AustLit logo
NLA image of person
Adam Lindsay Gordon Adam Lindsay Gordon i(A2742 works by) (a.k.a. A. L. Gordon; A. Lindsay Gordon)
Also writes as: A. Lindsay ; Jesson ; Jowiho ; Not By Macaulay ; L. G.
Born: Established: 19 Oct 1833 Fayal, Azores,
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 24 Jun 1870 Brighton Beach, Brighton - Moorabbin area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 1854
Heritage: English
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.


Adam Lindsay Gordon was born at Fayal in the Azores in 1833, but his family returned to England when his father retired from a commission with the Bengal cavalry. Gordon was educated at Cheltenham Great Public School and the Royal Military Academy. The knowledge and admiration of classical literature that is reflected in some of Gordon's poetry was fostered by the headmaster of Worcester Grammar School. From a young age Gordon was passionate about sports, particularly steeple-chasing for which he developed a lasting reputation. His family was displeased with his behaviour and, after he rode a horse to win a steeple-chase without the owner's permission, the young man was banished to Australia in 1853 with a handful of letters of recommendation.

Gordon began a career with the South Australian Mounted Police, but resigned several years later to establish a solid reputation as a horse-breaker. By the mid 1860s he had married and was a disinterested representative in the South Australian Parliament. Gordon continued to read deeply and published his first volume of poetry, The Feud, in 1864. This was followed by Ashtaroth: A Dramatic Lyric (1867), Sea Spray and Smoke Drift (1867) and Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes (1870). Gordon's poetry was well received by many critics and other poets such as Charles Harpur and Henry Kendall.

Gordon's legendary horsemanship and galloping rhythms made his poetry favourite material for recitation around Australia. But financial problems and a failed attempt to secure a claim on Gordon lands in Scotland drove Gordon to despair. He shot himself in the early hours of 23 June 1870. Following his death, Gordon's popularity increased. In 1934 he became the only Australian to be honoured with a place in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Gordon's literary reputation suffered when twentieth century critics, searching for realistic descriptions of Australia and themes of mateship, found little in Gordon's poetry. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, some critics revisited Gordon's poetry and challenged earlier evaluations by revealing Gordon's significance in the context of nineteenth century Australian culture.

Gordon was chosen as one of 150 great South Australians by a panel of The Advertiser senior writers to celebrate the 150th Anniversay of The Advertiser newspaper, 12 April 2008.

Most Referenced Works


  • See also the full Australian Dictionary of Biography Online entry for Adam Lindsay Gordon, (1833-1870).
  • The Australian Woman's Mirror, vol. 6, no. 20, 8 April, 1930, p. 15 contains a picture of the gravestone of Gordon's first wife. Caption reads: 'In loving memory of Margaret, dearly-beloved wife of Peter Low (and relict of the late Adam Lindsay Gordon), who died at Bordertown Nov. 29, 1919, aged 74 years. (Photo from "F. M.", Bordertown, S. A.)'

  • The September 1933 issue of The Home includes 'Adam Lindsay Gordon' (by B. D.), a brief commentary which notes: 'We learn that the Commonwealth Government has associated itself with a movement to erect a tablet to the memory of Adam Lindsay Gordon in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. It is considered that the erection of such a tablet is the most fitting manner of celebrating the centenary of the birth of Gordon. Mr Menzies [aka Robert Menzies, q.v.], the Attorney-General, has frankly stated that he regards Gordon as a third-rate poet, and the opinion of Mr Menzies should not be lightly dismissed as it agrees in this case with the opinions of thousands of intelligent Australians who are too charitable to give a revaluation of Gordon as a literary figure. Australia has never produced a poet of the first order, and one would hesitate to elect even the best of them to the gathering assembled in the Corner.' (appears in the topical monthly column, 'Contributed Comments')
  • The Border Watch (Mount Gambier) published a full chronology and bibliography of ALG - including details of some pseudonyms - in the 5 May 1936 issue, (p. 11).

Last amended 7 Mar 2018 05:35:45
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: