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Edward Dyson (1865 – 1931)

Edward George Dyson was born on 4 March 1865 at Morrison, near the Ballarat goldfields, the son of a miner, George Arthur Dyson, and his wife Jane (ne Mayall). The increasingly large Dyson family followed George Dysons varied employments through different parts of regional Victoria, and the schooling of Edward known within the family as Ted was haphazard. Dyson left school at the age of twelve to work with his father as a travelling salesman, and in his teenage years played a significant role in supporting the family, which included two brothers, Ambrose and Will, who were talented artists. In the early 1880s the family settled in South Melbourne, where Edward Dyson went to work at an uncles factory.

From the mid 1880s, Dyson began to submit stories and occasional pieces to the Melbourne press, and later to the increasingly influential Sydney newspaper The Bulletin, where he found early success when his story The Golden Shanty appeared as the main piece in the 1889 Christmas issue. Dyson sympathised with the nationalist and labour-oriented politics of the Bulletin, and in 1890 founded his own similar journal, the Bull-Ant, which attempted to emulate the success of the Sydney publication. After this journal folded in 1892, Dyson continued to make regular contributions to the Bulletin and other newspapers, earning a comfortable living through the 1890s as a freelance writer.

Dysons first collection of poetry, Rhymes from the Mines and Other Lines, was published in 1896 by Angus and Robertson. Most of the poems had previously appeared in the Bulletin, and were generally verse narratives in the bush ballad style extremely popular at the time. Many of Dysons ballads were set in mining and rural districts, similar to the places where he had grown up, and they typically focussed on the experiences of prospectors and other bush workers. Similar settings and themes informed Dysons copious output of short stories, and later his novels, the most famous of which was the goldfields saga In the Roaring Fifties (1906).

Dyson kept up a regular literary output for much of his life, and continued to contribute poems and stories to the Bulletin until the mid 1920s. A second poetry collection Hello, Soldier!: Khaki Verse was published in 1919, and seems to have been a belated attempt to capitalise on the wartime popularity of vernacular digger verse, of which the best known exponent was C. J. Dennis . Dyson contracted encephalitis in 1919, leaving him in a debilitated state during his later years. He died at his home in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood on 22 August 1931. Although a highly successful writer in his day, Dyson has since been overshadowed by contemporaries like Henry Lawson and A. B. Paterson , and also by the achievements of his brother Will Dyson , one of the leading political cartoonists of the early twentieth century.

Poetry Collections
  • Rhymes from the Mines and Other Lines Sydney Angus and Robertson 1896
  • Hello, Soldier!: Khaki Verse Melbourne Alex McKinley 1919
Suggested Further Reading
  • Davison, Graeme Dyson, Edward George (18651931)Australian Dictionary of Biography vol. 8 Melbourne Melbourne University Press 1981 pp. 39596
  • McMullin, Ross Will Dyson: Australias Radical Political Genius Melbourne Scribe 2006