Philip James Ayres

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Philip James Ayres (born 28 July 1944 at Lobethal, South Australia) is an Australian biographer and literary historian, of German and Anglo-Scottish cultural heritage, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (London), a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a recipient of the Centenary Medal in 2001 for contributions to literature.[1]


He attended Adelaide Boys High School and the University of Adelaide (PhD 1971). He has taught at the University of Adelaide, Monash University, Vassar College and Boston University.[2] He has been twice married (1965 to Maruta Sudrabs; 1981 to Patricia Monypenny née San Martin). He lives in Melbourne and Camperdown (Western Victoria).

Academic work[edit]

His biography subjects include Malcolm Fraser,[3] Douglas Mawson,[4] former Australian Chief Justice Sir Owen Dixon,[5] Sydney's late-19th-century, early-20th-century Catholic Archbishop Patrick Francis Moran[6] and Sir Ninian Stephen[7] (who had been Australia's Governor-General for most of the 1980s).

His literary-historical books include Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-Century England,[8] According to WorldCat, the book is held in 398 libraries [9] He is the editor of the two-volume Clarendon Press edition of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks.[10]

The British Law Quarterly Review described his Owen Dixon as a "conspicuous success" in marrying "distinguished scholarship and narrative skills",[11] while the Australian Law Journal devoted a 14-page section to complimentary analyses of the same book.[12] Fortunate Voyager, the account of Sir Ninian Stephen's life, displays similar research and narrative methodologies. The other biographies have also received generally excellent reviews in the relevant professional journals,[13] although the author has been chastised by one (clerical) critic for declining to moralise his avowedly non-moral and objectivist presentation of character[14]

He has also written first-hand accounts of several conflict zones, having travelled with Malcolm Fraser in South Africa (1986)[15] and Somalia (1992),[16] and with the Hezb-i-Islami jihadists in Afghanistan in 1987.[17]



  • Ayres, Philip J. (1977). Tourneur : The Revenger's Tragedy. London: Edward Arnold. 
  • Ayres, Philip (1987). Malcolm Fraser : a biography. Richmond, Vic.: William Heinemann Australia. 
  • — (1997). Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • — (1999). Mawson: A Life. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press.
  • — (2003). Owen Dixon. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press.
  • — (2007). Owen Dixon (revised edition). Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press.
  • — (2007). Prince of the Church : Patrick Francis Moran, 1830-1911. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press. 
  • — (2013) Fortunate Voyager: The Worlds of Ninian Stephen. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press.
  • — (ed.) (1980) Anthony Munday, The English Roman Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • — (ed.) (1987) Ben Jonson: Sejanus His Fall. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • — (ed.) (1999) Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury: Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


  • "Burlington's Library at Chiswick", Studies in Bibliography, 45 (1992), pp. 113–127;
  • "The Nature of Jonson's Roman History", English Literary Renaissance, 16 (1986), pp. 166–181.

Book reviews[edit]

Year Review article Work(s) reviewed
2016 Ayres, Philip (Jan–Feb 2016). "Stalin's man in London : the diaries of an ambassador". Quadrant. 40 (1-2): 50–58.  Maisky, Ivan (2015). Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed. The Maisky diaries : Red ambassador to the Court of St James's, 1932-1943. Yale UP. 


  1. ^ (accessed 21 July 2013)
  2. ^ University of Adelaide (1969-1971: Tutor); Monash University (1972-2006: Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Head of Department); Vassar College (1993: Visiting Professor); Boston University (2001: Professorial Fellow and Visiting Professor).
  3. ^ Malcolm Fraser: A Biography (Heinemann, Melbourne, 1987).
  4. ^ Mawson: A Life (Miegunyah/Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1999).
  5. ^ Owen Dixon (Miegunyah/Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2003; 2004; rev. edn 2007).
  6. ^ Prince of the Church: Patrick Francis Moran 1830-1911 (Miegunyah/Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2007).
  7. ^ Fortunate Voyager: The Worlds of Ninian Stephen (Miegunyah/Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2013).
  8. ^ Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997).
  9. ^ WorldCat author record
  10. ^ Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (2 vols, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999).
  11. ^ Tom Bingham, review of Owen Dixon, (2005) 121 Law Quarterly Review, 154-158 at 154.
  12. ^ (2003) 77 Australian Law Journal, 682-696 (High Court Centenary number).
  13. ^ Mawson: its "high level of research and carefully crafted writing make it a worthy addition to Australian scientific biography"—Brigid Hains, Historical Records of Australian Science, 13, ii (2000), 226-228; see also Rod Beecham in Australian Book Review, June/July 2004, p. 35: "Ayres’s great virtue as a biographer is his scrupulous reliance on primary sources, which he has researched meticulously. He can also be funny."
  14. ^ Frank Brennan, "Tales from the Bench", Eureka Street, July/August 2003, 37-39.
  15. ^ "South African Diary", final chapter of Ayres, Malcolm Fraser.
  16. ^ Quadrant, vol. 36, no. 12, December 1992, pp. 9-14.
  17. ^ "Khost: The Crucial Siege", The Age, Saturday Extra, 28 November 1987, pp. 1-6.

External links[edit]