‘This is not the first biography of David Syme – earlier ones appeared in 1908 and 1965 – but it is the one he deserved. The man widely regarded as Australia’s greatest newspaperman of the 19th century was worthy of a biographer of Elizabeth Morrisons’ tenacity and literary ability … This biography of Syme is a magnificent addition to the increasing literature on Australian newspaper history.’ Rod Kirkpatrick, Australian Journalism Review, vol. 37, no. 1
‘How wonderful to be able to hear that man’s insights on the really curly questions of newspaper life! … [T]he scrupulous detailed recording of Elizabeth Morrison’s researches is the nearest I am ever to reach to the word with the actual warmth of blood in it, and I count myself lucky indeed for her gift …[T]he book is already my own most thumbed acquisition in years.’ Peter Ryan, Quadrant vol. 58, no. 9
‘Australia’s great radical newspaperman … his personal story revealed at last.’ Michael Cannon, author of The Land Boomers
‘There can be little doubt that Morrison’s biography of David Syme fills a significant gap in the history of Victorian newspapers and is long overdue … Morrison’s tightly written and carefully researched business perspective makes its case eloquently … a substantial contribution.’ Denis Cryle, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 61, Issue 3
‘Morrison’s ambition is to reveal the many other sides of the radical liberal newspaper man’s life … Morrison does not spare her “querulous” subject. Yet we are also shown the kindness and vulnerability that existed “behind a formidable mask”.’ Rachel Buchanan, Australian Book Review
‘The Living Legacy of David Syme’ – Age article
David Syme was launched by Professor Graeme Davison, with special guest Greg Hywood. Read the full launch speech.
The Melbourne Age newspaper dominated the newspaper stage in Australia from the 1870s to the end of the colonial period. In the 1880s its circulation was far in excess of any other daily throughout all British colonial possessions and its proprietor, the driven, talented Scotsman David Syme, was acknowledged as the leader of the Australian press. For the influence that he and his newspapers exercised, he became a legend in his lifetime and for several generations after his death in 1908.
Drawing on family and business records as well as newly digitised nineteenth-century newspaper archives, this biography of a powerful man of many parts seeks to go behind the legend and round out the story of the life – primarily as press ‘baron’ but also as author and philosopher, financier, farmer, property developer and, not least, family man.
Published in association with the State Library of Victoria
Elizabeth Morrison is a historian of nineteenth-century Australian print culture. The political role of the newspaper press is a major theme of her Engines of Influence (2005), a study of Victoria’s country newspapers in the colonial period. She has researched and written extensively about the cultural role of the nineteenth-century Australian press as publisher of new fiction through newspaper serialisation. Locating significant original novels by noted author Ada Cambridge serialised in the Melbourne Age during 1888 and 1889, she edited them for re-publication in the Colonial Texts Series (A Woman’s Friendship, 1988 and A Black Sheep, 2004). She has a history PhD from Monash University, where she was a lecturer in librarianship and a research fellow in Australian studies. She now lives in Canberra.