Introducing Jack Moses [by Frank Morton]

[Editor: This introductory chapter (about the author, Jack Moses), written by Frank Morton, is from Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse (1923) by Jack Moses.]

Introducing Jack Moses

One lazy night, about a thousand years ago, I wandered into the old theatre at Hobart and heard a man reciting bush-verse better than I had heard any man recite it before. It was “Saltbush Bill,” and I have never heard any other man recite it so well since. Most people in Australia have, indeed, lost the trick of reciting; they have taken to elocution, and that is the most dismal dead-end of entertainment.

This man in the old Hobart theatre was, of course, my friend Jack Moses, whom that night first I met. We were friends, you see, at meeting, because Jack is like that. We have remained the best of friends ever since, because you can’t fall out with Jack. You couldn’t if you wanted to. It is a thing inconceivable that you should ever want to. Jack is an optimist, a friend of man, a lovable cuss, and every blackguard of us is his brother. On the male side, he is the happiest thing I know about Australia.

So that when Jack came into my office in Sydney, a thousand years later, and said, “I have written a book,” I didn’t weep for our outraged friendship or anything like that. I said I was glad to hear it. (You see, we are all, at any time, prepared to forgive Jack Moses anything.) But after awhile I saw proofs of Jack’s book, and then was I glad indeed, fur I knew that it was a good book.

He said. “You might lick it into shape for me here and there, edit it a bit — you know what I mean.”

I said, “I have keen guilty of many things in my time, but I will not put so much as a dab of my meretricious varnish on your good natural book. It is a friendly book; every stick of it is rich in quiet chuckles and friendly reminiscences, as from out good crony to another. Why should you expect one to go garbling your good book.”

But I read the galley-proofs for him, because he insisted on that, and I cut out some of the quotation marks, because Jade is a very wild and extravagant devil when he gets among the inverted commas. I have had no more then than that to do with the book, and mighty little of that.

I like these simple sketches because they are unaffected and sincere, because they are honestly concerned with the hearty interests of real people, and because they don’t show us a wayback Australia full of gloom, crawled over with flies, a Wayback in which the women are all uncouth gawks and the men unspeakable gibbering idiots. You don’t find many dead men lying round in the pages of Jack Moses; whatever lying has to be done he is content to leave the live fellows to attend to. Jack sees the genial Australian as he is, and as I have found him. You have to look up the files of country newspapers, or listen to speeches by the Country Party, before you really wake up to the fact that by the very act of milking cows and living within a reasonable distance of a shearing-shed or a few miles of wheat, you prove yourself a saint and martyr and the rest of that tosh. The country chaps I meet myself don’t pretend that they are inevitably better than chaps born within a mile of George Street. Jack Moses seems to have met the same kind of country chaps that I occasionally meet. He loves ’em. So do I. I’d like to write about ’em as he does, but I couldn’t if I tried for a thousand years; and I hope that a thousand years from now you young people who will then be among the old-timers will remember that I told you what a good book this book of Jack Moses’s is. You may not like the double “s” in Moses’s, but it is right, as sure as this book of Jack Moses’s is his.

And so I introduce to you Jack Moses — to you who know him in thousands of cases quite as well as I do. This book makes it certain that we shall continue to love him well.

Frank Morton.

Manly, 1923.

Jack Moses, Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse, Sydney: Austral Publishing Co., 1923, pages 9-10

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