Charles Harpur: The Editorial Nightmare


  • Paul Eggert Loyola University Chicago


Charles Harpur, colonial poetry, digital archives, scholarly editions


Coming to grips with the literary-historical phenomenon that colonial poet Charles Harpur represents requires a shift in focus and a querying of traditional assumptions about the shape and manifestation of literary careers. The failure to make that shift editorially for Harpur has hindered the efforts of ordinary readers and literary critics for nearly 150 years. Harpur’s poetic works have been accessible only partially or misleadingly, despite some very considerable editorial efforts stretching back to the late 1940s. An explanation of this situation is the principal subject of the essay. It then describes a potential digital-editorial solution that is in preparation: the Charles Harpur Critical Archive.

Author Biography

Paul Eggert, Loyola University Chicago

Paul Eggert is Martin J. Svaglic Endowed Chair in Textual Studies, Loyola University Chicago. He most recently edited Henry Lawson’s While the Billy Boils: The Original Newspaper Versions (2013). This followed editions for the Cambridge Works of Lawrence and the Works of Conrad series, as well as for the Academy Editions of Australian Literature. A theorist of the editorial act, Eggert’s principal arguments are brought together in Securing the Past (2009) and Biography of a Book (2013). He is immediate past president of the Society for Textual Scholarship and a corresponding fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.


Ackland, Michael. Charles Harpur: Selected Poetry and Prose. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin, 1986.

Clarke, Donovan, ed. Charles Harpur. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1963.

Eggert, Paul. Biography of a Book: Henry Lawson’s ‘While the Billy Boils’. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2013; and State College: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013.

Harpur, Charles. Poems. Melbourne: George Robertson, 1883.

Headon, David, and Elizabeth Perkins, ed. Our First Republicans: John Dunmore Lang, Charles Harpur and Daniel Henry Deniehy. Sydney: Federation Press, 1998.

Holt, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Perkins, ed. The Poems of Charles Harpur in Manuscript in the Mitchell Library and in Publication in the Nineteenth Century: An Analytical Finding List. Canberra: Australian Scholarly Editions Centre, 2002.

[Martin, James] J. A. B. Australian Sketch-Book. Sydney: James Tegg, 1838.

Mitchell, Adrian, ed. Charles Harpur. Melbourne: Sun Books, 1973.

Perkins, Elizabeth, ed. The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1984.

——. Supplement to ‘The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur’. ‘Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1984’; in fact issued by: Townsville, Qld: Department of English, James Cook University, n.d. [1984].

——, ed. Charles Harpur. Stalwart the Bushranger. Sydney: Currency Press, 1987.

Salier, Cecil W. ‘Harpur’s Sonnet-Series of 1845’. Australian Quarterly, 17.3 (1945), 66–74.

——, ed. Charles Harpur. ‘Rosa’: Love Sonnets to Mary Doyle. Melbourne: Hutchinson, 1948.

——. ‘Harpur and his Editor’. Southerly, 12.1 (1951), 47–54.