December 2008 – January 2009


Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Alfred Deakin & John Bunyan

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Alfred Deakin occupied many notable posts and earned several memorable sobriquets in his long and distinguished public career. Member for Ballarat, Minister for Public Works and Water Supply, Chief Secretary and Solicitor-General of Victoria, Executive Chairman of the Federation League, first Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Prime Minister three times. Affable Alfred, Father of Irrigation.

An omnivorous reader and assiduous writer, Deakin filled an endless stream of notebooks and diaries; subsisted for a time as a journalist; contributed ‘secret' commentary on Australian politics to the London press; published a five-act blank-verse drama on the Renaissance-era Flemish painter of grotesques Quentin Massys; and penned essays, poetry and treatises on subjects as diverse as funerary architecture in India and anti-sweating legislation. But his most intriguing work of literature was composed at the very beginning of his career when, barely 22, he occupied his first office: President of the Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists.

Spiritualism was enjoying a certain vogue by the 1870s, and young Alfred's search for a Higher Truth drew him to its mystic endeavours. At séances conducted by his psychic mentor, a former draper, he proved an ideal medium. In short order, he was communicating with the disincarnate departed. And not just any passing apparition. Deakin found himself taking post-mortem dictation from the shade of John Bunyan, the nonconformist poet whose bodily departure from this mortal coil occurred in the distant year of 1688.

A contemporary of Milton, Bunyan was an uneducated tinker who did most of his writing in jail, where he was banged up for more than 12 years for preaching without a permit. His allegory The Pilgrim's Progress was once one of the most widely read books in English literature, as familiar to many Protestants as the Bible itself.

In the original version, published in 1678, Christian, its everyman protagonist, undertakes a perilous journey to Heaven, overcoming the temptations of Madam Wanton and Vanity Fair, escaping Doubting Castle and the Slough of Despond, before arriving at the Celestial City, thereby assuring a pre-eminent place in the Glossary of Phrases Proverbial.

As channelled through Alfred Deakin, two centuries later, A New Pilgrim's Progress featured a hero named Restless, who found his true path via vegetarianism. It was published pseudonymously, crediting Bunyan with spiritual guidance. Shortly after, Deakin began his political career by running for parliament. Denounced in the papers for "outraging religion", he withdrew from the spiritualist movement.

Alfred Deakin died in 1919, a spent force politically, his mystical questions unanswered. He is also known as a Founding Father of the Liberal Party.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: December 2008 - January 2009

December 2008 – January 2009

From the front page

Six years and counting

There is no hope in sight for hundreds of people on Manus Island and Nauru

The Djab Wurrung Birthing Tree

The highway construction causing irredeemable cultural and environmental damage

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

In This Issue

Feeling lucky

What drives economic optimism?

‘A Mercy’ by Toni Morrison

Tradition, truth & tomorrow

‘Vertigo: A Novella’ by Amanda Lohrey

Read on

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image from ‘Booksmart’

Meritocracy rules in ‘Booksmart’

Those who work hard learn to play hard in Olivia Wilde’s high-school comedy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

The government’s perverse pursuit of surplus

Aiming to be back in black in the current climate is bad economics

Image of Blixa Bargeld at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: Blixa Bargeld

The German musician presides over a suitably unpredictable evening