Home > Poets > Furphy, Joseph

Joseph Furphy (1843 – 1912)

Joseph Furphy was born in 1843 at Yering, near Yarra Glen in the Port Phillip District, the second child of Irish immigrants who had arrived in Victoria two years earlier. Furphy's childhood was spent at Yering, where his father was a tenant farmer, and later at Kyneton, in the Macedon Ranges north-west of Melbourne. Furphy's parents were devout Wesleyan Methodists, and their belief in order, temperance, and the benefits of literature and education was to prove a crucial influence in Furphy's life and writing.

In 1867, Furphy married sixteen year-old Leonie Celina Germain. It proved an ill-fated match: the couple had little in common, and although they remained together for the rest of Furphy's life the marriage seems to have been an unhappy one. About 1879, Furphy bought a team of bullocks and for the next few years worked as a bullocky in the Riverina district, later describing himself as ‘half bushman and half bookworm’.

After Furphy's bullock teams perished in the drought of 1883, he moved with his family to Shepparton, and took up a position as a mechanic at the iron foundry owned by his elder brother John. The move to Shepparton proved to be a turning point for Furphy, as for the first time in his adult life he found himself with sufficient leisure time to devote to literary pursuits. From the early 1890s, he began submitting poems and occasional pieces to the leading Australian literary journal, the Bulletin. In 1903, the Bulletin would also publish the work for which Furphy is best remembered, the novel Such Is Life.

Once Furphy had fulfilled his long-held ambition of publishing a book (Such Is Life), his literary energies abated, and in 1905 he moved with his wife to Fremantle. Furphy died at Claremont, Western Australia, in 1912.

Profoundly moved by Furphy's death, his friend Kate Baker became the author's champion in literary circles. For three decades after his death, Baker worked tirelessly promoting Furphy's reputation, and was responsible for the republication of many of Furphy's works, including a collection of his poetry, published in 1916.

Poetry Collections
  • The Poems of Joseph Furphy Melbourne Lothian 1916
Suggested Further Reading
  • John Barnes Joseph Furphy Melbourne Oxford University Press 1979
  • John Barnes The Order of Things: A Life of Joseph Furphy Oxford Oxford University Press 1990
  • Julian Croft The Life and Opinions of Tom Collins: A Study of the Works of Joseph Furphy St Lucia University of Queensland Press 1991
  • Miles Franklin Joseph Furphy: The Legend of a Man and His Book Sydney Angus and Robertson 1944