John Shaw Neilson: A Life in Letters

John Shaw Neilson: A Life in Letters

Author
Helen Hewson
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Second-Hand (Hardcover)

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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 that 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 that 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.