Reprint: C. J. Dennis and His Verse by D.E.

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SELECTED VERSE OF C. J. DENNIS. Chosen and Introduced by Alec H. Chisholm. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Perhaps the most remarkable success-story in Australian writing is that of the late C. J. Dennis, told by his biographer, Mr. A. H, Chisholm, in an introduction to this selection of Dennis's verse.

In 1914 "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke" was rejected by a Melbourne publisher, so Dennis, in 1915, sent the manuscript to Angus and Robertson and said he was "pretty confident" of obtaining about three hundred subscribers for a five-shilling edition.

Angus and Robertson issued the book on their own judgment and sold 66,148 copies in eighteen months in Australia and New Zealand. Editions were also published in Britain, Canada and U.S.A., and the story was filmed and dramatised.

Ginger Mick, a cobber of The Bloke, was the subject of another small book of verse, which sold 42,349 copies in less than six months.

Here was success seldom achieved by poets. Other books such as the clever satirical "Glugs of Gosh," the children's book, "Roundabout," and sequels of "The Bloke" followed.

Now Mr. Chisholm, in his careful selection from Dennis's "nine books, a booklet and a leaflet," has given readers the chance to decide whether the large sales of 35 years ago were due to passing fancy or some universal and lasting qualities.

It seems likely that Dennis will still be very popular, for although his verse is only of slight literary value it has, especially in the vernacular verses, novelty of expression, salty humour, a pleasant rhythm, robust- ness, and the sentimentality that is often so obvious in the "tough guys" of literature, whether they be Melbourne larrikins or Hemingway's "he-men."

In addition, Dennis tells a story well.

Adult readers will find plenty of pungent satire in the fantasy of the dealings between the Glugs and Swanks of Gosh and the Ogs of Podge; while children reading "Cuppacumalonga" and "The Ant Explorer" will surely want to read other poems which Mr. Chisholm has not included in this selection, especially "The Long Road Home," "The Band," "Hist!" and "You and I."

Naturally the first poem in the book is the famous "Australaise," so popular with Diggers in World War I.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1951

[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 December 21, 2011 7:25 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #287 - Antipodes by David Malouf was the previous entry in this blog.

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