AT LAST here is the rather long promised Bulletin issue of Biblionews. The Bulletin was not, of course, a book, but a magazine that started life in Sydney in 1888, became an icon of what might be called ‘Australianism’, was in many ways influential in the development of Australian literature till it changed its nature and became a ‘glossy’ at the beginning of the 1960s and died altogether at the beginning of 2008. This being our last 2008 issue of Biblionews, it seemed appropriate to give the Bulletin central billing before the year of its demise expires.
Norman Hetherington, known in Bulletin circles as “Heth”, opens the issue with his insider’s view of The Bulletin. This was to have been a talk given to the Society’s Annual General Meeting in September 2008, but because of appalling weather and a major fire on one of Sydney’s arterial roads the formal meeting was aborted and an informal meeting held on the day for those few who turned up anyway. (As we had advised Norman not to come, I stepped in there with a last minute half-baked talk, which, if I can complete the baking, may be published in a later issue.) Since the December meeting was a Show and Tell one without a main speaker, I asked Norman to submit the talk he would have given for publication in our Bulletin issue anyway, and that he has done. My thanks go to his wife Margaret and to Richard Blair for assisting in getting it from handwritten via typewritten to word processed form. Unfortunately, Richard emailed it to me as a ‘.docx’ attachment, which I did not attempt to download until he had departed for a month in South Africa, and no matter how I tried I could not download it in a form that allowed me to edit it. (Please, dear contributors, don’t email me attachments in any but ‘.doc’, ‘.rtf’ or ‘.jpg’ form while ever I am still your computer-challenged editor!) I was only able to unravel things in a roundabout and time-consuming way that included, inter alia, the use of pen and paper.
Richard himself has provided us with a talk he gave to the Society about his father Jim Blair’s time as an employee of The Bulletin. It is based very much on work he and especially his brother David were to publish, and in the meantime have published, in the form of a commentated anthology of his writings, along with a couple of items by their mother Phyllis. An advertisement for the book has appeared in earlier issues and it is still available for purchase. Helen Kenny, herself a Sydney journalist over a considerable period of the The Bulletin’s existence, even though she worked for other publications, has provided us with a review of the Blair book.
The publishing firm of Angus & Robertson was closely associated with many of the writers for The Bulletin, not least among them the poet and short story writer Henry Lawson. Antonia Gilbert has given us in her talk to the June 2008 meeting of the Society somewhat of an insider’s view of the “Old Firm” from the time when she worked as secretary to Dr (later Professor) Colin Roderick, one the earliest serious academic researchers into Australian literature.
As well as Helen Kenny’s review, I have included a review article by our reviewer par excellence Colin Steele that is not entirely without relevance to the Bulletin theme, since it contains amongst its four books a review of Brian Fletcher’s volume on the history of Sydney’s Mitchell Library. Emeritus Professor Brian Fletcher, was before his retirement the Foundation Bicentennial Professor of Australian History at the University of Sydney. I had meant to publish this review in 2007, the centenary year of the death of David Scott Mitchell, whose unrivalled collection of Australiana formed the basis of the library named after him, but owing to an oversight on my part it is only appearing now. Mitchell was a contemporary of many of The Bulletin’s more famous early writers, and one can be pretty sure that a complete run of the magazine is to be found within its walls.
The Notes & Queries section contains a further interesting item about our Bulletin man Heth, and again I have Richard Blair to thank for passing it on to me.
As has recently become customary, the minutes and reports from the year’s Annual General Meeting in Sydney, held exceptionally in December instead of September as already explained, are published for the benefit of the wider membership. It will be noted from what is said there that I am beginning my final year as the Society’s Publications Editor, after having taken up the position in 1992. But more of that another time perhaps.