"C.J. Dennis and the Roberts Family" by Ian McLaren
C. J. Dennis dedicated The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke to Mr and Mrs J. G. Roberts.
Copies of five Dennis presentation volumes to J. G. Roberts have recently come to hand. The copies of The Sentimental Bloke and The Glugs of Gosh, each with their associated Dennis "production", are of special interest; Ginger Mick, Digger Smith and Jim of the Hills are also presentation copies, with several insertions, and fine association items, but are not described here.
John Garibaldi (Garry) Roberts and Roberta M. Roberts were "Father" and "Mother" to Dennis. Roberts was accountant and then manager of the Melbourne Tramway Trust. In October 1913, he invited Dennis to use one of the old tramway buses on his holiday property at South Sassafras (changed later to Kallista), to the north-east of Melbourne. In addition he assisted Dennis with both finance, introductions to literary friends and advice. It was logical that Dennis should not only appreciate this relationship, but dedicate his second book of verse to these friends.
I already had four copies of the first edition of The Sentimental Bloke signed by both Dennis and Hal Gye; one of these was a presentation copy, "John Shirlow from his friend J. G. Roberts 10th Nover. 1915". But this copy now referred to is merely the fifty-first thousand. The half-title bears the inscription - "To J. G. Roberts, with the best of good wishes, on the 'Bloke's' birthday October 16th 1916. One year old. Score: 55,370 (not out)". It is also signed by Hal Gye. The dedication page is signed by J. G. Roberts and Roberta M. Roberts; there is a photograph of all four on the inside front cover, whilst cuttings inserted at the rear of the book almost double its width.
Loosely inserted in this copy is a typescript "booklet", with the outside cover reading - "The/Mooch o' Life./-/From/'The Sentimental Bloke.'/By/Den.", together with a cut-out photograph of Dennis. The title page of this volume reads - "The/ Mooch o' Life./-/South Sassafras./The Sunnyside Press./-/Edition limited to one copy only".
In addition to the cover, it has twelve pages, octavo, tied with red ribbon. It is signed by Dennis at the end of the text, whilst the inside cover bears the inscription - "Wishing Mother many/happy returns of the/day,/from/Den/December 20th 1914". This was a pleasant tribute to Mrs Roberts.
But the copies of The Glugs of Gosh and its associated Dennis "pamphlet" are of even more interest. The half-title inscription of The Glugs states - "To Garry Roberts, in/memory of 'Sunnyside'/and the birth of Joi,/C. J. Dennis/ Toolangi Oct. 13th 1917", and is also autographed "J. G. Roberts". The opposite page has a photograph of a walking group of nine, including Dennis, Roberts, R. H. Croll and John Shirlow. An extract photograph from Table Talk of 2 July 1914 is pasted down on the dedication [To my wife] page, showing Mrs Price (later Mrs C. J. Dennis) with Hal Gye at the Artists' Bal Masqué.
The verso of the dedication page has two photographs. Notations read "B. J. Roberts-Sep. 1917/For whom 'Joi the Glug'/ was written on 23.6.1914", and "Sunnyside South Sassafras Sep. 1917./Where 'Joi the Glug'/was written 23.6.1914", and is signed by B. J. Roberts. Two additional photographs, together with news cuttings, are inserted at the end with the copy of a letter from Barry Roberts, 11-year-old son of the Roberts (see The Making of the Sentimental Bloke by A. H. Chisholm. pp. 84-85):-
NOTICE Den's Bed House, ack Blanket Place, lock Bedroom Town. allads Anywhere, 22/6/14 are the best Dear Den, It's rotten lying here in bed, I'd like to smack the chemist's head. He gives me rotten stuff to take - It's horrid, it fair takes the cake. When you are writing your next pome Just think of me down here at home, - Because I'm lonely, don't you see, For mum can't come and read to me. And give my love to brother Frank. And if you don't you'll get a spank! I think it's time to say Ta-ta, So now Good-bye-from B.J.R. P.S.- As now my tale of woe you've beard. Try and cipher out this word! - Efileesnamanayub -
In reply Dennis produced another of his "Sunnyside Press" home-made publications. The text is again typescript, on fourteen pages, one side only. Format is oblong small octavo, bound with red wool. The inside back cover notes - "F. W. Roberts Bookbinder". This is brother Frank referred to in the verse.
The cover title is in red crayon, with two "Glugs" at bottom corners, and reads "The History/of/Joi the Glug./By/Den./The Sunnyside Press". Two further Glugs are enclosed in a circle on the rear cover. Page [ii] is a half-title "Joi, the Glug", with rough pencil drawing of a Glug by Dennis. These formed the basis of Hal Gye's intricate illustrations in this work; Hal produced a duplicate set of these illustrations some little time before his death.
The title page explains the birth of this series in response to Barry's original verse -
"The/ amazing history of/ Joi, the Glug./ Together with some account of the Habits, Manners, and/ Customs of the Inhabitants of the Land of Gosh. Set down in Rime/ at/ Sunnyside, on the twenty-third day of June in the year/ nineteen hundred and four- teen/ -By Den, the Scrivener/ For the entertainment of his Boon Pal,/ John of Eumana."
The text follows in XIII stanzas, signed at the end, "C. J. Dennis". A comparison of the typed copy shows some variations in the printed book. Parts I-VIII are at pages 21-24 of the printed version; parts IX-XII at pages 53-55; and part XIII is the introductory verse at page [xl -
Let him who is minded to meet with a Glug Pluck three hardy hairs from a rabbit-skin rug., Blow one to the South, and one to the West, Then burn another and swallow the rest ...
Some of these verses were published in the Bulletin of 3 June 1915.
This satire grew from the challenge of a young lad's verse; this is the beginnings of The Glugs of Gosh.
Biblionews Issue 227
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002|