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Charles Harpur Charles Harpur i(A6259 works by)
Also writes as: Stebii ; A Hawkesbury Boy ; The Clerk of the Weather ; The Recorder ; Truth in Season ; Anti-State-Phlebotomy ; A Spirit of the Past ; An Australian ; Not Tom Campbell ; No Wool-Gatherer ; Bill Orr ; No 'Minion of the Moon' ; Australicus ; A Squatter of the First Water ; 'A Hawkesbury Lad' ; C. H. (1813-1868)
Born: Established: 23 Jan 1813 Windsor, Hawkesbury area, Northwest Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 10 Jun 1868 Eurobodalla, Broulee - Bodalla area, Far South Coast, South Coast, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
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Charles Harpur was born to emancipist parents and was educated at the Government School at Parramatta. He worked erratically at a number of jobs, including teaching and farming, and was, for a time, assistant gold commissioner at Araluen. He married Mary Doyle, the subject of his love sonnets, in 1850. In 1867 his second son, Charles, was killed in a shooting accident, compounding his despair after devastating floods destroyed his farm at Eurobodalla. Harpur died in 1868 from tuberculosis.

Heeding William Charles Wentworth's call for a national poet, Harpur sought to achieve this status by modelling his poetry on the style and traditions of English verse. Harpur's first book appeared in 1845, but it was The Bushranger--A Play in Five Acts--and Other Poems (1853) that first drew the attention of readers and critics in Sydney. Two more books followed: The Poet's Home (1862) and The Tower of the Dream (1865). Harpur was primarily considered a nature poet after his death because the philosophical tenor of his writing was lost to readers when H. M. Martin's heavily edited Poems (1883) was accepted by critics as the standard work. But research in the latter decades of the twentieth century revealed the complexity of the poems before Martin's editorial interventions, and uncovered extended philosophical investigations in Harpur's manuscripts.

Critics have also explored the social commentary that Harpur published in a number of newspapers, revealing his deep concern for egalitarianism and democracy. And, while rejecting all religious denominations, Harpur's poetry was written with an unshakeable belief in God.

Most Referenced Works


  • Harpur's date of birth is given as 1811 in G. B. Barton's The Poetry and Prose Writers of NSW (1866).
  • Brother of Joseph J. Harpur.
  • Harpur contributed regularly to newspapers and journals such as the Weekly Register, the People's Advocate, the Empire, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Prose notes accompanied many of his poetical works, particularly those of a satirical nature, published in the colonial press.
  • See also the full Australian Dictionary of Biography Online entry for Charles Harpur.

  • In November 1913, Charles Harpur's sister M.C. Hackett, received a pension fund of 10/ per week from the Commonwealth Literary Fund. (Source: The Register (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 13 November, 1913 p6)

Known archival holdings

National Library of Australia (ACT)
Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW (NSW)
Last amended 3 Nov 2016 10:56:41
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