Publication Details

Simoes da Silva, T. 1998, 'Desire, mateship and the 'national type': Vance Palmer's Legend for Sanderson', Australian Studies, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 70-81.


If we are to believe his critics Vance Palmer's Legend for Sanderson was not his most successful novel. Indeed Vivian Smith, one of Palmer's most perceptive, persistent and patient critics, has gone so far as to suggest that it 'is a tired book'. lt is also generally left out of discussions of Palmer's work in literary histories of Australian writing. Thus it is, for example, the only one of Palmer's major works not discussed by Ken Goodwin in his A History of Australian Literature. And, although they mention it, neither Peter Pierce in 'Literary Forms in Australian Literature' nor Geoffrey Dutton in The Literature of Australia devote any real time to it. There are of course exceptions; Harry Heseltine, for example, regards Legend for Sanderson as the novel where 'Palmer achieved some of his most memorable characterisations' , but even Heseltine's discussion of the novel is brief. This article seeks to read the novel in ways that make it a less tired, and tiring, book.