John Le Gay Brereton

Professor John Le Gay Brereton

John Le Gay Brereton (junior), known to his friends as “Jack”, was an author, poet, literary critic, and scholar. He was considered to be a leading scholar on Elizabethan literature.

He was born in Sydney (NSW), on 2 September 1871. His parents were John Le Gay Brereton (senior), a medical doctor, and Mary Brereton (née Tongue). His father (1827-1886) was also a poet. It was through his father that John (junior) met the poets Henry Kendall and Dowell O’Reilly.

John studied at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney; at the latter institution he was appointed as editor to the student publication, Hermes: The Magazine of the University of Sydney.

After finishing his studies, he worked as a teacher, tea merchant, and public servant. He married his neighbour sweetheart, Laura Winifred Odd, on 21 December 1900. The marriage produced a daughter and four sons.

John Le Gay Brereton (left) and Henry Lawson (right)

Brereton joined in the literary life of Sydney, becoming friends with Christopher Brennan, Mary Cameron (later, Mary Gilmore), and Henry Lawson (Mary had introduced John to Henry at the home of Anne Lane, who was married to William Lane, the trade union leader). John also knew the poets Arthur Adams, Victor Daly, R. D. Fitzgerald (John’s nephew), Banjo Patterson, and Roderic Quinn. Whilst Brereton wrote much under his own name, he also used the pseudonym “Basil Garstang”, or “B. G.” (as well as writing under the initials, “J. L. G. B.”, “J. Le G. B.”).

In 1902 Brereton became Assistant Librarian (and later, Librarian) at the University of Sydney, where he initiated a number of substantial organisational and architectural changes. He was appointed as professor of English literature at the university in 1921. As an indication of his standing in the literary world, he was selected as the first president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers when it was founded in 1929. In 1930, he was appointed to the Film Censorship Appeal Board, along with Mary Gilmore and John V. Gould.

Whilst on a caravanning holiday of several months’ duration, John Le Gay Brereton died from a heart attack, at Calala Creek, three miles south-east of Tamworth (NSW), in the early hours of the morning of 2 February 1933.

Although Brereton is considered to be only a minor poet, his work and influence upon the Australian literary scene, at the University of Sydney and with the Fellowship of Australian Writers, made him a significant part of the nation’s literary establishment.



Books by John Le Gay Brereton:
1896: The Song of Brotherhood, and Other Verses, London: George Allen
1896: Perdita: A Sonnet Record, Sydney: George Robertson & Co. (published anonymously)
1897: Sweetheart Mine: Lyrics of Love and Friendship, Sydney: Angus and Robertson
1899: Landlopers: The Tale of a Drifting Travel, and the Quest Of Pardon and Peace, Sydney: William Brooks, [1899] (also published: 1902)
1902: Oithona, Sydney: J. L. Brereton [by J. Le Gay Brereton]
1908: Sea and Sky, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian
1909: Elizabethan Drama: Notes and Studies, Sydney: W. Brooks
1910: To-morrow: A Dramatic Sketch of the Character and Environment of Robert Greene, Sydney: Angus & Robertson
1918: William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Life of Henry the Fifth, Melbourne : Lothian Book Pub. Co. (editor)
1919: The Burning Marl, Melbourne : Fellowship, [1919]
1924: The Carillon, Sydney: Sydney University
1927: An Address on Henry Lawson, Waterloo (NSW): Eagle Press, [1927?] (booklet)
1928: Swags Up, London: J. M. Dent & Sons
1928: The Temple on the Hill: A Mask, Sydney: The Australasian Medical Publishing Company (a play; by J. Le Gay Brereton, J. E. Burrows, H. M. Green, et al)
1929: Nathaniel’s Accident: Notes on ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, [Sydney]: Australian Publishing Company
1930: Knocking Round, Sydney: Angus & Robertson
1931: (various authors), Henry Lawson: By His Mates, Sydney: Angus & Robertson (edited by Bertha Lawson and J. Le Gay Brereton])
1931: Christofer Marloe, Lust’s dominion, or, The Lascivious Queen, Louvain (Belgium): Librairie Universitaire (editor; from the edition of 1657)
1931: Shakespeare’s Richard the Second: A Public Lecture for the Australian English Association, Sydney: Australian English Association (booklet)
1931: So Long, Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson (booklet)
1948: Writings on Elizabethan Drama, [Melbourne], Melbourne Univ. Press, [1948] (edited by R. G. Howarth) (published posthumously)

Selected works by John Le Gay Brereton:
Dismal England: By the author of “Merrie England” [review by J. le G. B., 18 September 1899]
Henry Lawson and The University [by J. Le Gay Brereton, November 1922]
Australian writers [letter to the editor, from Basil Garstang (John Le Gay Brereton), 20 November 1930]

Selected poetry by John Le Gay Brereton:
My Sweetheart [by Jack Brereton, 20 November 1894]
The Progress .. .. of the Year [by J. Le Gay Brereton, 18 September 1899]
Memoranda: To Joe Swallow [by J. Le G. B, 8 October 1903]

Articles about John Le Gay Brereton:
Review [a review of “The Song of Brotherhood and Other Verses” by John Le Gay Brereton, 13 April 1896]
“The Song of Brotherhood” [a review of “The Song of Brotherhood and Other Verses” by John Le Gay Brereton, 22 May 1896]
Books up to date [a review of “Perdita: A Sonnet Record” by John Le Gay Brereton, 19 September 1896]
Australian poets: Professor Brereton’s lecture [re. a lecture given by John Le Gay Brereton, 12 September 1927]
Death at 62: Professor Le Gay Brereton: Literary giant passes [obituary, 3 February 1933]
Professor J. Le Gay Brereton: Sudden death: While on caravan tour [obituary, 3 February 1933]
John Le Gay Brereton: Poet, prose-writer, dramatist [by P. I. O’Leary, 9 February 1933]

References:
H. P. Heseltine, “Brereton, John Le Gay (1871–1933)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
J. Le Gay Brereton”, AustLit
Lawson’s decline”, The University of Sydney Library [re. Anne Lane]
Two poets and actor are Movie Privy Council”, The Sunday Pictorial (Sydney, NSW), 26 January 1930, p. 6 (the Sunday paper of the Daily Telegraph Pictorial)
Death in caravan”, The Sun (Sydney, NSW), 2 February 1933, p. 15 (Final Extra)
Death at 62: Professor Le Gay Brereton: Literary giant passes”, The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld.), 3 February 1933, p. 12
Professor J. Le Gay Brereton: Sudden death: While on caravan tour”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 3 February 1933, p. 10
John K. Ewers, “A writers’ writer: J. Le Gay Brereton”, The Daily News (Perth, WA), 11 February 1933, p. 9 (Home Edition)

See also:
John Le Gay Brereton: 1871 – 1933”, National Portrait Gallery
John Le Gay Brereton”, Wikipedia
John Aurelius LeGay (Le Gay Brereton) Brereton (1871 – 1933)”, WikiTree [John Le Gay Brereton senior]

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