State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 63 Autumn 1999


From the Editorial Chair

The Annual Stephen Murray-Smith Lecture honours the contribution to Australian intellectual life of a man who has been called ‘Johnsonian’. In this number of The La Trobe Journal we print a shortened version of a memorable Lecture by the distinguished Australian historian, Ken Inglis, who discusses Stephen Murray-Smith's guide to English usage in Australia, Right Words, in which the author appears at his most Johnsonian. John McLaren, whose long association with Overland, the journal founded by Stephen Murray-Smith, includes a stint as editor, views him from a different perspective. Using the extensive collections of papers in the State Library, he traces the early political careers of Stephen Murray-Smith and his friend, journalist Ken Gott, discussing ‘how two such individualists could subordinate themselves for so long to what Murray-Smith was to describe as the “rigid and demented authoritarian system” of the Communist Party.’ Offering yet another perspective on Stephen Murray-Smith is the Library Profile by John Thompson, formerly Manuscripts Librarian at the State Library of Victoria, and now Director of Collection Research, Documentation and Promotion at the National Library of Australia.
Many of the readers of The La Trobe Journal will have known Stephen Murray-Smith personally, and most will be familiar with the period covered by the three articles about him. In the Annotation section Damian Powell, Director of Academic Studies at Trinity College, University of Melbourne, brings to light a more distant past, when the issue of conscription was a cause of bitter division in the Australian community. Julie Carr, who works in university administration and has recently completed a doctoral thesis at La Trobe University, teases out the issues in a comparatively recent controversy about an even more distant past, when a white woman was believed to be held captive by Aborigines in Gippsland. Kim Torney, one of the editorial assistants on the Oxford Companion to Australian History, writes of a story well known to those of us who encountered the Fourth Book of the Victorian Readers at school, tracing how Jane Duff became an exemplary heroine for a generation of schoolchildren. These two scholarly articles about established legends of colonial Victoria suggest how the study of local history can contribute to our intellectual life.
The State Library of Victoria is a rich storehouse of knowledge. As usual there has not been enough space to include all the material, textual and visual, that I wanted. In particular, I had hoped to supplement Ken Inglis's discussion of right words — and wrong words — with a note on the dictionaries and word books of various kinds held in the Library. That must wait for a future number.
In this number La Trobe Librarian Dianne Reilly and Picture Librarian Christine Downer remember with affection and gratitude the work of Mary Baillieu in support of the State Library over many years. Friends of the State Library such as Mary Baillieu and Stephen Murray-Smith were invaluable in the past: they are no less needed at a time when the future looks so much brighter.