Charles Harpur Criticism - Essay

Judith Wright (essay date 1963)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wright, Judith. In Australian Writers and Their Work: Charles Harpur, pp. 5-32. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1963.

[In the following excerpt, Wright addresses Harpur's family background, early employment, and the unprofessional editing of a posthumous edition of his works. The essay concludes with an attempt to summarize the importance of Harpur's work in Australia's literary canon.]


Many poets have been born in unfortunate circumstances; some have lived and died unfortunate; but poets can usually trust to a posthumous future for justice. Few are as unlucky as Charles Harpur, Australia's first and least-regarded poet.


(The entire section is 10824 words.)

Brian Elliott (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Elliott, Brian. “The Eye of the Beholder.” In The Landscape of Australian Poetry, pp. 57-74. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire, 1967.

[In the following excerpt, Elliott establishes Harpur as an original, impressionist landscape poet whose works, although flawed, are perceptive and poignant.]

… The first poet who may be considered to belong firmly to the Australian repertory is Charles Harpur.1 That he was an original poet is fairly to be claimed, in spite of much in his work that appears acquiescent or imitative. An admirer of Wordsworth and of Shelley, he still adhered in many ways to the notions (and particularly the prosody) of an earlier...

(The entire section is 2856 words.)

Vijay C. Mishra (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mishra, Vijay C. “Early Literary Responses to Charles Harpur.” Westerly no. 4 (December 1977): 88-93.

[In the following essay, Mishra surveys the early responses to Harpur's poetry, concluding that the lavish praise Harpur received comments more upon the reviewers than on the poet himself.]

There's a path to redemption—but that shall we miss, Till we seek it no more in the old warring manner

—Charles Harpur

‘… Australia has now produced a poet all her own, to atone for the indiscretions of poetasters among her adopted sons.’ So wrote Henry Parkes in his review of...

(The entire section is 3098 words.)

Noel Macainsh (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Macainsh, Noel. “Charles Harpur's ‘Midsummer Noon’—A Structuralist Approach.” Australian Literary Studies 8, no. 4 (October 1978): 439-45.

[In the following essay, Macainsh analyzes repetition, rhyme schemes, and allegory in Harpur's “Midsummer Noon” to emphasize its value as structurally sound poetry.]

Charles Harpur's poem “A Midsummer Noon in the Australian Forest” is widely anthologised. The editor of The Penguin Book of Australian Verse, Professor Harry Heseltine, says of the poem that it arguably makes a ‘definitive contribution to the direction and pattern of our poetic history’.1 Nevertheless, and despite the...

(The entire section is 4221 words.)

Vijay Mishra (essay date 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mishra, Vijay. “Charles Harpur's Reputation 1853-1858: The Years of Controversy.” Australian Literary Studies 8, no. 4 (October 1978): 446-56.

[In the following essay, Mishra analyzes the changes in Harpur's literary reputation during a period of intense self-examination by the Australian literary community of the mid-nineteenth century.]

Between 1853 and 1858 there was a dramatic change in the literary reputation of Charles Harpur. Prior to 1853 Harpur had produced a volume of verse, Thoughts, A Series of Sonnets, and had been a regular contributor to various newspapers since 1833. There were, no doubt, minor disagreements as in the...

(The entire section is 4457 words.)

Leonie Kramer (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kramer, Leonie. “Imitation and Originality in Australian Colonial Poetry: The Case of Charles Harpur.” Yearbook of English Studies 13 (1983): 116-32.

[In the following essay, Kramer highlights word choice and construction in Harpur's poetry to address early influences on his work. Kramer also analyzes the poet's later attempts to merge the form of his Continental “mentors” with an original Australian style.]

‘Australian poetry’, writes Vivian Smith, ‘starts with the indelible stamp of the cultivated amateur’.1 It also starts with a mixed inheritance, with established modes of poetic address (particularly odes and elegies) and their...

(The entire section is 7740 words.)

Michael Ackland (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ackland, Michael. “God's Sublime Order in Harpur's ‘The Creek of the Four Graves.’” Australian Literary Studies 11, no. 3 (May 1984): 355-70.

[In the following essay, Ackland compares Harpur's treatment of the union of man, nature, and God in “The Creek of the Four Graves” with that of poet John Milton.]

‘The Creek of the Four Graves’ has long been a rallying-point for the defence of Charles Harpur's poetic standing. Published separately in 1845 and reissued in the 1853 collection entitled The Bushrangers: A Play in Five Acts and Other Poems, it was singled out for special praise by the Maitland Mercury, while Daniel Deniehy...

(The entire section is 7387 words.)

Elizabeth Perkins (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Perkins, Elizabeth. Introduction to The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur, pp. xi-xliii. London: Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Perkins details Harpur's education, family circumstances, and controversial episodes in the poet's youth. Perkins then balances an explanation of Harpur's weaknesses as a lyricist with his originality, spirit, and narrative skill.]


Sir Henry Parkes's autobiographical Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History, published in 1892 when Parkes was seventy-seven, begins with an account of the political movement of the forties and fifties which eventually brought...

(The entire section is 12229 words.)

M. Ackland (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ackland, M. “Innocence at Risk: Charles Harpur's Adaptation of a Romantic Archetype to the Australian Landscape.” Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 70 (November 1988): 239-59.

[In the following essay, Ackland demonstrates Harpur's linking of the possibility of redemption for man with the relatively untouched Australian landscape.]

Charles Harpur, it is now agreed, is a poet of ideas, but the precise nature of his thought remains largely unexplored. Repeatedly his works express faith in a suffusing Divinity, and the related recognition that trust in a Providential presence demands a corresponding advocacy of ‘the...

(The entire section is 7563 words.)

Adrian Mitchell (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mitchell, Adrian. “Writing up a Storm: Natural Strife and Charles Harpur.” Southerly 53, no. 2 (1993): 90-113.

[In the following essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1992, Mitchell considers the reasons and methods for reading Australian colonial poetry and focuses on Harpur's efforts to combine new experiences and expressions of thought with a sense of the familiar.]

Australian colonial poetry is considered, if it is considered at all, more with sorrow than delight. The colonial writer lived with the inevitability of failure, one recent commentator tells us, leaning over the counter of the post-colonial theory store.1 Others concede that...

(The entire section is 9584 words.)

Uli Krahn (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Krahn, Uli. “‘How Nourishing Is Nature’: Imaginary Possession of Landscape in Harpur and Skrzynecki.” Southerly 60, no. 3 (Winter 2000): 29-38.

[In the following essay, Krahn explores the techniques that Harpur and Peter Skrzynecki employ to express ownership of the culture and landscape of Australia.]

Notions of place have been central in the cultural self-definition of settler colonies like Australia, since difference in place is the most visible marker distinguishing the colony from the imperial motherland.1 In Australian literary discourses, place is very much tied up with landscape, presumably as difference in landscape foregrounds the...

(The entire section is 3504 words.)