Discussion of Christopher Brennan, Part 3

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The following is the third 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 began with a report of a lecture by Hilary Lofting, and continued with an essay by John Sandes on the merits, or otherwise, of Brennan's poetry.



Sir,-In last Saturday's issue, under the heading "Literary Misapprehension," Mr. John Sandes says: "Mrs. Mary Gilmore wrote in a letter to the Editor of the 'Herald': "The desire to see Christopher Brennan published in enduring form is equally a desire to see Australians stand face to face among the writers of the world." Then he adds, "It may surprise Mrs. Mary Gilmore to learn that Chris. Brennan's poetical work, or, at any rate, a large part of it, was published by subscription in Sydney."

May I reply that it is no surprise to me, as I bought several copies of this collection, as well as of the smaller book. But these are but a portion of his work, and it was to a complete edition of all he did that I referred, and because no partial collection can give him the standing in Europe that his scholarship should command. Mr. Sandes in his article does not mention either Brennan's published prose or his lectures -- which even in notes were literature. It was in the desire to see all this published that I wrote the letter referred to by Mr. Sandes; and this Is, I am told, the aim of the executors. I have been told that the volume in contemplation will be about four times as large as the (sectional) one that was published by subscription.

I am, etc.,


King's Cross. Sept. 7.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1936



Sir,-Mrs. Mary Gllmore's letter in your issue of September 10 covers the ground in relation to the partial collection of Brennan's poetry mentioned in Mr. John Sandes's intensely interesting article. May I, as the lecturer from whose words this discussion sprang, add that I also have known this partial collection for many years, that I, in fact, read my excerpts from it at the fellowship address in question?

The theme of that address was that a "complete" collection of the work of an Australian major poet should be made available before its absence becomes a present reproach and a future loss to Australian Imagination and scholarship.

I am, etc.,

HILARY LOFTING. Sydney, Sept. 12.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 1936



Sir,-There has been much wild talk and there has been much lip service about Australia's greatest poet. We think that those of our readers who were friends of Brennan in his life, and the still larger number to whom he is an honoured name, will be glad to realise that there is no call for lamentation over the prospective loss of his work.

Brennan, before his death, had the insight to make one of his dearest and loyalest friends, R. Innes Kay, his literary executor, and Mr. Kay's loyal and thorough stewardship has prevented any ill-judged, sporadic, and inaccurate publication of Brennan's work, and has prepared the public for the edition of the forthcoming Brennan omnibus. The editing of this omnibus will be in the hands of a committee, Messrs. R. Innes Kay, J. J. Quinn, and C. H. Kaeppel, with Miss Kate Egan, treasurer, and Miss K. Donovan, secretary, It will include every surviving thing that Brennan has written, with the possible exception of his lectures on the Homeric question and his compositions in German, which have now only an antiquarian interest. The omnibus would have appeared long since, but for the difficulty in securing a small portion (not more than ten per cent.) of Brennan's work that was in the hands of others. But the committee felt, and rightly, that the omnibus should be definitive.

There is another matter to which with great happiness we refer. All lovers of Brennan's work have noted the irresistible songfulness of some of his lyrics. No one has noticed it better than Mr. Horace Keats. It has been our privilege to hear his first scores of "The Wanderer" cycle. Properly to appraise them, would, we think, take a Strangways. We would only say we recall the singing fairy of "Midsummer Night's Dream," and, that hearing them, we heard the fusion of two artists-the poet and the musician. That these gems of art will be heard in England and America it is good to know, but we may be acquitted of any parochialism if we are avowedly glad that they will be heard first in Australia -- at the forthcoming series of lectures on Brennan, all of which will conclude with selections from the Wanderer cycle, played by Mr. Keats and sung by his gifted wife, so well known by her platform name, Miss Barbara Russell.

I am, etc.,


Hon. secretary, Chris Brennan Committee.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 1936

Note: this last letter was originally published on this weblog on 6 April 2011.  I've reprinted it here as it fits the rest of the discussion.

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

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 21, 2012 9:37 AM.

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