Although Sea and Sky (1908) and Swags Up (1928) record Brereton's movement towards both individual concerns and a personal idiom, his whole achievement has its base in the prevailing cultural climate of the Nineties. In those years the poet was making his first tentative essays in his art, the antennae of his young mind were reaching out to the world around him.
Sydney in the Nineties provided a poet with many opportunities to sharpen his imaginings by bringing them up against competing modes of thought and feeling. Brereton made good use of such a situation, furthering an artistic education whose lasting fruits were not to be produced until after the turn of the century. Throughout the Nineties, there was scarcely a writer in Sydneywith whom he was not acquainted, sometimes, as with Lawson and Brennan, on terms of real intimacy. He seems to have spent those years discovering the limits of his effective activity, and polishing the skills he could most usefully employ within those limits; he was serving his apprenticeship to literature. In such circumstances, it would have been surprising if Brereton had not turned to the Bulletin as the proper outlet for his work. Almost every Australian writer of any talent contributed to its columns; in particular, it provided a combination of show-case and laboratory for the rising generation. In fact, Brereton did make use of the opportunities for publication afforded by the Bulletin; yet he maintained a relation with the paper which set him off from most other writers of his time. Unlike many of his friends, he seems deliberately to have withheld his best work from its pages.