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This review is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

WINTER AT THE HEART OF PRAISE James McAuley: Poetry, essays and personal commentary edited by Leonie Kramer (University of Queensland Press)
Vivian Smith, Selected Poems (Angus & Robertson)

James McAuley (1917-76) was one of the foremost intellectuals of the Australian right in the post-War period. Catholic, pro-traditional, anti-subjective, he founded Sydney's Encounter-lookalike Quadrant in 1956, published his study The End of Modernity in 1959, and by the time of his death had produced a substantial and coherent oeuvre in poetry and prose. Dame Leonie's selection, equipped with a useful introduction and notes, includes over sixty poems and seventeen essays and extracts, and gives an excellent impression of McAuley's diversity.

The prose McAuley, with his advocacy of élites, his insistence that "egalitarianism is the enemy of liberty and fraternity and of quality", and his contempt for "those who imagine that secularist thought can originate anything", often makes a prickly impression. McAuley was a man of passionate principle, and the problem with passionate principles is that they produce over-combative, polemical writing. It may be true (and not even necessarily a bad thing) that "we are not going to get anything like a Paradise Lost or a Paradise Regained in the mental climate of Comte or Marx or Bertrand Russell or John Dewey", but when McAuley's disdain of the poetry of 'Latterday Leftism' impels him to damn the work of the earlier Australian poet Bernard O'Dowd as "a cloaca maxima into which has flowed all the ideological drivel of the nineteenth century" we hear that shrill hysteria, that "condemnatory and abusive approach", which Judith Wright regretted as being "of no use at all to the spirit faced with ...


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