Friday, January 25, 2008

Vale The Bully

In its 128th year, The Bulletin is no more. From its leftist roots in 1880s Sydney, by the last decade or two it had become a conservative publication, but even that advantage proved insufficient. According to press reports, it became economically unviable and rationalism won over sentiment and nostalgia. Your almanackist has been expecting it for some years as the magazine became less relevant and, like most magazines today, had to compete with the Internet -- it was haemorrhaging money: $4 million per annum.

Pictured: Legendary Bulletin owner/editor JF Archibald with 'Bully' writer Henry Lawson

Like many Australians, I'm very sad to see the magazine go, not just because it had been one of the world's most remarkable and distinguished publications, but also because I have some personal connections with it. A great-uncle of mine had cartoons published in 'The Bully' in the early 20th Century, although I don't know what pen name he used so I have never been able to locate them. I myself had an eminently forgettable feature published in it, after it became known as The Bulletin with Newsweek. Most importantly to me, my one and only novel, Faces in the Street, has a lot of activity taking place in The Bulletin's bustling offices in the 1890s.

Australia -- which first gave women the right to vote and stand for election, which had the world's first labor government, which had the world's highest standard of living in 1900, which had more World's Fairs in the 19th Century than any nation -- is amnesiac. Sadly, last year I asked a periodicals librarian in a major regional library for access to The Bulletin, and he had never heard its name, although he is a very good librarian, and an Australian man in his 40s. Sic transit gloria.

Australia's oldest and most famous magazine (once known affectionately as 'the Bushman's Bible' and read from cover to cover and coast to coast) was founded by two journalists, JF Archibald and John Haynes (a Member of Parliament for a quarter of a century, who paid the rent on several anarchist establishments in Sydney). The Bulletin's literary editor, AG Stephens, had immense influence on the 'Bulletin school' of Australian literature. (The Bulletin's most celebrated writer, Henry Lawson, one of Stephens's 'finds', thought him an insufferable snob.) A very influential editor was WH Traill.

Apart from Lawson, among the many well-known contributors were the writers Banjo Paterson, George Black, Edwin Brady, Bernard O'Dowd, Joseph Furphy (Tom Collins), Miles Franklin, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Mary Gilmore, George Gordon McCrae, Roderic Quinn and Vance and Nettie Palmer, the cartoonists Livingston Hopkins ('Hop'), William Macleod and David Low, and the artist and novelist Norman Lindsay ...

More on The Bulletin in the Book of Days

A magazine that shaped Australia's identity
Anger as iconic Bulletin dies
Foreign buyers silence The Bulletin

Wilson's Almanac Louisa and Henry Lawson Chronology

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