Discussion of Christopher Brennan, Part 1

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The following is the start of a three-part discussion of the works of Christopher Brennan that took place in the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald during 1936.  It begins with a report of a lecture by Hilary Lofting, a Sydney journalist and brother of Hugh Lofting (author of the Dr Doolittle books), about the Australian poet Christopher Brennan (1870-1932).

"Only Major Poet": Christopher Brennan

"Christopher Brennan is our one major poet, and there is no published collection of his works. It is a standing disgrace."

This statement was made by Mr. Hilary Lofting, the author, at a meeting of the fellowship of Australian Writers at the Shallmar Cafe last night, when he pleaded for recognition of the poetical talents of the late Christopher Brennan.

Mr. Lofting said that Brennan had been a member of his household during one of the last years of the poet's life. One had almost to study Brennan's work before one could like it.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July 1936

And in response:

Christopher Brennan: To the Editor of the Herald.

Sir,-In his address to the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Mr. Hilary Lofting said: "One had almost to study Brennan, work before one liked it." Then, striking a comparison, he offered the supplementary remark that it needed three hundred years of Shakespeare to be liked. A quip, droll enough to have made old Chris shake his sides, if he had been there to hear it.

Later on in the evening, Mr. Lofting specified it as being "our job to read and know Brennan . . . " a splendid idea for those who can spare themselves "that time which never can return." But, "extra jocum," one cannot govern taste; because no man considers rightly who is unable to think for himself. Moreover, genius owes nothing to testimony; or, if it does, we might subscribe to a new maxim, "Poeta fit non nascitur." In the present case it seems certain that Brennan will come to his fame with a merry wind. During the period of his life, he was a very dear and lovable man; one who, in the words of Edward Gibbon, "multiplied his own experience by reading and reflection, and lived in distant ages and remote countries."

I am etc.


Camden, July 17.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 1936

And then:

Christopher Brennan and Fame

Sir, - In regard to his letter in this morning's paper, there is no one more capable of assessing the place of Christopher Brennan, either personally or in his prose and poetry, than Hugh McCrae, and it is always a delight when he writes of anyone. But may I seem to differ and yet go further than Mr. McCrae, and say that perpetuity rests, not on genius, but on rag paper? Genius dies, books perish, but rag endures. Because of this I last week formulated a proposal to the Fellowship of Australian Writers that it initiate a movement for a subscription rag-paper edition of Brennan's complete works. Perhaps there might be a conference arranged of heads of all the bodies interested in scholarship, art, and literature, so that something universal could be done. Brennan was a scholar as well as a writer, and art should be represented in all our commemorating and perpetuating books.

I am, etc.,


King's Cross, July 20

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 July 1936

Followed by:

Chris Brennan.

Sir, - The recently published remarks of Mr. Hilary Lofting as to Chris. Brennan and the subsequent correspondence appearing in your columns are very encouraging. They give, not more heart -- for it is a labour of love for the man as much as his work - but more promise to the writer and Mr. J. J. Quinn in their joint labour already well advanced, of the publication next year of as complete an edition of Chris's prose and verse as the reluctance of some who survive him to produce his books and manuscripts will permit. It is hoped soon to give your correspondents and others interested in the publication of Chris's works an opportunity of displaying that interest in a practical manner. Every time I read in the Press enthusiasms from admirers of Brennan's verse, I am reminded of an occasion when Chris's intellectual attainments being exclusively in eulogy, the late A. G. Stephens stamped angrily about the grass saying, "Why doesn't somebody say what a lovable man he was?" We shook hands. In conclusion, may I ask for leave, publicly, to thank Mr. Hugh McCrae for his letter.

I am. etc.,


Sydney, July 24.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 1936

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

Note: This discussion will continue on Friday with a long reply by John Sandes

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 14, 2012 6:59 AM.

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