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Barcroft Boake (1866 – 1892)

Barcroft Henry Thomas Boake was born in Balmain, Sydney, on 26 March 1866, the son of a professional photographer, Barcroft Capel Boake, and his wife Florence. He was educated at various private schools in Sydney, and also spent two years of his childhood living with family friends in Noumea. At seventeen, Boake left school to work as a surveyor, and in 1886 was appointed assistant surveyor in the Monaro district. About 1888, Boake travelled north, and spent the next few years working as a stockman and drover in North-West New South Wales and Western Queensland. It was in this period that Boake became familiar with the poetry of Adam Lindsay Gordon , and began to write his own ballads celebrating and recording the harsh life of the Australian bushman.

In early 1890, Boake drove his cattle south to Bathurst, and later that year returned to surveying work, now in the Wagga Wagga region. While engaged in this work, Boake began contributing his poems to the Bulletin, often using the pseudonym ‘Surcingle’, and the bulk of his output appeared in that journal during 1891–1892. Boake's personal life in this period was difficult, however. Struggling with depression, he returned to Sydney at the end of 1891, and committed suicide in May 1892. After his death, his poems were collected and published by the Bulletin's literary editor A. G. Stephens, as Where the Dead Men Lie and other poems (1897). Boake's poetry, strongly influenced by Gordon and very much in the bush ballad tradition, was in turn influential for other poets of the 1890s and the early twentieth century.

Selected Poetry Collections
  • Where the Dead Men Lie and other poems Sydney Angus and Robertson 1897
  • Barcroft Boake: Collected Works, Edited, with a Life Melbourne Australian Scholarly Publishing 2007
Suggested Further Reading
  • W. F. Refshauge Fresh Light on A. G. Stephens as Editor of Barcroft Boake's Works Australian Literary Studies May 2006 vol. 22, no. 3. pp. 368-72.
  • W. F. Refshauge Where the Dead Men Lie Australian Literary Studies May 2006 vol. 22, no. 3. pp. 372-74.
  • Clement Semmler Barcroft Boake: Poet of the Stockwhip Australian Literary Studies Melbourne Oxford University Press 1965