Sir Robert Menzies

Sir Robert Menzies (1894–1978) was Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, as well as being a distinguished and well known graduate of the University, and serving as its Chancellor between 1967 and 1972. He is represented in the Baillieu Library Special Collections, primarily through his extensive personal library of over 4000 volumes. For purposes of this exhibition, he represents a mid-point between those politicians who were diligent diarists (eg Clyde Cameron, Peter Howson and Neil Blewett), and those who shunned the very idea.1 In a famous passage of his memoirs, quoted in full in the exhibition, Menzies reflected on his limited diary writing and their value. He began by noting ‘Except on two journeys abroad, I have never kept a diary...’ and ended ‘My executors will do me a good service if they use the incinerator freely’.2

Item 7

Dark and Hurrying Days: Menzies’ 1941 Diary edited by A. W. Martin and Patsy Hardy (National Library of Australia, 1993).

Item 8

Commemorative plaster bust of Menzies, based on a cartoon by Les Tanner and sold by the Bulletin, Jan–Feb 1966. Item 9 Selection of published diaries from Menzies’ personal library.

References

  1. See Clyde Cameron, The Cameron Diaries (Allen and Unwin Australia, 1990); Peter Howson, The Howson Diaries: the life of politics (Viking, 1984); and Neil Blewett, A Cabinet Diary (Wakefield Press,1999). One of the best loved politician’s diaries is technically fiction, i.e. Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay, editors, The Complete Yes Minister: the diaries of a cabinet minister by the Right Hon. James Hacker MP (BBC Books, 1988).
  2. Sir Robert Menzies, Afternoon Light: some memories of men and events (Cassell, 1967, pp. 44–45).