The Glugs of Gosh by C.J. Dennis

I'm back reading The Glugs of Gosh by C.J Dennis again in preparation for something coming up later in the week that I'll have to tell you about later. (I'm not trying to be mysterious, just making sure I don't look like a complete dill if it doesn't come off.)

I don't know how long it's been since I last read it - five years maybe - and while I do remember a lot of it some of the finer nuances of the book had escaped me. For those not familiar with the book, it was Dennis's 1917 third verse-novel, following the runaway success of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke in 1915 which went on to sell some 300,000 copies over the next seventy years, and The Moods of Ginger Mick, published a year later. His two better-known books dealt with, firstly, the larrikin "Push" of Melbourne and the romantic tale of Bill and Doreen, and, with Ginger Mick, the experiences of an ordinary Australian soldier during the first World War.

Glugs is a complete departure from the subject-matter of these two books. It is written as a book for children, but is really a political satire. Margaret Herron, Dennis's wife, wrote in her memoir, Down the Years, that the author considered this his best work. This is also confirmed in a letter written by Dennis in which he states that Glugs, and The Singing Garden - a collection of his nature poems from "The Herald" newspaper - were the works he considered most highly. Which is all rather odd.

The Singing Garden was never reprinted to the best of my knowledge, and Glugs is probably his least-known work. Public opinion, measured by sales and familiarity with the work, would lead us towards The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke as Dennis's best. Two film versions - one silent and one "talkie" - stage adaptations, and an Australian stamp series haven't done the Bloke any major harm. But Dennis's opinion shouldn't be ignored, even if it is a bit hard to follow.

In her memoir, Herron indicates that the book was first started to amuse the ill son of J.G. Roberts. (Roberts was Dennis's mentor in the early to mid-1910s. Dennis camped out on Roberts's property in the Dandenongs in a converted tramway car while writing The Sentimental Bloke, the final book edition of which is dedicated to Roberts and his wife.) The first chapter from Glugs was published in "The Bulletin" magazine in June 1915, and is basically a self-contained portion of the final story. The second excerpt appeared in the same magazine a month later and was again written as a stand-alone story. Some time after that Dennis must have decided that there was a lot more to the tale than he had already told and started work on expanding the two poems into a full-blown verse-novel, and weaving in portions of other, early poems, such as "The Snare" from 1913, which were not originally related to the Glugs story at all. [More to follow.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 3, 2007 10:36 AM.

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