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A Biography of Tom Inglis Moore: A Love Affair with Australian Literature.

A Biography of Tom Inglis Moore A Love Affair with Australian Literature. by Pacita Alexander and Elizabeth Perkins Canberra, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Tom Inglis Moore was a fourth generation Australian. The family was descended from a convict who certainly made a success of life in the colony of New South Wales. He ended up owning properties in the Camden district south of Sydney and left a beautiful family home still owned by the family and lived in by one of his descendants. Tom Inglis Moore became a Professor of English Literature and was one of the pioneers of the study of Australian Literature. This book was written by his daughter together with Elizabeth Perkins well known for her work on Australian literature.

The book covers a number of aspects of Tom Inglis Moore's life and work. He was born in 1901 and with his brothers went to school at Sydney Grammar. There he met and became a life long friend of Robert D. Fitzgerald. The First World War filled his early school days. This was followed by years at the University of Sydney where his love of literature bloomed and was consolidated. Then it was to Oxford University although he missed out on a Rhodes scholarship. From there he went to America and carried out his courting by letter for a few years. Then to England again and marriage. He then went as an associate professor to the University of the Philippines. Now that is a surprise--an Australian teaching in the Philippines! Of course then Philippines was an American colony, a fact we tend to forget. He enthusiastically lectured to students at the University on Pacific Studies but included Australian Literature.

So much for his early life. This was the prelude to his real work when in 1945 Tom Inglis Moore came to Canberra to the Canberra University College to lecture on Pacific Studies. A little later he applied for the chair of English. The chair was given to Alec Hope. Tom continued with Pacific Studies but did not neglect Literature. He was among the group which formed in 1950 the Canberra branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Tom was vice President while Lu Rees became secretary and became a firm friend. There was friendships with many writers of the time when Tom was writing his poetry, much of it published in The Bulletin. He had an enormous correspondence with many of the well known writers of Australia. His manuscript 'The Australian Mirror--Social Patterns in Australian Literature' shared the first prize in the Commonwealth Jubilee competition in 1952 and was published as a book.

There seems in this biography to be more detail about the question of the study of Australian literature than a chronological account of Tom Inglis Moore's life. At the end of chapter eight he appears to be without a job when the government stopped training young people at the college for the newly developing Department of External Affairs. Chapter nine does not tell us what he did at this point and we have a description of the problems of developing Australian literature in general and the failure of Australian Universities to do some thing about it which was one of his continuous complaints.

There was controversy with the Commonwealth Literary Fund which make fascinating reading. Prime Minister Menzies referred to 'a group of five as Bolsheviks'. Just imagine the names of these five: Vance Palmer, Flora Eldershaw, Guy Howarth, Kenneth Binns (former parliamentary Librarian) and Tom Inglis Moore. There is much information about the danger of Communism and the writers who posed a danger at that time. Menzies used it effectively to remain in power. In today's world this seems quite ridiculous but we must be careful to look at and compare our present manufactured fear of terrorists.

In spite of all this Tom continued his promotion of Australian literature His book of the selected poems of Henry Kendall with a biographical and critical introduction was the beginning of the real appreciation of the poet. Tom's friend Fitz was not so enthusiastic about Kendall.

One of the concluding quotations is still partly applicable today 'What sort of nation is it that abdicates to the scholars of other countries the recognition of its own literary heritage.' We still have a long way to go, This is a book that everyone interested in Australian writing should read and ponder. It is full of thoughts that are as important today as they were during the life of Tom Inglis Moore. scholar, lecturer, writer and poet.
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Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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