Home > Poets > Kendall, Henry

Henry Kendall (1839 – 1882)

Thomas Henry Kendall was born at Ulladulla, New South Wales, on 18 April 1839. He received basic schooling from his parents, Basil and Melinda Kendall, but his early life was difficult, as the family struggled to earn a living. The Kendalls were living on the Clarence River, near Grafton—a backdrop that would later provide a steady source of inspiration for Kendall's poetry - when Basil Kendall died in 1852. In the late 1850s family moved to Sydney, and from 1859 Kendall began contributing poems to literary journals and newspapers, with his first published collection, Poems and Songs, appearing in 1862.

Through the 1860s, Kendall remained a steady contributor of poetry to newspapers and journals while also being engaged in a series of clerical positions in government departments. In 1868 he married Charlotte Rutter, and the following year the couple moved to Melbourne, where Kendall attempted to earn a living as a journalist. Kendall's second collection of poetry, Leaves from Australian Forests, was published in Melbourne in 1869, but though critically well received the book was not a commercial success. Struggling with alcoholism, poverty, and ill health, Kendall returned to Sydney in 1870, where he continued to live a marginal existence, enduring homelessness and periods in a mental institution.

With the help of friends, Kendall's health began to improve in the mid 1870s, and in 1875 he secured employment as a clerk at a timber business in Camden Haven. With this more settled existence Kendall resumed his literary activities, contributing poems and occasional pieces to the Sydney press. In 1880, Kendall published his last and most successful collection of poems, Songs from the Mountains. The following year he secured a government position as a forest ranger, but the demands of constant horseback travel proved too much for his health. Kendall died in Sydney on 1 August 1882.

After his death, Kendall quickly became recognised as one of Australia's finest poets. Kendall's skill with the lyric form invited some contemporaries to compare his work to that of Wordsworth, and he was also noted for his satirical verse. Like Charles Harpur, whose work was a strong influence on Kendall's, Kendall sought to find a uniquely Australian voice in his evocation of the landscape that he knew and loved.

Selected Poetry Collections
  • Poems and Songs Sydney J. R. Clarke 1862 London edition published by Sampson Low, Son and Marston, 1862.
  • Leaves from Australian Forests Melbourne George Robertson 1869
  • Songs from the Mountains Sydney William Maddock 1880 London edition published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1880
  • The Poetical Works of Henry Kendall T. T. Reed Adelaide Libraries Board of South Australia 1966
Suggested Further Reading
  • Michael Ackland Henry Kendall: The Man and the Myths Melbourne Miegunyah Press 1995
  • Michael Ackland That Shining Band: A Study of Australian Colonial Verse Tradition St. Lucia, Qld. University of Queensland Press 1994
  • Russell McDougall Henry Kendall: The Muse of Australia Armidale University of New England Press 1992