Review of James Brunton Stephens by Cecil Hadgraft
The conclusion drawn from this life of Brunton Stephens is that he was 'more valuable than his work warranted. Without him Queensland could point to no figure in literature (unless Essex Evans can be put up as a candidate) until years later'—not until the advent of Judith Wright in fact. It seems a desperate claim, and in all fairness Mr Hadgraft doesn't really sell his subject so short. Stephens, he points out elsewhere, was 'the most notable poet of the time writing in Australia', i.e. between Kendall and Paterson. There seems to be some anxiety in his 'placing' of Stephens: in trying to be objective, he tends to cut Stephens down to less than size, to pull the carpet out from under his feet, as it were. Brunton Stephens was a poet and literary figure of the late colonial period and of more than regional significance, though Hadgraft finds it an effort to promote him at that level, and prefers to take it for granted.
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Published 1 May 1970 in Volume 4 No. 3.