By Jane Gleeson-White
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Additional resources for Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works
And so he randomly takes a volume of his Letts diary and opens it at Sunday 9 September 1883. He then proceeds in the first chapter to tell the stories of that day, which begin with a group of bullockies paused on the road, drinking tea and discussing the most pressing question of the day: where to find grass for their beasts, ‘a vital question in ’83, you may remember’ (it was a year of drought). Collins intersperses his road stories with ruminations on literature, science, history, religion, politics, music—and any other subject that crosses his omnivorous and opinionated mind.
During the centenary celebrations of British settlement in Australia in 1888, the Bulletin protested: ‘The day which inaugurated a reign of slavery and loathsomeness and moral leprosy—is the occasion for which we are called upon to rejoice with an exceeding great joy. Yet there might be a palliation even for this, if Australia could show that she had shaken off the old fetters and the old superstitions of that dark era . . ’ The Bulletin’s most vigorous years spanned the period from 1890 to the First World War.
In 1880 he left school to train as a solicitor, and also wrote poetry and journalism. The first poem to appear under the name ‘The Banjo’ was published in the Bulletin in 1886: ‘The Bushfire—an Allegory’, written in support of Irish Home Rule. The same year his poem ‘A Dream of the Melbourne Cup’ appeared. It prompted a meeting with the Bulletin’s visionary editor JF Archibald, who wanted to find out if Paterson knew anything about the bush, a favourite Bulletin theme. When he heard Paterson had grown up in the bush, Archibald said: ‘All right.