Henry Lawson's Foreword for C. J. Dennis

The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke was the first of CJ Dennis's "verse novels" and introduced the Sentimental Bloke, Doreen and Ginger Mick. Lavishly illustrated by Hal Gye (whose larrikin cherubs will be forever linked with The Bloke) it was first published in 1915 by Angus & Robertson of Sydney, with an introduction from Henry Lawson.

Dennis wrote to Henry Lawson in the lead-up to the publication of the first edition and, while I don't have a copy of Dennis's letter, here is Lawson's reply:

[26 March 1915]

Dear Den,

Of course I will you ole fool. Just got your letter. By a coincidence, that doesn't seem strange to me. I showed one of yours - the last ["Sentimental Bloke Gets Hitched"] to Geo Robertson, of A & R, one morning about a week ago, when he was in a bad temper. It tickled him immensely, and, incidentally, cleared up the whole atmosphere of the shop. (He's been hitched twice). Hadn't seen your work before because of "war troubles" and he hasn't been reading the "Bully" [Bulletin] for many months. Saw Bert Stevens this morning. Will write at length tomorrow.

I dips me lid.

Yours ever,

Henry Lawson

And the Foreword, as printed in the first edition, is as follows:

My young friend Dennis has honoured me with a request to write a preface to his book. I think a man can best write a preface to his own book, provided he knows it is good. Also if he knows it is bad.

The Sentimental Bloke, while running through the Bulletin, brightened up many dark days for me. He is more perfect than any alleged "larrikin" or Bottle-O character I have ever attempted to sketch, not even excepting my own beloved Benno. Take the first poem for instance, where the Sentimental Bloke gets the hump. How many men, in how many different parts of the world -- and of how many different languages -- have had the same feeling -- the longing for something better -- to be something better?

The exquisite humour of The Sentimental Bloke speaks for itself; but there's a danger that its brilliance may obscure the rest, especially for minds, of all stations, that, apart from sport and racing, are totally devoted to boiling

"The cabbitch storks or somethink"

in this social "pickle found-ery" of ours.

Doreen stands for all good women, whether down in the smothering alleys or up in the frozen heights.

And so, having introduced the little woman (they all seem 'little" women), I "dips me lid" -- and stand aside.


SYDNEY, 1st September, 1915.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 24, 2010 9:27 AM.

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