AustLit logo
Date: 1965-1968
Date: 1957-1963
Issue Details: First known date: 1957... 1957 Australian Letters: A Quarterly Review of Writing and Criticism
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

In an attempt to produce an Australian literary magazine that avoided parochialism and engaged with international intellectual movements, Max Harris, Geoffrey Dutton and Bryn Davies founded Australian Letters in 1957. Funded primarily by advertisements, donations, subscriptions and sales, Australian Letters ran for ten years, strengthened by the unpaid labour of editors and staff.

The editors described the journal as 'determinedly non-academic and eclectic', avoiding parochialism by commissioning contributions from overseas writers. Overseas contributors included Frank Kermode, Lawrence Durrell, Richard Aldington, Roy Campbell and Philip Larkin. The magazine was, nevertheless, committed to fostering Australian writers and artists by 'trying to give expression to the general cultural vitality and variety of Australian life.' With a keen interest in art and poetry, the magazine commissioned a series of artist-poet collaborations, including contributions from Russell Drysdale and David Campbell, Donald Friend and Douglas Stewart, Leonard French and James McAuley, and Sidney Nolan and Randolph Stow. Dutton in his editorial in the final issue of Australian Letters refers to nineteen commissioned collaborations but only eighteen of these were published in Australian Letters where they were listed as forming part of a numbered series called Australian Poets and Artists. The collaboration between Tony Butt and Charles Blackman in vol.7, no.4 (1967) is not numbered; it may be this to which Dutton refers as the nineteenth collaboration but it was definitely not one of the official poet-artist collaborations and it is more likely to be an error on Dutton's part. Fiction in Australian Letters was dominated by extracts and short stories from Patrick White. Among other fiction writers, Frank Moorhouse and Peter Carey found a place in Australian Letters for their early work.

By 1968, the editors were preoccupied with other projects such as the Australian Book Review and decided that ten years of Australian Letters was 'long enough'. Ceasing production in January 1968, Australian Letters had provided a place for many of Australia's established and emerging writers to publish their works. A selection of these was collected in The Vital Decade: Ten Years of Australian Art and Letters. The annual anthology, Verse in Australia (1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961) was also produced under the auspices of Australian Letters, making a significant contribution to the promotion and development of Australian literature in the 1950s and 1960s.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1957

Works about this Work

Literary Journals and The ‘Monstrous Prevalence Of Poetesses’ Maggie Shapley , 2022 single work criticism
— Appears in: Axon : Creative Explorations , December vol. 12 no. 2 2022;
The Athens of the South Alison Broinowski , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Adelaide : A Literary City 2014; (p. 147-161)
Adelaide and the Country : The Literary Dimension Jill Roe , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Adelaide : A Literary City 2014; (p. 111-123)
Australian Letters and Postwar Modernity Susan Sheridan , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , vol. 23 no. 3 2008; (p. 264-278)
Opening the Pages : The Subsidized Journals, 1964-72 James McAuley , 1996 single work criticism
— Appears in: Writing in Hope and Fear : Literature as Politics in Postwar Australia 1996; (p. 158-177)
Australian Letters and Postwar Modernity Susan Sheridan , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , vol. 23 no. 3 2008; (p. 264-278)
y separately published work icon Out in the Open : An Autobiography Geoffrey Dutton , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 1994 Z91836 1994 single work autobiography '"I was born in a house of books."
'So begins this long-awaited autobiography, in which Geoffrey Dutton embarks on an honest, controversial and brilliantly entertaining journey through seventy crowded years.
'His unusual childhood was dominated by the lavish lives of his wealthy parents who collected houses as well as books, although young Geoffrey was despatched to boarding school at a young age while his mother traveled abroad to enjoy a flirtation with the European aristocracy.
'His real education came later, in wartime. I've joined the air force, and as well as embarking on various amorous adventures, his risky low flying antics had him promptly locked up in the "boob".
'During the war he also began publishing poetry and was closely associated with the modernist movement in art and literature. Later I studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, where CS Lewis was one of his tutors.
'Since then Geoffrey Dutton has become renowned as a poet, critic, biographer, publisher and editor. In this masterpiece of literary autobiography he traces many journeys, from his sojourn in Cold War crazy Kansas to a wild and wonderful visit to Russia as a hapless victim of Intourist. Other travels take him through the Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean.
'There are many intimate portraits of his sometimes volatile friends, among them the feisty Zhenya Yevtushenko, fellow flier David Campbell, Russell Drysdale, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, the precocious Robert Hughes, Ken Slessor, and Max Harris, eccentric survivor of "Ern Malley " Here too is the full story of the celebrated, quarter-century friendship with Patrick White which ended so bitterly.' (Publication summary)
The Little Magazine in the Twentieth Century Michael Denholm , 1988 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Book in Australia : Essays Towards a Cultural and Social History 1988; (p. 88-95)
Editorial Geoffrey Dutton , 1968 single work
— Appears in: Australian Letters , January vol. 8 no. 1 1968; (p. 3-4)
Angry Penguins and After : A Contribution to Our Literary History Max Harris , 1963 single work criticism
— Appears in: Quadrant , Summer vol. 7 no. 1 1963; (p. 5-10) Twentieth Century Australian Literary Criticism 1967; (p. 24)

PeriodicalNewspaper Details

v.1 no.1 (Jun.1957)-v.8 no.1 (Jan.1968)
24cm (60-100 pages)
per copy unknown; per year 30 shillings (1957-1960); 38 shillings (1961-1962); 42 shillings (1963-1964); 50 shillings (1965-1967) $5 (1967-1968)
Last amended 29 May 2009 15:10:30
    Powered by Trove