The Legend of The Nineties
In this book, first published in 1954, Vance Palmer argues against the accepted notion that the Australian culture was first formed and given voice in the final years of the 19th century.
He names and states the poets and writers, the social changes and ideals that took place before the mythical 1890's in which, it has been long held, Australia gathered together to become one nation.
By the 1890's the land boom had stolen people's sanity and money; Federation was on the agenda alongside starving under a humpy on the track. Hard times brought out the determined, the poets and wordsmiths, others who focused their energies on uniting all the colonies into a single country with it's own government.
Some felt the rag tag rabble of disjointed colonial laws and services had contributed to the wild, unchecked land speculation that preceded the 1890's and saw Federation as one way of stopping these practices from happening again.
The proud prose of, often, destitute poets sometimes made people stand a little straighter; the cheery laconic tales from Outback chased worry lines from work-worn faces for brief moments.
The overall message, inevitably, became "we're Australian and we're down but not out", encouraging hope and faith in improved conditions.
The Legend of The Nineties was created for a purpose but Vance Palmer gently and affectionately proves we were a proud nation before we even thought of ourselves as one.
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