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Sydney Jephcott (1864 – 1951)

Sydney Wheeler Jephcott was born on 30 November 1864 at Corryong, Victoria, in the Upper Murray valley close to Mount Kosciusko and the New South Wales border, the son of English immigrants Edwin and Susannah (née Sansome) Jephcott. He grew up on the family farm; he later reported that he never attended a school, but, largely self-taught, read avidly from his father’s library. A grazier with an interest in forestry, he spent most of his life in the Snowy Mountains district, first in the upper Murray region, then at Ournie in New South Wales. Despite this relative isolation he developed a number of important literary friendships with leading writers of the day.

Jephcott claimed to have to begun writing verse in the late 1870s, after meeting Henry Kendall. He was subsequently encouraged in his efforts by John Farrell, who introduced him to other writers and poets including Francis Adams. From the late 1880s Jephcott began publishing his poems in the Bulletin and other periodicals, and Adams arranged the publication of his first collection, The Secrets of the South: Australian Poems, in 1892. A further collection, Penetralia, was published in Melbourne in 1912. Aside from poetry, he contributed journalism to the local press, generally reflecting his liberal democratic sentiments, though he was friendly with figures from across the political spectrum, from Alfred Deakin to Francis Adams and Bernard O’Dowd. His poetry was generally meditative and lyrical, and infused with the imagery of the alpine environment where he spent most of his life. He died at Albury on 3 July 1951.

Poetry Collections
  • The Secrets of the South: Australian Poems (London: William Reeves, [1892]).
  • Penetralia (Melbourne: Lothian, 1912).
Suggested Further Reading
  • ---, [untitled review], The Bulletin, 28 March 1912, p. 2.
  • Thomas William Heney, ‘A New Poet,’ Sydney Quarterly Magazine (Dec 1892): pp. 344–46.
  • Nettie Palmer, ‘Sydney Jephcott,’ Southerly 13.2 (1952): pp. 83–85.
  • Ken Stewart, ‘Jephcott, Sydney Wheeler (1864–1951),’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, online, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090477b.htm