The Letters of Charles Harpur and his Circle (paperback)

Selected and edited by Paul Eggert and Chris Vening

Regular price $60.00 Sale

Format: paperback
Other formats: Hardback $120.00
404 pages
ISBN: 9781743329283

Publication: 01 Dec 2023
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature
Publisher: Sydney University Press

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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.

Chris Vening is an independent researcher in Australian colonial culture and a major contributor to the Charles Harpur Critical Archive.

Paul Eggert FAHA is Professor Emeritus at Loyola University Chicago and the University of New South Wales. He is a scholarly editor, book historian and editorial theorist.

List of Illustrations
Note on equivalences
Editorial approach
Note on the texts



“Charles Harpur occupies a similar position in Australian literary history to Walt Whitman in America: not only the country’s first major poet, but one attempting self-consciously to correlate national mythologies with wider cultural styles and traditions. Harpur’s extensive prose commentaries on his own poetry, too often overlooked, testify to his intellectual ambition, and this long overdue collection of his letters significantly expands our understanding of his work. Paul Eggert and Chris Vening’s exemplary scholarly edition performs a signal service for studies not only of Australian literature but nineteenth-century poetry in general.”

Professor Paul Giles  

“A masterclass in new documentary editing.”

Dr Wim Van Mierlo  

“The introduction is bound to become fundamental to all future biographies of the poet, while the exhaustive editorial critical apparatus offers a paradigm for the future publication of writers’ letters.”

Professor Emeritus William Christie  

“This edition is fascinating reading. Letters by Harpur’s correspondents as well as by the man himself offer insights into mid-nineteenth century Australian society and colonial print culture, as well as the character and sensibility of Harpur the poet. The editors provide ample explanatory annotation and well chosen illustrations to animate their subject.”

Professor Emerita Margaret Harris  

“Immensely valuable to those interested in Australia’s colonial poetry and the conditions of its making.”

Professor Emerita Joanne Wilkes  

Format: paperback
Size: 250 × 176 mm
404 pages
frontispieces and maps
Copyright: © 2023
ISBN: 9781743329283
Publication: 01 Dec 2023
Series: Sydney Studies in Australian Literature