Biography C Micheal James Dennis

C Micheal James Dennis

photo of C Micheal James Dennis
  • Time Period1876 - 1938
  • Place

Poet Biography

C J Dennis, Poet & Journalist was born in Auburn, South Australia, on 7 September 1876, he was christened Clarence Michael James, and afterwards given the confirmation name of Stanislaus. He preferred to be known as Den.

After formal education in Gladstone, Laura and Adelaide, Dennis worked in a number of diverse positions, such as a solicitor's clerk, a member of the staff of the Critic (a weekly Adelaide journal), and a hotel barman. Already writing, a number of his early verse were published in the’Critic’ in 1898.

In 1901 Dennis rejoined the Critic staff, and became editor 1904-1905. A year later, in February 1906, together with A.E. Martin, he launched the Gadfly, a cheerfully malicious weekly journal.

Towards the end of 1907 Dennis turned up in Melbourne, working as a freelance journalist; a friend introduced him to Toolangi, a small township seventy kilometres east of Melbourne. Toolangi was to become his home for most of the remaining thirty years of his life, a life spent working for various newspapers, mainly in Melbourne, writing feature articles, contributing frequently to The Bulletin and other magazines, and writing his poetry.

In 1913 Dennis published a volume titled "Backblock ballads and other verses", but it was not a financial success. Immediate success was achieved with "The Songs of a sentimental bloke", a love story, written in slang, published in October 1915. Three editions were required in 1915, and nine in 1916; by 1976 fifty-seven editions had been published in Australia, England, USA and Canada. Other works quickly followed, among them "The Singing Garden" (1935) which shows the poet at his serious best.

Dennis was described as "tall enough to look a small man straight in the eyes. He is of slight but enduring physique, and the lines about his clean-shaven mouth prove that he has learned patience and does not despair of learning wisdom. An aquiline nose and slate grey eyes give his face the quaint suggestion of a philosophic diagram, while a half-hidden twinkle suggests that it may have a humorous footnote. Dark hair is brushed straight back". (Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol.8, p.287).

In 1917 he married Olive Harriet; there were no children.

C.J. Dennis died in Melbourne on 22 June 1938, his wife Olive surviving him until 1968.