Alec Derwent Hope, Australia’s most widely honored poet, was born in Cooma, New South Wales, on July 21, 1907, the son of a Presbyterian minister. In 1911, the Hopes moved to Campbell Town in the Macquaise Valley on the island of Tasmania. In his early years, Hope was educated at home and then attended a number of secondary schools.
In 1924 Hope was admitted to the University of Sydney, where he read English and philosophy and graduated in 1928, winning a scholarship to University College, Oxford, to study English. He left in 1931 with a third-class degree. He returned to Sydney in 1931 with the Depression in full force. In 1932 Hope trained at Sydney Teachers’ College and proceeded to hold a number of odd jobs for which he was ill-suited. Finally, in 1938, Hope was appointed a lecturer in English at Sydney Teachers’ University.
Though he had no book publications at this time, he possessed a growing reputation as a caustic critic of the Australian literary scene. Hope was also the radio personality known as Anthony Inkwell, who conducted poetry programs for children on the Australian Broadcasting System. With increasing recognition, in 1945 Hope was appointed senior lecturer in the department of English at the University of Melbourne. He served in this capacity until 1951, when he accepted the post of professor of English at Canberra University College, which soon became the Australian National University.
His first book, The Wandering Islands, finally appeared in 1955, when Hope was forty-eight. Hope was a deliberate worker, slow to mature as a poet although very active as a teacher and critic. Another major reason for such late publication was censorship. Until the 1950’s, Australia had a far more repressive obscenity law than did the United States. Hope is a very sensual poet; love is his major theme, and physical love pervades his poetic canon. Nevertheless, The Wandering Islands received much praise amid the...
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Alec Derwent Hope was born in Cooma, New South Wales, Australia, on July 21, 1907, the firstborn of the family. His father, Percival Hope, a Presbyterian minister, moved the family to Tasmania when Hope was four years old. In the rural area where Hope’s father’s new congregation was located, school was rudimentary at best, often being held in the local sheepshearing shed. Hope, like many middle-class children, received much of his primary instruction at home. His mother, who had been a schoolteacher, taught him to read and write, and his father later instructed him in Latin. The family library was large, and the parents took turns reading classics of English literature aloud to the five children. Hope began to write poems in ballad stanzas when he was seven or eight, and by the time he was in his early teens, he had published his first poem, a translation of Roman poet Catullus’s Phasellus ille quem videstis, hospites.
When Hope was fourteen, he was sent to the Australian mainland for his secondary education, first at Bathurst High School and later at Fort Street High School, one of the best schools in Sydney. Upon graduation, he was awarded a scholarship designated for sons of Presbyterian clergymen and matriculated at St. Andrew’s College of the University of Sydney. He had originally intended to study medicine, but low science marks forced him to read for an arts degree instead. During his undergraduate years, he published poems in...
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