BRENNAN, Christopher John (1870-1932)


BRENNAN, Christopher John (1870-1932)
poet and scholar
was the eldest son of Christopher Brennan, brewer, who had married Mary Ann Carroll. Both parents were Irish and both were in their twenties when C. J. Brennan was born at Sydney on 1 November 1870. He was educated at Riverview College and Sydney university, where he obtained honours in classics throughout his course and graduated with first-class honours in philosophy and the university gold medal. In 1891 he spent a year in teaching at Goulburn and in 1892, having taken his degree of M.A. with honours in philosophy, was awarded a travelling scholarship of £150 a year for two years and proceeded to the university of Berlin. There he did an enormous amount of reading in the classics,' English, French, German and Italian, and in 1893 his article "On the Manuscripts of Aeschylus" appeared in the Journal of Philology. He had long been working on this subject but other interests intervened and he returned from Berlin in July 1894 without having taken any additional degree. In 1895 he joined the staff of the public library at Sydney where he became assistant librarian. In 1897 XXI Poems 1893-1897 Towards the Source was published, and at intervals Brennan did a large amount of university work as substitute for the professors and lecturers in Latin, French and German, while they were away on leave. In 1908 he was appointed a lecturer in French and German and in the following year resigned from the public library. His work at the university was increasing with the growth in the number of students, and this partly accounted for the delay in the publication of his next and most important volume, Poems, which did not appear until December 1914, although the date on the title page is 1913 and nearly all the poems had been written 10 years earlier. Readers of discernment realized that a new poet of importance had appeared in Australia, but the book was published in a comparatively expensive form, there were no capitals at the beginnings of the lines, and the poems had no titles. When it is added that few of them could be fully appreciated on a first reading, it will easily be understood that the volume was not a popular success, and the first edition was still available more than 25 years after publication. In 1918 another volume, A Chant of Doom and other Verses, was published, a collection of verses written during the war. There is little poetry of real value in this volume. Brennan felt strongly about the war, his own brother was at the front, and only his age and physical condition prevented him from enlisting. He felt he should dedicate his pen to the Allies' cause, but it is probable that the poems would have been better if he had been able to wait until he could recollect his emotion in tranquillity.
In 1920 Brennan was appointed associate-professor of German and comparative literature at Sydney university. He had all the equipment for his work, but there were disturbing elements in his life. He had married in 1897 Anna Elizabeth Werth, and the marriage was unhappy. Brennan had never been able to lead a conventional life and he was now drinking to excess, which led to the neglect of his university work. When his wife brought a suit for judicial separation, the facts of the case came before the public, and the position of the university authorities was difficult. In 1925 Brennan had to resign. The university has been blamed, but A. R. Chisholm in his foreword to Hughes's book on Brennan, has pointed out that there were two sides of the case, and suggests that the real misfortune was that Brennan belonged to a country where the community makes no provision for a man of genius. Brennan for a time was in poverty but gradually the position improved. He succeeded to some extent in pulling himself together and was able to do coaching. A small Commonwealth literary pension was granted to him and he also obtained some teaching at schools. His last six years were not without happiness. He died on 7 October 1932, leaving a widow and two sons. Two daughters predeceased him. In 1938 Twenty-Three Poems, by Chris Brennan, was published by the Australian Limited Editions Society. This volume includes two poems from a manuscript source. Other poems remain in manuscript.
Brennan "stood six feet tall (with a scholar's stoop); fair and ruddy; with black-rusty hair, blue-grey eyes and a beak like Brennus the Raven" (A. G. Stephens). "He was essentially sociable, and though he loved a good dinner, with a bottle of wine . . . he loved them less in themselves than as essential accompaniments and stimulants of conversation. . . . My predominant image of Brennan is of a huge heavy amicable figure leaning back in an easy chair behind a haze of smoke" (H. M. Green). Randolph Hughes says of his mind, what impressed one most was "its capaciousness, its amplitude, the diversity of its dominion; then, its weightiness, its titanic laboriousness, without, however, anything that was awkwardly or ungracefully cumbersome—on the contrary, it was always well girt, alert, poised in delicate equilibrium, instantly efficient in all demands; but it was a mind clad in heavy panoply . . . carrying the maximum of equipment; it was not a darting skirmisher, and it moved powerfully, rather than nimbly; but move it did, and it moved very far, and it always had further horizons in sight". Those are the impressions of three men who knew Brennan personally, and one is left with the feeling why did he produce so little. In poetry, one volume only of importance, and for his scholarship, one article in the Journal of Philology and some in the Modern Language Review of Australia and the Bookfellow. His text-book From Blake to Arnold is a well-done piece of hack-work, and nothing else remains but a pleasant Mask published in 1913, which he wrote with J. le Gay Brereton (q.v.). It is possible that, as Hughes suggests, he fell between the stools of poetry, philosophy and exact scholarship, and what Brennan said of himself to Stephens towards the end of his life "I have been wild and weak and wilful and wayward" no doubt had more than a little to do with it. But when all is said, he was a great scholar. He ranks very high among the Australian poets; some of his admirers do not hesitate to give him first place. He has been called obscure, but that is seldom true, and his best poems have few difficulties for the intelligent reader. Both Hughes and Green, in their volumes on Brennan, devote space to the consideration of his use of metre and his symbolism. His metre is used with freedom, as most poets have used it from Shakespeare onwards, and though an occasional elision is necessary when reading it aloud, the rhythm is always sufficiently apparent. Of his symbolism, probably too much has been made; he was a symbolist as many poets are, but the influence of Mallarmé and his school has been exaggerated.
A. G. Stephens, Chris Brennan; H. M. Green, Christopher Brennan; Randolph Hughes, C. J. Brennan, An Essay in Values; private information.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Brennan, Christopher — ▪ Australian poet in full  Christopher John Brennan  born Nov. 1, 1870, Sydney, Australia died Oct. 5, 1932, Sydney       poet and scholar whose highly personal verse never was popular with the Australian public but was highly regarded by critics …   Universalium

  • Christopher Brennan — Christopher John Brennan (1 November 1870 – 5 October 1932) was an Australian poet and scholar. Contents 1 Biography 2 Recognition 3 Bibliography …   Wikipedia

  • Christopher Brennan — (* 1. November 1870 in Sydney; † 5. Oktober 1932 ebd.) war ein australischer Dichter. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Künstlerisches Schaffen 3 Werke …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Brennan — /ˈbrɛnən/ (say brenuhn) noun 1. Christopher John, 1870–1932, Australian symbolist poet and scholar; works include the collections Poems 1913 (1914) and A Chant of Doom, and Other Verses (1918). 2. Frank Tenison, born 1954, Australian Roman… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Brennan — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: B Barbara Brennan (* 1939), US amerikanische Autorin und Geistheilerin Brid Brennan (* 1955), irisch britische Schauspielerin C Christopher Brennan (1870–1932), australischer Dichter Ciarán Brennan (*… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Christopher Brennan — Christopher John Brennan, né le 1er novembre 1870 à Sydney où il est mort le 5 octobre 1932, est un poète australien. Il faits ses études au Saint Ignatius College, Riverview, à l Université de Sydney et a l Université de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Brennan —   [ brenən], Christopher John, australischer Lyriker, * Sydney 1. 11. 1870, ✝ ebenda 5. 10. 1932; 1920 22 außerordentlicher Professor für Germanistik und vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft in Sydney; sein lyrisches Werk steht unter dem Einfluss… …   Universal-Lexikon

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  • 1932 — This article is about the year 1932. Millennium: 2nd millennium Centuries: 19th century – 20th century – 21st century Decades: 1900s  1910s  1920s  – 1930s –  1940s   …   Wikipedia


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