harris’s words, ‘that Australia is one of the most highly urbanised countries on earth’. Harris went on to argue that ‘Australians live in an enormous suburbia … the variations of which are matters of income and affluence rather than manners and values.’29 The uniformity of Australian life, in Dutton and Harris’s view, had bred a certain philosophical uniformity. The average Australian suburbanite, Harris would argue, deals ‘humanistically with anything which comes within reach of his direct experience’.30 Such reasoned cynicism even helped Australia to avoid most populist ideologies with Harris writing that the ‘Australian finds it difficult to go in for consistent self-delusion’.31 These values were described as those of a unique Australian ‘liberal-humanism’.
To oppose these values, Dutton wrote, stood a minatory ‘they’, the conservative ‘old men’ and ‘antique institutions’ that governed Australian life. ‘“They” will not budge, and even the bases of our national identity are not serious enough for us to bother about.’32
To Dutton and Harris, Donald Horne, despite his conservatism and close association with one of the ‘old men’ in Frank Packer, appeared an intellectual ally. As editor of the Observerand the Bulletin Horne derided Australia’s ‘public images of life’ as ‘freakishly irrelevant’ and described the bush myth as ‘little more than an outrageous literary hoax’.33 Horne would also go on, in The Lucky Country, to praise the phrase ‘Fair go, mate’ as a summation of the ‘ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’ and describe suburban Australian scepticism as ‘a genuine philosophy of life’.34 For Horne, like Dutton and Harris, the values of ‘the established rhetoricians and ideology makers of Australia’ were ‘a third-rate imitation of the paternalistic postures of the nineteenth century British upper class’.35 For Horne this was a matter that reached beyond matters of national necessity but closer to a matter of faith. Many years later in his final book, Dying: A Memoir, Horne would write that ‘everyone has faiths of some kind—without them we can’t think or act’, defending his own as those of a ‘secular, liberal humanist’ reinforced thanks to a ‘strong belief in Australian humanism’, as it was ‘a humanism without doctrines’.36 It is unsurprising then that midway through 1962 Dutton had written that the Bulletin, under Horne’s editorship, ‘presents a point of view that needs to be presented in our confused society’.37
These three men were closely bound in a revivalist fervour over the characteristics of the new Australia. To them, the sudden upheaval of Australia’s relationship with Britain required a similar cultural revolution, one that depended on clearing away the old myths and instead promoting the realities of Australian life. In this light we can understand why Harris approached Horne. Here was a promising writer, with similar views, who could help to articulate this new Australia. Their confidence was based on the nature of the dramatic changes then sweeping through Australia’s book and magazine publishing industries. Beginning in about 1954 there was a new set of coordinated investments, technologies, training and a new burgeoning middle-class audience that profoundly transformed Australia’s cultural industries. These changes affected Australian magazines and publishing in enduring ways.
Between 1954 and 1964, 15 new local magazines were added to the existing Australian market, most with a national distribution and some with regular readerships as high as 40,000. Several were created by Australia’s largest media organisations in Consolidated Press and Fairfax, in competition with one another, and all relied on the skills of a new group of educated, professionally experienced and middle-class journalists, academics and publishers. Each of these new magazines revelled in ‘a much more confident sense of an Australian national tradition’, and were often targeted at the new postwar generation of educated, urban readers.38
At the same time, Australian publishing was transformed. Between 1961 and 1965 the total value of domestic publishing doubled, did so again by 1970 and doubled once more by 1979.39 The number of books published by Australian firms increased from 612 in 1961 to 2790 in 1981.40 The Australian Book Publishers Association reflected these changes, with its membership increasing from 37 in 1960 to 61 by 1971.41 Representative of these industry-wide changes was the unexpected success of They’re a Weird Mob, a book that The Lucky Country was often compared to. Although John O’Grady initially struggled to find a publisher, once Ure Smith agreed to publish it, Weird Mob became an immediate popular success, with 300,000 copies sold by 1960.42 Such popularity was unprecedented in Australian publishing.
Australian books were also now also treated more seriously. The establishment of the Miles Franklin Award in 1957 marked a point of serious appreciation of domestic content.43 Many of the books that proved popular in this period closely resembled The Lucky Country in presenting critical examinations of Australian politics and culture. These were books such as Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness, Manning Clark’s six-volume History of Australia, and Geoffrey Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance. As David Carter has argued, they were ‘not just new books but new kinds of books in the local marketplace: intellectually driven, mostly from authors with a university education’.44 Allen Lane, along with Dutton and Harris, was finely attuned to these changes in Australian publishing, with Lane writing to his editor in chief W.E. Williams in 1961 that ‘Australia is about to emerge, speaking from a publishing point-of-view, into a creative phase in place of an absorbent one.’ 45
These changes were vital to The Lucky Country’s production, along with a range of factors including able publishers attuned to the local market, nationwide publication, international finance, a mass audience and, most importantly, a popular interest in critical books about Australia.
Right! Okay! Forward!
Horne, entangled in his duties as a senior copywriter for Jackson Wain, was slow to rise to Harris’s ‘original bait’ and only confirmed his interest in writing such a book in January 1963.46 Dutton, however, was ‘immediately enthusiastic’, writing to Horne: ‘I hear from Max that you have an idea for a Penguin. It seems a damn good one to me.’ 47 Dutton would write to Horne with ‘just a suggestion, very vague at this stage’, that he would do well to follow something ‘after the style of Anthony Sampson’s Anatomy of Britain’. Such an approach, he promised, would yield ‘some very interesting results’. Dutton proposed ‘a book of 70,000–80,000 words’ and supported Horne’s idea of ‘chapters on the suburbs and on changing Australian attitudes’. With such encouragement Horne sent Dutton and Stonier a copy of his synopsis for the proposed ‘Anatomy of Australia’ in May 1963. Dutton replied that such a proposal appeared ‘extremely interesting’ and could prove ‘successful and important’.48 The contracts were eventually exchanged in October 1963 and their terms stayed faithful to Dutton’s initial suggestions to Horne.49
Although this seems like a smooth sequence, the lived experience was far less certain. Horne was preoccupied with his new job, Stonier with juggling the difficult early years of Penguin Australia, and Dutton, despite his six months overseas that year teaching at the University of Kansas, was able to guide the development of what was at best a promising idea. Conveying his enthusiasm to Horne and Stonier, while shaping the book’s style, length and focus, Dutton was at this point the driving force in the development of The Lucky Country.
With a contract, a plan and a quiet summer, along with the attendant promise of quiet afternoons at the office, all that was left for Horne was to write it. Horne had written two half-finished unpublished novels and, despite later breezy assurances, must have felt some anxiety on starting such an ambitious project. But beginning in November 1963 Horne wrote with the bloody-minded dedication that characterises the efforts of any author, and took until the start of April 1964 to finish his most famous book.50 The Lucky Country went through four painful drafts, with nearly every paragraph, sentence and chapter heading rewritten, removed and occasionally reinserted.51 This relentless drafting was vital, with many of the key phrases and the easy style only emerging during the third and fourth drafts. The final version, typed up by a secretary at Jackson Wain, was sent off to Penguin in April 1964, and with it Horne’s hopes.
Dutton, on receiving the final manuscript, wrote to Horne that he was elated, ‘the book is extremely good, and it reads as if you had quite grown into it as you wrote it’. The exposure of ‘faults and absurdities in our national set-up’, along with Horne’s suggestion of ‘new ways of looking at things and new things to look at’, delighted Dutton, who promised Horne that his book would reach ‘a very wide audience’, while provoking a ‘tremendous amount of discussion and argument’. Dutton also suggested to Horne that the best title ‘is that you’ve given to the last section of the book—The Lucky Country’.52 This was a book that provoked genuine excitement at Penguin, with Dutton writing to Stonier, ‘I feel sure we have a winner here.’ With a ‘crash job on publishing it’ Penguin could produce something that was ‘the particular book for a particular time’.53
Despite Dutton’s enthusiasm there was the very real danger that Penguin’s general manager, Tony Godwin, would block the book’s publication. He remained suspicious of ‘this colonial outcrop’ and was inclined to refuse ‘any book by an Australian’.54 This was a dangerous game. Unless Harmondsworth (head office of Penguin Books in Britain) took 10,000 copies of each book, Penguin Australia were often unable to afford the publication costs on their own. Dutton’s warm endorsement of The Lucky Country, which he sent attached to the manuscript in May, was met with silence.55 Replying in mid June, Godwin rejected The Lucky Country and instead suggested Penguin commission a new book, preferably an Australian version of John Gunthor’s 591-page Inside Russia.56 Dutton was incensed and demanded Godwin reconsider, describing the exchange as ‘the most extraordinary correspondence’.57 With no news from Harmondsworth and the publication window for The Lucky Country slipping away, Dutton and Stonier decided to publish the book ‘right away and just hope Harmondsworth will come to the party’.58 This was a high-stakes gamble for Penguin Australia. If The Lucky Country had been a commercial failure, the financial strain would have threatened to sink the company; if the book sold well, they would have struggled to print more copies, threatening the firm’s profitability.
Their decision remains a testament to the efforts of Dutton and the sense of national importance that was attached to The Lucky Country. To mitigate the financial risk and resolve the impasse, Dutton also wrote a pleading letter to Lane. ‘I feel very strongly that a visit from you is badly needed at this moment’, to which Lane grudgingly acquiesced.59 Dutton, worried he would be dismissed due to his dispute with Godwin, was determined not to ‘let Lane get away without his supporting The Lucky Country’. What followed were a series of presumably drunken lunches at Dutton’s estate at Alanby, where, bit by bit, he convinced Lane ‘to take fifteen thousand copies of the book’.60 A testament to Dutton’s skill and determination as a publisher, this act of persuasion was also a high-wire act. Lane had agreed to visit Australia only two weeks prior to the planned release of The Lucky Country, and Dutton was only able to convince Lane with 12 days left. It is to Australia’s enduring benefit that he did.
As Dutton had written in April 1964, The Lucky Country promised ‘happy hours for all the TV and radio boys, and many inches of discussion space in the newspapers’.61 Most of these ‘happy hours’ were ones engineered by Dutton, Stonier and Harris, the ‘brilliant publicist’.62
Harris, in his first act, levered his position as a weekly columnist for the recently established newspaper the Australian to arrange a serialisation of the most controversial chapters of The Lucky Country. Appearing in the days prior to the book’s publication under the title ‘The book all Australia will be talking about tomorrow’, this serialisation was uncommon for an Australian book in the period, and proved a handy swish of the red flag to the ‘newspaper boys’.63 In his column for the Australian, Harris described a ‘new and unexpected Donald Horne, studiously aware of his own prejudices, and with a deadly eye for the faults and foibles of the Australian way of life’, a quote that was duly printed on the cover of subsequent editions of the book. This artful dodge by Harris, that he was surprised that an author he’d recommended had written a book he’d proposed, was a demonstration of Harris’s resolve to ensure The Lucky Country’s public success.
Dutton also arranged for a short piece on The Lucky Country to be screened on the recently established Four Corners program, a piece that was followed by a live in-studio debate between Horne, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph Cyril Pearl, and businessman Keith Campbell.64 Despite his hand in these arrangements Harris had to feign ignorance in order to have a panel review of The Lucky Country appear on his own show The Critics, as Four Corners was disinclined to report on books reviewed on other ABC shows. Capitalising on the book’s popularity, Harris and Dutton also arranged for the now famous Albert Tucker cover of The Lucky Country to double as the front page of the December edition of Australian Book Review.65 To add to this they arranged a review competition with an offer of publication and £50 for the best reader-submitted reviews, both for and against the book. Although this was, in Max Harris’s words, ‘a publisher’s gimmick’, such efforts helped boost The Lucky Country‘s popularity.66 Alongside such gimmicks, and thanks to their informal networks, Dutton and Harris were also able to arrange for a review of The Lucky Country to appear in nearly every Australian magazine, journal and newspaper by the end of 1964.
In ensuring the impact, controversy and, to some extent, popularity of The Lucky Country Dutton, Harris and Stonier are owed their due credit. Working together they managed to help realise what still remains a publishing coup.
The story of The Lucky Country then is one with several parts. We have Horne the author who, over four exhausting months, managed to produce a book of remarkable clarity, wit and style. Yet at the time he was a writer, without a book to his name, selected and guided by his publishers Dutton and Harris. Their intention was to see articulated a set of ideas about what made Australians unique, and chose Horne as they suspected, correctly, that he shared their ideals. Their efforts to support this ambition were extensive, and they worked long hours and at great commercial risk to sponsor, develop and effectively publicise what would become one of their greatest triumphs. However, these men were only able to publish a book like The Lucky Country, from an author such as Horne, due to the profound changes that swept through Australian publishing in the decade prior to 1964.
This narrative, diverging from Horne’s in a number of ways, repositions the book as the product of a group effort, galvanised by a shared ideal: the articulation of what made Australia unique. This was a nationalist ambition hidden in the language of liberalism, a liberalism suspicious of any old ideological commitments. The implications of this narrative help undermine some of the treasured assumptions of Australian nationalism in the period.
Rather than authors working alone, in the imagined heritage of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson, we have in this example a group relying on their mutual talents to reach an articulation of a new Australia. They were drawn to the necessity of such actions not out their own perverse desires but by out of a sense of national ‘crisis’. Such crises required an articulation of what made Australians unique, an assertion of a national identity. This was not a top-down endeavour.
Such nationalistic endeavours were driven and encouraged by a new well-educated middle-class audience. They were the ones who bought the books and magazines and tended to agree that Australia’s elites were ineffective. This opinion was widespread but not uniform. Many disagreed with these ideas and sought to articulate their own visions of Australia. Rather than an ideology imposed, we have a civil society where ideas, even necessary national ones, were contested. This messy reality is a long way from Horne’s story with its tenacious assumptions, but it also diverges from the often cited metaphor of Australia’s ‘maturity’.
Many years later Horne was still troubled by the question that he thought was at the heart of The Lucky Country: ‘how do we talk about Australia now’.67 While he would describe how ‘The Lucky Country opened out a more credible Australia. One that included me’, over the five decades since, that key question has become more thornily contested.68 Horne too would eventually prove a victim of this contest. Decrying the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975 with The Death of the Lucky Country, more on the grounds of British interference than in support of Whitlam’s left-wing politics, Horne was excommunicated by some his closest and oldest friends, including the conservative poet James McAuley. They did so one would imagine from a sense of betrayal, of a friend selling out on his principles. But despite Horne’s earlier keen conservatism, when it came to a matter that was of national importance he no doubt thought had no option but to act.
In some ways this is unsurprising. Horne was a complicated man. In the same sentence two contradictory things were often true of him. He was generous to friends and scathing with those he disagreed. He became a prominent republican, but only after first standing as a Conservative candidate in Britain. He enjoyed sustained, substantial professional success, yet also wrote about his struggle with deep personal anxieties. The fault lines in Horne’s personality ran deep.
Horne remembered, only a year after the publication of The Lucky Country, how he felt trapped in an ‘advancing despair at what I was engaged in’. He thought of himself as ‘a court jester. A hireling’ and sought to numb this pain through ‘long, forlorn, lonely walks through back streets sloping down to the Harbour, sometimes to Luna Park, to contemplate the hopefulness of folly, more often to the gasworks, for images of desolation’.69 These divisions in Horne’s personality were best manifested in the autobiographical division of himself into ‘D.R. Horne’ and ‘Young Donald’. In Horne’s own words:
As part of the general D.R. Horne public-address system, I preferred to be implacable, idealistically unconcerned with reactions to what I was saying, having in any case been taught that one could never accurately estimate the results of any action. In my Young Donald conversational style I might sometimes be more conciliatory, bilingual like a politician, disclaiming the excesses of my own public style in the interests of private conversation.70
Young Donald and D.R. Horne were forces in regular contest in Horne’s life. Once we are aware of these two parts of Horne’s personality, we can better make sense of some of the complexities and stop-start gaps in his life. We can understand why he felt compelled to provoke, to say something that mattered, no matter the cost. But these were not his sole defining characteristics.
Much as how the twin histories of The Lucky Country help to make sense of the book and shed some light on Australian nationalism, the two parts of Horne’s character help to form a more realistic whole, a sense that, when they are combined, we can see the depths and contradictions in his life. But that bit in between, where the lines finally met, is a point forever outside our grasp. For someone like Horne such simple conclusions are a folly, a quixotic attempt to make comprehensible what remain unresolved stories and divided lives.
- Harold Kippax, ‘Australians: Lucky or unlucky?’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 1964.
- Geoffrey Hutton, ‘The Lucky Country, Australia in the Sixties’, Walkabout, vol. 31, no. 6 (June 1965), p. 49.
- Kippax, ‘Australians: Lucky or unlucky?’.
- Gerald Mayhead, ‘Jolly for Australia’, Age, 16 December 1964; John Pringle, ‘Review: The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 11, no. 2 (August 1965), p. 253; Allen Brown to Robert Menzies, 1 June 1965, quoted in Allen W. Martin, Robert Menzies: A Life, Volume 2, 1944–1978, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1999, p. 505; and M. Clausen, ‘Donald Horne Finds Asia’, in A. Sobocinska and D. Walker (eds), Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century, University of Western Australia Publishing, Perth, 2012, p. 302.
- Mayhead, ‘Jolly for Australia’.
- Judah Waten, ‘Literary Comment,’ MLMSS 3525, MLK 02175, R-1, ‘Reviews of The Lucky Country’, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney; Mayhead, ‘Jolly for Australia.
- Brian Stonier to Keith Rivett, cc: Donald Horne, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-19, 1964–1976, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- John Mitchie to Donald Horne, 3 May 1966, 21 May 1965 and 12 January 1968, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-19, 1964–1976, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Massey Stanley to Donald Horne, 8 December 1964, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-20, ‘Readers’ Letters about The Lucky Country’ 1964–1969, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Jack Boucher to Donald Horne, 29 January 1966, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-20, Donald Horne Papers.
- Boucher to Horne, 29 January 1966; George Lynch to Donald Horne, 18 February 1966, ‘Readers’ Letters about The Lucky Country’ 1964–1969.
- Gwen Spicer to Donald Horne, 20 May 1966, ‘Readers’ Letters about The Lucky Country’ 1964–1969.
- Clive (unknown last name) to Donald Horne, 10 February 1966, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-20, Donald Horne Papers.
- Hugo Wolfsohn, ‘The Ideology Makers’, Dissent, vol. 4, no. 2 (Winter 1964), p. 8.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National, ‘The Lucky Country 50 Years On’, <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/the-lucky-country%C2%A050-years-on/5710724>, accessed 10 December 2015.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘The Lucky Country 50 Years On’.
- James Curran and Stuart Ward, The Unknown Nation: Australia after Empire, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2010; Deryck Schreuder and Stuart Ward, Australia’s Empire, Oxford University Press, London, 2008; Stuart Ward, Australia and the British Embrace: The Demise of the Imperial Ideal, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2001; Neville Meaney, ‘Britishness and Australian Identity: The Problem of Nationalism in Australian History and Historiography’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 32, no. 116 (2001), pp. 76–90.
- Donald Horne, Into the Open, Memoirs 1958–1999, HarperCollins, Sydney, 2000, p. 128.
- Donald Horne, On How I Came to Write ‘The Lucky Country’, Melbourne University Press Masterworks, Melbourne, 2006, p. 125.
- Australian Biography, ‘Donald Horne: Full Interview Transcript’, <http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/horne/interview4.html>, accessed 20 January 2015; Horne, Into the Open, p. 128.
- Donald Horne, ‘Who Am I? Reviewing the Reviewers’, Bulletin, 13 February 1965, p. 34; Donald Horne to Geoffrey Dutton, 30 November, uncertain year, MS7285/4/13, Box 25, ‘Penguin Books Correspondence September–December 1964’, Geoffrey Dutton Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
- Horne, Into the Open, p. 128.
- Horne, On how I Came to Write ‘The Lucky Country’, p. 125.
- John O’Shea to Donald Horne, 15 March 1965, ‘Readers’ Letters about The Lucky Country’ 1964–1969.
- Geoffrey Dutton, ‘The British Subject’, Nation, 6 April 1963, p. 15.
- Max Harris to Australian Senate Committee on Television, C1574, TV12/2/8, The Critics.
- Max Harris, ‘Morals and Manners’, in Peter Coleman (ed.), Australian Civilisation: A Symposium, F.W. Cheshire, Sydney, 1962, pp. 50, 53.
- Geoffrey Dutton, ‘Thoughts, Home from Abroad,’ Overland, no. 29 (April 1964), p. 14.
- Harris, ‘Morals and Manners’, p. 50.
- Donald Horne, The Lucky Country, Penguin, Melbourne 1964, p. 210.
- Harris, ‘Morals and Manners’, p. 53.
- Geoffrey Dutton, ‘Under Old Management: The Myth of Australia “Young and Free”’, Nation, 19 October 1963, p. 7.
- Horne, The Lucky Country, p. 215; Donald Horne ‘How to hoax the English, and the Australians’, Observer, 12 November 1960.
- Horne, The Lucky Country, pp. 9, 20.
- Horne, The Lucky Country, pp. 145, 183.
- Donald Horne, Dying: A Memoir, Penguin, Melbourne, 2009, p. 242.
- Geoffrey Dutton, ‘A Bulletin for a Nation’, Australian Book Review, vol. 1, no. 10 (August 1962), p. 128.
- David Carter and Roger Osborne, ‘Periodicals’, in Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahan-Bright (eds), Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia 1946–2005, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 2006, p. 252.
- Alan Lawson, ‘The Recognition of National Literatures: The Canadian and Australian Examples’ (unpublished PhD), Department of English, University of Queensland, 1987, p. 180; quoted in The Oxford Literary History of Australia, Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Strauss (eds) and Chris Wallace-Crabbe (assoc. ed.), Oxford University Press, London, 1998, p. 212.
- Lawson, ‘The Recognition’.
- Craig Munro and John Curtain, ‘After the War’, in Munro and Sheahan-Bright (eds), Paper Empires, p. 5.
- David Carter, ‘They’re a Weird Mob and Ure Smith’, in Munro and Sheahan-Bright (eds), Paper Empires, p. 24.
- ‘Novel wins £500 prize’, Canberra Times, 3 April 1958.
- David Carter, ‘Publishing, Patronage and Cultural Politics. Institutional Changes in the Field of Australian Literature from 1950’, in Peter Pierce (ed.), The Cambridge History of Australian Literature, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2009, p. 373.
- Brigid Magner, ‘Anglo-Australian Relations in the Book Trade’, in Munro and Sheahan-Bright (eds),Paper Empires, p. 9.
- Max Harris to Donald Horne, 29 January 1963, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-18, 1963–1964, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Harris to Horne, 29 January 1963; Geoffrey Dutton to Donald Horne, 24 January 1963, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-18, 1963–1964, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Donald Horne, 25 March, 30 April and 29 May 1963, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-18, 1963–1964, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Brian Stonier to Donald Horne, 14 October 1963, MLMSS 3525, MLK 02135, L-18, 1963–1964, Donald Horne Papers.
- Australian Biography, ‘Donald Horne: Full Interview Transcript’.
- See MLMSS 3525 MLK 02158, PM-LC 1 to PM-LC 4, Donald Horne Papers, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Donald Horne, 17 April 1964.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Brian Stonier, 17 April 1964, MS7385/4/11, ‘Penguin Books, Correspondence, Jan–April 1964’, Geoffrey Dutton Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
- Horne, Into the Open, p. 250.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Tony Godwin, 7 May 1964, MS7285/4/12, ‘Penguin Books, Correspondence, May–August 1964’, Geoffrey Dutton Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
- Dutton to Godwin, 16 June 1964.
- Dutton to Stonier, 25 June 1964, MS7285/4/12, ‘Penguin Books, Correspondence, May–August 1964’, Geoffrey Dutton Papers, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
- Dutton to Horne, 6 August 1964.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Allen Lane, 21 August 1964, MS7285/4/12, ‘Penguin Books, Correspondence, May–August 1964’.
- Geoffrey Dutton, Out in the Open: An Autobiography, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1994, p. 295.
- Geoffrey Dutton to Brian Stonier, 17 April 1964.
- Geoffrey Dutton, ‘The Public and the Private Max’, Overland, no. 139 (1995).
- Donald Horne, ‘The Lucky Country’, Australian, 2 December, 1964, p. 11.
- ABC, ‘Four Corners: The Lucky Country’, transcript of program aired 5 December 1964, C475, 1088697, Four Corners Correspondence, National Archives of Australia, Sydney.
- Australian Book Review vol. 4, nos 2–3 (December–January 1964–1965).
- Australian Book Review, vol. 4, no. 4 (February 1965); Harris, ‘Browsing with Max Harris: A Horne of Plenty’, p. 10.
- Horne, Into the Open, p. 165.
- Horne, Into the Open, p. 131.
- Horne, Into the Open, p. 92.
- Donald Horne, The Education of Young Donald, Sun Books, Melbourne, 1968, p. 312.