Nearly half a century ago, a young Australian journalist without a newspaper decided to try his hand at writing a novel.
He was Brian Fitzpatrick, who was later to win public notice as an historian, as a radical polemicist and lobbyist on the fringe of the Labour movement, and as first General Secretary of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties.
Yet The Colonials is far more a ‘psychological’ novel than a social panorama or a story with a plot. It was surely the first Australian novel to capture the nuance of a school-teacher’s condition—underpaid, conscious of moral superiority to his more vulgar and less well-informed neighbours, resentful of his low standing in a society differentiated by income or appearances more than intelligence or respectability. There is ample plunder here for social historians of the more predatory sort.