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The idea of a ‘feminisation of sentimentality’ taking place over the long nineteenth century has a long currency in Anglophone scholarship. Many historians of masculinity have indeed argued that white masculinity was defined in opposition to sentimentality by the turn of the twentieth century: as sexually aggressive, militaristic, racially competitive, and characterised by a lack of sympathy for ‘blacks’. White men certainly did use an anti-sentimental rhetoric to ridicule women and their political adversaries in this period. We can see this in turn-of-the-century Australia, where conservative settlers often juxtaposed masculine practicality and effeminate sentimentality in debates over the treatment of Aborigines. In this article, I challenge this rhetoric by showing that rugged white men engaged in many forms of sentimentality in this period. A key Australian example of this was the ‘dying bushman’ tradition. It made the suffering of rugged white men into a source of pathos. It also ensured that frontier violence and tender masculine feeling were interrelated, giving the lie to the notion of a ‘feminisation of sentimentality’.

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