James McAuley

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Dr James Phillip McAuley (12 October 1917 – 15 October 1976) was an Australian academic, poet, journalist, literary critic, and prominent convert to Catholicism.

McAuley was born in Lakemba, a suburb of Sydney. He was educated at Fort Street High School, and then attended Sydney University. He began his life as an Anglican, and was sometime organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church, Dulwich Hill in Sydney. McAuley lost his Christian faith as a younger man.

In 1943 McAuley was commissioned as a lieutenant in the militia for the Australian Army, and served in Melbourne (DORCA) and Canberra. After the war he also spent time in New Guinea, which he regraded as his second "spirit home".

McAuley came to prominence in the wake of the 1944 Ern Malley hoax. With fellow poet, Harold Stewart, McAuley concocted sixteen nonsense poems in a pseudo-experimental modernist style. These were then sent to the young editor of the literary magazine Angry Penguins, Max Harris. The poems were raced to publication by Harris and Australia's most celebrated literary hoax was set in motion.

In 1952 he converted to Catholicism, the faith his own father had abandoned. This was in the parish of St Charles at Ryde. He was later introduced to Australian musician Richard Connolly by priest Ted Kennedy through the Holy Spirit parish at North Ryde[1], and the two subsequently collaborated to produce between them the most significant collection of Australian Catholic hymnody to date, titled "Hymns for the Year of Grace". Connolly was McAuley's sponsor for his confirmation into the Catholic church. In his undergraduate years McAuley was influenced by both communism and anarchism, but although a man of the Left, McAuley remained staunchly anti-communist throughout his later life. In 1956 he and Richard Krygier founded the literary and cultural journal, Quadrant and was chief editor until 1963. From 1961 he was professor of English at the University of Tasmania.

A portrait of McAuley by J Carrington Smith won the 1963 Archibald prize.

James McAuley died of cancer in 1976 at the age of 59 in Hobart.


  • Under Aldebbaran (1946)
  • A Vision of Ceremony (1956)
  • The End of Modernity (1959)
  • Captain Quiros (1964)
  • A Primer of English Versification (1966)
  • Surprises of the Sun (1969)
  • The Personal Element in Australian Poetry (1970)
  • Collected Poems 1936-1970 (1971)
  • A Map of Australian Verse (1975)
  • Music Late at Night (1975)
  • The Grammar of the Real (1975)


  1. ^ cf. Australasian Catholic Record October 1995


  • Coleman, Peter. James McAuley: A Poet in Politics. The Rathouse. Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
  • Ritchie, John; Diane Langmore (eds). McAuley, James Phillip (1917 - 1976). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
  • Cook, Michael (Oct 15, 2006). Remembering a poet of commitment. MercatorNet. Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
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