Extract from oral history of Tom Fitzgerald by Ken Inglis
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records
of the National Library of Australia. Interview of Tom Fitzgerald, 01/02/1988 - 3/09/1988. JCPML00658/1. Original held by National Library of Australia
I came across, many years ago, a passage in what is almost certainly
Thomas Hardy’s own reminiscences of his early life, though they
are under the name of his second wife, Florence. In which it is said that
he, Thomas Hardy, in his boyhood was 'of an ecstatic temperament'. Ecstatic
temperament. And I thought, 'Well, mutatis mutandis, that certainly
goes for me too.'
I was continually excited by things like that. Music. And there was that
heavy English orientation to it all....it’s been a succession of
enthusiasms, one’s reading. I’m sure that goes for everybody,
one after another. You take up somebody, exhaust that person and then
move onto somebody else. And, oh goodness, we’ve all had phases.
You don’t dump them, you don’t reject, or usually you don’t
reject an author you’ve been excited by but you pass on to others.
And...among my age of enthusiasms in creative literature was certainly
James Joyce of whom I had a taste even as an undergraduate though his
Ulysses was banned but I’d seen sufficient of it to realise
that it was an engrossing book for me with my Irish Catholic background.
James Joyce. Gerard Manley Hopkins for a great part of my life, even from
schooldays. Again I think you might say an ecstatic kind of person. My
last long relationship with Hopkins was in 1973-4 while I was working
on the minerals...minerals report with Mr Connor. I had books of his,
not only his verse but his letters and his...his prose and I found them
the ideal relaxation while I was working on that report...
Just as I was leaving school TS Eliot…was unquestionably the biggest
impact on my adolescence. 1936. I’m not sure whether The Waste
Land or Murder in the Cathedral came first. The juxtaposition
of the two was fascinating. Murder in the Cathedral had a nice
rhetorical attractiveness. I can still rattle off passages. 'I see nothing
quite conclusive in the art of temporal government but violence, duplicity
and frequent malversation.' 'Kings rule or barons rule, the strong man
strongly, the weak man by caprice and the steadfast can manipulate the
greed and lust of others, the feeble is devoured by his own.'
That sort of stuff was good to a youth but much more important were his
earlier poems. And I was never able to resolve the initial conflict in
his Four Quartets. The opening passage, 'Time present and time
past are both perhaps present in time future' and so on. That passage
I’ve pondered over many times and looked up all the authorities
and I’m sorry to say, in my humble opinion, they dodge it. They
don’t offer an explanation of what he meant. With one possible exception,