Hippie conservatives – Brian Penton

Penton (1904-1951) is forgotten because he died in mid-career. He almost certainly would have been the standout editor and commentator through the 1950s and the 1960s., flying the flag for classical liberalism and especially free speech. Fortunately there is an excellent biography by Patrick Buckridge and a short version on line.

He was born in Brisbane and moved to Sydney to pursue a career as a journalist, and novelist. That took him to London for protracted working spells, and back to Sydney.

For two years during the 1930s he wrote a weekly column in The Daily Telegraph called The Sydney Spy with a distinctive blend of tones and topics “urbane, mocking and iconoclastic, with an extraordinary range of cultural reference —which made him something of a cult figure in Sydney. His reputation was enhanced by the critical success of Landtakers, the story of Derek Cabell, an English immigrant to the Moreton Bay settlement in the 1840s”

He described himself as a classical liberal and he was a tireless critic of censorship. For him, freedom was all-important and freedom of speech was the first line of defence of freedom.

“The Daily Telegraph of the mid-1940s, under his direction, was a triumph of editorial co-ordination and flair. His style was irreverent, progressive and individualist, critical of ‘red tape’ and censorship, and seriously committed to improving public awareness and promoting a modern and civilized urban lifestyle.”

During the war he wrote a polemic on free speech Think -or be Damned and later Advance Australia – Where? urging people to prepare for the postwar challenge of living in Asia in a new world order without British protection.

“Penton’s private life was always controversial: his bohemian appearance and behaviour, his compulsive pursuit of women, and his refusal to defer to convention in the conduct of long-term, extra-marital liaisons made him some enemies. He was a noted bon viveur and an enthusiastic sailor. He was one of Australia’s great newspaper editors, an important novelist, a passionate but critical Australian nationalist, and a courageous liberal campaigner for what he called ‘a civilized mode of social living together’.”

In short, a paradigm case, an exemplar of the hippie conservative!

In response to some critical comment, extramarital adventurism and refraining from washing are not core characteristics of hippie or bohemian conservatism and those who choose to indulge in monogomy and bathing don’t need to feel that they are letting the side down.


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Louis Litt
April 24, 2023 10:30 pm

Nope does not sound good to me. One thing which I have found is the person that sticks to one marriage is a far more understanding and compassionate individual.
Multiple partners, I find to be some one who has not grown up. What these people bang on about is unimportant.
This fellow sounds like the Republican movt – so what.

Louis Litt
April 24, 2023 10:35 pm

BTW – hippies are dirty and unclean – they like socialists have crushed human development, science and concentrate on childish notions – now idiotic notions.
Give these people 3 million and watch their lifestyle change, a glaourous house, prestige car etc.
Go Julia Gillard – living in Brighton and driving a Jag.

April 26, 2023 10:01 am

He was not a conservative, he was a libertine.

April 26, 2023 12:47 pm

Sounds more like a “free-thinker” with goals to outrage the bourgeoisie and enjoy himself along the way. In these “progressive” times the outrage could be triggered by denying men can be woman, surgery or no surgery, and that climate change is not causing end of the world among other modern heresies. Also by seeking the freedom to earn a living without depending on the state. Radical stuff, indeed.

April 27, 2023 10:14 am

Hmm. A ‘classical liberal’ who kept company with WM Hughes, the exponent of nationalist, sectarian socialism, famously ridiculed by EOG Shann?

  1. Good rant from the Rev: Glastonbury baby, left wing hypocrite rant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqkzRfCK9oM

  2. I gave it up aged 80 after a not very long or difficult trip on an Icelandic pony. They have…

  3. Appalling to see my old Alma Mater brought down to such a low. Mark Scott was a disastrous apoointment.

Oh, you think that, do you? Care to put it on record?x