John Shaw Neilson

A life in letters

Helen Hewson
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John Shaw Neilson
John Shaw Neilson

Published

11 February 1997

ISBN

9780522849202

Imprint

Miegunyah Press

John Shaw Neilson

A life in letters

Helen Hewson
John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) is one of Australia's finest and best-loved lyric poets. This comprehensive selection of letters to, from and about him fills a long-felt need, providing a vivid personal and social history.

The selection begins in 1906 when A. G. Stephens started up The Bookfellow. From this crucial point, and throughout the ensuing thirty-five years, we follow Neilson the man—farming and working in the bush, maintaining caring relationships with his scattered family, and finally moving in 1928 to Melbourne and a job as an interdepartmental messenger with the Country Roads Board in Carlton.

Helen Hewson has chosen and edited her material from more than a thousand existing letters, most of which have not been published previously. They cover family, social and publishing correspondence, in addition to the detailed letters about writing poetry which passed between Neilson and his three very different editorial advisers, A. G. Stephens, Robert H.…
John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) is one of Australia's finest and best-loved lyric poets. This comprehensive selection of letters to, from and about him fills a long-felt need, providing a vivid personal and social history.

The selection begins in 1906 when A. G. Stephens started up The Bookfellow. From this crucial point, and throughout the ensuing thirty-five years, we follow Neilson the man—farming and working in the bush, maintaining caring relationships with his scattered family, and finally moving in 1928 to Melbourne and a job as an interdepartmental messenger with the Country Roads Board in Carlton.

Helen Hewson has chosen and edited her material from more than a thousand existing letters, most of which have not been published previously. They cover family, social and publishing correspondence, in addition to the detailed letters about writing poetry which passed between Neilson and his three very different editorial advisers, A. G. Stephens, Robert H. Croll and James Devaney, his first biographer.

Other writers of the period who corresponded with Neilson included Robert Bridges, Mary Gilmore, Christopher Brennan, Vance and Nettie Palmer, Hubert Church, Percival Serle and Frank Wilmot. The letters are full of revealing details about his association with many institutions and personalities-the Australian Literature Association, the Bread and Cheese Club, Coles Book Arcade, the Hill of Content, the Hawthorn Press, Blamire Young, Vance and Nettie Palmer, Mary Gilmore, Bernard O'Dowd, Frank Wilmot, Victor Kennedy and others.

John Shaw Neilson: A Life in Letters establishes a social background and a literary context which ends any suggestion that Neilson is merely a 'bush poet' or 'a simple singer'. This complex poet participated in an intricate network of literary relationships and literary production, and it is only through reading the letters that one realises the degree to which he reflected on his own and other people's poetry and writing.

Helen Hewson

Helen Hewson

Helen Hewson’s background is English and Fine Arts with a particular interest in Australian writing, poetry and art. She was for twenty years an Honorary Research Associate in the School of English at the University of Sydney and continues her research into the imagery and language shaping the poetry of John Shaw Neilson. Currently she is examining and cataloguing the work of the Melbourne graphic designer, cartoonist and printer, Anthony Harvey, whose Australian greeting cards…

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