C. J. Dennis

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis, better known as C. J. Dennis, (7 September 1876 22 June 1938) was an Australian poet known for his humorous poems, especially "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", published in the early 20th century. Though Dennis's work is less well known today, his 1916 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year, and by 1917 he was the most prosperous poet in Australian history.[1]

C. J. Dennis
Clarence Michael James Dennis

(1876-09-07)7 September 1876
Died22 June 1938(1938-06-22) (aged 61)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Burial placeBox Hill Cemetery
37°49′21″S 145°8′8″E
Notable work
The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke
Parent(s)James Dennis
Kate Francis Dennis (nee Tobin)

Together with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, both of whom he had collaborated with, he is often considered among Australia's three most famous poets.

While attributed to Lawson by 1911,[2] Dennis later claimed he himself was the 'laureate of the larrikin'.[3][4] When he died at the age of 61, the Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons suggested he was destined to be remembered as the 'Australian Robert Burns'.[5]


C. J. Dennis was born in Auburn, South Australia. His father owned hotels in Auburn, and then later in Gladstone and Laura. His mother suffered ill health, so Clarrie (as he was known) was raised initially by his great-aunts, then went away to school, Christian Brothers College, Adelaide as a teenager.[1]

At the age of 19 he was employed as a solicitor's clerk. It was while he was working in this job that, like banker's clerk Banjo Paterson before him, his first poem was published[1] under the pseudonym "The Best of the Six".[6] He later went on to publish in The Worker, under his own name,[7] and as "Den", and in The Bulletin. His collected poetry was published by Angus & Robertson.

He joined the literary staff of The Critic in 1897, and after a spell doing odd jobs around Broken Hill, returned to The Critic, serving for a time c. 1904 as editor, to be succeeded by Conrad Eitel.[8] In 1906 he founded The Gadfly as a literary magazine; it ceased publication in 1909. From 1922 he served as staff poet on the Melbourne Herald.[9]

C.J. Dennis married Margaret Herron in 1917. She published two novels and a biography of Dennis called Down The Years.

C. J. Dennis is buried in Box Hill Cemetery, Melbourne. The Box Hill Historical Society has attached a commemorative plaque to the gravestone. Dennis is also commemorated with a plaque on Circular Quay in Sydney which forms part of the NSW Ministry for the Arts – Writers Walk series,[10] and by a bust outside the town hall of the town of Laura.[11]


  • Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913)[12]
  • The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (1915)
  • The Moods of Ginger Mick (1916)
  • The Glugs of Gosh (1917)
  • Doreen (1917)
  • Digger Smith (1918)
  • Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918)
  • Jim of the Hills (1919)
  • A Book for Kids (1921) (reissued as Roundabout, 1935)
  • Rose of Spadgers (1924)
  • The Singing Garden (1935)
  • The Ant Explorer (posthumously,1988)

Individual poems of note

Many shorter works were also published in a wide variety of Australian newspapers and magazines.

See also


  1. McLaren, Ian F. "Dennis, Clarence Michael James (1876–1938)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  2. "A larrikin leader's evolution". Western Mail (Western Australia). XXVI, (1, 347). Western Australia. 21 October 1911. p. 65. Retrieved 8 October 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. ""The sentimental bloke"". Referee (1508). New South Wales, Australia. 24 November 1915. p. 15. Retrieved 8 October 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Laureate of the larrikin". The Age (28, 569). Victoria, Australia. 16 November 1946. p. 11. Retrieved 8 October 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "Australian poet". The Argus. Melbourne. 23 June 1938. p. 2. Retrieved 10 August 2011 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "Memories of Laura". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 22 June 1932. p. 8. Retrieved 26 December 2013 via National Library of Australia. This article reproduces the poem, The Singular Experiences of Six Sturdy Sportsmen as well as other information about Dennis.
  7. "The Hurling of a Stone". The Worker. Wagga, NSW. 22 May 1913. p. 17. Retrieved 18 March 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "The Insect". The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People. Sydney. 18 November 1905. p. 13. Retrieved 8 January 2016 via National Library of Australia. The writer has a poor opinion of Mr. Dennis.
  9. W. H. Wilde et al, eds, The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1994 ISBN 0 19 553381 X
  10. Matilda – Australian Literary Monuments #18
  11. Matilda – Australian Literary Monuments #3
  12. "Merely Personal". The Worker. Wagga, NSW. 19 June 1913. p. 26. Retrieved 18 March 2015 via National Library of Australia.
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