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The son of Henry Tate, a London-born accountant, and his Tasmanian wife Eliza Ann (née Mathews), Henry Tate was educated at St Kilda State School. He later attended night-school while working as an office clerk. His interest in music began as an Anglican choirboy at Christ Church, St Kilda and when the University of Melbourne opened its Conservatorium of Music in 1895 he enrolled as a student. As an active member of the Australian Institute of Arts and Literature, Tate collaborated with his friends Louis Esson, William Moore and Bernard O'Dowd (qq.v.). Joining Moore and Dora Wilcox (q.v.) in an elaboration of their play, The Dangerous Moonlight, Tate reputedly declared: 'It will be the first production of its kind here, that is, in which drama, music, poetry, art, acting, singing and dancing will be blended in one production'.
Apart from short stories published in Melbourne papers, The Bulletin and Sydney Sun, Tate was a music critic for The Age (1924-26) anda prolific writer on chess for the Australasian (1914-15), Weekly Times (1913-14) and Leader (1912-15).