This is the first collection in print of the letters of Australian colonial poet Charles Harpur (1813–68) and his circle. Supported by extensive annotation newly prepared for this edition, the 200 letters and life-documents open up successive phases of colonial culture from the 1830s to the 1860s in a newly focused way. Harpur’s two-way correspondence with poet Henry Kendall, and with poet and future premier of NSW Henry Parkes, is especially impressive.
The letters selected for this edition document Harpur’s life in a previously unavailable way. They reveal the intriguing struggle of a high-minded young man to pursue a serious vocation as a poet amidst the unpromising contours of colonial New South Wales society. Despite bearing the taint of a convict family background, Harpur took his vocation with utmost seriousness and had much to endure before he would find recognition as a poet, mainly in colonial newspapers where his poems made over 900 appearances.
This edition captures the process in detail, as well as the production in 1883 of his Poems in book form. Even though editorially mangled, Poems confirmed his reputation and led to his presence in dozens of anthologies down to the present day.
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