Sneak peek: Where Shadows Have Fallen – The descent of Henry Kendall

Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek into Where Shadows Have Fallen – The descent of Henry Kendall, written by Adrian Mitchell.

When Henry Kendall, the leading Australian poet of his day, died in Sydney in 1882, obituaries appeared in papers and journals so promptly that they must have been prepared well in advance of that unhappy event. Not all of them, though. Those that appeared a day or two later may be assumed to have been freshly composed, even though Kendall’s final illness had been widely known. These articles expressed the universal regret, with genuine compassion.

One of the most extensive obituaries appeared in the Freeman’s Journal, a journal to which Kendall had often sent his material and where he preferred to publish. Francis Donohue, who wrote the piece, identified succinctly the problem that he and all others faced: ‘It is pleasanter to review our poet’s works than his life,’ he wrote. Like so many reviewers called upon to sum up Kendall’s achievement, however, Donohue felt he could not wholly avoid a few remarks on the life of ‘our first of singers’. Candour was called for at this moment; posterity should know it all.

Yet, like everyone else, he also felt called upon to be circumspect. Common decency required no less. Kendall would have wanted honesty, but his life had presented an unedifying spectacle; and while the obituaries did not exactly evade that face, Donohue for one had no wish to tear down the poet’s character. The poetry was what mattered, more than the man. Besides, so the memorialists said, everyone knew the essential facts of Kendall’s delinquencies and it was unseemly to lay them out again.

In the modern era, his story is not so well known, or only in the broadest terms, with little detail of the delinquencies hidden away in his correspondence, and in occasional newspaper reports from those years. Likewise, the offences committed by his grandfathers, his father and mother, and his identical twin brother. He was not proud of his personal and family history, and quite understandably concealed as much of it as he could. Besides, he was by temperament a private man – yet he hinted to a close friend that he had a good reason to be guarded about himself and his connections.

To continue reading, head into your local bookstore or visit Wakefield Press to secure your own copy!

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