H. M. Green's A History of Australian Literature : Pure and Applied (1961): 167-168 comments: 'A great deal of laudatory nonsense was talked about 'Convict Once', even as late as the nineties and nineteen-hundreds, but it is unjustifiably neglected today. It is a monodrama, reflective, analytical and passionate: but the drama is melodrama; the thought is not remarkable; the analysis is not penetrating and is confined to the principal character, the others being mere shadows; and the passion, which is voluptuous without being sensual, is not very convincing; the whole poem belongs to the world of books rather than to the real world.The plot is ingenious, a little too ingenious perhaps:...'Convict Once' is written in four-line verses of alternately rhyming six-beat lines: its rhythms are varied extremely cleverly, for Stephens was a careful and accomplished craftsman; but with Stephens, as with most poets, the hexameter encouraged longwindedness....But Stephens has a tendency towards latinization in any case; it is worth noticing how his tendency brings him in contact with Johnson and his age, whose last echo sounds in 'Convict Once' (167-168).
Barbara Garlick (68) comments: 'The term "monodrama" in its Tennysonian form, as defined by A. Dwight Culler, is appropriate to describe Convict Once: a work which enacts "successive phases of passion" through the voice of a single speaker in a continuous present narrative ("Monodrama and the Dramatic Monologue," PMLA 90, no.3 [May 1975]: 366-385)'. (Barbara Garlick 'Colonial Canons: The Case of James Brunton Stephens' Victorian Poetry 40.1 (2002): 55-70).
Biography of the Queensland poet.