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7 September 1876 C.J. Dennis

 7 September 1876 C.J. Dennis

C.J. Dennis was born on 7 September 1876 in the hotel in Auburn where his father was licensee. A few years later the family moved to Gladstone and then to the Beetaloo Hotel in Laura. After attending Christian Brothers College in Adelaide for a time the young Clarrie returned to Laura and worked for a while as a clerk to a solicitor. He then spent some time working for a small social weekly named the Critic in Adelaide, but before he was 21 he was back in Laura serving as a barman in his father’s hotel. This only lasted a short time before the restless C.J. set off for Broken Hill where he arrived with virtually no money and no prospects. Several jobs later he left there and re-appeared in Adelaide, back on the staff of the Critic of which he eventually became editor.

In 1905 with others, he launched an illustrated journal called the Gadfly in which were printed some of his verses, but the venture failed in 1909 and Dennis began a career as a freelance journalist, soon moving to Melbourne where he was to remain. In 1913-14 ‘Backblock Ballads’ was published and from these verses grew his most enduring work ‘The Sentimental Bloke’. With the success of the ‘Bloke’ Dennis married and settled down in Toolangi to continue his writing. He died on 22 June 1938. On 29 March 1953 a memorial drinking fountain was unveiled in Auburn and in 1976 a cavalcade of writers in Adelaide for the Festival of Arts made the journey to ‘Den’s’ hometown to pay homage to the author of the ‘Bloke’.

Alec H. Chisholm, The Life and Times of C.J. Dennis, Angus & Robertson, Melbourne, 1982.

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