[Editor: This article about Bernard Ingleby and Victor Daley, written by P. I. O’Leary, was published in The Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.), 10 July 1941.]
“Dear old Bernie”: A Bohemian
There died in Sydney the other day one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, and — this is no boast — I have met some remarkable men, from the great man who is the present Archbishop of Melbourne, little “Joe” Devlin, G. D. Delprat, and Professor David down through the several strata that include Shaw Neilson, Randolph Bedford, Walter Hobbs, Joe Williams, and the swagman who, in bare feet, and gently claiming that he was the Messiah, walked the Ninety-Mile Desert, where I met him.
Kindly, generous, lovable Bernard Ingleby — where could you match him in or out of fiction? Neither Dickens nor Cervantes, Lever nor Lover, in the “quick forge and smithy” of his brain, ever invented so singular and idiosyncratic a figure, so fantastic and yet so real a character.
A poet, and a real one, a prose writer of a genuine peculiarity and approach, a botanist of parts, with extraordinary streaks of scientific knowledge, a conversationalist of holding charm, unexpectedness and wide range, one with rare learning, especially literary learning, this long, lean, beautiful-voiced, smiling Bohemian was, in addition, one of the best, the most resourceful “space-salesmen” that Australia has produced.
A curious amalgam, you say?
But, then, Shakespeare was a good business man, too, was he not?
A rare combination
Why drag in Shakespeare? you ask. Because Bernard Ingleby was one of the finest Shakespeareans that I know — alike as character or student.
And, again, because he was a combination of many of the Bard’s most memorable characters. There was much of Falstaff in Ingleby, for all his lack of the bearded John’s too, too solid flesh. There was something of Hamlet. (Ingleby would, by the way, have made a splendid stage Hamlet. He was not unlike Henry Irving, except, possibly, that he had more humour than that cadaverous-visaged genius.) Something of Bottom, of Antony — but most of all of the generous creatures to whom Shakespeare so plentifully gave a local habitation and a name in his populous pages.
A royal generosity and the radiation of sympathetic understanding were among the foremost characteristics of this extraordinarily gifted man, who went through the world scattering largess of coin and kindness. These — and those inexplicable qualities, personality and imagination. For Ingleby was a personality — and he had an imagination that influenced everything he ever did, from convincing reluctant advertisers to sign on the dotted line to writing his delicate if rather too wordy poetry.
However, overriding all these traits and qualities was that ever-present generosity; that abundant, reckless, even foolish generosity — foolish, that is, as the work-a-day world regards such things.
But Ingleby was never a Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. He could not be one. He was not born to be one.
And this must be said, of course — it would be a queer world if it contained humans entirely cast in the Inglebeyian mould. However, the world to-day is distraught because of cranks — infinitely more dangerous and deadly — and, if we were to have a world of “cranks,” give me one composed of the Inglebeyian type.
You could not, however, have a world of Inglebys. For he had no counterpart. He was sui generis — this dead friend of mine, at once so cordial, so laughterful, so helpful, so flathamhail, as they say in Kerry and other parts of the Gaeltacht. In him the elements so mixed as to produce something at once unique, arresting and singularly picturesque.
There are many stories told of Ingleby. For he, like Padraic O’Conaire, Goldsmith, Johnson, Lawson — an intimate friend of his, by the way — and all the rest of what Lamb lovingly called “the ragged regiment,” was such a one as stories are told of.
The “Bulletin” said not so many years ago that Ingleby had one distinction, if he had no other — that of being the only Australian poet ever to sleep with an elephant. There was here, perhaps, an unconscious tribute to poor Bernard, for he had a remarkable power over and love of animals. This shared affection, too, was in keeping with his character — he who, more than once, told me of his deep feeling for St. Francis, of whom he knew much — if not quite “the ultimate last.”
A Daley comparison
In A. G. Stephens’ memoir of Victor Daley, that lamented critic wrote: “Life seemed too precious to waste in striving for money, and his temperament demanded freedom from routine. He came to know that a bitter price had to be paid for freedom, and he paid it without grumbling. Daley was as unhappy as Charles Lamb if long away from the city, and a vagabond life in town is without the purifying influences which the fresh hand of Nature can bestow. In a city there are many taverns, and, at times, Daley touched the mire. Yet he remained unsoiled; for he was clean at heart, and, apart from the irregularities of Bohemia, he had no vices. Many stories, grotesque and humorous, have been told about him, and in time to come the Daley of legend may be a figure resembling the Beloved Vagabond of Locke.”
I have always suspected Stephens of having a liberal tincture of the Shorter Catechist and the Calvinist in his make-up. Those “purifying influences which the fresh hand of Nature can bestow” has a ring consonant with that. Consider, for instance, the effect of those “purifying influences” on the swagman.
But, this apart, these reflections on Daley may, with some abatement and variance, apply to Ingleby, who was a close personal friend of Daley — a fellow-poet and a sometime crony.
And it is Daley who provides in his “The Old Bohemian” some lines which I may not inaptly apply to the subject of this too, too inadequate valedictory:
And though we missed the bays,
The Poets we would be;
And though we missed the bays,
We lived our Poetry!
“We talked and talked and talked,
And slowly, one by one,
My old companions walked
Into the setting sun.”
* * *
Yet fill the glass once more,
Bohemians, and sing —
Upon another shore
There waits another Spring!
Old companions of Ingleby who, lately, have walked “into the setting sun” are “Con” Lindsay and Fred Broomfield. He did not long wait behind their forthfaring — this true-hearted, gallant, ever-buoyant and unquailed spirit, whom his grieving friends so constantly and ruefully refer to as “dear old Bernie.”
— P. I. O’L.
The Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.), 10 July 1941, p. 13
another shore = the land of the dead
arresting = attention-causing, eye-catching, gripping, striking, regarding something or someone which grabs one’s attention (something which is so striking that, when seen, it arrests, or stops, one in one’s tracks)
Bard = William Shakespeare, also known as “the Bard” or “the Bard of Avon” (as Stratford-upon-Avon was Shakespeare’s birthplace)
Beloved Vagabond = a reference to a character in the novel The Beloved Vagabond (1906), set in the nineteenth century, about a Frenchman named Paragot, a loveable Bohemian, who travels about Europe (along with a young urchin, from the slums of London, whom he has adopted); the book was written by the British author William John Locke (1863-1930; born in British Guiana to English parents)
Bohemian = someone who is socially unconventional in appearance and/or behaviour, who lives in an informal manner, especially someone who is involved in the arts (authors, musicians, painters, poets, etc.); an artistic type who does not conform to society’s norms; can also refer to a citizen or resident of Bohemia; (archaic) a Gypsy or Romani
cadaverous-visaged = having the visage of a cadaver, i.e. a face which looks like that of a dead person
cordial = friendly, affectionate, warm in demeanour; hearty; nice
forthfaring = departing, faring forth, going forth; a euphemism for dying, departing this mortal life, passing away
Gaeltacht = a Gaelic-speaking area, region, or land; an area in which Irish Gaelic is the predominant language (especially an area officially recognised as such)
Mr. Worldly-Wiseman = someone who is worldly-wise, i.e. experienced in the ways of the world, experienced in the practical or social aspects of human behaviour, having a practical and shrewd understanding of human affairs
queer = odd, strange (can also refer to: feeling or being ill; a homosexual)
Shakespearean = of or relating to William Shakespeare (1564-1616); a student of works by William Shakespeare; an actor, performer, director, or someone who has played a role in the performance of the works of William Shakespeare (especially someone who has done so on a regular or significant basis)
space-salesmen = plural of “space-salesman”: someone who sells space in a newspaper, magazine or other publication, i.e. someone who convinces people (usually business people) to place advertisements in a publication
sui generis = (Latin, meaning “of its own kind”) in a class or group of its own, one of a kind, original, unlike anything else, unique; by itself, of its own
walked into the setting sun = a euphemism for “died”
work-a-day = (also spelt “workaday”) commonplace, of everyday use, mundane, ordinary; uninteresting
[Editor: Changed “such an one” to “such a one”.]