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W. T. Goodge (1862 – 1909)

William Thomas Goodge was born in London in 1862. According to an autobiographical fragment Goodge wrote in the 1890s, his father was a London tavern keeper whose business failed, forcing him to work as a newspaper boy from an early age, and subsequently a steward for a shipping company. Goodge cleared out of a ship in Sydney in 1882, and after working odd jobs in the city, decided to travel through country New South Wales on the wallaby track, that is, as an itinerant rural labourer working in shearing sheds and the like. He seems to have soon returned to Sydney, however, where he broke his leg in an accident and was obliged to spend several months on crutches. In a letter written after his death, Goodges wife claimed that he actually spent little time in the bush and that most of his bush lore came from stories from men he met. Goodges autobiographical sketch, however, states that he left Sydney again in the 1880s and operated a calcining furnace at Sunny Corner (near Bathurst) for over a year.

According to his autobiographical sketch, it was while at Sunny Corner that Goodge started scribbling, and began contributing jingles and other pieces to various newspapers including the Bulletin and the Daily Telegraph. In 1887 he returned to Sydney, where he gained regular employment on the staff of the Tribune. After the Tribune folded in 1889, Goodge worked for various papers before travelling to Orange to edit the local newspaper, the Leader. In 1894 he became proprietor of the Leader; this proved to be an unfortunate decision, as the paper was heavily in debt and Goodge was eventually bankrupted through his involvement with it. In the later 1890s Goodge returned to Sydney where he worked as a freelance journalist for a number of papers. In 1899 he funded the publication of a collection of his verse much of which had appeared in the Orange Leader and the Bulletin entitled Hits! Skits! and Jingles! A further edition of this work, with illustrations by Norman Lindsay, was published by the Bulletin Company in 1904. In the last decade of his life, Goodge wrote regular columns for several papers, including the Sydney Truth, pioneering a style of comic journalism that would become widespread in early twentieth century Australian newspapers. He died in Sydney in 1909.

Goodges poetry was firmly in the comic vernacular verse tradition associated with the bush balladists of the 1890s. Although his work did not achieve the lasting popularity of his peers like A. B. Paterson and Henry Lawson , his skill with the comic ballad form found some later admirers, such as Kenneth Slessor , who considered Goodge to be the deftest craftsman among the writers he termed journalist-troubadours.

Poetry Collections
  • Hits! Skits! and Jingles! (Sydney: Bulletin Newspaper Company, 1899).
  • Hits! Skits! and Jingles! 2nd edn. (Sydney: Bulletin Newspaper Company, 1904).
  • The Great Australian Adjective (London: Sheed and Ward, 1965).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Clement Semmler , Journalist-Troubadours of the 1890s: Francis Kenna and W. T. Goodge, in The Art of Brian James and other essays on Australian Literature (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1972), pp. 11125.
  • F. J. Sheed , Introduction, The Great Australian Adjective, by W. T. Goodge (Melbourne: Sheen & Ward, 1965).