Sydney or the Bush: Some Literary Images


  • Brian Kiernan


It has   frequently been observed, as something paradoxical, that although Australia   from the 1890s was one of the most highly urbanised countries, its literature   appeared to be preoccupied with the countryside. This 'paradox' was noted by   contemporaries as well as by later commentators. In his introduction to   Australian Writers (1896) Desmond Byrne asked whether local novelists 'who   find so little material in Sydney or Melbourne' had seen what Henry James and   W. D. Howells had done with their cities, and Byrne quotes the Australasian   Critic in 1890 for the view that English readers of Australian fiction must   form the impression that 'big cities are unknown in Australia'. In his   Victorian Cities (1963) Asa Briggs makes a similar observation that 'at a time   when the "muckrakers" were exposing the evils of the American   cities ... Australian interests were diverted from the city altogether', and   gives as his chief example the work of Henry Lawson.