Reprint: Widow Sums Up by A. H. C. (Alec H. Chisholm)

DOWN THE YEARS, by Margaret Herron. - Hallcraft, Melbourne.

Since the title of this book means nothing in particular, the subject would not be immediately apparent if it were not for the fact that the dust-jacket (which is no place for a sub-title) carries the words in small type, "The Life Story of C. J. Dennis, as told by his wife."  

That announcement, in fact, is somewhat misleading, for the narrative has too many gaps, and in general is much too slight, to be regarded as "the" life-story, or even "a" life-story, of its subject. It might well have been strengthened by a few illustrations, a bibliography, and perhaps a chapter or two of reminiscence by Dennis's competent artist associate, Hal Gye.

Presumably, "Down The Years" is the outcome of a resolution reached soon after the death of Dennis, when a memorial committee commissioned his widow to write a 'life." That was 15 years ago. In the meantime much material discussing the writings and character of "Den" has been published, and thus a number of the points made in this book , such as those dealing with the origin of "The Sentimental Bloke," are not new.

Necessarily, however - necessarily in the case of a widow writing about her husband - the little volume contains, in certain parts of its 88 pages of wifely chatter, various fragments that are fresh and interesting.

Among these items are one or two brief notes from Henry Lawson, some amusing personal impressions of Dennis's lavender and-lace aunts, and a frank account of how the author reacted to the desire of her versatile husband to keep at different times a household cow and a few prize fowls.

Various comments in the book give rise to a couple of intriguing questions (1) Is a poet's wife the best judge of her husband's character? (2) How much should a widow tell'?

Possibly the reply to the first question should be, "Not necessarily," and to the second, "It all depends..."  

Mrs Dennis's domestic assessments are somewhat forthright. She disputes a suggestion, made by some of "Den's" associates, that he occasionally showed a strain of affectation, but, on the other hand, she declares that his tastes were "always extravagant," that he displayed "primness" at times, and that he had a "casual attitude" and "periods of aloofness" that grew worse in later years.

Whatever may be said of these judgments, mere males who knew "Den" will be on his side in the matter of the cow and the fowls.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 1954

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 17, 2010 7:54 AM.

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