Stephen Cowden


‘Offensively Australian’ Joseph Furphy completed the first draft of his magnum opus Such Is Life in 1897, and, being unsure where to have it published, submitted the 1,125 pages of hand-written manuscript to the Bulletin magazine, of which he was an inveterate admirer. In a now famous covering letter he wrote to the magazine’s editor J.F. Archibald : ‘I have just finished writing a full sized novel: title ‘Such Is Life’; scene Riverina and northern Vic; temper democratic; bias, offensively Australian’ (Barnes and Hoffman 28). These latter phrases have come to be seen as expressive of the ‘legendary’ nationalist discourse of the 1890s.1 Though critical attitudes have never endorsed this view unconditionally, the predominant perception of the novel remains that expressed in the blurb on the 1991 Angus and Robertson edition of Such Is Life, which reads:



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