Works of literature are not created in isolation. They are formed by the interplay between personal and national identity, between the background of the writer and the ethos of his time. This book explores, through the lives and works of four writers and their friends in Melbourne in the first forty years of this century - Vance Palmer, Frank Wilmot, Louis Esson and Frederick Sinclaire - the struggle to identify what was unique and valuable in Australian life. Palmer and his associates sought to realise an Australian literary nationalism. The book shows how the ferment of ideals and aspirations floundered inexorably into war, the violent social upheavals of conscription, and disillusion. The author examines the ideals of his leading figures, and the ideas which informed their literary nationalism - identity with radical causes, an idealised bush life, robust masculinity; but he is also aware of the shortcomings of their Australianism and suggests that these ideas were more inhibiting than their adherents believed. Drawing on a rich array of private papers, articles, novels, and interviews to capture the flavour of this period, Dr Walker explores a vital area of Australian culture. The result is a fresh and persuasive account of the writers and their world.