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Tom Inglis Moore (1901–1978)

by Elizabeth Perkins

This article was published:

Tom Inglis Moore (1901-1978), writer, critic and editor, was born on 28 September 1901 at Glenmore, New South Wales, fifth of seven children of native-born parents John Edward Moore, grazier, and his wife Elizabeth, née Inglis. The family property, Ellensville, near Camden, had first been farmed in 1854 by Tom's emancipist great-grandparents Edward and Elizabeth Moore. Educated at Sydney Grammar School and St Paul's College, University of Sydney (B.A., 1923), Tom graduated with first-class honours in English, history and philosophy. He was awarded a James King of Irrawang travelling scholarship and studied politics, philosophy and economics at The Queen's College, Oxford (B.A., 1926; M.A., 1933).

Tall and good-looking, Moore represented Queen's in rowing, lacrosse and athletics, and won the Walter Many essay prize. He also formed close friendships with Herbert Burton and Percy Stephensen. Hoping for a closer 'understanding of the modern world', he began his teaching career in 1926 at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, United States of America. At the parish church of St Peter in the East, Oxford, England, on 27 July 1927 he married Peace Flavelle Little, a 29-year-old pharmacist from Sydney. Returning to America, he became an instructor in English at the University of Iowa.

In 1928-31 Moore was associate-professor of English at the University of the Philippines, Manila. He contributed to local literary life, writing reviews, articles, poems, a novel, and a play which was performed by students. As an Australian rather than one of the colonizing Americans, he was a valued mentor to creative writers and was later remembered as 'the father of Filipino writing in English'. His interest in the Philippines continued after he returned to Australia, and he was warmly welcomed on a research-trip to Manila in 1948.

Having arrived in Sydney in 1931, Moore took tutorials and acted as sub-warden at St Paul's (1932-34) before working as a leader-writer and literary reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald (1934-40). He was active in the Sydney branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and served as president (December 1934 to June 1935) for a politically fraught term. Frank Dalby Davison described him as 'the hardest-working president the Fellowship ever had. He made it a publicly and journalistically recognised literary society'. During Moore's presidency, the F.A.W. stimulated interest in Australian literature among the general public and schoolchildren by introducing Authors' Week and by running a competition on Australian authors. The latter initiative led to the gazetting of a recommended list of Australian books for study for the Intermediate and Leaving certificates.

On 3 July 1940 Moore enlisted as a gunner in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned in May 1941, he served in New South Wales, Queensland, Papua and New Guinea with the Australian Army Education Service and rose to temporary major. His appointment terminated on 15 January 1945. That year he began lecturing in Pacific studies to diplomatic cadets at Canberra University College, which was later amalgamated with the Australian National University. In 1954 he introduced the first full-year university course in Australian literature (approved as a degree subject, 1955). He was promoted associate-professor in 1959 and retired in December 1966.

A member (1945-71) of the advisory board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, Moore championed the cause of hundreds of authors and numerous literary journals, and acted as an advocate for left-wing writers in the 1950s. As a C.L.F. lecturer to universities, he travelled extensively. In 1947 he became president of the Canberra branch of the Institute of International Affairs; in 1947-62 he was an associate-editor of the institute's journal, Australian Outlook. A founder (1950) of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the F.A.W., he was elected chairman (1956) of the first Commonwealth Council of Fellowships of Australian Writers. In 1958 he was appointed O.B.E. for his services to Australian literature.

Besides the critical and creative work which he contributed to journals, Moore gave talks for the Australian Broadcasting Commission on literary topics. The poems in his three collections, Adagio in Blue (Sydney, 1938), Emu Parade (1941) and Bayonet and Grass (1957), were lyrical and resilient, with many fine images. Romantic heroism, sensitivity and realism were the keynotes of his writing, epitomized in We're Going Through (broadcast 1943, published 1945); this verse-play dramatized the struggle between Australian and Japanese soldiers in Malaya. Love's Revenge, a comedy set in Manila, appeared in Philippine Plays (Manila, 1930). His novel, The Half Way Sun: A Tale of the Philippine Islands, was serialized in the Philippine Magazine and published in Sydney in 1935; it dealt with the interaction between Kalatong, a hero of the Ifugao and Bontoc peoples, and the American, Captain Jeff Gallman.

Moore's criticism was informed by a wide knowledge of English literature and by his training in political theory and philosophy. He was neither an apologist nor a propagandist for Australian literature. His careful study of the sources and his close contact with living authors gave him both perspective and sympathetic involvement. These attributes were evident in his scholarly introduction to Selected Poems of Henry Kendall(1957) and his major critical monograph, Social Patterns in Australian Literature (1971). He edited Best Australian One-Act Plays (with William Moore, 1937), Australian Poetry 1946 (1947), Australia Writes: An Anthology (Melbourne, 1953), A Book of Australia (London, 1961), Poetry in Australia: From the Ballads to Brennan (1964) and Letters of Mary Gilmore (with W. H. Wilde, Melbourne, 1980). Among his other critical works were Six Australian Poets (1942), Rolf Boldrewood (Melbourne, 1968) and Mary Gilmore: A Tribute (with Dymphna Cusack and Barrie Ovenden, 1965).

A keen gardener, Moore spent his retirement growing prize-winning roses, working for the F.A.W., reading and publishing manuscripts, and advising writers. From 1956 he suffered intermittently from severe rheumatoid arthritis. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died on 23 July 1978 in Canberra and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Fellowship of Australian Writers records, MSS 2008 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Tom Inglis Moore papers, MS 8130 (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Elizabeth Perkins, 'Moore, Tom Inglis (1901–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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