The conservative convert

Contrarian by nature

Christopher Pearson was a contrarian and a contradiction:  a well-read writer and editor who loved an argument, relished wit, and was an out, gay, celibate Catholic. Gerard Henderson wrote his obituary for The Sydney Morning Herald.


Christopher Pearson died suddenly, and peacefully, in Adelaide recently. According to a friend, Pearson enjoyed his traditional Friday long lunch and went back to his Hurtle Square home, where he lived alone. When Pearson did not turn up for Sunday Mass, concern was expressed and he was found dead in his bed.

Pearson was born on August 28, 1951, to Robert Forster Pearson and Sidney Suzanne Dutton. His father was a business executive who became an Anglican clergyman; his mother was a supporter of the arts.

Pearson was brought up in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It did not owe allegiance to the Pope but did maintain much of the prayers, sacraments and rituals of traditional Catholicism.

From Scotch College, Pearson proceeded to Flinders University where he graduated with a bachelor of arts (honours) and then Adelaide University where he did a Diploma in Education.

He established The Adelaide Review in 1984, sold it in 2002 and managed The Wakefield Press. Pearson also edited the journal Labor Forum in the early 1980s.

It is invariably difficult to create and sustain something new. Pearson's achievement at The Adelaide Review and the Wakefield Press was substantial. The former published a wide range of writers and poets including Peter Goldsworthy, Frank Moorhouse, Matthew Condon and Les Murray.

On politics, Pearson published both Mark Latham and Tony Abbott. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pearson wrote occasional columns and articles for numerous newspapers, including the Herald, The Age, and The Courier Mail. From 1997 until 2001 he was a columnist for The Australian Financial Review. He then switched to The Weekend Australian.

His final column was an obituary of Howard Twelftree, The Adelaide Review's one-time food critic.

Pearson ended up a Liberal-voting conservative and a friend and admirer of Abbott.

In his 2009 book Battlelines, Abbott wrote that Pearson had edited the work and added that he ‘'invariably reads and advises on what I propose to print’.

Like many of the contemporary conservative commentariat in Australia, Pearson started as a left-wing student, then graduated to supporting social democrats such as Bob Hawke and Paul Keating before voting for John Howard in 1996. He worked briefly as a speechwriter for Howard in 1995-96 but it is not clear whether he wrote many speeches.

Pearson was appointed by the Howard government to the boards of the Australia Council for the Arts, the National Museum of Australia and SBS.

He was a lively columnist who ranged across numerous areas from politics, to history, to the arts, even cooking.

Pearson was an extremely well-read polemicist who had arguments with many, myself included. However, after al-Qaeda's attack on the West in September 2001, we both seemed to realise that we shared much in common.

It is a matter of record that some of Pearson's friends from his left-wing and social democratic days bitterly resented his move to the conservative side of politics, where he formed friendships with Abbott, Howard and the late B.A. Santamaria.

Regrettably, Pearson left only one substantial written work - his 1996 essay titled The ambiguous business of coming out, which was published in Peter Coleman's edited collection Double Take

In September 1999, Pearson was received into the Catholic Church…

Full obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Who was Christopher Pearson?

Obituary in Adelaide Now:

Obituary in The Australian:

Wikipedia on Christopher Pearson:

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