Permit me to quote the famous monologue from William Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’:
‘All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.’
This 1940 chapter of our chronicle introduces one of the most controversial and divisive figures ever to have strode across the Australian Turf: John Wren. Few men in Australia’s colonial history have been as revered or reviled as Wren. His life was an integral chapter in the social history of Melbourne. Perhaps the image of John Wren that younger readers have – if they have one at all, is the infamous one derived from Frank Hardy’s celebrated historical novel ‘Power Without Glory’ published in 1950 – the book the Wren family sought to suppress by an unsuccessful Court challenge. Hardy was tried for criminal libel in 1951, but he was acquitted by a jury in a case that attracted enormous publicity. Indeed, it was the last prosecution for criminal, as opposed to civil libel in Victoria.