The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay towards National Self-Respect [by P. R. Stephensen, 1936]

[Editor: The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay towards National Self-Respect (1936), by P. R. Stephensen, was a significant book which promoted ideas of Australian cultural nationalism. The 55 sections, or chapters, of the book are divided into three parts, which were written in three different time periods. As Stephensen explains in the Foreward, the first installment of this book was originally published in The Australian Mercury magazine; however, as that periodical never went beyond its first issue, it was decided to produce the entirety of the work in a single volume. As this publication did not have a contents page, a list of the contents has been provided so as to enable easier access to the text.]

Front cover of the 1936 edition.

Front cover of the 1936 edition

The title page of the 1936 edition.

Title page of the 1936 edition

The Australian Mercury, July 1935

The Australian Mercury, July 1935 (in which the first installment of “The Foundations of Culture in Australia” appeared)

The Foundations of

Culture in Australia

An Essay towards National Self-Respect


P. R. Stephensen


First Instalment
June 1935
Section 1: Genius of the place
Section 2: We are not Americans
Section 3: Race and place
Section 4: Colony or nation
Section 5: An Englishman’s view
Section 6: Imported literature
Section 7: No place like home
Section 8: Birth of a new idea
Section 9: Sentimental exiles
Section 10: A poetry competition
Section 11: Convicts and sinners
Section 12: The Austral muse
Section 13: A patriotic prophecy
Section 14: Prophecy fulfilled
Section 15: Decline and fall
Section 16: Where are the antipodes?
Section 17: Flogging the lags
Section 18: Convict writers
Section 19: “Archibald, certainly not!”
Section 20: Painting the place

Second Instalment
July 1935
Section 21: All is in flux
Section 22: No dearth of genius
Section 23: Isolated From Europe
Section 24: “Yours For Australia”
Section 25: The world gone mad
Section 26: Children of the abyss
Section 27: Preservation of lore
Section 28: “History is bunk!”
Section 29: The anti-Australians
Section 30: Cultural manna
Section 31: Booksellers and publishers
Section 32: The “Norman” Conquest
Section 33: The sheep and the goats
Section 34: Export of genius
Section 35: Intellectual shirkers
Section 36: The forces deployed
Section 37: Democratic morale
Section 38: Freedom of the press
Section 39: Talismanic books

Third Instalment
January, 1936
Section 40: Politics and culture
Section 41: “Equal status”
Section 42: Loyalty and disloyalty
Section 43: “Populate or perish”
Section 44: No need for a protector
Section 45: Bloodstained Europe
Section 46: Sires to the slaughter
Section 47: Australia is an island
Section 48: Chauvinism and culture
Section 49: Commerce and culture
Section 50: Noblesse oblige
Section 51: Wardens of the future
Section 52: The bone-pointers
Section 53: One place is enough
Section 54: A New Britannia
Section 55: The true Australian creed

Australia: Published by W. J. Miles
4 Rosedale Road, Gordon, N.S.W.

First Published 1936

Wholly Set Up and Printed in Australia by The Forward Press Limited, 175 Campbell Street, Sydney. Registered at the General Post Office, Sydney, for transmission through the Post as a Book.


To Winifred

Each, desperate, his sword against the world,
A blow for his diverse illusion tries.
The truth man leaps to when the banner’s furled,
And man confronts his bosom, makes him wise.

— Sonnets of Baylebridge

P. R. Stephensen, The Foundations of Culture in Australia, Gordon (N.S.W.): W. J. Miles, 1936

Editor’s notes:
This book was dedicated by P. R. Stephensen to his wife, Winifred Sarah Venus (née Lockyer).

The Foundations of Culture in Australia was republished in 1986, with an introduction by Craig Munro (who had published a biography of P.R. Stephensen in 1984, Wild Man of Letters: The Story of P.R. Stephensen, which was republished in 1992 as Inky Stephensen: Wild Man of Letters).

Baylebridge = William Baylebridge (1883-1942), Australian poet (born as Charles William Blocksidge)


  1. My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different website and
    thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to going over your web page again.

Speak Your Mind