The little exclusive circles, which in Melbourne and Sydney had politely imitated English gentility, looked askance at the lucky upstarts – and intermarried with them. In the second half of the nineteenth century Australia became familiar with a new vulgarity and a new vigour.
Australia has been too much glorified by simple patriots, who imagine that civilisation started with the voyages of Captain Cook, and too much vilified by splenetic tourists of the English middle classes, who fail to find in Tumburumba the mild amenities of Tunbridge Wells.
The most critical moment in the history of a man or a nation comes when the hard facts of present reality penetrate and tear the tenuous envelope which encircles that imagined world of perfect harmony and colour which a poetic vision creates and loves.
Without sending down some roots, no community can live an individual life – there cannot, indeed, be a community. The roots sent down in Australian soil by the transplanted British have only her and there struck deep beneath the surface.
Australian democracy is genuinely benevolent, but is preoccupied with its own affairs. From time to time it remembers the primitive people it has dispossessed, and sheds over their predestined passing an economical tear.
'Finding our own way' through History is both a search for fuller content, and, simultaneously, a search for surer standards of right judgement.
Only in metaphor can we speak of situations being 'good' or 'bad', 'ugly' or 'unkind'. It is no use arguing with situations. They will not blush if you reprove them, or turn over a new leaf if you plead with them. The only thing you can do with them is to understand them. They are, says Croce, identical with the means at your disposal. Understanding the concrete facts of particular situations is therefore the first task of sound historical judgement, as it is the first task of cool statesmanship. It is sometimes called a sense of reality.
One hundred years ago Australia was still a gaol. Some of her greatest cities are less than a century old. The poets have seen truly that Australia's life is in the future. It may extend through European centuries; it may be short. Australia lies opposite an awakening Asia. She shares a civilisation whose destiny is beyond prediction.
For good and for ill, Australia has had forced upon her the inheritance of all ages. The continent has been peopled by a civilisation ready-made; the British have imposed themselves upon it with their barbed-wire and railways and commercial journalism and modern liberal ideas. Their advance resembles the forward scattering of a horde, and sometimes, like the onrush of a horde, it has been devastating.
Among the Australians pride of race counted for more than love of country… Defining themselves as 'independent Australian Britons' they believed each word essential and exact, but laid most stress upon the last.