AustLit logo
Issue Details: First known date: 2014... 2014 Representations of ‘The Bush’ in the Poetry of Charles Harpur
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The first month of 2013 was marked by two very different events. On 12 January, the Governor General, stars of stage and screen, politicians and other notables attended the Sydney Theatre for the opening night of The Secret River, Andrew Bovell’s adaptation of Kate Grenville’s best-selling if controversial novel. On 23 January a much smaller group of academics and other lovers of Australian literature gathered in Canberra to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Harpur, Australia’s first notable poet. While the people involved in these two events were very different, with one attracting much publicity and other none, there was a link. The Secret River, as a program note testifies, ‘takes place in the Hawkesbury River region of New South Wales between 1814-15’. Charles Harpur had been born in Windsor, the major town on the Hawkesbury, a year earlier. Like William Thornhill in the play, his father Joseph was a former convict who received a free pardon from Governor Macquarie in 1815. By then he was the schoolmaster at Windsor, where he had a grant of land, so that, unlike Thornhill’s children, Harpur grew up with books as his companions.

'In the stage adaptation of The Secret River, Stephen Curtis’s set gives a powerful representation of the beauty and the might of the bush before white settlement, a beauty sullied at the end of the play as Thornhill draws the lines of a fence on the backcloth. For the characters in the play, the bush represents different things: it is home for the Indigenous family, the hope of a prosperous future for Thornhill, a place of fun and games for Dick Thornhill, Garraway and Narabi, but totally alien to Sal Thornhill who never stops longing for London. How did Harpur, growing up on the Hawkesbury during this period, represent the bush and its Indigenous inhabitants? This essay will focus in particular on ‘Lost in the Bush’ and ‘The Kangaroo Hunt’.' (Publication abstract)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon JASAL Country vol. 14 no. 3 2014 7916868 2014 periodical issue

    The BlackWords Symposium, held in October 2012, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the establishment of BlackWords, the AustLit-supported project recording information about, and research into, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. The symposium showcased the exciting state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creative writing and storytelling across all forms, contemporary scholarship on Indigenous writing, alongside programs such as the State Library of Queensland’s black&write! project, which supports writers’ fellowships, editing mentorships, and a trainee editor program for professional development for Indigenous editors. But really, the event was a celebration of the sort of thinking, the sort of resistance, and the re-writing of history that is evident in the epigraph to this introduction. ' (Source: Kilner, Kerry and Minter, Peter, JASAL Vol 14. No. 3, 2014: 1)

Last amended 19 Jan 2017 10:00:18 Representations of ‘The Bush’ in the Poetry of Charles Harpursmall AustLit logo JASAL