The End of "The Bulletin"

A couple of weeks back, when I was in Tasmania on holidays, I heard the announcement that "The Bulletin" magazine was closing down after 128 years.

For those unfamiliar with the periodical, it can be considered as a Australian equivalent of "Time" or "Newsweek": a weekly current affairs magazine with an Australian focus. But it didn't start that way. If you've been reading this weblog for a while you'll notice that I post transcripts of Australian poems each Saturday. The bulk of these first saw publication in "The Bulletin". When Archibald and Haynes started the magazine in 1880 it had an aim of being a publication of political and business commentary, with some literary content; similar, in fact, to how it ended its run this year. But soon after it began publication, and certainly by the mid 1880s, it became known as the "bushman's bible", reaching all parts of the country (and presumably New Zealand) with a circulation around 80,000 by 1900, when the population was about 3.8 millions.

"The Bulletin" was a curious beast early on. Wikipedia describes it as follows: "Its politics were nationalist, anti-imperialist, protectionist, insular, racist, republican, anti-clerical and masculinist - but not socialist. It mercilessly ridiculed colonial governors, capitalists, snobs and social climbers, the clergy, feminists and prohibitionists. It upheld trade unionism, Australian independence, advanced democracy and White Australia. It ran savagely racist cartoons attacking Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Jews, and mocking Indigenous Australians. The paper's masthead slogan, 'Australia for the White Man,' became a national political credo."

Which is a political and social philosophy that sounds remarkably similar to a certain Australian political party of the late 1990s and early 2000s. And yet it was still able to publish a body of literary works which form a major part of the foundations of our current view of Australian literature. "The Bulletin" published such major writers as Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Mary Gilmore, C.J. Dennis, Barbara Baynton, Joseph Furphy, Bernard O'Dowd, Miles Franklin, Kenneth Slessor, and Christopher Brennan, amongst many, many others. It just goes to show that art can flourish even where the politics is barren and harsh.

So it is rather sad to see the magazine come to an end. But it's time is now gone. The periodical that I read on microfilm in the State Library changed its character in the 1960s and 1970s back to the current affairs publication of its beginnings. It wasn't what I read back then, preferring instead the "Nation Review" weekly newspaper, which I still miss. "The Bulletin" is dead but I've still got hundreds of back issues to get through. And if you think I'm living in the past, you're probably right, and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

Founders of Our Literature entry for J.F. Archibald.
Ex-editor Garry Linnell laments the loss.
Damien Murphy provides a potted history.
Noel Murphy has a look at J.F. Archibald and his connections to Geelong.
And David Barnett, in "The Canberra Times", dances on the grave and blames the left. Quelle surprise!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 13, 2008 9:58 AM.

A Few Words About "Sorry" was the previous entry in this blog.

Weekend Round-Up 2008 #3 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en