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Where Shadows Have Fallen

The descent of Henry Kendall

Adrian Mitchell

Where Shadows Have Fallen
Henry Kendall was once regarded as Australia's finest poet, compared favourably with Wordsworth. His poetry was romantic, sentimental in its celebration of the Australian bush he loved. But he was more Henry Lawson than John Keats: a self-pitying wife deserter, cadger and drunkard. And it ran in the family.

From 1859, Kendall published prolifically in newspapers and periodicals. But he struggled to support a wife and children through poems and articles, his first poetry book was a financial failure (though critically acclaimed) and his brother and sister contributed to his financial troubles.

Often in debt and on the precipice of bankruptcy, Kendall suffered from poverty, ill health and drunkenness. In 1870, he was charged with forging a cheque, and found not guilty on grounds of insanity; two years later, he spent time in an insane asylum. But from 1876, he began to rebuild his life and career, and in 1880 his collection Songs from the Mountain was an outstanding success.

In this intriguing work of literary investigation, celebrated author and historian Adrian Mitchell delves deep into Kendall's storied life and uncovers a dark past that casts new shadows on his legacy. He discovers that this habitually self-effacing poet had good reason to keep himself and his family out of the limelight. This is the true story of Henry Kendall, his parents and his grandparents - and he had every reason to dread it being made public.

Adrian Mitchell, formerly at the University of Sydney, has since busied himself in writing a number of books all published through Wakefield Press. These have an Australian reference, and they are all based in historical fact. They are all engaging stories of people and events that should be better known than they are. His Plein Airs and Graces: The life and times of George Collingridge was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award.

Praise for Where Shadows Have Fallen
'My generation grew up with Henry Kendall’s poetry. We were enthralled by the liquid rhythm of Bellbirds; we thrilled to the easily recognised picture of September in Australia; we were saddened by The Last of his Tribe. We knew Kendall’s poetry but never the man. Mitchell has now closed this gap.
Although Mitchell is a well-known scholar, his current book is sure to attract the ire of critics with preconceived ideas. Kendall, in his day, was Australia’s unofficial poet laureate, our Number 1. Mitchell does not deny his subject’s achievements, or the quality of his work. He writes that in 1872 Kendall was articulating "his regret for a transcendence of vision now denied him because he had fallen by the way…[when] he momentarily achieved that dream state which he knew was the true source of poetry" . . . Henry Kendall was a man of mountains and trees, of gullies and creeks, of blossoms and bees.
Devotees of Kendall will not care for the evidence that the Kendall family 're-defined themselves' or produced on several occasions a re-definition of their history. This is Mitchell’s circumspect way of saying that the family told porkies. Nor will Kendall devotees welcome the information that Henry Kendall beat his wife and abandoned her in straitened circumstances. Nor that he borrowed money and failed to pay it back and, most piteous of all, was an unrepentant drunkard. . .
Mitchell quite rightly sets his vitriol loose on the (fawning biographers) he describes . . . Today we would call them, and try to shrug off their foibles. But Mitchell does much more. He opens the curtains of history to throw light on a particular individual whose character is revealed as less than perfect.
I loved and hated this book. My preconceived ideas are weeping still.' - Ian Lipke, Queensland Reviewers Collective

Also available

Format Paperback
Size 234 x 156 mm
ISBN 9781743057483
Extent 240 pages
Price: AU$29.95 including GST
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