Henry Kendall

[Editor: This article provides biographical information about Henry Kendall; for various works by him, click here.]

Thomas Henry Kendall, known as Henry, was born in Ulladulla, New South Wales, on 18 April 1839. He died of phthisis in Surry Hills, New South Wales, on 1 August 1882.

Henry Kendall was regarded as a poet of high renown. He worked as a clerk in private industry, then as a clerk for the public service in New South Wales. In March 1868 the 28-year-old Kendall married 18-year-old Charlotte Rutter. Due to some financial problems, brought about by his siblings, he resigned his job with the public service, and moved to Melbourne. However, he had trouble surviving on the proceeds of his works, despite the highly favourable reviews given to them.

With his descent into poverty, he turned to drink, and his health deteriorated. He moved back to Sydney, but his problems did not cease. In 1870 he was charged with forging a cheque, but found not guilty on account of insanity. Still without decent financial means, Kendall became a derelict, and in 1873 he spent several months in the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane, although his stay was possibly connected with an addiction to drink rather than clinical insanity.

After his stint in hospital, he was taken care of for a long time by some friends, the Fagan family in West Gosford, and, when recovered, worked in their timber business. In April 1881 Henry Parkes gave Kendall a job as a forest inspector; however, his physical constitution was not up to the task. He collapsed the following year in June and died on 1 August 1882.

Kendall was noteworthy for including Australia’s fauna, flora, and lifestyle in his poetry; breaking away from the previously often-used themes of European-styled literature. Bertram Stevens noted that several approving reviews of Kendall’s poetry were published in the influential Athenaeum literary magazine, of London, between 1862 to 1866. Such noteworthy acclaim would have boosted his reputation and given him an added influence in Australian society. Stevens said of Kendall that “He lived at a time when Australians had not learned to think it possible that any good thing in art could come out of Australia”[1]; the poet helped to change that perception with his verses of Australian settings and subjects.

The Rev. Alfred Gifford once said that “Henry Kendall marked the beginning of Australian poetry”[2]; high praise indeed for a young lad hailing from an isolated town on the southern coast of New South Wales.

Books and other works by Henry Kendall:
Works by Henry Kendall

Articles about Henry Kendall:
Henry Kendall: Gosford Associations: The Poet’s Rock [27 March 1934]

Poetry about Henry Kendall:
Kendall [poem by Kenneth Mackay, 1887]

References and further information:
T.T. Reed. “Kendall, Thomas Henry (1839–1882)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (accessed 16 October 2012)
Henry Kendall (poet)”, Wikipedia (accessed 16 October 2012)
Our history”, Henry Kendall Cottage and the Historical Museum (accessed 10 March 2015)
The late Mr. Henry Kendall”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 2 August 1882, p. 3
[1] Bertram Stevens, “Introduction”, in: Bertram Stevens (ed.), The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse, London: Macmillan and Co., 1909, pp. xvii-xxviii (see pp. xxiii, xxvi)
[2] “Australian poetry”, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 7 August 1917, p. 7

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