Last night Keith Windschuttle hosted a gala occasion for Quadrant and western civilization at the delightful location in the harbour, the island of Pinchgut or Fort Denison, with the martello tower that guards the entrance to the inner harbour. Very few Cats were visible but the IPA sent a small contingent.
The event celebrated the 500th issue of Quadrant and also the appearance of the whole archive from 1956 on line.
180 guests took a small ferry to the site, near sunset to give the most striking possible vista on the bridge, the opera house and the city skyline. To complete the magic, a tall ship under sail glided past as we took our first drinks in the garden.
Two mystery guests turned out to be Prime Minister Abbott and his wife. The Prime Minister followed John Howard with a beatifully crafted speech paying tribute to the values of western civilization and the role of Quadrant since 1956 in supporting them. Peter Coleman spoke, representing the editorial staff over those years, of which his was the most lengthy contribution, and very important as well, even allowing for the starring role of James McAuley for the early years. This was a charming and evocative presentation, also by far the shortest, citing three critical locations in the formation of Quadrant.
First the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan where Irving Kristol, editor of Encounter, suggested to the Polish refugee Richard Krygier the the idea of the magazine. Krygier became the organizational genius of Quadrant: he took the idea to Sir John Latham in the Melbourne Club to get his blessing on behalf of the Australian Committee for Cultural Freedom, and finally a cheap, no frills but affordable space in a woolstore fronting the Quay which became the editorial office.
A nice feature of the evening was a table of students from various universities, very keen and appreciative of the proceedings.
Keith Windschuttle announced some exciting on-line developments including upgrades to make Quadrant more usable on tablets and smart phones and more than that, the whole archive from 1956 is now scanned and available to read on line if you have the subscription. This is a priceless record and everyone is advised to pay the price, whatever it is, and make use of it. I imagine there will be some teething troubles on the site so be patient.
The guiding principles, from McAuley’s first editorial comment
To be Australian in our orientation, because we are interested in this country, its people, its problems, its cultural life, its liberties, and its safety;
To publish work of interest and merit on any topic without regard to the affiliations or repute of the author, the sole requirement being that the material should be worth reading;
To be guided, when an editorial attitude is called for with regard to questions of civil liberty or public standards, by the principles underlying the parliamentary institutions of this country and the Common Law – than which we know no better school of freedom and civility and prudence, in the old high sense of those words; for to be a good Australian is to be a local variety of that ‘free and lawful man’, the traditional ideal of Western civilization.
More on Pinchgut
It has the longest sequence of recorded water levels in the nation and I am advised that the authorities in the previous administration were not prepared to make them public because they did not indicate that the level was rising enough to cause concern.